The Make Space for Growth Podcast is a space to talk about growth - in business, at home and with the family, or in your community.
The show is hosted by Sara Vicente Barreto, a corporate strategist, problem solver, social entrepreneur, writer and mum of 2. Sara is passionate for growth and has created the Make Space for Growth community, bringing her authentic experience across areas of life.
In Season 1 "Finding Growth in a Crisis", Sara brings us the stories of women leaders through the Coronavirus crisis. Crisis can create excellent opportunities for cleansing and de-cluttering. They create turmoil that can make space for growth in new areas of life and business. This series of Fireside Chats will demonstrate how.
Listening to Yourself with Samreen Ghani
Before the summer break, I reconnected with old colleague Samreen Ghani to talk about her journey and her role as President of Moonbug Studios. It had been a long time since our M&A times together! And we end up finding ourselves in a similar life reflection on "how you measure your life"!
The Early Days
Samreen did not follow the expected path. Her earliest memory from childhood was spelling the word "doctor", which was exciting for her parents as she grew up. In Pakistan, her expected paths would have been doctor, engineer, lawyer or banker if she wanted to define herself as successful. So as she finished her degree, she joined investment banking, which she sees today as a great grounding experience to give you the technical skills, but also the discipline and work ethic you need later in life. From there, Samreen started moving along her "5-Year-Plans".
As she evaluated the next 5-year period, Samreen realized she did not want to stay in M&A and started looking at the industry she enjoyed and the type of transferable skills she had. With that, Samreen moved to entertainment but stayed in Finance. Whilst she gained the work-life balance, she did not feel she had a fit with the corporate culture. She found herself only halfway through her 5-year plan but not happy with where she was going. That is when she really started exploring what she wanted to do and in which type of corporation.
She felt the clock ticking on her as she engaged in her career break (I can see where she is coming from) and really gave herself time to reflect. For her, what worked was to talk to different people and be open about what the future would be. She was talking to people across industries and different types of small to large corporations. More importantly, she was open to herself about what worked and did not work for her.
"Sometimes there is so much noise around us that we forget who we are and what makes us happy!"
Listening to your inner self
You may not always want to listen to it, as sometimes it tells you things you don't want to hear. But it is when you hear yourself that things may work out better, so talking to people is a part of the process but can't be the main driver. Amongst one of the many conversations, an opportunity came up to participate in a project that then became a role. Samreen stayed close to the finance space and used her early career skills along the way.
Further along the way, as her 5-year plan included building a family, she also had the opportunity to join Moonbug as CFO and later President, while doing multiple acquisitions and funding rounds. This experience tested her in ways like never before.
Prioritizing and Focusing
There is enough work to fill any hour of the day, so you need to focus on the big things you want to achieve. Samreen runs a to-do list across work and family, but she reminds us that you also need to create the right level of infrastructure and autonomy so that people can help you and you are not the bottleneck.
On top of it, it is important to keep an eye on the end goal, to ensure you are prioritizing accordingly and ensuring you are taking small steps towards the longer-term goal.
A non-linear path
Samreen describes herself as very organized. But when you are figuring out your path you can't always expect it to be very linear. Staying nimble and going out of her comfort zone has been key for her, however if she were to look at the chart of her career throughout time, it would still be on a positive trajectory towards her goals. It just does not have to mean the same path to everyone. It is important to remember that you could do things differently, but they may not have been better or worse than your current choices.
"Don't be afraid to be not liked"
As a leader, you can't always be liked. That is a defining characteristic of Samreen. You need to make difficult decisions, but they are not always going t
Believing in Serendipity with Rita Vilas-Boas
Rita Vilas Boas first connected with me on Linkedin. After a lot of online engagement, we finally met in person last year to find out we shared many passions. When she was a little girl, Rita wanted to dismantle things and figure out how things worked, but deep down, she wanted to be part of Fame, and dance on a Taxi roof in the streets of New York. Can you picture it?
Rita studied biotechnology but soon found out about marketing, where she started her career. She threw herself into it and got a job at Loreal. For 20 years, she was a marketer in multinationals and large family businesses. Through social acquaintances Rita started investing on the side and, in the Covid era, thought this was something she could do full-time, supporting founders and thriving as an investor. Between these areas, Rita talks only about serendipity:
"if we plan too much, it never happens, be ready to change and pivot."
Rita believes we should have 3 careers in our lives. She is now onto the second one, but the future is open for the third phase. Perhaps that's when she will get to the dancing part!
Becoming an investor
Rita is a hands-on investor and puts her money where her efforts will also be. She is keen to be part of the journey and be there along the way for founders.
"Instead of just saying the talk, I walk the talk"
Rita is taking an increasing role in the ecosystem and going through the VC Lab to take her efforts as a business angel further. She wants to bring more transparency into the VC world and is keen to put the new ideas to life. She invests when she believes, and that energy and passion translate into her day-to-day actions.
Rita has a structured approach to her day, reserving some focus time for due diligence on her potential investments, but also a lot of time out there to see pitches and attend conferences. The balance is hard to find, but it is important to be open to the flow of information constantly thrown your way.
Rita claims the common thread in her life is "breaking ceilings". She chose a male-orientated sales environment over marketing, she chose the wine business as the first woman director in the family business, then start-ups in China and now an investor in Portugal. She wants people to hear her voice, and through that, also be inspired to find their own voice. She has become a player with a diverse background because she believes that is where her advantage lies. Rita is a strong believer in diverse teams and believes time will demonstrate the results.
Advice: You can't please everyone. Make space for: Learning Get rid of: all the people wanting to "pick your brains" Quote: "Work hard, play harder" AND "If I want to go faster, I will go alone, if I want to go far, I will go with others" Word: Achievement
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Coming back to the podcast after a long pause has been refreshing and inspiring. The next guest is already in the oven. Send feedback and enjoy!
Finding your happiness with Sabine Tejerina
When she was a little girl, Sabine wanted to be a businesswoman. In the middle of the pandemic, faced with economic distress in parts of the world and her day job helping large companies restructure and prepare for the economic downfall of Covid, she went on a life change. She became an entrepreneur and has since then been living the rollercoaster of start-up life.
"It's not always the big decisions that impact your life", Clay Christensen
Share ownership as a goal
The idea for Upstreet started with a focus on rewarding customers for loyalty through company shares. Research shows that customers are more loyal to a company they have a stake in. Moreover, they are willing to pay more. Upstreet came in as a provider for these share ownership programs. It also allowed people to give shares in the ever more exciting space of micro-investing. More recently, the company has evolved to facilitate share ownership for employees. While we may think that is an already resolved issue as we hear of start-up employees winning small fortunes when the companies become unicorns, this is still not always a common form of reward. Sabine believes it is important that more companies can do this, as it is key for employees to have an upside stake in the future of the company.
Women Share Ownership
In Australia, the percentage of women that make up the total number of Australian investors is still around 18%. Sabine believes Upstreet can play a role in reducing the inequity here as well. It starts with women earning the first shares through one of Upstreet's programmes and then demystifying ownership from there.
From consultant to COO
The skillset that came with her consulting background is extremely valuable, however, Sabine describes the start-up life as very different. A consultant's life is stressful no doubt, but it is also surrounded by lots of comforts and the certainty of payroll coming in at the end of the month. On the other side, Sabine now knows a whole new level of stress, that of running a company, having to meet payroll, winning a customer to find out they won't do a contract until perhaps the next year.
"That is what real stress looks like!", Sabine
Finding the Silver lining
Sabine reveals her way of dealing with these challenges. Since early in her life, she has always sought to find the silver lining, to identify the good, even if small, in any bad situation. Yes, she still gets upset when something bad happens, she is still human. But she has a tendency to bring perspective and find something that makes it better. We also talked about how everything seems to be better just when you sleep on it and wake up the next day. We both seem to have a tendency to try to go to bed early when we have a particularly bad day, in the hope a new day will be halfway through resolving the feeling. It mostly works.
A holistic approach
Sabine does not believe in balance. In fact, the way she described her single to-do list seems very much like she is practising "Work-life sway", my newly learnt expression from the book "Power Mums". Her to-do list incorporates anything she needs to get done, be it for the company, for her or for her family. She approaches her day as a whole and does not try to compartmentalize too much as she does not think balance is a real thing. I tend to agree (but I still keep 2 separate lists)
I had not spoken to Sabine in almost 15 years. Speaking to her felt like meeting an old school friend. I am passionate about how she is pursuing her own type of balance through her life choices whilst growing a company she is extremely passionate about. And the added bonus that can contribute to a reduction in the equity ownership gender gap no doubt makes it even more special to me. I can't wait to see what Upstreet is up to next!
Quote: "Go find your happiness, your happiness will not find you" Word of the Year: Renewal Book: How will you measure your life, Clay Christensen Stay connect
A life dedicated to purpose with Daniela Barone Soares
It is unusual to find someone who wanted to be something as a child that they are today. Daniela started volunteering at age 12 and she always knew her life would be dedicated to making the problems of the world better. These experiences increased her resolve to do something about it, even if she did not know how.
A glide path
"When you look back, it all seems to make sense"
However, it was not so rational at the time. As Daniela was working in Private Equity, she realized her skillset was truly invaluable in the social sector and realized she could start making a difference in this space sooner than she expected. The right opportunity appeared to go and work at Save the Children and she took it. This was a great opportunity to evaluate the challenges and benefits of charities and the whole development space and provided the best information for the following career moves.
Daniela recognised the models of traditional finance were not working. So at Impetus, she focused on supporting charitable organizations in order for them to be more impactful, being able to scale and broaden impact. This was at a time when impact investment was not a thing. I remember this is when I first met Daniela, as I considered joining a world at the time (very little) known as Social VC. They experimented a fair amount and it was Daniela's first large stride in creating impact at scale.
Scale is the key
Daniela is fundamentally interested in impact at scale. It needs to come hand in hand with impact for her. So, when looking at opportunities, she is looking for pathways to finance projects that can be replicated and open avenues for more funding going into it. Snowball was also the first fund of its kind globally, optimizing for risk, return and impact. The model was done scalable from the start, with the view of making impact investment available for all. With a 6-year track record, impact investment is what they do, not a strand, not a separate goal, it is intrinsic to the model.
Implementing a vision
"Our vision is very big and the day-to-day is nitty-gritty"
Hardly a quote could replicate better how the best vision is implemented. In Daniela's view, every investment has an impact, even if people are not accounting for it. So at Snowball, they internalize these responsibilities day-to-day, to ensure the investment system is serving the environment and planet and recognising the impact of each financial decision. Whilst they have a grand vision of what they want to achieve, as CEO, she spends her time ensuring each action is aligned and contributing forward to this vision.
A CEO that cares
Daniela's defining characteristic as CEO across all her ventures is that she cares. She cares about the mission, the people, and the outcome. Daniela surrounds herself with people that can challenge her and are also constructive and able to build something together. At the same time, she can operate at a very high picture strategic level and down to detail. My type of CEO, no doubt, navigating between the 2 at all times!
Daniela is extremely positive about the opportunities ahead. Seeing impact investing as the only way to invest, she identifies multiple areas of opportunity where we can achieve impact at scale. Throughout her life, she has tuned in this vision of purpose, of impact and of scale.
Quote: "Business is the most powerful force invented, it can solve problems as effectively as it creates them" Word of the Year: Patience and Lightness Book: Difficult Women, Roxane Gay
Never waste a good crisis with Inês Santos Silva
With a love for learning since early age, I have a feeling Inês will be learning for many years to come. She is passionate about innovation, and is not scared about solving a challenge. You just have to look at her resume to see this. I lost count of the number of roles and ventures in her LinkedIn profile.
Ines assessed start-ups needed support way before it was cool to talk about accelerator programs. So she designed one. And expanded it to multiple cities. She determined there was a need for social ventures long before social impact was a concept. So she dedicated her efforts to Social Value Generator. She found she was often the only woman attending Tech events, so she decided to create a network for Women in Tech. She assessed that only a small percentage of businesses' procurement goes into woman-owned businesses - so she created a database of women-owned businesses that large corporations can use, so there is no longer the excuse that "they can't find them". What's next?
Time for space
Inês is taking time to define her next steps. She is not in a rush and is, as expected, putting a lot of time into learning. She knows it will involve AI, Web 3 and all the new developments in this area, but she has not defined yet where next she will put her energy. She has been brave to really take a step back and create this space for thought. In her daily life, she has also become better at incorporating moments of space into her life, especially as the pandemic thought us that there is so much we can do remotely.
Inês feels the things she has done are mostly connected and the reason they seem so many are because she started early. But more importantly, she reminds us that there are a lot of ideas she had that never had the light of day. She was willing to try a few ideas that were not fully formed (like the first accelerator week for Start-up Pirates). The first step is the one that makes things happen:
"It is much easier to move something that is already moving"
Old piece of advice
The other reflection Ines brings us is one someone shared with her early in her career. As she met someone with a very different lifestyle more than 10 years ago (a famous digital nomad), she questioned his choices to understand what drove him. The answer was simple
"What is the worst that can happen?"
When thinking about it like this, we are often reminded we can probably live with the outcome.
Never waste a good crisis
As for many of her ventures, Inês was early for the pandemic. She got supplies early in February and buckled up. As she did so, she focused on this quote by Churchill to ensure she would not go crazy during these times. She focused on working hard on her company in consulting at the time. One of the things that Inês definitely put to good use, was the time to start eating healthy and take better care of herself.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the 2nd best time is today!
Quote: Never waste a good crisis (Winston Churchill) Word of the Year: Experimentation Book: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius (and Ines Goodreads list here) Find Ines here See more about Season 3 here
Podcast edited by Alice Stansfield
Creating Space - Launching Season 3
Today, I am bringing you the launch of Season 3 - Creating Space. In order to tell you more about the upcoming season, I feel I need to go back in time and explain my concept of word of the year. Because Space is my word of the year.
For the last 3 years, I have been defining myself a word of the year. Why a word of the year? I already have goals, values, and even a vision board. I found a word goes beyond and through all that. A word gives me a true north.
In 2020, my word of the year was BELIEVE. And that belief helped me hold it together - do you remember the year of Covid? I acted through the year (or most of it) with a belief in myself that I did not think was possible. One I had not lived before. Believing in myself in a way that was sometimes blinding but also re-energising. It made me float through ideas, see the positive in all the crazy times, find new avenues, unleash dreams. When was the last time you believed that your dreams would be possible? That YOU are possible? Somehow, along the way, my beliefs have been shaken. I fought hard to dig the word back out into my life towards the year-end. And I did not let go of it. In all honesty, I almost thought of keeping it for 2021.
But I took the next step on the belief highway. Believing can only lead to one thing - no fear. As I reflected on how I looked forward to 2021, I landed on a theme of courage. One that stemmed from a newly built belief in the possibilities. And one that I felt I needed to feel stronger and stand up again. After the year of Covid, where we recognisably lived with more fear for life than in many of the past years - even if not ours, for those of our loved ones, I recognised I can't be bold or brave if I have fear. So the word was FEARLESS. And that was no doubt a driving north through the year. In moments of doubt, hesitation, and fear where a choice was required. I carried on.
And now SPACE. I took longer than usual to land on my word of the year for 2022. As I reflected, I started seeing a word come up often in my gratitudes. Space. The small bits of space I had felt rejuvenating, if not a lot of them. So I decided to dedicate this year, and this season of the podcast, to the ability to find, create and enjoy space in our lives.
Space is not a single event in time, it is something you continuously need to have. So as we go through these series, I will speak to our guests about their path, their business, their careers. But also about how they find space. Space to explore, think, feel and be.
Join me, for this journey, to find out how. It is time to create space.
Familiar format with guests you can’t find anywhere else. Great evolutionary step that really complements the blog and the newsletter. This one’s a keeper!
Truly engaging conversations. Hearing first hand how different business leaders around the world have responded and adapted to the pandemic is a unique opportunity to get great insights and new ideas. Different locations, industries and contexts but so many of the same issues being solved.
Addressing both the professional and personal side adds a whole new layer of insights that are seldom covered.
Inspiring and entertaining!
Really Interesting new podcast series . I loved that Sara Vicente Barreto chose for her first guest Filipa Muñoz de Oliveira an impressive and engaging woman to launch the series. The business Blink Beauty & Wellness was also a revelation to me. Well done, great listen, inspiring and entertaining at the the same time.