In part 1, we gained an initial insight into the most significant thing that got the extraordinary and quirky Sonia Brown to where she is today – self-belief!
And we learned that the National Black Women’s Network is helping her live her purpose and dreams.
Now read part 2 and discover how she overcame her greatest challenges on her journey and how networking is not only the purpose of her business but the key to her success.
What was the greatest challenge you faced on your journey, and how did you overcome it?
Sonia Brown: The greatest challenge of business is uncertainty. So you’ve got to know what scares you and what drives you. It’s important to plan your strategies to make sure that you’re not challenged by your fears and give up.
On a practical level, I had to manage my cash flow because when it’s low it hits at my sense of insecurity. So in response I’d just get out there and find more contracts. I look at it as a numbers game. A lot of business people only have one format for their business. You have to keep reinventing your business in order to stay relevant if you’re a micropreneur.
Another thing I’ve learned is to be careful who you work with, because sometimes you might be the one who brings the value to the relationship and you don’t realize your personal value. If you are not careful it will cost you negatively in terms of time, resources and energy. Collaborations are the new currency but don’t let it break you. Learn from it.
What was your most revelatory moment?
Sonia Brown: I have so many moments. I meet so many people who have helped me along the way. What has been instrumental to my success? Networking. And I keep saying to people, “Be nice to people! Be interesting! Be personable if want to succeed!”
Life is like mathematics and it’s all about opposites. For every one downbeat person I meet, I meet about 20 really great people doing good things for me. So you’ve got to focus on the positive.
At my funeral, they’ll all say, ‘Poor God, she’s up there starting another network!’ Why? Because it’s so in my blood—I wouldn’t want to be doing anything other than what I’m doing today.
There was a point when my business absolutely flat-lined. There were no contracts, no projects, nothing. You’ve got nothing coming in and the prospect of going to the job centre is an absolute no-no. What do you do? You evaluate the situation you’re in - get up, put on your push-up bra, make-up and high heels and you sit at your desk and make something happen. I think too many people give up just before the time is right. I needed the business to go down. I needed to go in a different direction and evolve.
It’s important to let people know that we are blessed to be living in this time and I am grateful for the sacrifices that my mom and the women before her made so that I can live the life I live now. My mom couldn’t be talking aspirations, purpose and passion. She had to work to survive and feed her children. Sometimes we don’t appreciate that we have these advantages because we don't think our parents raised us the best way. But, they made big sacrifices and because of the adversities they overcame, we are the people we are today. So I am thankful and grateful.
It wasn’t easy for my parents when they came to this country. Our parents were under so much pressure. I only have three cats, that's pressure enough. Can you imagine going halfway across the world, you don’t know anyone, you live in a house with people you don’t know, you’re getting racially abused by your boss and workmates. And there’s nothing you can do because there were no legislation to protect you in the workplace. They had to suck it up; lean in and still make change. Today we have a generation who are soft, precious and thinking the world owes them something. They are not as resilient as our parents.
Would you say that networking has been the key to your success?
Sonia Brown: Without a doubt. I would never be where I am today if it wasn’t for networking. All those fabulous people I’ve met. All the peers, MPs, bank managers and government officers who have championed my cause over the years have helped me get to where I am today. The list of supporters is endless and I don’t want to name anyone in case I miss anyone but they have all been instrumental in shaping my purpose.
Remember I said you have to seek a purpose? Go and seek purpose. It’s not going to find you. Can you imagine being in a room of, let’s say 50 to 100 people, all on purpose? Can you imagine the energy in that room? What would happen to your spirit if you were in a room like that? You’re on purpose; they’re on purpose; everyone’s on purpose. You’re fired up in different ways for different people. It’s not something where you can go, here’s the formula: A, B, C, D – wow, success!
Sadly, a lot of people haven’t discovered their purpose, because they’re too lazy, scared or fearful to push through. You’ve got to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. You’ve got to find the lesson in your obstacle. You have to find the joy in the pain. You have to laugh when all things seem impossible. It’s like that famous coaching statement. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
And it’s not just about joining any old network. The quality is important. I have learnt to be strategic about the events I go to, the networks I’m a part of because there’s only one of me. I’m comfortable enough not to be seen everywhere because I’m happy and content but not content enough not to be hungry. There are so many exciting things happening in the world of business at the moment so I will never lose out!
To learn more about the National Black Women's Network, click here.
Find out in part 3 what part being a black woman from a Jamaican background played in Sonia's success and her top tips for women who want to succeed.
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