Passion is the word that resonates with this week’s Female Founder. Irene Afful is the CEO of Ametrine Enterprise Solutions, a coaching and consultancy service in Liverpool.
Irene has a wealth of experience under her belt; she has over 30 years of experience within Public Sector organizations and over 20 of those in management roles. Each one as inspiring as the next. For example, Irene was the first black female inspector in the Merseyside Police.
In addition, not only has Irene worked in some highly respectable roles, she has also been a winner & nominee for multiple awards including National Diversity Awards Nominee – Female Role Model (2016), Woman of the Year Award (2007) and she has been listed as one of the Top 50 Merseysiders by Diversity Magazine.
The inspiration does not stop there, Irene is also a mentor for The Girl’s Network, an organization that provides female mentors to underprivileged girls, and Irene volunteers as a Chaplain for the Merseyside Police.
In Irene’s interview, she speaks of a multitude of challenges she faced in her career, some toward her race and others toward her gender. But, if there was ever an example of breaking through the glass ceiling, Irene would be the very woman making it shatter.
Irene is currently involved in the Phoenix Leadership Programme. The programme is backed by Merseyside Police and is aimed at increasing recruitment of under-represented groups such as women, gay, lesbian & bisexual people and people with disabilities to the special constabulary and regular police force.
To discover more about Irene and her company, head to the company website.
1 Why did you start your business? What spurred you on?
I have worked full time in public sector organizations since I was 16 years old. I’ve started from the bottom and worked my way up to supervisor and management roles. It was an excellent grounding for learning how organizations operate and the issues affecting employees, supervisors, managers and organizational culture. One of my life goals was to eventually own my own business, be my own boss. The experiences and skills I developed in my 30 + years of employment have stood me in good stead to embark upon this ambitious venture. My experiences as a black female in these large organizations opened my eyes to the great need for organizations to be more inclusive and to embrace diversity. I did a lot of work in this area during my time with the police and my passions were ignited.
I felt driven to continue this work and support other organizations that need to develop their equality and inclusion strategy and processes. In addition, I recognized the issue of confidence, particularly amongst minority groups, in seeking promotions and developing their careers, partly due to a lack of support, a lack of role models and an array of organizational barriers to progression. So, I wanted to work with individuals to coach them to success. I love working with people; and seeing people develop and progress gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. I was born to do this!
2 What are the unique challenges you have faced as a female founder?
I would probably say a challenge is getting a foot in the door of organizations which are predominantly run by white men. As a black woman, there is often a feeling of discomfort. It’s natural for people to be drawn to people who look like themselves and there are not many senior decision-making board members that look like me so it can be difficult to get a foot in the door.
3 What were the 3 steepest learning curves during your first year in business?
- Firstly, don’t to expect to make a profit.
- Secondly, the incredible importance of networking.
- Thirdly, whether you like it or not, you have to become a salesperson. You must learn to effectively market yourself.
4 What is your favourite thing about founding your own company?
Owning something that is unique to me. Something I have built. Doing something I’m immensely passionate about and realizing a life goal. It gives me a great sense of pride- I love being my own boss.
5 What is the best business advice you have been given by someone else?
To network with a purpose…not just having a pleasant conversation. It’s about demonstrating the value I can add to individuals and businesses.
6 Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome? If so, what do you do to tackle it and move forward?
I used to…. almost every day! But now much less. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and think, “gosh I’m not as good as her or him!” When that happens, I give myself a slap and focus on my own skills and achievements.
We all have unique gifts to offer and nobody’s gifts are any better or worse than mine. Diversity is what makes the world go around and there are many needs that need to be catered for in different ways.
My way will work for some, but someone else’s will work for others. I just look back and see how far I’ve come, and the journey is not over yet!
7 What’s the best book on business you’ve read?
I don’t really read business books. I prefer listening to business leaders’ audio books. Jim Rohn is one of my favourites. His strategies for leadership and personal development really resonate with me and his delivery is commonsensical, light-hearted but deeply meaningful. Tony Robbins is another favourite whom I listen too. In fact, it was after attending one of his “Unleash the Power Within” seminars, where I walked across burning coals, that I catapulted myself into starting the planning for my business.
8 Tell us about another brilliant business woman you think our readers should know about
Maggie O’Carroll of the Women’s Org is my inspiration. She embodies what success is for me. I really admire her sharp business mind, diligence, determination, passion and relaxed, fun loving, down to earth persona. She has a presence without needing to shout about it and is a wealth of knowledge.
9 What piece of advice would you give yourself if you were starting your business now?
Set a vision, clear goals, and timeframes for what you want to achieve. Be prepared for things to happen slowly, to begin with, and have a bloody good time doing it.
10 If you were working with a marketing budget of £1,000 what would you spend the money on?
A marketing campaign for my latest project, Project Aventurine; and/or buy the services of a social media expert to get my business set up on Instagram. I’d also revamp my other accounts as well as getting help to get my business blog started.
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