Entrepreneur, Startup Awards finalist, and member of telecoms firm Telefonica’s Wayra startup accelerator scheme, Erika Brodnock tells us about the successes, trials and tribulations of setting up her own business, Karisma Kidz. In her third column, she shares how, 18 months after starting her business, she turned hard work into tangible success.
Sunday night, I went to the Back2Black Awards at the BAFTA headquarters. These were founded by Fredi Nwaka to celebrate the achievements of black men and women in the UK for Black History Month. Monday morning, Karisma Kidz was named in the SMARTA's 100. Votes are still being collected for the top 10 so please vote for Karisma Kidz in the Female Entrepreneur of the year category. And last week we were at a Club Workspace Bethnal Green with Tech City News as one of the Elevator Pitch Finalists.
I've worked hard all my life, yet before the last 18 months, I'd never been rewarded for it. So, over the last week, as I looked over the collection of awards and accolades we've been presented this year, I asked myself what makes the difference?
It's often bandied about that the harder you work, the more successful you become. While I agree that success takes work, I want to give homage to tenacity... The grit and determination that provides the rocket fuel which turns hard work into tangible successes.
Three of the most important pieces of advice I've had on my entrepreneurial journey are:

  • Know your ‘Why’!
  • Don't be afraid of 'No'!
  • Feedback is the breakfast of CHAMPIONS!
Finding a clarity of purpose – my reason for doing what I do, my ‘Why’ – was one of the most beneficial exercises I've ever undertaken. During an exercise at a branding workshop, I realised that I wanted I give every child, no matter their start in life, an equal chance of success. That became the company's mission statement and allows us to take actions as a company.
It also gives me the courage to say ‘NO!’ to actions that are going to distract the team from our purpose. It’s important to ensure that there is a both a gap in the market and a market within the gap that is based on a real consumer need. If there is no need and no why for your company, it’s likely time to head back to the drawing board. Knowing what we’re doing satisfies a real need and why we choose to do what we do gives us the ability to take the set-backs in our stride as they come. We collect NOs!
A thick skin is essential. As is the ability to dust down and rise following set-backs. I left each meeting that closed a door feeling the harsh pang of rejection, but also remembering that the ‘no’ had propelled me a little closer to the ‘yes’ that surely had to come at some point. This lead me to ask everyone and apply for everything. The worst that could happen was ‘no’, and that was only going to lead me to ‘yes’ anyway. I literally just kept going. Crazy, I hear you cry? Probably, but once the yeses begin to trickle in, it’s hard to care as much.
There are still, of course, plenty of people who tell me why my idea won’t work... even when they can see it working! One investor turned a whole room of investors off my product, simply because she had launched a game last year and it hadn’t worked.  Apparently, the market was too ‘difficult’. Her overarching rationale was simple: if she couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it… To turn an idea into a business, I needed to be able to quickly decipher nay saying from constructive criticism and take on board the feedback that made me and my business better. Thankfully I chose to ignore her feedback and our results are now speaking for themselves. Never believe  anyone who tells you you can’t do something! Take their feedback and treat it like a greasy fry up on a Sunday morning. It’s fatty sludge that’s not that great for you, but fat burns and provides the energy required to prove them wrong.
On the other hand, some pieces of constructive feedback have created monumental shifts in the evolution of my product for which I’m most grateful. The trick is to know the difference… Speaking of which, the greatest lesson has been to always listen to the voice within. On my journey, I’ve been privy to tale after tale of success. Each one features a defining moment in the person’s life. It is usually precipitated by the words ‘something inside me said, do… ’ or words to that effect. The inspired action needed to make the biggest differences in our lives and businesses always comes from within.  

Read Erika on taking your startup international - written just after she won first place in the CTIA startup labs competition. 

Read Erika's first column on helping female entrepreneurs.

Follow Erika on Twitter @ErikaBrodnock and find out more about Karisma Kidz here.

Thank you for the photo from Look at all the footage from the Elevator Pitch night here.