Deepali Nangia launched Empower, a female-focused consulting service advising entrepreneurs, non-profits and other organisations, just over three years ago. Before that she had worked in financial services, from investment banking on Wall Street to financial services firms like Marsh McLennan in the UK. She has two children and is a regular blogger on Workingmums.co.uk where she blogs as Diary of a Mumpreneur.
Workingmums.co.uk: How has Empower evolved in the last few years?
Deepali Nangia: I have continued to do more work around female entrepreneurship. In addition to my regular clients and the mentoring work I do for the Cherie Blair Foundation, I have also started mentoring for the Women in Technology Imperial College Althea Programme. I am currently mentoring a student there who is working on some disruptive technology for the edutainment industry. I also do mentoring for a few organisations in India, including SHEROES and the start-up organisation SACC Chandigarh which is not female-focused. I am also now Investment Director of a Kensington-based angel investor network. It is for local businesses, both male- and female-owned and run.
WM: Do you feel funding is a big issue for mums starting up in business, especially to take them to the next phase? What are the other main challenges?
DN: Funding is a big issue not just for mums – but for all entrepreneurs. While we are in a great investment climate, companies spend months fundraising, no matter if they are male- or female-run. For “life-style” type businesses, where there has traditionally been a lack of investor funding, crowdfunding is now playing a larger role. I have heard of businesses like Plum Alley, which is completely targeted towards female-owned businesses raising crowd money.
For mums, I think the bigger challenge is continuing to maintain work-life balance. From personal experience, it is very hard. It is hard to run your own business, manage a home, children, school homework and after-school activities. As your children grow, the time they require also grows; as your business grows, the time it requires also grows. The support system, therefore, has to be incredible.
WM: From your own experience, what is your typical day like? How do you manage to cope with your schedule?
DN: My typical day includes school drop-offs (which I alternate with my husband), external meetings for most of the day (with entrepreneurs looking for funding or clients looking to grow) or desktop work and thinking around emerging business models. My evenings are full of homework (it seems like I am studying all over again) coupled with jetting off to ballet or dance or swimming! I also do a fair amount of networking events and drag my husband to all sorts of art shows, plays and social gatherings. I am lucky to have childcare and, of course, Uber to make my life easier. I have a fair amount of admin to do for my own business as well as personal admin and all of my pro bono mentoring work, which I try to schedule on a Friday. My daughter is an independent child and quite pro-active which helps manage my schedule; my son is still quite young and demanding and I can only hope he grows to be like her. My husband is fabulous at helping with everything from groceries to cooking and shipping them to classes when he is around on the weekends. I don’t think I would have been able to do what I do without his support.
WM: Do you feel that the media has tended to portray mums in business as people running businesses on the side of being a mum, i.e. not that serious about it and that there is a growing number of women seeing entrepreneurship as a serious alternative to, say, a career in the City?
DN: The media has traditionally portrayed women in the past in this way because it probably was like that. I have in the past met many mums who run businesses on the side (such as mine) – it gives me an income, keeps me intellectually stimulated, at the cutting edge of things, enables me to make an impact while still having time for my children. However, as you say, I now see a growing number of City women leaving their full-time jobs to start ambitious, scaleable businesses. Both sets enjoy the flexibility working for oneself offers. You probably work longer hours on average, but you get to work around your children so you don’t miss all their special moments.
The women who leave the City to start their own business have traditionally been slightly older; with years of experience under their belt and some financial freedom, they tend to be more willing to take risks. These are very serious women looking to build big businesses.
WM: Can you tell us a bit more about the angel network?
DN: The angel network supports entrepreneurship in general. It was founded by a social entrepreneur, David Barrie, and he and I have worked together to build it. I do meet many women who we invite to pitch at the network events. I am looking for leadership qualities in the management teams that I see – “assertiveness” in my language rather than “overbearing”. We have one female-founded business that won investment through the network and many others have presented. We also have female investors and women on our Board, who are actively involved in our development.