From building her own transatlantic dating empire to building HomeHero’s content strategy and writing a novel, meet Nana, our Head of Communications.
BUILDING A BUSINESS
A dating agency definitely wasn’t the business I thought I’d end up running for 8 years. I went very organically from a career in publishing and running a popular blog, to rolling out a subscription business in London and New York for singles to meet offline: Social Concierge.
I am first and foremost a content and community expert and my membership club grew primarily through blogging and content campaigns, mostly on a shoestring budget. Two things I focussed on with the business was recurring revenue and spot on brand partnerships. What I ended up building was a robust membership programme where people would pay £50 to £500 a month to access our exclusive events, content and matchmaking services too, which went up to £10,000 a year. We had 10,000 newsletter subscribers in just 18 months in London and when we launched in New York, we acquired over 500 new members in just one launch day.
After two years, and without funding, I was able to leave my publishing job and pay myself. It grew from there – but it was relentless.
I wound down the business after 8 years not because we weren’t still growing, but the moment had come for me to decide whether I wanted to commit to the business long term. I was honest with myself and couldn’t see myself in that industry for too much longer. Ironically the dating industry is no place for romantics!
Women In Business
One of the best, and most fulfilling, parts of running my own business was working alongside a team of 10 fantastic women. They were motivated, smart, inspiring and fun – with endless optimism and no egos, which is a real rarity in the luxury world. Playing a part in shaping their careers through building their confidence, experience and personal brand was so rewarding and they remain my single greatest joy and pride about that business. They stuck with me for years and taught me that if you treat your team well and act with vulnerability and heart, they not only work harder but become true ambassadors.
One piece of advice to women looking to break into the business world is to be confident and trust your gut. A lot of my initial success involved being quite young and mostly following my instincts to get things off the ground. As my business grew, I sought advice, but trusting your gut in those early stages ensures you have a product with real personality and a real sense of your vision. Then you respond and reshape it according to feedback.
There’s a fantastic Henry Ford quote: ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse’. You can ask people what they want from a product but you need the confidence in yourself to offer your best guess. Be humble about feedback, be open minded and move fast to adapt.
If you’re a woman in business you also have a responsibility to uplift other women as you go. Whether it’s through mentoring or orchestrating open dialogues, it’s critical. You have to form collectives to support and empower each other.
Kenny was the first (of many) reasons for me to join HomeHero. I had such an inspiring interview with him and realised very quickly that this was probably one of the few places I could thrive as a former founder, and keep on learning about growing businesses. How a startup interviews you can be a massive clue about their culture. I was really struck by how smart and open the team were, as well as the total lack of egos. For a tech startup that’s really quite unusual.
I was also attracted by the mission. What we’re doing here at HomeHero is really ambitious and the home space is such an interesting one. The scope of opportunity for the services we will bring together in our ecosystem is limitless. What would I like to see in there? Decluttering services – the minimalist’s dream.
When building communities what really resonates is authenticity. This means having a clear connection to your mission as a business, and not ignoring the emotional drivers underpinning your strategy. I think you have to lead with heart, and that’s not only because I was in the dating world. As Maya Angelo said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When I joined HomeHero, the challenge was to start to get the brand out there and build a personality for us through content. Who are we as a company? What are we like to work for? What do we stand for? What do we blog about? It’s still early days in our journey but you can certainly see a HomeHero character coming together and it’s one that is ethical, inclusive, innovative and smart.
Big Ideas For The Future
I’m so excited for the rallying of our community. Once we have those first customers through the doors there is a huge opportunity. There is so much scope for what we can do through events, content and partnerships.
Content collaborations will play a big role in our future I think. We’ll explore different mediums to discover which resonates with our community, then we’ll double down. I want people to say, ‘I must read this HomeHero guide’ or ‘I must listen to the HomeHero podcast this week’, that’s the goal.
Working at a startup can be full on. But, I don’t believe that a day job alone is enough to fulfil you. For me, having side hustles, passions and keeping up my energy is so important. You can then feed that motivation back into work.
Having read English Literature at university, I’ve always had an itching desire to write a novel – or at least attempt one. The shift to working from home has allowed me to replace my commuting time with a real dedication to writing. I was offered a place on a prestigious 14 person novel writing course in London this year, and it’s been a complete gift in recent months. It’s also been challenging – you have to be really quite vulnerable with the group and push yourself.
I’m also a frantic URL purchaser. I love playing around with new ideas to see if they have scope to become a cash generating project. I give myself 100 days to test the ideas, before moving onto the next. Prior to lockdown I was having success with Mr Social, a sophisticated social network for gay men, hosting glamorous parties every quarter. All of this work feeds energy and inspiration back into what I do at HomeHero.
I think other people’s journeys and successes can be incredibly inspiring when navigating issues in business and in life. I love the podcast Business Wars, which tells the stories of competing companies in history, like Netflix and Blockbuster.
My all time favourite book is Shoe Dog, the fascinating story of Nike founder Phil Knight. I used to buy it when someone started on my team. It tells the story of Nike’s transformation from a young man’s trainer business to a global powerhouse that set the blueprint for celebrity brands partnerships and the culting of brands. I turn to it whenever I’m lacking motivation, it reminds me that great things don’t always happen overnight, but forward motion is the key.
Rage Becomes Her is a powerful book that explores the power of women embracing the power of anger and inequality to make change. It’s fantastic.
I’m also currently reading The Ride of a Lifetime, Disney CEO Robert Iger which shows the human side of leadership and responsibility. It shows the true power of optimism in motivating a team and building something beautiful.
Time for another? Head to Meet the Team for more interviews with the HomeHero Team.
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