As part of the WP2 the consortium has performed a series of interviews with women enetrepreneurs. Their summary is available in this document.
In the region of Mortágua municipality, it was noted that, although major companies from sectors such as pharmaceutical and forest are male dominated in their management, the vast majority of local commerce businesses are dominated by female entrepreneurs, with high success.
For the purpose of the report, two of these entrepreneurs with growing and sustainable businesses, in order to better understand their entrepreneurial journey, strengths, obstacles, among other features of relevance.
For the purpose of the report, the partner conducted two face-to-face interviews, with two female business managers, with growing and sustainable businesses.
First interviewee: Paula Pereira (PP), Portugal is the manager of Kitlar, a design, furniture and fashion business, located in Mortágua. Is responsible for the management of the company, while, at the same time, is in charge of all the design projects developed for customers.
Second interviewee: Rosa Mortágua (RM), Portugal is the owner and manager of Koala, a children fashion store, that has been growing its range of products, entering the women and men fashion market. From own design and production to other brand sales, Koala has been growing for more than 20 years.
- What inspired you to start your own business?
PP: To have a plan B. While working, always wanted to create her own project. From plan B it went to Plan A, when it became a full-time job.
RA: The need to ensure a paycheck at the end of the month. The company the owner worked for was going to close and there was the need to ensure income. After going through a training programme for women (“Novas Oportunidades para Mulheres” – “New Opportunities for Women”), the entrepreneur found the idea it wanted to follow. Her business idea was validated and soon started to work and employing other unemployed women.
- How long have you been running your business?
PP: 24 years
RM: 28 years
- What has been your biggest achievement as an entrepreneur so far?
PP: To conquer customer’s trust. For the entrepreneur and her business, it is of high relevance to have customers trust on the quality of the products and services delivered, and a major achievement in the entrepreneurial path.
RM: To start from zero, with borrowed money and, with a lot of work, to have managed to grow and provided employment opportunities for other people.
- How do you keep your business competitive in the face of technological progress, digitalization, and innovation?
PP: To keep updated with all the technological progress and market trends is of high relevance for the entrepreneur. Although the business is not IT based, she focus on being updated in all the new available tools and innovations that can support the business success. This includes not just the IT part of the business, but also market trends, from participation in international fairs with new possible suppliers to understanding of the customers new trends, needs and desires.
RM: Currently, it’s not easy, due to the economic context. It has always been important for the entrepreneur to persevere and keep a personal touch in the products developed.
- Would you like to share some tips for growing the business and making it profitable?
PP: There is no recipe. It’s of high relevance to have knowledge on management, to follow intuition; to understand how to do the best with the limited resources you own. It’s important to have a continuous management.
RM: To raise customers and keep current customers satisfied.
- What makes it particularly difficult to open or run a business in your country (it could be anything related to the national context)? How do you face it?
PP: Bureaucracy and high taxes are the biggest difficulty. Adjustment to the context and to the market opportunities have been the way to face the difficulties.
RM: High taxes. From the perspective of the entrepreneur, it is very discouraging, for any entrepreneur working hard, the high amount of taxes to be paid.
- What are the changes that you would like to make? How long is it going to take to make them? What does prevent you from making them?
PP: To enlarge the range of products and services delivered. The online store is created but there hasn’t been time to take advantage of it and make it work.
RM: At this moment in life, the entrepreneur just wants to keep sustainability and is not considering any other major change.
- Have you faced any challenges or barriers in your entrepreneurial journey that you attribute to gender bias or discrimination, and how have you dealt with those challenges? Have those challenges influenced your business strategy?
PP: Not regarding gender bias, but the culture of the surrounding people is still very averse to evolution. People don’t understand very well the company growth into new markets.
RM: When the entrepreneur started her business felt the lack of credibility mainly due to her young age. At the same time, in some aspects of the business launching, such as dealing with suppliers, she felt that not just her age but also because she was a woman, she was being taken seriously. Her previous work experience and contacts helped her to overcome the challenges felt.
- Based on the researches, the fear of failure is very heavy on women’s shoulders especially in the business environment. What does failure means to you? How do you deal with it?
PP: I don’t deal well with failure, but failure is not on my mind. I follow my decisions with confidence and trust. Fear has never dominated my confidence.
RM: At the beginning, specially with young children and the need to have money at the end of the month to pay the bills and to ensure the paycheck of the employees, it was very difficult to deal with possibility of fear. But the entrepreneur has always worked hard to avoid failure and move on. Even though her business is very successful, along the way there were very hard and difficult moments.
- How do you differentiate your business from competitors and create a unique value proposition for your customers?
PP: Even though the entrepreneur is always attentive on the market evolution and trends, everything is done with a personal touch. No product or service is delivered with the “brand” of the entrepreneur. This differentiates the business from the competitors.
RM: At the moment, the competition is high. The entrepreneur looks to offer different products that fulfill the customer expectation and trend evolution.
- Have your priorities changed from when you first started? If yes, how?
PP: Priorities haven’t changed much, although the entrepreneurs feels it should. Work was always the priority and, with age, starts to believe she needs to live her life more.
RM: In order to achieve success, the entrepreneur had to work very hard at the cost of the family life and time with her children. If she was to start again, she would take more time for family.
- What role do you think mentorship plays in helping women succeed in business?
PP: All the good help is welcome. The exchange of experiences is very important.
RM: The entrepreneur values all types of experiences exchanges and learning with others. She, herself, has also been a partner and mentor for other new businesses.
- How do you manage your free time as an entrepreneur (family-children, house-keeping)
PP: As an entrepreneur and a woman, just with the sacrifice of personal time it was possible to deal with all life dimensions. Resistance and resilience were of high relevance.
RM: Currently, the entrepreneur gives high value to her free time. Although, for more than 20 years she devoted herself to work, sacrificing her family time.
- What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business?
PP: “Think it very carefully… think!” Nowadays, just to have a good idea is not enough, every single project needs to be carefully planned and prepared. But one must never give up on what it feels it’s what will bring fulfilment and happiness.
RM: To take the risk! “Just after trying we will be able to find out how it goes”. It is a hard job but no one should give up on their dreams before trying.