Wednesday, 2 July 2014

2Inspire Network Business Profile: Vanessa Vallely, Founder of WeAreTheCity.com

In this 2Inspire Network Profile we meet the phenomenal Vanessa Vallely, Founder of WeAreTheCity.com, an online network for professional women which is taking the world by storm. By combining a digital platform to empower women in business and women at work, the site has inspired women from across the world. Vanessa is also the author of "Heels of Steel", book about surviving and thriving in the corporate world. Read on and be motivated! 


Vanessa Vallely

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
No two days are the same for me.  The one thing that is generally consistent is that I take the kids to school and then I am on a train somewhere.  My Iphone and Laptop are as attached to me as my own limbs.  My days are most made up of calls to my clients, visits to my mentees, perhaps a school and generally a talk in the evening.  I wake up at 5.00am on most days to cram as much in as I can before the kids wake up (6.30am).  I don't watch TV or read magazines so I use this time to answer emails and make calls.  I probably put in 12 hours a day, but I am a true believer, what you put in, you get out!

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I started WeAreTheCity as I was frustrated that there were a number of women's networks and opportunities to up-skill but they were scattered across the internet.  I wanted to create 1 site that was dedicated to women who wanted to progress in their businesses and careers.  WeAreTheCity was formed in 2008 and I ran it for 5 years alongside my corporate career.  We receive in excess of 4 million hits a month and 200,000 unique visitors, so I guess we must be doing something right! In 2012 we launched Careers City, our female job board and in 2014 we launched WeAreTheCity in India.  I left my corporate role at Head of Governance in 2013 to focus on both businesses.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Securing investment, which only happened this year.  We ran WeAreTheCity via our own funds for many years.  I knew I needed investment to grow and this year I locked myself away and wrote our business plan.  We are very lucky in the respect we only showed it to two potential investors and within one week, one of them committed to investing.  I was fully expecting the investment process to take at least year and to bear a few bruises in the process!  It’s a case of be careful what you wish for as now I am dealing with all sorts, building leases, staff, apprentices etc.  It is very exciting and definitely a new chapter for WeAreTheCity.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Cashflow.  
Big businesses don't realise how they crush us small businesses by taking their time to pay.  When you are first starting out this has to be the toughest aspect of managing any business.  If we need materials or services we have to pay, then we have to wait 30, 45 and sometimes 60 days for payments to reach us.

What are your future plans for the business?
In august we will get our new offices and 6 new members of staff.  I have never had support of this magnitude and in some ways that has what has prevented us from growing quicker.  My husband and I are just two people, with 2 kids, charity commitments and 3 businesses, to have hands to help us will be magical.  I am also an ideas person and have tonnes of initiatives I would like to introduce to WeAreTheCity, however I was always constrained by time and lack of funding.  I am excited that I will soon have the opportunity to explore new markets and hopefully continue to help women in their careers, not just in the UK but globally.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing.  I believe things happen for a reason.  
Every step, every disappointment, every celebration and person that came in to our lives and business did so for a reason.  I wouldn't go back and change a thing.  The only thing I could possibly think of was to chose a better accountant when we were first starting out, we made a number of mistakes through lack of understanding of our own numbers!  Always know your numbers, that is what my own business mentee has drummed in to me.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Because together we are stronger.  I believe in giving back and playing my part in building the next generations of corporate workers and business leaders.  I figure that these people may hire
my own daughters one day!  The world is full of people who tell you all the things you cant do or what you will never achieve, my advice is thank them for their opinions and move on, keep your focus and prove them wrong.  I truly believe you can achieve anything if you try hard enough.  Surround yourself with the right people, do the right thing in terms of helping others and above all, dream big!

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Write your business plan first and do you market research.  I wrote my plan 6 years in to my business and I am sure I would have saved time and money had I done it sooner.   Make use of mentors and don't be afraid to ask others for help.  My biggest advice is network, network and more networking.  The bigger your contact base the better.  However don't just collect people, you need to nurture these relationships, open up doors of opportunity for your connections if you can.  I believe in the saying it’s not always what you know, but who you know.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
I love being my own boss and managing my own time.  I am passionate about women and youth in terms of their progression and as Warren Buffet says, “There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning”  I jump out of bed every morning because I love what I do and I love the opportunities I create for others, who wouldn't want that job!

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Your boat doesn't come in, you have to swim out to it – Jason Winters.

Connect with Vanessa
Social media @Watc_girl or the site @Watc_updates

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