Mentor spotlight: Muthumari Duraisamy

Mentor spotlight: Muthumari Duraisamy

Muthumari Duraisamy is a lovable mother and finance executive who worked in global roles in many countries so far. I hold high interest not only in finance but also in strategy, operations, and innovation. Since I worked in scale-up businesses within multi-billion international companies, I developed my skills to setup a new business. My life goal was to start a school for under privileged and I started mentoring students in 2009. Later, I realized that the classrooms are not enough to lift their life, and my goal turnout to be a school of entrepreneurs. I wanted to develop my entrepreneurial skills in different businesses through formal education and mentoring. This led me to do Executive MBA in Paris and started mentoring entrepreneurs in France and now in The Netherlands.


What is your story and what led you to your current job?

Passion towards business and people is the key driver for my career success. Helping others developed me as a problem solver and a solution provider. I always have the drive to push myself out of my comfort zone and failures are my highest motivation as it taught me lessons to succeed.


What is the biggest lesson you learned in your years of working?

I have learned to be curious, flexible, open, and honest towards whatever I did. Having a genuine interest in people and the business helped me. I also learned helping and empowering others not only inspired people but also unlocked many potential leaders and entrepreneurs around me.


What is one thing you still really want to do in the future?

Professionally, I want to reinvent the way finance team provide support in an organization, through entrepreneurial drive and by developing more finance leaders. Personally, I want to open a school for entrepreneurs as mentioned above.


Looking back, what is one thing you would do different?

I would have become an entrepreneur, created my own company and helped more people.


What would you advise women starting their journeys in the entrepreneurial space?

To think of innovative businesses and operating models rather than conventional ones. Provide solution for your customers rather than a product or service. Innovative and high customer centric companies have always been successful. Be up to date on the market trend by connecting with people, attend webinars and conferences. Never hesitate to reach out to people, out of 100, if 10 people respond, it is a success. Develop a “fail fast” mindset, do not be afraid of failures, learn from it and take calculative risks.


What is the reason you joined FEMpreneurhulp?

Mentoring female entrepreneurs and giving back to society provides me a sense of purpose, this also leads me to achieve my lifetime goal.


What are common challenges women face in the startup world and how can we tackle them?

1.Building trust with investors and customers is highly important. To tackle this, present your ideas with confidence, only 3 unique points of your product / service / solution to differentiate. Big stories never help. Make them understand how serious you are and do not feel shy to promote yourself.

  1. Funding, think beyond your country / industry and explore globally & beyond your network.
  2. Network, women lack network compared with men, so create an ecosystem of your supporters.
Mentor Spotlight: Anna Molnár

Mentor Spotlight: Anna Molnár

Anna Molnár is a business coach for female entrepreneurs, with an immense passion for languages and literature, a special analytic eye for complex situations and a huge drive to get the best out of people and their companies. I help ambitious businesswomen to make themselves and their companies blossom by creating a solid and healthy business strategy, so they work smarter instead of harder. I also help them create real impact, high income and time with loved ones.


What is your story and what led you to join the entrepreneurial world?

When I turned 40, I felt a turning point in my life. I had it all: a nice job, a nice partner, a nice house, etc., but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I felt the need to create something valuable with all my talents, experience, expertise and passion. I realized that I wanted to create my own company, so that I could help other women to live their best life. This is how Blossom Empowering Events was born.


What have you learned in your entrepreneurial career?

My entrepreneurial career has taught me so much about myself, my hopes and my fears. It has also taught me that we all need support, no matter on what level we are. It’s essential to surround yourself with a support system, where it’s safe to ask questions and be vulnerable. This way you can really overcome the hurdles on your way, instead of just ignoring them and making them worse.


What is one thing you still really want to do in your entrepreneurial career?

I would love to help Japanese female entrepreneurs to thrive. I love Japan and the Japanese culture. It would make me enormously proud if I could help Japanese women to be more independent, while respecting their traditions.


Looking back, what is one thing you would do different?

Asking for help a lot sooner. Every week that goes by unresolved is a week too much.


What would you advise women starting their journeys in the entrepreneurial space?

Surround yourself with people who believe in your capacities. Make a serious plan for your business and be flexible while executing it. Get into action, ask questions, fail, learn and get going again. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride! Be professional, but don’t be too serious. Enjoy the creativity and the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur and inspire others to do the same!


What is the reason you joined FEMpreneurhulp?

I needed some support myself, and as a thank you I wanted to give back. There is always something you can do for someone else.


What are common challenges women face in the startup world and how can we tackle them according to you?

Common challenges are perfectionism, procrastination, wanting to please everyone, impostor syndrome, difficulty to talk about money and asking for the sale, being too humble, wanting to do and be everything for everyone, being overworked… to just name a few. Awareness is the first step to tackle them all. Understand what your most common pitfall is and work on overcoming it.


Anything else you would like to share?

If you have difficulty to keep focus, if your plans don’t tend to work, if you are out of ideas of what to do next, if you have too many ideas and don’t know where to start, if you always start but hardly ever finish, if you are always busy and don’t see the difference between weekdays and weekends anymore, if you could use some support to take some tough decisions … reach out to me. Together we can map out your situation, find your personal & professional goals and create a resilient plan. I’ll guide you through your commitment, so that you can enjoy both your private and professional life with impact and without feeling guilty.

Mentor spotlight: Gervaise Coebergh

Mentor spotlight: Gervaise Coebergh

Gervaise Coebergh is owner of several businesses in media, communications and leisure.

When I was young I had no clue what to do for a living. Just like my female ancestors, I wasn’t really supposed to go working – other than as a housewife. You can hardly understand that nowadays, but that was how it was. Nevertheless, the entrepreneurial spirit is in my DNA. And just like my male ancestors, I started my own business along the way. And I did it well.

I trust my skills and dedication;

I use my intuition and common sense;

I like to be surrounded by warm, smart and talented professionals;

I like to make my own choices;

I am eager to win;

I do not mind to work hard and – very important too – I like to make other people (read here: clients) happy.

My advice to women that start their entrepreneurial journey would be that they need to be able to think BIG. Don’t lose energy on details and dare to invest (also money) to grow. You need to be prepared to make choices that you didn’t expect to make. What choice will you make when your biggest client needs you, just on the day that your firstborn turns 1? Exactly! Be prepared. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

FEMpreneurhulp is a good initiative because it advises women in a very realistic way. No pink glasses, but honest stories and advise, based on personal experience. Also, the listening ear of a peer can be very helpful and comforting. Next to this, the network of FEMpreneurhulp is of great value. For me, it feels good to share my knowledge and experience so that others can benefit from it. Because, yes, female entrepreneurs do lack advantages that men have. So let’s give each other some little extra support!


Mentor spotlight: Astrid van Leeuwen

Mentor spotlight: Astrid van Leeuwen

I am Astrid van Leeuwen – the owner of TekstAppeal, an agency for journalism, editing, and communication, and owner of coaching practice MovingMinds Coaching Amsterdam. Unraveling people’s dilemmas, drives, and (hidden) passions with warmth and commitment is second nature to me. After a challenging start of my career as a press officer at Het Nationale Ballet (Dutch National Ballet), I have developed into a versatile freelance journalist and communications consultant. Besides, after extensive training in this field, I started my coaching practice. I focus, among other things, on career guidance, guarding your limits, high sensitivity, and effective communication.

What is your story, and what led you to join the entrepreneurial world?

Autonomy is a high priority for me. I thoroughly enjoy the freedom and flexibility I have as an entrepreneur. I come from a family of entrepreneurs – father, brothers – and already knew at an early age that I wanted to be my own ‘boss.’

What have you learned in your entrepreneurial career?

It is a continuous learning process in which you keep growing and keep responding to changes and new developments. The most important lesson for me was: always follow my intuition.

What is one thing you still really want to do in your entrepreneurial career?

I want to inspire young people to be the best they can be and, above all, to believe in themselves.

Looking back, what is one thing you would do differently?

I would have paid more attention to my pension accrual. As a young entrepreneur, I was – foolishly – not concerned with that.

What is the reason you joined FEMpreneurhulp?

I have had many ‘mentors,’ people who believed in me and who helped me take a step forward in my career. I am now at a point in my life where I can and want to take on that role myself.

What are common challenges women face in the startup world, and how can we tackle them, according to you?

What you need is the focus, passion, capital, and belief in yourself. What you run into are prejudice, indifference, and gender inequality. How you can break through all of that is different for each situation.

What would you advise women to start their journeys in the entrepreneurial space?

As I said before, above all, follow your intuition and believe in yourself.

Meet Martina Guzman: A pitch coach who mentors women on designing the life they dream

Meet Martina Guzman: A pitch coach who mentors women on designing the life they dream

By: Azaina Shaikh and Paola Hasbun

We spoke with Martina Guzmán, entrepreneur and Pitch coach, whose relentless ambition to help female entrepreneurs and enthusiastic personality has made her a true inspiration for many.

Martina represents the Best3Minutes methodology in Spain and is the co-founder of FEM-START Spain. With a background in marketing and advertising, she founded the MOOI Academy and MOOI Web Design, two spaces created to help harness creativity and facilitate the transformation of ideas into real businesses.

Could you share with us your story, and what inspired you to work in the field of female entrepreneurship?

I’m from Venezuela. I arrived in Spain in 2007, following a call for adventure and some real life! A year later, I met my husband, and together we launched a start-up called Envioadomicilio, which was the first food delivery online platform in Spain.

At the beginning it was ok, but as we moved one of the operational challenges of running a business, the fact that we were alone, introducing a new concept into the Spanish market, I began to struggle a lot with self-doubt. It was the first time we were running a startup, which was mostly run by me, as my husband did not speak any Spanish. 

I remember how I felt alone as a women entrepreneur. We didn’t have a good network because we both are not initially from Spain. We didn’t know the market, and on top of everything, we didn’t know anything about being entrepreneurs, pitching, or investment, and not knowing cost us many opportunities and money. In the end, we decided to sell our startup strategically, and in 2012 it was acquired by the second food delivery platform at that moment in Spain. 

Next, we launched two new start-ups, and only one is still online: Bandafy, an online music platform to help musicians promote and get bookings online. I had the opportunity to participate in the only competition for women entrepreneurs that I can think of in Spain, the Lean in EU Business Women Angel from where I met Marian for the first time, as she was the winner of the competition for Europe.

After the competition, I put my start-up phase on a pause and embarked on a reinvention journey where I was able to reconnect to myself finally, and my real purpose. I took the time to build in the tools I so much needed: I learned about web design, finished a Master, and overcame self-imposed barriers and false beliefs about myself. I was finally able to take my life as my best project and design the life I wanted to live.

From then on, I have decided to work harder on myself. What inspires me every day to work and collaborate with initiatives that genuinely support and encourage other women to take ownership of their dreams and to make them happen! 

We, as women, need to reinforce the belief that everything we dream we will achieve if we only take the first step to make it happen.
It took me some time, but I finally got it, and now one of my purposes is to share my experience, skills, and learning to help other women take that step for themselves.

You have had your share of ups and downs on your entrepreneurial journey; you had to sell your first start-up. Setbacks offer us lessons and an opportunity to redefine our process. What advice would you give to women starting in the entrepreneurial world?

My advice would be to build a minimal viable product when you have an idea. Make sure you validate it; be confident that there’s a need for the product in the market. Often, when people have an idea, they want to create the perfect product. So I would say: don’t fall for perfection, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, surround yourself with a like-minded network and make sure that if you lose, you stand up again.

You went from working in the corporate world to creating a start-up (which brought its challenges) to, finally, becoming a pitching coach. Which role has been the most important to you?

I have to say, pitch coaching. Seeing people gaining the confidence to give a voice to their ideas gives me a feeling of fulfillment and purpose that even as a Pitch Coach, I have no words to describe! 

Building up my communication skills has opened up several opportunities. I am not only a certified pitch coach, but I have the chance to work closely with people that have been my entrepreneur heroes for so long. David Beckett, the creator of the Best3Minutes methodology, and Marian Spier, the founder of this beautiful and unique dream project, called FEM-START. 

So yes, definitely, my dearest role is being able to share the skills that help other women entrepreneurs, gain the confidence to give voice to their ideas.

Your journey is awe-inspiring. Is there a particular person who inspired you to get to where you are now? Could you share a story about that?

Thank you! I think we are all role models. I have a whole list of people who inspire me every day! To mention one story, I can say the first account I started following on Instagram when I first launch MOOI Webdesign: @hellofears. It is run by a woman who talks about fears and how she was brave to face one fear every day for 100 days as part of a master project that was inspiring for me, and I’m reading her book now!
But as I say, the inspiration for me is everywhere!

How would you describe the female entrepreneurial ecosystem and start-up landscape in Spain? Have there been changes since you first started as an entrepreneur?

It has become more open and welcoming, as there are more initiatives created to support women. However, we still have many challenges to overcome. Over the years, I have seen an increase in spaces created by women for women, but I have yet to see a real stage that gives women visibility, specifically within male-dominated events. The number of female attendees at business, tech, and other networking events remains low compared to the number of male attendees. I believe we, as women, should take up space. Men are not taking up our space, we are just not showing up, and that’s what we need to work on!

What are the common challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Spain?

Specifically, for female entrepreneurs and start-ups, there are not enough female-only competitions. There are plenty of competitors, but the amount of female participants remains low. My opinion is that women think they are not prepared enough, and we overthink before going out there, this is something you often don’t see in men entrepreneurs.

And how would you define an entrepreneur?
I feel these days; we are often presented with a very limiting definition of an entrepreneur. For me, an entrepreneur is anyone courageous enough to own their future, define what they want, and make it happen.

What sectors or industries are most attractive to women entrepreneurs in Spain?

I think of technology. I have met many women working on unique tech-related projects here, but due to lack of visibility, they just tend to stay under the radar. Retail is also attractive, and recently the health sector is gaining space as well.

What is your vision for FEM-START Spain?
My vision for FEM-START Spain is to give female entrepreneurs a stage where they can gain the confidence to share their ideas. The impact they are making on society, their value to the market, and have access to capital to help make their business grow. FEM-START Spain will also provide female entrepreneurs with training, coaching, and the possibility to be part of an international, multicultural, and supporting network.

FEM-START is a dream come true for any female entrepreneurs out there!