Samira Musa is a film producer and life coach. Passionate about the two businesses she set up a year ago, she is keen to hear advice on dividing her time between the ventures and positioning both for growth. Our panel of experienced IoD members offers its guidance
Samira Musa is a busy entrepreneur. The founder of coaching firm Hack Camp and film production company The Creative Roots is meeting Director between training sessions that will help her to qualify as a transformative life coach – and before her trip to a film location in South Africa.
“People say I’m crazy, but for me there’s no such thing as saying ‘I can’t’,” she says.
A graduate in film, media and cultural studies from Middlesex University, she started both ventures in late 2018. Now the sole owner of The Creative Roots after the departure of its co-founder once they realised they “weren’t on the same page”, Musa creates short films and also a range of content for corporate clients. There are “a couple of feature films on the slate too. These should come to fruition in the next couple of years,” she adds.
The venture made a loss in its first year, but Musa expects it to break even in 2021. There is no one else on the payroll, which keeps its fixed costs down, as she hires freelance specialists for each project. While she admits that the USP of The Creative Roots is still a work in progress, her aim is to focus on the theme of cultural identity.
“I’m a nomad, I’m Somali,” she says. “I’ve always been travelling – and storytelling is an essential part of my life. I’m also focused on enabling diversity behind the camera.”
Between organising shoots, Musa is developing Hack Camp. She fell in love with coaching after being coached by “an amazing woman who showed how it can really support your life by giving you space to explore how to achieve your life goals”. After meeting co-founder Isabel Sanchez at an event, the two women decided to self-fund the business.
“My drive is offering things to people who do not have a ‘rite of passage’ or the means to have a way in,” says Musa, who adds that Hack Camp is “in beta”. This means that the founders will not market its services until they have completed their training. Sanchez is set to qualify first, in early 2020.
But the pair are already coaching customers who come to them via word of mouth. Honing their skills this way is a key part of their training and it’s already proving profitable. Their aim is to make Hack Camp accessible to a target market of young professionals by developing an app.
Reflecting on an extraordinarly busy year, the double business founder is now wondering what to do to ensure that both enterprises grow “at the correct speed”.
Over to our expert panellists.
Aarti Parmar, director, AP Brand Communications
Two businesses at the same time – congratulations! First and foremost, ensure that you’re absolutely clear about your purpose and vision for both brands. This will dictate how you grow them with focus. Then identify what “growth” means to you for each venture and over what period. This will help you to prioritise the areas of your businesses that require your most urgent attention.
Aarti Parmar is a member of IoD London
Simon Fordham, co-founder, Fordham Henderson Consulting
I’ve also started two businesses, but not at the same time. I allowed the first to establish itself before helping to set up the second, which went on to become the biggest in its sector. It takes focus, sacrifice and steely determination to make one venture work, let alone two simultaneously. Without focus, one business can distract you from the other. So this is about the “when” – as long as you ultimately know the “why”.
Simon Fordham is a member of IoD Essex
Bill Carr, CEO, Carpe Diem
You need to set clear objectives and targets against which you can measure progress. It is unlikely that your businesses will grow at the same speed, so prioritising your time will be key, especially to avoid burn-out, which would cause your health and that of both ventures to suffer. Scheduling time to spend on each will help, but running one business is demanding and running two is very tough. The time may come when you need to let one go or bring in someone to run it for you.
Bill Carr is the former chair of IoD Cheshire
Dowshan Humzah, independent board director
Entrepreneurship is not easy. There’s no formula that guarantees success. All we can do is increase its probability. Any good strategy requires us to make choices. I have three recommendations. First, focus on one venture and dedicate your working time to that. Second, pursue outside interests for the sake of your wellbeing. Your other venture provides one such interest and it will also enable you to switch focus if the first doesn’t meet expectations. Third, if you haven’t already done so, read Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was first published back in 1989, but it’s a classic – many of Covey’s models remain applicable today.
Dowshan Humzah is a fellow of the IoD
Dominique Unsworth, founder, CEO and producer, Resource Productions
I founded a production company and an events firm in 1999 with the aspiration to build both in parallel. I made the mistake of spreading myself too thin and ended up getting stressed out by trying to do everything. After the first year it became clear that I needed to devote all my energies to one business, getting it to the point where I was no longer needed each day before focusing on the other one. As part of this, I sought reliable business partners who shared my passion. I set up agreements with them by which I could cross-promote some services that weren’t part of my core business plan. This led to some successful projects and some lasting friendships.
Despite this, I look back on the past 20 years and still feel that one business is more than enough to manage alone. It is possible to grow more than one company at the same time, but you will need a good team around you. Trust and delegation will help you to achieve more than you ever could on your own.
Dominique Unsworth is a member of IoD Berkshire
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