At #YesWeCan we have been lucky to speak to Fiona Duncan-Steer, an Entrepreneur and business owner. She shares her career story as well as some fantastic words of wisdom!
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
YES!! From a young age I was making jewellery, rose petal perfume and anything else creative to sell. I moved on to doing car boot sales with my mum and sister and learning the art of negotiation and sales. I even bulk bought items to sell at school such as sweets / chocolate / cigarette lighters (supply and demand)!
My mum was a motor vehicle mechanic, so we bought and sold cars together to sell for a profit as a teenager and it went from there… it was inevitable I was going to own my own business one day. From aged 13 I worked in my family’s business – a hairdressing salon which taught me very valuable social skills. My job first job after graduation in the corporate world was for RBS – a call centre environment selling insurance, but this didn’t excite me enough, I learnt the art of sales there and it played a valuable part in increasing my social skills.
It wasn’t long before my managers were taking me off the phones to ask me to help organise in-house events for the staff – this is where my events journey really began and from there I did one year in advertising – a more glamorous world where I got to attend events, launches meet celebrities etc.. and that was it for me - I wanted to be in that industry…but not making money for someone else - I wanted it for myself. RSViP was born.
As a creative I have always wanted to incorporate my art background into everything I do so event management was a natural progression for my career journey once I had left sales and advertising. It has allowed me to utilise my creative skills in both my events and marketing. In recent years I have also turned my knowledge of event management and marketing to training and now run workshops, mastermind groups and 121 consultations for businesses, as well as guest lecturing at both Nottingham and Nottingham Trent Universities.
Running two businesses must make your days challenging?
Each day is different which is why I love my job and probably why I have stuck at it for so long, as variety is what keeps me sane! I wear seventeen hats on a daily basis by being super-efficient I generally don’t struggle with organising my day and prioritising tasks.
I tend to hit my emails first thing and cover any tasks relating to those in order of priority, then I get my social media marketing done as I manage around 12 different accounts for my businesses this is around 1 hour per day of my time. Following that I hit my marketing and business development, in between all of that there is of course the admin and finances to contend with.
As our events are planned pretty far ahead, I have several events to organise at the same time, so dealing with venues, suppliers, calendars, guest lists, our media partners, our events team, our clients/members, processing memberships, marketing, attending network events, attending new business launches, business meetings, management of our partnerships, website updating, newsletter design and circulation, general PR… so on, being a business owner you do a bit of everything!
You’ve been running your own businesses for 12 years, what challenges have you faced along the way?
There have been so many! I remember when I was planning to launch my business in 2007, I came across another company doing something similar to me and it really threw me - I lost confidence and almost gave it up right then and there before I had even started - of course I’m so glad I didn’t!
Other challenges faced include not so nice people you meet along the way when in business - people who don’t support you - maybe through jealousy, people who judge you, belittle you, have strong opinions and don’t think you’ll ‘last’. What’s funny is all of those people I encountered in the beginning all came back to me years later to congratulate me and ask for me help /support. In recent years, I have sadly had to contend with the dishonesty of some people essentially emulating my business ideas and model, which has been frustrating. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it’s inevitable that when you are onto something great, others will want a piece of the pie, but it doesn’t stop you being frustrated and disappointed, but you have to remember that no one is ‘you’ and that is your USP. Business brings so many challenges and obstacles that you have to become resilient as tough as it is sometimes.
No one is ‘you’ and that is your USP
What have you learnt along the way?
Learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others is super important. Not beating yourself up if you do make a mistake or if something doesn’t go as planned. It’s all an education and none of us can claim to know everything about everything. What I have realised in business is that everyone is mostly just winging it! Personally I have found ways in which to deal with stress and anxiety such a meditation, practicing mindfulness, gratitude, yoga, country walks, travel, arts, crafts… all of these things help me to have a balanced lifestyle and form much needed escapism for me when I most need it. It’s so important to look after yourself as a business owner, after all, without you there may be no business and you can’t pour from an empty cup.
I also think that you need to surround yourself with the right people and that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of people – keeping your close circle small is never a bad thing. Be kind to yourself, make time for work/life balance, appreciate EVERYTHING even the bad stuff, it’s a lesson. Follow your instincts and enjoy it - if you are not enjoying your work or something in your life- change it - life is too short.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
Wow that is a big question - I don’t think I have one great big achievement, just a series of smaller ones that have culminated to where I am now. I have been through a lot of challenges personally for someone in my thirties, so I guess I’m proud of myself for staying strong and for
building a successful business and reputation as a leader in my industry, as it could have very easily gone the other way, sadly like many others who have had challenging experiences in life.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
Being bought up in a single parent family made me tough and resilient from a very young age. My mum was a hard worker and career women – being a motor mechanic and lecturer in further education and the only women in the entire college who taught this industry was an inspiration to me. Trying to make ends meet by buying and selling and being resourceful gave me my entrepreneurial spirit and I’m fiercely competitive so I guess that helps too!
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
Yes I have 3!!
- Feel the fear and do it anyway!
- Follow your instincts
- Do something that scares you every single day.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
- Stand by your beliefs and maintain integrity in everything you do.
- Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do anything you want to do.
- Don’t play up to any female stereotypes- you are you and that is your super-power.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Learn, self-develop, stand by your own beliefs, be your own true self but self-develop in a way that will ensure you are the best version of you. Learn new skill sets and learn from the best, think big, don’t be afraid to ask for help, support and advice from those you aspire to be like.
Don’t think of yourself as a ‘woman in business’, but rather a ‘business owner.
What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Everything will be okay in the end and if it isn’t, it is not yet the end.”
Everything will be okay in the end and if it isn’t, it is not yet the end.
Thank you Fiona! If you are inspired by Fiona’s story, click here to see more blogs!