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Case study


Starting a business with one-to-one knowledge from an expert

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Morin George-Douglas left a successful career in fashion to start her own business. Feeling overwhelmed, she struggled with imposter syndrome before finding a mentor who gave her the confidence to learn new skills.

Morin has been working in fashion for 25 years. Starting out with mainstream brands like Topshop and River Island, she moved into Fairtrade before deciding to start a business when the company she was working for had to close.

“The transition from employment to business owner was a steep learning curve,” said Morin. “I had to start from scratch and suddenly I had imposter syndrome and I’m trying to learn new skills. Plus, I don’t earn a salary, so there is a lot of uncertainty.”

Getting out of her comfort zone

Focusing on her commitment to social justice and the environment, Morin founded Tomayo selling Fairtrade and sustainable clothing, jewellery, accessories, and home products.

During the pandemic, she did a course with the British Library on how to start a business, which included a few weeks of mentoring.

“It was then I realised there’s so much further I needed to go, and so I signed up to Be the Business’s 12-week mentoring programme. My mentor made me feel comfortable. He is very strategic, so we get on very well.

“We discussed my vision and my strategy, and together we came up with a plan. Starting a business is lonely and mentoring helps with that too,” she explained.

With someone to bounce ideas off, Morin found the confidence to explore new skills, pushing herself out of her comfort zone.

“Let’s start with the finance”, she said. “I’m not an accountant but I didn’t want to go straight on to QuickBooks either. I purposefully chose to get a spreadsheet and get help. Together with my mentor, we’ve gone through the process of thinking, why am I doing this? What does it mean?

“I’m a buyer, so I didn’t know anything about finance. It’s all in the numbers. Going through that learning process is important. If your margins aren’t right, you aren’t making a profit.”

Diversifying the business

Aware that there was a lot to learn, Morin was initially unsure where to start. Mentoring gave her focus, leading her in a direction that she couldn’t have predicted, and opening up new avenues for business income.

“It’s a product-based business but I also want to find consultancy work if I can. I’ve trained in social media, and I’m also carbon-neutral certified and circular economy certified from Cambridge. It’s not just buying and selling products, it has to be holistic,” she said.

Improving her social media skills has also given Morin the confidence to put herself out there to network and promote her business.

“I had imposter syndrome, but social media helps with this. I didn’t want to do videos or sit on panels, I hate that kind of thing, but the more you do it the easier it gets.

“These are all the things that my mentor could bring to the discussion because he has that experience. Practically that’s been huge because if I don’t get out there and network my business isn’t going to go anywhere,” she said.

Preparing for the future

When Morin began her mentoring journey, she was focused on understanding the skills she needed to be a business owner and filling the gaps in her knowledge.

Once the 12-week programme ended, Morin decided to continue working with her mentor as she looked at getting investment and growing her business.

“We’ve talked about getting a board, but I need investment first. I need a steady income so I can breathe and be more strategic. I know I need growth in this business. This is a huge [step forward] for me – the social media, podcasts, and videos have helped me to develop a growth mindset.”

While Morin is aware of the challenges she faces, with the support of her mentor she’s more confident than ever in taking them on and understanding her unique value.

“I’m mixed race and I’ve heard a lot about the very tiny per cent of black female founders that get investment. I want to work hard and get my act together to present myself as a confident, passionate businesswoman.

“I don’t put myself in a box as black, but I am labelled as that. I bring that value of having a white mother and Black father. I work with people around the world – and understand how to work with people. I’ve always known it but never voiced it. But now I am. That’s my value; I’m able to move between cultures. I’m going to be pushing that.”

Looking for fresh eyes on your business? Be the Business Mentoring matches leaders from small and medium-sized businesses with executives from some of the UK’s leading companies. Find a business mentor here.

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