An Interview with Entrepreneur and Adventurer Natalie Sisson
Natalie Sisson is a Kiwi entrepreneur and adventurer. She's a world-class athlete, an avid traveler and about to cycle 6,445 km for 2 months in the Tour d'Afrique support the rights of girls in Africa. She is our first featured "enTripreneur," a series of interviews with Trippers who are changing the way we do things.
You are a successful serial entrepreneur who co-founded a cool tech company back in 2009. Tell us a little bit about the company and how your experience inspired you to start the blog WomanzWorld.
I was fortunate enough to co-found FundRazr with my business partner not long after I arrived in Canada. It was my first foray into the entrepreneurial world and I loved the technology startup scene. It was fast paced, hard work and exciting. The thing that stood out the most for me though was the lack of women in the industry, and especially as the CEOs of companies.
As we got deeper into developing our social commerce app, heading to conferences, investor forums and more, it started to frustrate me and I felt I needed an outlet to talk about my journey as a budding entrepreneur and use the blog to interview other successful women in tech to learn from them. That's when I started WomanzWorld.
When you first launched WomanzWorld, did you envision it growing into the thriving community of thousands of women entrepreneurs around the world that Suitcase Entrepreneur is today?
I'd like to say I had a grand vision for it, and deep down I did want it to become something I could be proud of and perhaps change the lives of many others, but I had no plan on how that was going to happen nor did I fully believe it. I just knew I was passionate about my situation and empowering other women to be their best and build profitable businesses doing what they loved.
I'd researched and witnessed the traits of women entrepreneurs that spoke to our ability to be incredible communicators, marketers and team builders. Yet financially we were taking less risks and business wise not scaling into million dollar businesses. I wanted to change that. My blog gave me the voice to speak out on this front.
Even before launching their first companies, so many entrepreneurs exhibit traits and behaviors that will later mark them as successful business people; when do you first remember showing signs of a budding entrepreneur?
I'd like to say I had a lemonade stand at age 8, but actually I sold chicken eggs, from our farm we lived on for 4 years, from the side of the road. If it was a busy road I might have made a profit, but `location, location, location' definitely was a factor with this attempt at an entrepreneurial venture.
Actually I've not come from a family of business owners, nor are my relations. I just knew I was never cut out for jobs. Every job I landed, I mastered really quickly and then got bored and quit, travelled and then found the next job. Always aiming way higher than I was qualified for so I'd be in at the deep end and have to learn to sink or swim. I also didn't like being managed or told what to do. I'd say this in ability to stick with things past the ideas phase and preferring to be my own boss were pretty clear signs I was meant to work for myself.
Over the years you've helped thousands of women launch or grow their businesses: what is your favorite success story so far?
I'd like to think it's thousands, definitely hundreds. Sometimes I don't even know what impact I've made until someone who's been reading my blog, sends me an email telling me what they've achieved since reading a post or buying one of my books. It's always so heartening to read their personal story. Every week I get at least a half dozen emails from people reaching out to tell me excited they are to have found my blog and learn more about me.
I love reading these stories, it really helps me to know who I'm actually reaching out to and what challenges they have that I can solve. I recently asked those who had bought my BYOB Build Your Online Business book to write in and tell me their stories and accomplishments so far. I think Sarah Woods, Janine Ogg and Jessica Oman stories are great examples in my mind.
I personally think anyone who takes just one step towards living their ideal lifestyle and starting their own business is impressive. It takes real guts to be an entrepreneur and 99% of people will never take that first step. So I want to be the person right there beside them ensuring they do, or giving them a gentle push from behind!
You have some pretty impressive accomplishments in the world of sports that we just have to mention: in 2004 you became a Body Sculpting Champion and competed at the New Zealand Nationals; in 2007 you broke a World Record for Dragon Boating across the English Channel AND won the gold medal at the World Beach Ultimate Championships in Brazil; in 2008 you placed 6th in Women's at the Ultimate Frisbee World Championships representing New Zealand. What lessons from your successes as an athlete were you able to take and apply to the world of entrepreneurship?
So many. I credit playing competitive sports to impacting so many aspects of my life. For one thing it teaches you to extend yourself physically and mentally. You learn things about yourself that only those types of situations can teach you – like can you handle pressure, stay composed and play even better than before.
It teaches you to be a team player, to respect your opponents and to always aim to play at 100%. It teaches you that losing sucks, but if you play your best game then it's much easier to deal with. You learn how good it feels to win, when all your training, strategies and set plays come together. If you can hold on to that and learn from it you can replicate that feeling over and over.
All of this and more can be applied to being in business, especially where you fail more often than you succeed when starting out. Playing sport also builds your confidence, as you become a more skilled player, this is the same when you start to become a better marketer, sales person, communicator, and CEO.
Next month, you are riding a bike 4,000 miles (6,445km) from Nairobi, Kenya to Capetown, South Africa. What inspired you to do this challenge and what do you hope to accomplish?
The idea to take the ride of my life was planted in my head almost 6 years ago to the day that I am taking off to Nairobi. I was on an incredibly slow `slowboat' on the Mekong river in Laos. I was talking to a random Canadian stranger at the time and since we had 8 hours to kill, we discussed almost everything in life, including him telling me about this amazing bike tour called Tour d'Afrique. My instant reaction was `That is insane. I want to do it'.
For me I see it as a huge test of my mental and physical fortitude. Something that will push me well beyond my comfort levels. In fact I think it will be life changing. I also thought it would be a great test to see if my business can run without me for two months and I also decided I needed to do this for a cause greater than my own personal reasons.
I turned it into a Human Powered Act of Awesome and a campaign to raise $10,000
for WomenWin.org – an organization on a mission to empower young girls to have the rights they deserve in life through sport.
I officially launched the fundraising campaign on Valentine's Day with a candid and touching post and have already raised 20% of the target goal. That said it still seems like a huge task ahead to raise the amount I wish to truly touch the lives of so many young girls and women to have the rights that we take for granted.
[embed width="500" height="400"] http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NxV-l_zLRpc
That's why my campaign has four ways to get involved:
1) donate set amounts that clearly show you how you're making a difference such as donating a football, a uniform, coaching for a whole year etc or just donate what you want.
2) Buy and feel good – I have a few lovely organizations giving away a percentage of their sales to my campaign when people buy from them, including some Human Powered Awesome t-shirts I had designed for the cause.
3) Sponsor a segment of my considerable costs in return for great PR so I can focus more on fundraising. Some really cool individuals and companies have stepped up to help here like Chrometa, MeetingBurner, The Gypsy Gals, MIO, Unbounce – I'm truly honoured.
4) Simply spread the word
That's it in a nutshell. The ride of my life and the opportunity to make one heck of a difference in hundreds of other people's lives.
This was the inaugural interview in "EnTripreneur" interview series, where we share the stories of Trippers from around the world who are entrepreneurs.
Natalie Sisson is the Founder of The Suitcase Entrepreneur – a highly popular blog that shows entrepreneurs how to build a thriving online business they can run from anywhere. The focus is on creating freedom in business and adventure using online tools, social media and outsourcing to set up a portable business that allows you to live the lifestyle you desire. Natalie lives and breathes what she preaches which is why she's able to take off to Africa this March to cycle 6,445km from Nairobi to Capetown. If you'd like to follow her journey and support her mission to raise $10,000 for WomenWin.org then head to The Ride of my life.
Good luck Natalie! Trippers, we hope you support Natalie and don't forget you can connect with her via her Tripping profile.