Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I have wanted to start a business for a while, I have always worked a 9-5 and even though I have loved working as an Event Planner for the last 10 years, I knew this wasn’t my everything. As an event planner/project manager, you are constantly taking other people’s ideas and dreams and making it a reality – which is fine, but I felt that I needed to do that for myself.
I received some money from my parents for my 30th birthday and like every mature 30yo woman, I spent a chunk of it on a designer handbag and then used the rest to start my business – when I got this money, I realised I had absolutely no excuses left.
I started the business pretty minimally, I didn’t really pay for a lot of huge expenses like branding, product photography, marketing etc. which is another debate in itself of whether I should have invested in these things from the get-go. My husband did all the branding for me, I built my first website (though my husband has rebuilt it and made it look much much much better) a friend helped me take all the product images. I did, however, pay a graphic designer to help me with the first packaging draft.
It’s all been organic, when I make money, I reinvest it into the business, the only extra I have put in was an amount for PR in February 2021.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: When I was a kid, my mum gave us a sapo each, we used it pretty much everyday, when we went to Ghana (I was 7 at the time) I saw heaps of them in the market and then again at 21, I noticed them, after that I didn’t think about it for many years and for the longest time I used the shower loofahs (what I now like to refer to as bacteria nests, haha) and exfoliation gloves, because I NEED to exfoliate to feel clean!
A few years ago, mum reminded me of them on the family WhatsApp and I had a lightbulb moment, no one has introduced these to the Western world (think Australia – I am an Australian citizen and UK – I currently live in the UK with my husband). I went and did a bit of research, however I found that there were already a few people in the market, so I was going to let it go. I was talking to my husband and he said to me, “Ford, Toyota, VW, Mercedes, Holden etc. if they had all decided not to add their take on the car into the market because ‘there’s ‘already people doing it’ we wouldn’t have the rich choice we have in the automobile industry” He encouraged me to start and bring what no one else can bring to it, my personality, so I did.
I was born in Norway, so I love the minimal Scandinavian vibe, so my packaging was inspired by that, minimal but functional. People have told me they use the packaging as a makeup bag or a pencil case afterwards. I only wear black (previously minimal colour wardrobe) so I decided that even though there are a myriad of colours available, NETT would always be classic colours that won’t ruin your bathroom aesthetic, our range includes black and white (obviously, monochrome dreams), blue (the traditional colour) grey (the most popular) and red wine, because I saw that colour and lost my cool, its so SEXY! Finally, I decided to buy my NETTs directly from market stall holders (instead of wholesalers), we have someone who goes out and picks them, because quality control is paramount. I guess these are all things that I think makes my brand stand out from the rest.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I am a doer, I don’t talk about what I want, I often just go out and get it done. I love people and have always taken them along for the ride (whatever the adventure) I roll with the punches and there are a lot with being an entrepreneur. I am not (too) afraid to fail, I have always just figured that that is a part of life that you either overcome or live the rest of your life never achieving anything out of fear of failure.
I am a big sister and have always been a leader/’bossy’ (however you want to see it!). I love people and working as a team and I love helping to develop people and being a part of their growth and I think all these things are absolutely necessary for successful entrepreneurship, so I guess yes, I am natural.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: My husband has been my biggest cheerleader the whole time. He does everything with me when it comes to my business, he built my website, made my branding, does my marketing, is my biggest support and everything he does, he does it with such patience and teaches me along the way. I feel that this business is as much his as mine, though he refuses to take any credit for it. He literally inspires me everyday.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I think a huge part of what makes my business stand out is the fact that we have taken a product that is so simple and yet so so effective. There’s no gimmicks with the NETT and when people buy it and try it, they are just so DELIGHTFULLY surprised.
There are a lot of products on the market these days that promise the stars and deliver dust, the NETT does exactly what it says on the tin – as you will read on a lot of our Google Reviews. I also think people are amazed that this product has been around in Ghana/West Africa, for generations and they have NEVER heard of it.
The NETT is revolutionary in its simplicity, it does exactly what it says it will do and it does it so well. I also think that my personal touch makes the business stand out. If I know the founder behind a small business and I know they are working their butts off, I want to support them even more! I have found people love a face behind a brand and the personal touch. I respond to all emails (currently, haha) they really are supporting a small business and people love that.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: Audacity – you have to have the balls to make some courageous steps! You also have to have the boldness to believe that your idea is a great idea and that you can have success and that you deserve it. No one will do that for you, you have to do that for yourself.
Love for People – people are everything. If your love for money, material possessions or success exceeds your love for people, you may find yourself incredibly successful, but with no one to share all that with and what is the point of everything in life if there is no one to enjoy it with?
Vision – to move forward you must have vision. The Bible says ‘without vision, the people perish’ and I’ve found that to be true in my endeavours.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I once read that to be successful you basically have to ‘be aggressive, willing to bulldoze anyone and anything that gets in your way and ensure that people are scared of you’. I really believed this for a long time, now my approach is the complete opposite.
I try to be kind always, work around things getting in my way, I don’t want to look back and just see a path of chaos and destruction left by me “in my pursuit to success”. I think no one wins when people are scared of you, especially people you work with. People remember how you make them feel and fear is not a feeling they will cherish.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I mean, I don’t have any employees at the moment (except for an admin assistant), but my thoughts,, I think a little stress is actually good for us. I don’t think we are made to always be comfortable, growth doesn’t come from a place of comfort. It’s under stress that muscles grow. That’s not to say that we should live in a constant state of stress or deliberately put ourselves under unnecessary stress, but it does mean that considering stress is a normal part of life, learning how to deal with it is more important than trying to find a way to eliminate it (which seems like a futile exercise).
Burn out and feelings of being overwhelmed often come from extended stress. Managing stress (when it comes to your work) fundamentally starts with the ability to break down monster tasks into bite size pieces and learning to prioritise and find balance in what we do. So if you want to create a culture in which people thrive and don’t “burn out” or get overwhelmed, then I think you need to teach people how to manage their time better, teach them how to prioritise and invest in training that will make people better at managing their work and life.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: Be yourself, be authentic, there is nothing more appealing than a person who is unapologetically themselves (even if they aren’t your sort of person, you can’t help but respect the fact that they are just honest and true to themselves).
Secondly, know your stuff, understand your industry and product and finally to build trust, be honest, open and vulnerable. Allow people to know that you are just human, sometimes as leaders we want people to think we have it all together, we know exactly what we are doing, we are just gliding through it all, we aren’t, so be honest, people are drawn to people that they can relate to.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: Gone are the days where we had to be stoic, stiff upper lipped leaders. Leaders are just people who have taken on extra responsibility. Taking on that responsibility doesn’t make you superhuman, it simply makes you ‘you’ with more responsibility, so we don’t expect you to be perfect simply because you have taken on a role.
We have a new generation of young people leading and founding businesses without a great deal of experience and they are willing to be honest about it. One of my favourites is Lucy Hitchcock from the ‘Winging It Podcast’ and ‘Partner in Wine’ who openly says that she is “winging it”. She has a huge following of upcoming entrepreneurs watching her every step and following her lead. This is modern day leadership. She is honest and open about the journey and people relate to that.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: The most common mistakes I have seen of founders is only starting when everything is perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal and is the biggest hindrance for people.
Just start with what you have, set a deadline, launch and develop and build your product/service as you go along.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: Highs and lows are a normal part of life, it doesn’t change because you gain success or otherwise. There are just different highs and lows, often more extreme. I think the major difference with entrepreneurs is that you often have to weather those lows alone, so with a 9-5 you have a support team around you of colleagues, a large portion of entrepreneurs work alone.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I received an amazing piece of PR coverage in February 2021, which basically launched my business after a year of very very slow growth. I have never been on such a high, the coverage resulted in basically a sale a minute and an 80K% increase in revenue. However as the minutes went by and the sales kept coming, 3 days, 4 days, 5 days and on and on, I realised that ‘I don’t think I have the capacity or the know how to actually make this happen’. I had about 3 weeks of high stress and sleepless nights as I waited for stock to arrive from Ghana and contemplated how I was actually going to turn around 1000+ orders before customers started getting irate about waiting for their order to arrive.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: NETT Exfoliator was recently named one of “The Best Female-owned
beauty brands to champion this International Women’s Day” it was placed
alongside names like Jen Atkin (I mean WHOA!)
Since this article, I have had such a major low; a real sense of imposter syndrome, even writing this interview, I thought to myself “what do you possibly have to contribute? You have only been doing this for a year and you have only really found “success” in the last 7 weeks. Who do you think you are?”
However, I am working on it – remembering to take one step at a time , remembering that I have something to share, I wouldn’t be asked if people didn’t think I did, reaffirming my worth, refraining from comparison – I’ve seen some of the amazing articles and entrepreneurs being interviewed.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: We are taught when growing up that, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all ” I have been practising this lately on myself. I think it’s just as important the way we speak to ourselves as the way we speak to each other. So I am practising this and speaking kindly to myself, lifting myself up by speaking kind truths over myself – I guess what people would call ‘affirmations’.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
A strong support network – friends and family who will cheer you on and
encourage you no matter how many times you need to hear it.
A clear vision – it will be difficult and if you don’t remember why you started, you will give up. Keep the vision in mind, always and that will keep you going during the lows.
A routine – building a routine, we underestimate the power of good routine and its impact on our mental health.
Self Discipline – self discipline will ensure that you are no longer relying on motivation to make things happen, since motivation is fleeting.
Grit – courage and resolve, strength of character, because this entrepreneurial journey will challenge your character.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I think resilience is the ability to be stretched beyond your current capacity and bounce back, stronger than before, rather than break.
I think if you made it through high school and university, if you have managed to come out of the darkness of depression and rebuild your life, if you have fought to achieve anything, that job promotion, making a relationship work, anything, you have more resilience than you think. We often consider resilience as having to work through and achieve something HUGE, however every day we prove ourselves resilient, just by getting through the day and facing the next.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I was born in Norway and when I was 6 we moved to a tiny little country town in Western Australia. I think growing up in places where you always stand out in a crowd can be very daunting for a child, especially when even adults find you weirdly fascinating. Everything from your hair to your skin colour to your nose (weird, I know, haha).
Knowing that you are different and that people notice it and that there is nothing you can do about it, is quite confronting, that coupled with the stares, the teasing, sometimes just genuine misplaced curiosity that doesn’t come across kindly or politically correctly, can be incredibly difficult.
I don’t think my childhood experience is any different from that of any first generation immigrant child. However I do think that it builds two kinds of adults, those angry at the world, or those who build resilience from it – and I like to think I fall into the latter category.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: Yes, I am generally (use generally quite loosely) positive. Self-speak is so important. Some people speak affirmations over themselves, as a Christian I quote Bible scriptures, promises I find in the Bible and also speak positively over myself constantly – out loud (that is the key) you need to hear yourself speaking over you.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: I think a team is always watching to see how you react and your general vibe/reaction will have a ripple effect through the whole team. When I ran my first 8000+ conference at Leeds arena (in my day job) I remember my boss telling me prior to the event, “Yvonne, never run anywhere. A boss always appears calm, regardless of whether she feels it or not.” I am literally like that in every aspect, my business and my day job, calm on top and paddling like mad underneath, haha.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is
that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that
most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”
The quote goes on and on, but this particular part of it has stuck with me for years. My little sister Lucy (founder of @nyperfect / www.nyperfect.com) and I heard this for the first time when we were kids, while watching the movie “Coach Carter” and it has stuck with me since, Lucy is particularly obsessed with it, haha!
The question at the end “actually, who are you not to be?” really hits home and I think is a question worth all of us asking ourselves, regularly, when that imposter syndrome hits, because it will and when it does, it oftens hits hard!
So I ask myself often, why can’t I have greatness? Why can’t I be super successful? Why can’t I leave something phenomenal behind for my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren and make my parents super proud (I am sure they are already proud of me, haha). Why can’t I leave a legacy that will live beyond me in every area of my life, business included?
How can our readers further follow you online?
Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson: Readers can follow me on @mynettex or www.mynettex.com/newsletter
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!