My adventure as an entrepreneur

"30 year old female starts commercial energy consultancy, challenges a rogue industry, wins multiple national awards, experiences financial wins & successfully sells 12 years later."

That’s how a single sentence description of my story could read.

It’s not the full story of my rollercoaster journey though.

It doesn’t capture the deep dark lonely moments, the monumental mistakes I made, how I found the strength to keep going, nor that I eventually learnt how to weave my one precious human life into it all.

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My twenties

In 2002 I graduated with a shiny degree in American Studies.

I entered the world of full-time work and for the next 8 years, through a variety of negative and startling experiences, I began to understand how to build a value led business with loyal, engaged, successful employees and happy customers.

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Starting my own company

In 2010 I founded Indigo Swan, a commercial energy consultancy.

Outwardly, I was fuelled by a desire to find a better way of working in an industry sector that very often received bad press and where rogue business practices were common place.

The true decision to start came from feeling trapped, responsible and hopeful my life could be different.

I took these feelings and was inspired by my hours of –
– reading
– networking
– seminar attendance
– leadership development courses
– peer knowledge sharing

As a young company we failed fast, changing things when they weren’t working and amplifying ideas when we felt we were on the right path.

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Becoming a mummy

In 2014 my beautiful son was born and life became more wonderful and more exhausting than I could ever have imagined.

As an obsessively focused, perfection driven entrepreneur how do you navigate the energy fluctuations of pregnancy, the distance of maternity leave and the deep desire to enjoy the special family moments?

It’s tricky for sure. At this point I made too many head and not enough heart decisions.

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Finding the courage to speak in public

I faced my public speaking gremlins head on with my 2017 TEDx Talk, capturing our experiences for an external audience.

I shared how we created the ‘Do-Angle’ to leverage innovation and stand out from the competition.

I was terrified and hadn’t had a single perfect run through before walking on to that stage.  There is a point around minute 5 where I think “ahhh I’m doing it. I’m doing it. Shit FOCUS”.

This moment, made of 9 minutes on that red round carpet with no notes, no cue screen and no previous experience, is still one of my proudest.

This moment didn’t happen because I believed I could.  It happened because someone else believed I could.

Helping elsewhere

Over the next couple of years I was honoured to be recruited as a Non-Executive Director for a 10 bed female led mental health hospital and appointed as a Trustee of Norwich’s OPEN Youth Trust.

I wanted to help and make a difference to two enterprises that connected to my personal experiences.

I made a mistake.

Being a mother, running Indigo Swan, holding these positions and desperately trying to do my best, not drop a single ball and not let anyone down spread me paper thin and I wasn’t doing any of it particularly well.

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Peer power

In 2019 my great friend, MD peer, fellow mother Rebecca and I launched the Culture:Awesome Podcast.

We chatted about the ideas that inspired us in our respective businesses, what worked well and, most importantly, what didn’t.

During the whole series we only had one edit, when I lost my train of thought, the rest is honest, free flowing conversation, reflecting how we are in the real world. Having a peer who is guaranteed to very often say “yeah, I find that tough too”, “have you read this, I’ve started using the idea and it’s great” or “wow, well done” is one of the magical ingredients of entrepreneurship.

Never compare someone else's highlight reel with your backstage

In the early Spring 2019 I was interviewed by Norfolk Director magazine to explore what made me tick, my journey to entrepreneurship and experiences.

In that interview I was asked to give three words that I felt best described me.  My answer was “authentic, enthusiastic and inquisitive”.  The last two were, and still feel, very true.  My energy and thirst for learning exist in all aspects of my life.

I cringe now at the idea that I was being “authentic”.  Outwardly I may have looked like I had it all together, was succeeding and was happy but I really wasn’t.  A deep sadness had crept in, I felt lost and my light was dimming rapidly.

Looking at the photos and reading the interview you’d never know it, my perfectly professional costume was firmly in place.

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Tough decisions

Quite soon after the magazine article was published I started to feel like I really needed to make a change, to search for my “authentic” self and rediscover joy.

I was incredibly fortunate that our Indigo Swan Commercial Director, James, was smashing it at work and, with a huge dose of courage from us both, in the summer of 2019 he transitioned into my Managing Director shoes.

I retained a non-executive position on the board and my majority shareholding. James & the team were truly amazing and I will be eternally grateful for the life changing opportunity I had to commence a new journey.

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Returning to my love of learning

Did I rest? Nope.  I commenced a full-time MSCi in Social Psychology at the UEA and a glimmer of light appeared.

I explored academically the scientific principles that supported my passion for organisational psychology and found links between the initiatives we introduced at Indigo Swan, because they felt right, and research that explained why they would generate positive results or not.

I hoovered up knowledge about behavioural economics, attribution theory, cognitive dissonance, group think and system dynamics. I ultimately fell in love with wisdom research. After all, it is considered that wisdom comes with age but not all people are wise.  How, and under what conditions, does wisdom develop?  It’s a question I continue to research.

 

Becoming part of something much bigger

In September 2020 I had the huge of honour of joining the board at Muntons plc as one of their 4 non-executive directors and the first female board member in the company’s 100 year history.

It’s an amazing company to be part of. Their values, financial performance and world leading sustainability credentials are underpinned by the strength of their organisational culture.

The people here, just like at Indigo Swan, are what sets them apart.

 

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From Swan to Bear

At the end of 2022, after 3 years of tremendous performance by the team at Indigo Swan, we completed a management buyout, transferring my ownership to the 4 senior members of the management team.

It’s breathtaking to reflect on the company born from a glimmer of hope in 2010 that, after successive years of value-led reputational and financial success, was sold to the existing team of passionate leaders to take into the future and develop as their own.

And so we come to the part in the adventure where, after years of pondering how to capture and share my experiences, I am delighted to bring Amber Bear to life.

If you’ve got to this point on the page, get in touch. We’ll walk, enjoy a cup of coffee and explore how whole person mentorship can rejuvenate your entrepreneurial journey and reignite your light.

Contact Me

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