By guest contributor Grace Vella, aged 24
I still find it strange when someone refers to me an 'entrepreneur'. I remember I had to do a Google search for the definition when I heard it the first time. Running a business was never a childhood dream of mine. To be honest, it wasn't a career option I was even aware of.
I came to be a Founder of a company, not for the desire to be a business woman, but because I identified a problem I was passionate about solving. To me, this is what it means to be an entrepreneur and I write this today in the hopes it inspires you to take the leap.
My story is that I grew up in Skelmersdale, a small town just outside of Liverpool in the UK. I lived right next to a football playing field and, from an early age, used to sit on the back wall and watch the boys play. I remember thinking that was something I really wanted to do.
In my youth, I was fortunate to spend the majority of my time playing in an elite set up and was at clubs including Liverpool and Manchester City. At 18, I was let go and I felt completely lost. Football had been my life and I now found myself with no real direction or sense of purpose.
I decided to go to the University of Manchester to study Psychology and football became my hobby, rather than a career goal. But it's so true, as one door closes, another one opens and it was at University where I had the idea for my business.
Whenever anyone asks me about my time in football, my first response is to always be positive. Football taught me so much and the lessons I learnt have benefited me just as much away from the pitch. However, when I took a step back from the sport, I really began to reflect on my time there.
Being a girl in a male-dominated sport was tough. I constantly felt like I had to prove myself twice as much and work harder to be taken seriously.
There appeared to be an increase in financial commitments and a decrease in the standard of facilities. The kit never really fit properly and women's football was never shown in mainstream media. It definitely felt like the sport I loved didn't really love me back.
Miss Kick was born as a result of these experiences. I was inspired to create something that put women's football front and centre. I wanted a brand that girls could look at and feel like their identity as a female in football was represented - something I never had growing up.
In June 2018, we launched Miss Kick at my Dad's football tournament. It started out as a handful of t-shirts with empowering slogans on such as 'Girls Score Goals' and 'They’re not just my friends, they're my squad'. The message seemed to really resonate with the families who met us and we began to grow our community through events and social media.
Now, in 2021, we are small (but mighty) team of three, working out of a co-working space in Manchester and no longer rely on myself or my family to take the orders to the post office! It's been an incredible journey to get to this point and we have no intentions of slowing down.
So what have I learnt since becoming a Founder that might be interesting to share?
1) Firstly, the most important thing is that you have got to be passionate about what you do. Running a business is hard work and takes up a lot of time and energy. If you're looking to set one up, make sure the product you are building or the service you are providing is connected to something you care about. You'll be more likely to stick at it and increase your chances of success.
2) Secondly, set yourself a massive goal and tie it into your vision. Think big here. For example, at Miss Kick, our ambition is to become the biggest female football brand in the world. Setting a big target right from the beginning gives you and your team direction and something to aim for. I'm also a big believer that aiming high will force you to grow and enable
you to achieve more than if you play it safe.
3) Another big lesson I've learnt in business is the importance of being brave. Putting yourself and your ideas out into the world can be scary, but I can honestly say it's been the biggest thing that has drove my business forward. Build up your confidence by taking small steps each day out of your comfort zone. Share your ideas first with those you can trust. Get their thoughts. Practice introducing yourself and your business. Pitch at events. The more you speak about your business, the more confident and articulate you will become. And don't let the fear of failure get in the way of you being brave.
You are going to make mistakes. It's not going to be perfect first time and that's okay.
Fail fast and get the necessary feedback to evolve and improve. Even though its uncomfortable, consistently put yourself in situations where you need to be brave. Your personal and business development will benefit greatly from this switch in mindset.
4) Finally, take the opportunities life throws at you. When I look back at the early stages of Miss Kick, I was taking every opportunity I stumbled across to help myself and my business grow. I was taking part in business programmes alongside my degree and attending meetings that made me feel under qualified and nervous. When people came into my life who could better my business, I had the courage to ask for help.
I'm a firm believer in creating your own luck. You don't know what that one meeting or person could lead to. You just got to work hard for it and not let imposter syndrome get the better of you. Importantly, don't let the fear of not feeling ready stop you from taking an opportunity.
The truth is, I don't think anyone really feels 100% ready when starting a business. You've just got to feel the fear and interpret it as a sign you're challenging yourself, rather than a situation you need to get out of. Focus on being a good person with good intentions and more opportunities will arise.
This International Women's Day the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. I encourage you to think about something in your life that you would like to challenge and remind yourself that you have the power to make a difference. For me, it was football and standing up for what I believe in has changed my life (and I'd like to think another couple lives too!)
Understand that you don't have to accept things the way they are if you are unhappy. If you have experienced indifference or inequality, then someone needs to hear that. It's also likely that you won’t be the only one. Take the lead and be the change you want to see.
All images contributed by Grace Vella