Sunny Kooner talks about her experience of starting a business and bringing up four girls under three.
When Sunny Kooner launched her dessert business, Delightful Desserts, in 2015, she had no idea she would be jugging this baby along with four others. Sunny was working in the corporate world when she had a sweet epiphany…she wanted her own dessert parlour. She left her corporate career to work day and night to launch the business, learning every aspect from scratch and designing everything from the logo to the menu.
Just two months after her successful launch, Sunny fell pregnant with her first child and continued to work full time as Delightful Desserts expanded. Her husband Baz then joined the business after witnessing its success and quick growth. 2017 saw Sunny and Baz franchise the business, opening 24 stores in 24 months. They are now the proud parents to four girls under three.
We spoke to 32-year-old Sunny about her journey to self-employment and what advice she has for working parents hoping to get a better work-life balance.
Question: You have managed to juggle a growing family as well as launch a start-up business…is there any advice for working parents hoping to balance their personal and professional lives?
Sunny Kooner: The best advice I can give is you have to be willing to put in the hours. Success doesn’t come without hard work. My business is literally my baby (my first born, haha). I know how hard it is managing a busy family life – you wake up, blink and the day is gone. It has been very testing at times, but I make it happen. I am fortunate that I can work from home, which is ideal for managing a busy family life. Or I work from our office, which has enough space for me to bring my children in with me. Try not to worry too much about routine or structure in the early days, just do what you can, whenever you can.
The very common ‘mum guilt’ has been difficult for me, where I question whether I am giving my children enough attention? Am I being the best mum I can be? I start comparing myself to other mums who have the privilege of a year-long paid maternity leave etc, but I always reassure myself by saying all the work I am putting in now is all for my children’s future. Everything I do, I do for them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I found asking for help very difficult, but you need to do it. If you are lucky enough to have a strong support network around you, use it to your advantage.
Question: Have there been any challenging moments throughout the business? How did you get through them?
Sunny Kooner: I have challenging moments regularly. I have staff that don’t turn up, staff that are stealing, staff that just don’t do their job. I could honestly write a book about my challenges, they are never-ending! At first I used to take everything so personally – every negative review or comment about my business would be taken as a personal insult and it would take me ages to get over it. You can’t help that when it is your own business, it is literally like your child. I have trained myself to become more resilient as a person and rather than being so emotionally involved and to look at ways to be more logical when dealing with issues.
An example would be if a staff member isn’t performing. Previously I would get frustrated and just want to remove them from the business straight away, as I felt they were getting paid my hard-earned money for nothing. Whereas now, I look at the issues; why aren’t they performing, are they right for that particular role? What do they need support with? What training can I put in place? I personally feel, as a woman, that it is so easy to get emotionally involved in things, but really try to remove the emotion and look at the job and the task in hand. Once I started to do that my productivity increased massively.
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Question: There are an increasing amount of female entrepreneurs in the UK, but still considerably fewer than men…how can we empower more women to chase business ownership?
Sunny Kooner: I am all for female empowerment, it is such a big thing for me. Being Indian and being a woman in business is quite rare. Yes, the numbers are increasing, but in my eyes not fast enough, women need to have that self-belief that they can do it. They need to know they are more than capable of chasing their dreams and becoming future leaders. We need more women to empower others. I have four little girls and I tell them every day they can be whatever they want to be.
We need more seminars, exhibitions and talks on females in business, so women can attend and be inspired and empowered. I have recently started a blog on social media and I have been overwhelmed by the positive response I have got. I have been inundated with messages from women telling me what a positive platform I have created. It is called ‘blessed with girls’ and is all about female empowerment and managing my life with young children whilst running a business. It is quite powerful for Asian women, as the focus is on how, in Indian culture, women are seen as inferior to men.
The purpose of my blog is to show that women are amazing and we can achieve anything we want! Check out my blog on facebook – blessed with girls or Instagram Blessed.with.girls There is so much I will be using that platform for. I hope to inspire and empower women to become entrepreneurs too.
Question: In your opinion, what do you think is the key to unlocking confidence and building self-esteem?
Sunny Kooner: Self-belief is so important. I started in the restaurant industry not knowing one single thing. I taught myself everything from scratch, spending hours googling and researching. Nothing worth having in life comes easily, it’s all a lot of hard work. But if you have the will power, motivation and desire for it, you will do it.
Also looking after your mental health is so important. Join a gym, go for walks, take some time alone for yourself. Being a mum and a business woman is all consuming, I never used to get any time to myself to focus on my own mental health. I have recently started a 40-minute outdoor exercise class three times a week. It gets me out of the house when all my children are asleep, so I don’t feel guilty for leaving them and gives me time to focus on my own mental and physical health. It has really allowed me to have some real ‘me’ time and has helped me to get mentally stronger. Don’t feel like you can’t invest in yourself. As women, we spend so much time looking after and caring for others that we can often neglect ourselves. But remember if you don’t look after yourself you won’t be fit to look after others.
Question: Do you have any advice for someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Sunny Kooner: Put in the hours, its going to be hard – know that you will question yourself almost daily about what you are doing; Am I doing the right thing, should I do something else, what are people thinking of me.
The self-doubt will always be there. But always remind yourself why you started it, what you want to achieve and, most of all, remind yourself that you can do it. My favourite quote I always think of when I am having a blip in my self confidence is ‘Every expert started off a beginner’. Don’t get stressed thinking you don’t know enough as you can always learn along the way. The learning never ever stops. Network and surround yourself with like-minded people. You will get a lot of negativity from people when you tell them you want to be self-employed. There are a lot of people out there that can only see the negative side of things. I am lucky that I have my husband who is so supportive and works alongside me. We motivate each other every day. If you can find someone who can pick you up when you are having a bad day you will be very lucky.
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