On the up · 15 August 2018

Why this matchmaker thinks being female is an advantage in the dating industry

“Don’t be put off by the setbacks or those inevitable negative voices.”

A decade ago, Hayley Bystram set up Bowes-Lyon Partnership and now oversees offices in London and Surrey. Today, she still personally meets every client to guide them through their dating process.

As part of our Women in Micro Business series, Business Advice caught up with Bystram to discuss why she thinks today’s world of business can be challenging yet exciting for women.

What challenges can women expect to face in business?

Harassment has made headlines this year, which shows the continuing difficulties that can arise for women in the workplace.

On the other hand, the news is sparking greater change, and I’m sure releasing pay disparities will do so too. Yet, we are living in exciting times.

Women don’t have to be at the mercy of rigid companies, working on outdated paradigms, we can start our own businesses. And we are!

Running a business is scary, risky, time-consuming and sometimes just down right hard – but these issues don’t discriminate. All business owners have them.

Do you think there are enough women running their own businesses?

I think more women are running their own business than ever before. Especially mothers, and that is out of necessity. Ambitious women are realising that sometimes the only way to progress your career, whilst still having the flexibility you need to be a mother, is to take charge and run their own business.

That way, whilst it is sometimes an overwhelming workload, you can collect an ill child or work at your kitchen-table whilst caring for a small baby. As men take more responsibility in the homes, which I see more and more of, then we will see even more women in business.

What do you think are the advantages of having more women in business?

I think getting balance and diversity is crucial. It has been proven many times over that, the more diversity we have, the more creative ideas and solutions a company or country has. We need women’s voices and ideas in business, as much as we need them in politics and the wider world.

Have you ever had any discriminative experiences because of being female?

Being female in the dating industry is probably an advantage. It is one of those industries which is dominated by women, from the matchmakers to the business owners. I am sure I have been underestimated, at times, but I believe that can work to one’s advantage. I don’t focus on it. As Oprah says, “Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.”

How do you handle knockbacks?

Knockbacks are hard. But the key is to keep going. Like many business owners, sometimes I don’t want to, but necessity pushes me through.

I have a responsibility to my members, and my employees, and those are huge driving factors for me. I am also lucky because I have the support of my partner; both in terms of helping with domestic life, but also in encouraging me in my ambitions.

What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own business?

Don’t be put off by the setbacks or those inevitable negative voices. They are all part of the journey of the business owner.

And, get support. I am part of a Mastermind Group with other small businesses. Hearing their stories, successes and struggles helps me to understand that I am not the first person to tread this path, and I can learn from others who have already been there and done it.

We can be too independent, but the future is about collaboration. So, find that support group and delegate where you can.

What can the business community do to help more women entrepreneurs?

I think women are helping themselves. There are female coaches, female networking groups and many other ways to support.

Sometimes it’s helpful to be in those female support networks, but again, back to the point of diversity, differing backgrounds and viewpoints are crucial when growing a business.

How do you hope your business to develop in the future?

With the projected growth for the next year, my plans are to keep scaling the business. I will need to recruit some more employees for the expansion here in the UK but I am also looking further afield.

I get many enquiries about franchising the business in other countries, with our international members, our reputation is spreading. I have previously put ideas of franchising and expanding internationally aside, but it feels like the time is right to explore these options more this year.

Who are your business heroes?

Reece Witherspoon! I love her “can-do” attitude and her dogged determination to create change. Not only are her CV and accomplishments impressive for someone of her age, but she retains a very grounded, genuine nature and I love the way she champions better opportunities for women. I find her inspiring and motivating.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

Which one song is always on your playlist?

The Killers because I recently saw them in concert.

Where was your last holiday?

Ibiza.

When are you happiest?

10pm at night when everything is done for the day, and I have a hiatus of calm.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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