Over the next month, we'll be interviewing some of Britain's most inspiring young businesswomen - MT's 35 Women Under 35 alumni.
Next up, Jessica Kruger, founder of veggie restaurant Ethos.
What inspired you to start your own food business at such a young age?
Getting fired up about the poor range of meat-free choices in most restaurants. I was exasperated by how vegetarian food was essentially treated as a second class citizen by chefs. It wasn’t right so I wanted to show people what meat-free food could really be like.
How did you fund Ethos?
With a small amount of my own savings and the rest through finding a business partner investor to back me. He took a big risk backing me, given that I was 26 and had no experience at all, so I'm very grateful for that.
Which businesswoman do you most admire and why?
My two mentors, Ilse Vonk (COO of Dopper, a sustainable water bottle company in the Netherlands), who I met at business school, and business advisor Barbara Marchelle, who I met through the government sponsored Growth Accelerator programme. They have taught me so much and are such powerful, smart and savvy women. I want to be like them one day.
What's the secret of your success so far?
Hard work and just doing it. I also live by the motto 'Every cloud has a silver lining' - whenever something goes wrong or doesn't work out, turn it on its head to find the opportunity to come out of it.
What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome personally and how did you do it?
Learning to manage people. I made a mistake in HR law, and unfortunately learned the hard way how seriously it is taken. Since then, I've learned the full process for dealing with disciplinaries and managing the wrong people out. I'm now extremely diligent in following all the legal steps to make sure I'm covered in the future.
Have you ever experienced sexism or ageism in the workplace?
Not overtly but I do sense it sometimes, mainly in dealing with more corporate settings or in industries that are dominated by men, such as real estate. I was recently reading about a female CEO who called herself Steve in the 70s in order to receive respect from peers. It has often crossed my mind whether people would respond differently to me if I signed emails with, say, Jason. I should give it a go!
What would be your three pieces of practical advice for young women to help them succeed in business?
1. Learn about time management as soon as you can. I dismissed this skill for a long time as not being that important and too much of a 'soft skill' but it will make such a difference in your life. Learn about the Eisenhower matrix and then get practising.
2. Find a mentor and/or approach people you admire in business and ask to pick their brains over coffee. No question is a silly question so ask away. I can’t begin to say what help my mentors have been to me.
3. Read read read. Read widely about business, management and the way the world works, but also educate yourself in your field and become an expert. I’d recommend How Google Works for an insight into how one of the world’s greatest and most exciting companies arrived at where it is today. It’s all about product excellence, gleaning insight from data and, of course, hiring great people. These three pillars are applicable in any business so, even if you’re not in tech, get the book.