“You don’t need to follow any social convention. Think different. Everything is yours if you focus your mind.”
Heather Katsonga-Woodward is author of several books on banking, personal finance, business and hair. She graduated with 1st Class Honours in Economics from the University of Cambridge. After 7 years in investment banking, first at Goldman Sachs and then at HSBC, Heather started a blog on kinky & curly hair – www.nenonatural.com – in 2012. In less than 2 years she grew it to a Facebook following of over 400,000 fans, an email list of about 40,000 subscribers and a monthly income equivalent to a 6-figure business. Based on that success, she created The Money Spot™ Program: A course on How to build A 6-Figure Product Business.
You are into hair care, property, publishing- an impressive list of diverse business interests. How do you respond to the question ‘’what do you do’’?
It depends who is asking. Sometimes I’ll just say I blog about hair, at other times I’ll give more detail with regards to what that entails. I see hair care as my main business, property and book writing as hobbies and coaching other people on success and wealth as a natural derivative of doing the first two well. I like to be brief and keep things interesting so the more interested the asker seems, the more detail I will provide.
You made a decision quite early in your career to start your own business, leaving behind a fast growing career in investment banking. What is the fascination with business for you?
Flexibility and autonomy. I believe a rich life is one in which you wake up looking forward to each day and can fully dictate what happens during that day. For me, having to wake up and work for someone else for all my working life would have been a failure whatever the salary. I want to see my kids grow, I want to go to all their school events and I don’t want to feel guilty about it or ask someone for permission to spend time with my own kids. I’m very family orientated and I love to spend time with the people I love. Any other lifestyle wouldn’t be worth living. By the time I quit banking my total gross salary was six figures in pounds sterling and to be honest I didn’t regret leaving that behind. I knew I could recreate even more than that outside of the banking arena if I put my heart and soul into it.
You are author of several books including one on how to build wealth. What in your experience is the best way to build wealth?
The surprisingly simple thing about wealth is that if you spend less than you earn and make a real plan for the savings you will progress. Too many people don’t think about their financial future and as a result end up working their whole lives because they have to. People think just because they have x amount in the bank they need to spend x; that’s not true. My husband and I have just bought our fifth property, a flat, and we’ll soon be living in the smallest of all the properties we own. Why? Because we have a plan for even greater abundance in 5 years’ time – we want more for us and for our son. If we are to enjoy such a life we need to live judiciously now.
You seem to be doing quite well in your businesses. What are some of the core principles you apply that others could learn from?
Firstly, I don’t get upset by the fact that I’m on call 24-7, that’s business – there are no weekends off, you don’t clock off at 5 p.m. and there is no such thing as a full holiday. I can’t just disappear for 2 weeks and forget about everything and I’m fine with that; I know there will be a time in my life when middle management can step in and let me have a completely hands off holiday. It may take 5, 10 or even more years before that happens. Blood curdling errors will happen, that’s business. Accept it. Enjoy it. If you get overly worked up by every single business mishap that occurs you won’t enjoy business. Finally, write physical lists that you can see every day. I have to be able to tick a list that I can physically see. It makes me feel productive and provides the sense of achievement I need to feel in order to progress and be productive.
In your own words ‘’you are passionate about kinky and curly hair’’ but you clearly aren’t one to put all your eggs in one basket. Is this fair to ask which of your businesses you find most fulfilling and why?
To be honest, I enjoy creating so whichever business allows me to be the most creative is my favourite at any given time. At the moment my husband and I just bought a flat and I’ve had the artistic license to change everything in it – so the business has been neglected this week. Luckily I put my trust in an honest builder so after deciding on the kitchen, bathroom, tiles, flooring, lighting, etc. etc., I’ve let him do the rest. The good thing about me is that I make decisions quite rapidly so what might take others ages to decide I can get comfortable with in a matter of minutes.
Outside of my property hobby, the hair business has been the most fun out of every venture I’ve ever tried. I’ve gone from just blogging, to teaching people how to make hair products to my own product line. There is so much scope for doing different things. What I love the most is the level of interaction I get with fans. If I start a conversation on social media people respond and I thoroughly enjoy chatting with them. It’s very hard to get that in business. I’ve had trouble with getting interaction in the past.
One thing no doubt you must be proud of is how you quickly you developed a fan base of over 400,000 Facebook fans for your natural hair care brand. How did you achieve that and how do you keep them interested?
The answer is simple, Facebook ads. To keep fans’ interest we post beautiful pictures to inspire new hairstyles daily. However, as of 2014 Facebook has changed their model such that if you want fans to see things you post you have to pay to “boost” the post. That has put a real dampener on Facebook. Most of my posts are not designed to make money so it doesn’t make sense to “boost” them. I prefer YouTube and instagram nowadays.
What would your ‘’must heed’’ advice be to those is thinking of leaving the corporate world to start their own business?
Just do it. If you over think it you’ll end up doing nothing.
How important is it for successful people to have mentors too and what typically should someone who is already successful look to learn from another?
Mentors are critical. With a mentor I look for someone who has a little more experience than me in something and who is available to bounce ideas off of. Above all a mentor should inspire you to do more and to be better.
How have you handled failure or what you consider to be your shortcomings and what has that taught you to do differently?
I sometimes don’t do as well as I would like but I don’t dwell too much on it. I just move on. At the most I will sit down and think about how I can prevent future errors of a similar ilk from happening again. I also try to learn from other people’s mistakes by watching business shows. I glean whatever advice I can from such shows.
What kind of leadership do you think women need to role model for the younger generation in particular for younger women?
People need to realize that in order to do well in life you don’t need to be of a certain type, you don’t need to follow any social convention, to dress in a specific way nor even to listen to everything your parents say. Be open minded, think different and follow your heart; everything is yours to have if you focus your mind.
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