At Who’s Your Momma LDN, we’re on a mission to not just change one person’s journey but to change the industry from the inside out. To do this we need to speak up and share our stories.
On International Women's Day this year we started a series of brave mentor stories from our community with the aim to get more women openly talking about mentoring and the benefits that come with it - on both sides of the coin. Meet our second mentee in the series Thea Burrows, as she shares her brave story:
It makes me smile to think of my ambitious, ‘nothing-can-stop-me’ younger self setting up a production company with a good friend but with no contacts, no investment and very little experience. ‘How hard can it be?’. Fifteen years later, I’m proud of what Maker has become and, in part, it’s thanks to a whole range of mentors, both formal and unofficial, that we’re thriving today. Guidance, support, challenge and even a shoulder to cry on are vital when your business is small and you’re largely self-taught.
I was thrilled with how quickly I was matched with Fiona, whose generosity of mind was clear from the start, as she felt still open to working with me despite our potentially competing companies. Straight away, I set about looking at who my mentor was and what she had achieved. My initial excitement subsided a little. My mentor was younger than me and running a business significantly more financially successful than me. I felt down on myself. Why hadn’t I achieved more? Had I made the right decisions in life? Can I really balance running a company with having 2 small children? And ultimately, would it feel odd being mentored by someone younger than me?
But then I realized this was a gift. That someone of Fiona’s calibre was willing to take time out of a very hectic day (if my days were anything to go by!) and share with me and challenge me. Undoubtedly, I would learn and develop and I began to feel excited again. I relished our meetings and got a huge amount out of them, both practically and emotionally.
For an aspiring filmmaker-cum Managing Director, it was invaluable to learn about best practice in our industry. Our sessions have been the catalyst to some significant developments at Maker, my personal favourites being shifting focus from turnover to net profit, the evaluation of our directorial roster, taking on a non-exec and the joy of evaluating your own data! Our time together felt like gold and I’m so pleased we’ve decided to continue our relationship beyond the scheme.
My mentor empowered me to make some difficult decisions and during a time when we both went through some traumatic personal events, I realised that the solidarity of women in pain, looking for success, is a very special thing. I should really heed my own advice to my six year old daughter; that everyone learns and develops at different rates and if we were all the same, the world be a very boring place!
Throughout my career I have been lucky enough to experience lots of informal mentoring, which I feel has been a big part of my professional progression. There came a point, when I felt I had acquired enough experience myself, so I went in search of a space where I could give something back. To my surprise it was much harder than I expected to find this.
With She Says, if you are willing to give your time to support other women in our industry, then it’s just an incredible community to be part of. So far I have been partnered with three different mentees and I have also been awarded my own mentor too…it’s a game changer! On each count, it’s been such an enlightening experience.
Working with Thea was no different! However I must admit that when I first heard that I was partnered with her I wondered what I could really do to help. Here was another woman who was in the same position that I was – working in and running her own business…a business that was somewhat in competition with my own. Not only that but she was older than me and sure to find anything I had to say useless. However I reminded myself that there must have been a reason she had searched out a mentor in the first place and so it was worth meeting her to hear her story and find out whether I might be able to help.
As it turns out, I have learned as much from Thea as I hope she has from me. That really is the beauty of this process and the relationships you get to build.
I tried to bring a fresh perspective to her business and I challenged her on some key things that weren’t working – I think that was all she was looking for really…someone to mention the elephants in the room. That done, she was unafraid of the hard work that followed…she just needed to be pointed in a different direction. She inspired me massively too on that front – reinvigorating my own energy and focus within my business, from our conversations.
I am so pleased to hear that I may have helped her and her business in some small way, and the fact that we are staying in contact after the set mentoring period, is just the best possible outcome for me. Knowing you have a sounding board at the end of the phone really works both ways.
From working with Thea/my other mentees and from being mentored myself, I am seeing how much confidence (or lack thereof) affects all of us women in our industry. If having another woman there to help bolster that confidence and reassure us on our thinking is what’s needed, then I think the more mentoring the better. The impact of that for us all is immeasurable. Thank you She Says – lets keep your amazing work going!
Thank you to both mentor and mentee for boldly sharing their story with us to continue this series. If you would like to share (anonymously if needed) your mentor story with us and how it has changed your life, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org