Cover Interview in Frettatiminn August 2014
Link to Original Article in Icelandic (PDF)
Sigrun was 16 years old when she decided that she would never let a man or pregnancy get in the way of letting her dreams come true. Now, more than a quarter of a century and four master’s degrees later, she is in her dream job where she helps women make their dreams come true.
One evening in 1987, was dramatic, in the life of Sigrun. She had decided to learn to tailor, so she could design and sew her own clothes, and took part in a tailoring course at a dress maker’s home. Sigrun was the youngest in the course, most of the women were over 40. “We sat together in the coffee breaks, they drank coffee and I drank my coke, and I listened to them talk. I didn’t feel I could contribute to the discussion because I was so much younger. I found their discussions so bleak because they revolved only around the things they had NOT done in their lives. That they had not been able to make their dreams come true because they got married and had children. These discussions had a tremendous impact on me and I promised myself right there and then that I would never let this happen to me. I decided that I would never have children and I would never let a man stop me from doing what I wanted to do,” says Sigrun.
Being a Feminist
She sets this evening in its historical context and notes that the fight for gender equality was at its peak in Iceland, the Female Political Party had been doing well in the general elections in the spring when it ran for the second time. “I was plugged into the Female Political Party (but too young to vote) and was very much a feminist and still am, even if I have softened my views over the years,” she says and laughs. “I believe now, for example, that women are very much capable of making their dreams come true and have children at the same time. Especially in Iceland where it is the most natural thing in the world that parents take equal part in the upbringing of their children. This is not true for other countries, not even Switzerland, where I live now. Society here is still decades behind in terms of gender equality and it’s a bit funny that I choose to live here now,” said Sigrun.
“We know today that the women can do whatever they want. However, many lack confidence in themselves and never dare to take the first step. That’s exactly what I’m helping them do by working on their mindset and helping them implement their ideas. And the reason why I chose to do what I do, is rooted in that evening so many years ago”, she says.
Entrepreneurship in her Blood
Sigrun moved to Germany to study and graduated with a master’s degree in architecture. She then left for Switzerland and completed her second master’s degree in computer aided architectural design. At the age of 29 she moved back to Iceland to work in a software company while working on her Master’s degree in Software Engineering. “I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship. My parents always had their own business, and me and my sister helped them out from an early age in our school holidays. When I started to work for a software company, I automatically started to interfere into operations and quickly became the CEO. Sigrun served as CEO of several companies in the IT industry in Iceland until she moved to the UK to complete an Executive MBA program at London Business School in 2008. There she met her now husband, a British-Swiss. “I went back to Iceland for month after I graduated in August 2008 and then moved to Switzerland just two weeks before the Icelandic bank crash,” she laughs.
Always Believed in Love
“Although I had always said I would never let a man stop me, I had been in long-term relationships before. I’ve always believed in love. My parents met when they were 14 years old, they are now 70 years old and still so happy so I’ve always had really good role models in this regard. I did, however, see children as a barrier to make my dreams come true. Today though, I don’t believe that at all,” says Sigrun and laughs. Six years ago she at least didn’t see it as an obstacle when the man she fell in love with had two sons, then three and four years old. She is now stepmother of the two boys, who are now 9 and 10 years old. “There is something special about being a stepmom when you have decided not to become a mom,” said Sigrun. “But I think I’m a good stepmom,” she says.
Sigrun is committed to spending as much time as possible in Iceland although she is lives in Switzerland. She has an apartment in Iceland and she and her husband spend about five weeks in the summer, 2 weeks over Christmas and few times in between. “When the boys get older, my goal is to be here half the year and the other half in Switzerland,” she says.
Best to Live in Iceland
Despite long residency abroad Sigrun still feels that there is no place better than Iceland. “I think it should be mandatory for all Icelanders to live abroad for at least one year so that they learn to appreciate all that Iceland has to offer. It is wonderful to live here. Besides our natural surroundings, there is a magnificent power in the people, and so much going on here in recent years, since the Icelandic banking collapse. I follow the startup scene closely from a distance and it’s nice to see how much fermentation is underway. Icelanders are so big do-ers, they get ideas and implement them right away. That’s exactly what I inspire my clients to do,” said Sigrun.
Recently, Sigrun founded an online consulting company at sigrun.com, where the emphasis is to help online entrepreneurs make their dreams come true. “My clients are mostly women, and my approach is feminine. I talk a lot about passion and lifestyle which women often identify better with than men although I also have many male clients,“ said Sigrun.
Her tagline is “Turning Your Passion Into Profits,” which means, she helps her clients create revenue from their passion. “I help them turn their hobbies into businesses,” explains Sigrun. “First, I assist them in finding a business idea (within their passion) and then evaluating if it is a profitable business idea. If you can’t get paid for it, it’s just a hobby. I support them through testing the business idea and implementing it based on their values, for example, whether they would like to work alone or with others, how many hours they would like to work each week and so forth. My clients are mostly so-called “solopreneurs” where the plan is not necessarily to build a big company, but to to create a business that they enjoy working on and has the revenue they would like to have. Sigrun says, “I help them create their dream business,” she laughs. “Many people think that is not possible, but it is possible, although it does not happen overnight,” she says.
Great need in the USA
She says that there is a strong need for this kind of consulting, especially in the U.S, where I see a rise in female entrepreneurship. “The need arises when women have had children and want to go back to work but don’t have the same opportunities as in Iceland where we can rely on (almost free) child care for our children. These women want to work but they also want flexible working hours. This often leads them to search online for other options and then they find companies like mine that help them create a business from their expertise and passion,” said Sigrun.
She offers result-driven online programs and high-impact 1-1 coaching, both in groups and on an individual basis. Sigrun has clients from all over the world, and also from Switzerland. “It’s interesting to see how many Swiss women have taken my online courses and coaching programs. Maybe I am bringing about a change here in Switzerland,” she laughs. “Icelanders are one of the leaders in gender equality and we are so much further than countries in Central Europe. The cause is often a lack of role models. If women want to make their dreams come true they often need role models,” she says.
Sigrun doesn’t hesitate to call herself a “feminist”. “Some people have a problem with that term, but I’m a feminist, and that means I want gender equality, and I want people to make their dreams come true, both men and women. Women have perhaps a different approach than men, many need to be in a group to make their dreams come true and get confirmation from others that they are to making the right decisions. But this will probably change one day,” she says.
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