Lisa Chuma was the first person I interviewed a few years ago about how to turn passion into profits. I enjoyed talking to her again to see how her business, Women’s Expo Switzerland, has evolved and what has changed for her.
Lisa grew up in Zimbabwe. She was raised by a single mother who was a victim of domestic violence. Her mother moved the family to London when Lisa was 16 so they could both find better opportunities in life.
Lisa had always wanted to have her own business and she knew growing up that she wanted to support women to help them become what they’ve always wanted. To help them become who they want to be.
After completing a business degree in London, Lisa worked in the Treasury Department for a year but it just wasn’t her cup of tea.
So she left her job and started an online magazine for women. A magazine created to empower and inspire women around the world.
The magazine failed. She didn’t make any money from it. Lisa learned that you’ve got to see the bottom line in your business. While she was dedicated and determined, she couldn’t turn the magazine into a business. She didn’t have the readers, didn’t know how to market, or how to make money from it. So it just didn’t happen.
Learning from Failure
Lisa learned a number of lessons from her first attempt at creating a business.
She had money blocks and lacked confidence so she found it difficult to ask for money for the magazine.
She also learned what it is to run a business and to charge for what she’s offering. To be confident in her product and herself.
Least but not least she learned that it’s very important to have visibility for your business. If people don’t know you exist, you’ll only have a few clients, if any.
After some time in the UK, Lisa relocated with her husband and children to Switzerland in 2012.
When she came to Switzerland, she was networking and seeing what was going on. She realized there was no platform in Switzerland that was connecting experts with local female business owners. There wasn’t a platform available for them to present their business to a new audience.
Using Failure to Build a New Business
Her first business failed because of lack of visibility and having no collaborators. And witnessing her mom get support from other women throughout her life, Lisa put these three things together with her new business idea.
She decided to build a platform that allows women business owners to connect with a new audience and to connect with other women to collaborate with. This became the Women’s Expo Switzerland.
Lisa took a risk and booked a venue, not knowing if she would fill it. She knew no one in Switzerland but she decided to give it a go. She felt this was something women in business could benefit from it. She figured “If it works, it’ll be great.” Having failed before, she was thinking “what’s the worst that’s going to happen?”
Her husband urged her to book it for 40 people, a lofty goal. Lisa went for it. She started talking about the event and put a date to it. That made it concrete.
[easy-tweet tweet=”Failure is a great teacher @lisa_chuma” user=”sigruncom”]
Lisa feels that if she or anyone fails visibly, people would be very sympathetic. It’s worth trying and failing than not to do anything. No matter what, you learn something, you will have met someone or you redirect from there. Something in that process will help you become a better you.
With this commitment and accountability in place, Lisa started putting the word out and talking to people. One of those people suggested she offer an early bird price so she did and tables started going away. And people were talking about it.
While Lisa was charging a lower price than most events, it was great for her to feel she could charge for something at all. And she could build up from there. She recommends that newer business owners start with a price with which they feel comfortable and confident with.
With the early bird pricing, the exhibitor tables in her venue were all taken by the end of January and her conference was in May! She wondered about getting the room next to the one she’d booked. She crunched the numbers to see if expenses would be covered whether or not she booked it and she went ahead and booked the second room. And everything filled up!
How to Get People to Attend
Lisa’s next challenge was to get people to attend. She needed to make sure that visitors could connect with a lot of people that they didn’t know – to get them more visibility. She didn’t know where to go to find these kinds of experts but that didn’t stop her from knocking on every door. Without the help of a PR firm, she wrote to the press and to magazines, spoke to and emailed people.
She learned how to create a good press release when a journalist she spoke to gave her feedback on the first one she’d created. Another journalist she’d spoken with ended up publishing a small article about her event in one of the biggest papers in Switzerland. Lisa had no idea how big the paper was when she approached that writer or she might not have contacted them in the first place. Not knowing a lot about the market was helpful for her to contact people.
“It’s sometimes better to do something without any insight at all.” says Lisa. Just do something and forget what you’ve been told or some people will discourage you. Go ahead and do it – your experience might be different.
Give it a go. Knock on as many doors as you can.
Women’s Expo Today
Women’s Expo is in its fourth year and now people are coming to Lisa. She still has to do the same amount of work every year and refuses to get complacent. When it comes to the visitors, publicity and promotion, Lisa never relaxes and doesn’t count on the previous years’ successes.
She is constantly lifting the bar and not relying on who she’s become connected to.
One of the big things Lisa’s changed over the years is how she communicates her vision. She is clearer about communicating to the female business owner who might benefit from the event. She’s pushing relationship-building and collaboration and not pushing the sell, sell, sell mentality.
Ultimately, Lisa runs her business on the “Know, Like, Trust” factor.
Women’s Expo is an exhibition with emotions. She’s concerned about her exhibitor and really wants all of them to succeed. She’s in it with them, as a business owner herself. To quote Lisa “We are all in this together as female business owners.”
[easy-tweet tweet=”We are all in this together as female business owners. @lisa_chuma” user=”@sigruncom” hashtags=”womenexpo”]