How to overcome imposter syndrome as a founder, or in any stage of your career: Tiwani Heritage
“If you don’t do it, you haven’t done it.” My granny used to say this a lot, and the words have always stuck with me.
Carol Lathbridge and Lola Cawood are school friends-turned-business owners who live and breathe this message. I first met the pair through the Founders Unite project that we launched through Virgin Unite to shine a light on brilliant Black-owned businesses.
In 2020, Lola and Carol had launched a fantastic business called Tiwani Heritage as a sustainable hair extensions and lifestyle brand. In case launching a business in a pandemic wasn’t hard enough, Lola and Carol have both recently had babies, and were both juggling work and life with a new-born.
They were also up against the fact that Black female founders have received just 0.02% of venture capital funding in the UK over the past decade. Despite these challenges, Lola and Carol stood by their idea, secured a loan from Virgin StartUp and created a business where they turn problems into solutions.
Lola and Carol shared so much wisdom with me about everything from little known grants to ways of overcoming imposter syndrome – and I wanted to bottle up everything they said and share it with you all. So, we turned our coffee-fuelled chat into a more formal interview, which you can watch below! We covered everything from spotting gaps in the market, to tackling sustainability, embracing simplicity, overcoming imposter syndrome, empowering other entrepreneurs, and finding innovation in the most unlikely places (i.e., banana fibres). For context on that one, you’ll have to watch our conversation in full…
Imposter syndrome is something so many of us grapple with, particularly as women. It came to me in full force when I started my business career, and then again when I returned to work after having my twins, so I was really inspired by the advice that Lola shared with me:
Just shut it down. Go in there, lift your head up high and say, ‘I’m here. I’m here for you to see what I’m about.’
They also shared some other helpful ways to gain confidence in yourself, your business or your career in any capacity:
Know your worth: Apply for every grant, every accelerator programme, every competition, and every award you can find.
Turn down the volume of the negative self-talk: This gets easier as your careers moves on, and you build up more confidence from everything you’ve experienced. At the beginning though, you’ve got to take a leap of faith and just get started.
Don’t underestimate the edge you can bring to your brand, just by being yourself and bringing your own voice to the table.
In terms of grants, competitions and programmes to look out for, Lola and Carol shared some brilliant resources with me:
Virgin StartUp’s Collective Impact programme: I can vouch for this one too! It’s a fantastic investment-readiness programme for purpose-driven founders that Virgin StartUp and CrowdCube deliver each year. Lola and Carol joined the 2021 cohort and received training, networking, introductions to investors and and 1-2-1 sessions with industry experts to get them in a great place for securing investment.
Small Business Goes Big competition: Lola and Carol won a share of £10,000 and advertising space on over 100 digital billboards, in this brilliant competition from Enterprise Nation and Adobe.
Unlimited: A fantastic organisation offering grants to spend on childcare for female founders.
We also collected a list of other handy resources for founders when we last spoke too:
Virgin StartUp’s extensive range of resources including programmes, loans, events, masterclasses, podcast, how-to guides, mentorship opportunities and beyond. The business plan template is a good resource to start with.
The Black Business Network’s support hub has a brilliant list of funds, grants, events, awards, marketplaces and more.
The Black Business Business Awards is a powerful community and annual award ceremony that celebrates exceptional Black professionals and entrepreneurs.
In case they haven’t achieved enough in the past three years, Lola and Carol are almost ready to launch a range of plant-based hair extensions. It’s a first-of-its-kind innovation, where the hair is made from banana fibres and pineapple fibres – making it both plastic and chemical free. It’s a perfect example of how innovation can turn a problem into an opportunity, and make the world a better place.
Thank you so much to Lola and Carol for sharing your wisdom with us, for creating such an exciting and purpose-driven business.