A decade ago, Hayley Bystram set upbowes-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 Im 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 Women don’t have to be at the mercy of rigid companies, working on outdated paradigms, we can start our own businesses.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.