Becoming a leader in business
Entrepreneurship gives women a great opportunity to pursue self-empowerment and excel on their own terms. However, starting a business is by no means an easy feat and requires dedication, hard work and preparation.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving success, and for some, the dream of becoming your own boss and a respected leader in your industry can take years of work to become a reality.
Despite this, Dara Huang and Rajdeep Gahir, the Co-founders of Vivahouse, a world first in pre-fabricated pop-up housing, both encourage women to take that leap and start their own business, even if in a male-dominated industry like property. For the pair, it’s about having the confidence to pursue an entrepreneurial path, knowing your own worth and taking your career into your own hands.
Here, they reflect on their experience of starting up as female entrepreneurs and on what it takes to become a leader at the forefront of your respective industry.
Dara Huang is the Co-founder and creative lead behind Vivahouse, driving the design of the Vivahouse units to shape the urban home of the future. An admired creative force in the sector, Dara is also the founder of Design Haus Liberty; an international architecture and design practice, and among many accolades, was invited to design the Samsung Pavilion for the London Olympics 2012.
Deciding to leave the support and security of employment is not a decision that should be made lightly. Despite this, pursuing an entrepreneurial path is one of the most rewarding decisions I have ever made.
I do believe that entrepreneurs are born and not made. It may not be the right decision for everyone as you need a certain mix of skills to be able to create a successful and sustainable business. It takes a combination of tenacity, hard work and the ability to network and spot great opportunities – of course, combined with an un-rivalled level of passion and talent. These are the qualities that can spark magic to take an idea from good to extraordinary.
I was told early on that if you can create a true buzz, often that is more important than the bottom line. Of course, having an innovative product, a solid reputation and healthy numbers are crucial to sustaining the business in the long run, but never underestimate the lengths your personality can take you! No matter how great your idea is, if you cannot create excitement and intrigue around the concept, you will not get the exposure you need to take your business to the next level.
Since taking my career into my own hands, I have learned so many lessons – of course, some in the hardest way. There is no textbook to show you a quick and sure path to success and if I’m honest, I’m glad that there isn’t one…learning on the job is the most exciting bit.
For women, it’s important we realise just how brave we can be in business. I don’t think women are as risk-adverse as most believe. We have to take big risks to make things happen for ourselves, and that’s what can give us the biggest push to take leaps and defy what was once handed to us as the norm.
As a female entrepreneur, I have found that you are never alone, and that in my times of need it has been other strong female leaders, who were my friends and mentors, that stood up to the plate and were there for me, even if their male counterparts were not. With Vivahouse, Rajdeep and I found ourselves to be the perfect fit for the other; she’s there to support and teach me skills that I hadn’t learned before, and vice versa. It’s one of the greatest things about co-founding a company with another woman. We’re equals who have different strengths and the willingness to teach the other, so we can make our dream a reality.
Building a strong, supportive network such as this has been instrumental in achieving success, but also to remember that we are all responsible for our own achievements, and to never lose focus of our goals.
It is possible for women to have it all – to have a loving family, our own money and carve our own path, whilst creating our own fall backs. So, whilst becoming a female entrepreneur poses many risks, having a support network, both financially and emotionally, will help you to overcome these hurdles. You’ll find that you have created your own freedom to fly and, in the end, that makes it all worth it.
Rajdeep Gahir is the Co-founder and Chief executive of Vivahouse, providing a unique solution to the ‘generation move’ housing crisis. A revolutionary voice within the property market, Rajdeep gained property expertise as an early employee of WeWork, leading its expansion across Europe. She also founded CoCreations in 2016, a boutique real estate consulting firm and has won clients ranging from private equity houses to investment banks.
One of the earliest lessons I learnt in life, when working in finance, was that it didn’t matter how good I was, the constraints of my environment wouldn’t allow me to be seen or advance at the pace I wanted to. That’s when I realised that you must be brave enough to make yourself stand out – no one else but you can make that happen.
In a way, taking risks and pursuing an entrepreneurial path is about being open and exceptionally comfortable with yourself, enough to constantly change when you must. Risk, stress and faith are like muscles, the more you exercise those things the more appetite and tolerance you build! I do believe we as women are wired for being in tune with those ‘muscles’ to a heightened sensitivity; realising that can be empowering. It’s what has enabled me to make decisions that are driven by passion and backed by strategic thinking.
It’s is important to be aware of the risks that setting up a business can pose, you certainly need to be self-assured that you have the capability to look after and back yourself, in the worst case that the risk doesn’t pay off. Having an unrivalled belief in what you are doing is the best tool you can have. I’ve been in several situations in the last few years where I’m the only women or the youngest person at the table and often the one pitching. What I’ve realised is that it’s vital that you own your differences and relentlessly see them as strengths, as people will most often be convinced to see you how you see yourself. Confidence really is the most powerful garment you can wear.
Alongside this self-confidence, it is also important to surround yourself with people that believe in you and truly support you. Too often, especially as a woman, you can be made to feel that you are ‘too much’. Too ambitious, too career driven, too busy. There are too many negative connotations associated with being a power woman.
Having people around you that encourage your ability and remind you that you can be both a wholehearted woman and a successful business leader, is invaluable. I think that’s why Dara and I work so well together – we’re constantly there to talk the other up and encourage ourselves to reach further than we ever thought we could.
Ultimately, as a female entrepreneur, I think it’s important to take risks with discipline, be confident in your voice and ability to back yourself. We can’t achieve everything in one go, no one can, so whilst we work hard – sometimes harder than our male counterparts – to get to where we want to be, we must be mindful of why we’re doing it. Finally, you need to feel the ‘beat of the universe’ as it shows you where the opportunities are in business. As women, I believe we’re especially good for that, we have an uncanny understanding for what the world and people of the world need. That’s a superpower.