How to get to the top by female entrepreneurs Liz Earle, Belinda Parmar and Cassandra Stavrou


Belinda Parmar, Liz Earle and Cassandra on stage giving their business tips to Stylist editor Lisa Smosarsk


How to go from idea to a business?

How do female entrepreneurs make it? How do you go from an idea to a multi-million pound business? At this week’s Stylist Live event, Liz Earle MBE, Belinda Paramar OBE who heads up The Empathy Business and Cassandra Stavrou who invented PROPERCORN gave us their tips for young entrepreneurs wanting to launch their own businesses.

  1. Be passionate about your product
    All three entrepreneurs said it was vital to be passionate about your product or service, as Earle says “it will take over your whole life.” You also need to give things a go. “Ideas are cheap,” says Parmar. “Execution is everything”. All three said if you’re passionate about an idea, you just need to get on and try it. “The idea is 10%” says Stavrou, “the business is the execution.” She says she even if the business fails it’s a positive step. “Leaving your job shows your not risk adverse,” she says. “It proves you’ve given it a shot.”
  2. Know your limitations
    Stavrou moved home with her mother and spent two years refining her product and launching her business. She said she should have got others involved earlier, but she felt like she needed to do it all herself to start with. “I was lucky that I met Richard Reid from Innocent and he told me to get a business partner, and that really helped.” Earle agreed, saying it’s vital to take any kind of help going, whether that’s financial in the early days or babysitting – you need great support to get started.
  3. Get a good team
    Stavrou says her team have been vital is getting her business where it is today. “Get the right people and invest in them,” she says. At PROPERCORN the team all eat together, there are no desk lunches and the internal culture is as important as the external brand. Earle says this also extends to suppliers and business partners. “You need to form long-term business relationships with suppliers who will be on your side when things don’t go to plan.”
  4. Forget about work life balance
    Parmar says she hates the work/life balance myth. “If you like boundaries then setting up your own business isn’t for you,” she says. “I run my own business and for me that means a work/life blend. That’s what’s so exciting. It’s flexible working in the fact I run my own business but I can take time off to see my son without having to clock in and out. Earle says in the early days life revolved around the school calendar and they were the first dates to go in the diary. “We’d do the school run, work til three, go back and do the school run, teatime, bath and bed and then we’d be working again from 7.30pm. For me, it was important to be working with people who were at the same stage in life.”
  5. Know when to switch off
    Tempting as it to work all hours you need to switch off, see friends and sleep to succeed. Earle swears by 7.5 hours a night and says the hours before midnight are the most valuable – she would rather get up early. And going to bed means going to sleep. “Leave technology at the bedroom door,” she says. “And I always have Sunday off.” Stavrou agrees. “It’s important I make time to see my friends and family. You need to be the best version of you to be the best person for your business,” she says.
  6. Build it your way
    The entrepreneurs agreed that you don’t necessarily need huge financing to get a company off the ground. “Do everything on a shoestring,” says Parmar. “We went to the graduate design fair to find someone to do our branding. You don’t need huge amounts of money, you need an idea, passion, vision and to be relentless.” Earle is a big believer is “building it slow but building it strong” to build a brand that will stand the test of time, even in today’s world where everyone things they have to do things at 100 mph. “My partner Kim has a saying which is ‘if it has to be now, it has to be no'”. Parmar says it’s also vital to listen to your emotions throughout the process. “They tell you who you are, she says, which will inform how you run your business.”Have you got any great tips for making it to the top? We’d love to hear what you think. Are you starting up your own business?You may also like to read some of success stories about working parents who have chosen more flexible careers.


  1. October 17, 2016 / 6:04 pm

    How do you define “getting to the top?” I achieved my dream of becoming a (traditionally) published author and yet I do not earn enough money to constitute even a basic wage, never mind enough to support my family. For that I am on my own and trying to learn how to be a business person with very little actual business knowledge or training. Yet I would rather be here, doing what I do now as a freelance writer working to my own schedule, than slaving away for somebody else.

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