We met Mariam at a brilliant HuB Dot event and were wowed by her story. She’s created a community of women dedicated to helping each other – Mentor MatcHER. She’d just started her company and was about to have her daughter when she was arrested for a crime committed in her teens…
What is Mentor MatcHER and how did it all begin?
Mentor MatcHER is a female run initiative for women buy women. We pair together women starting their own business with women senior in business to mentor the womentrepenur for a year. Once a month they touch base and discuss how the business is going. It began from my own experience starting a company; I found there was no support for women in business. The only advice I could find were by women in glossy magazines giving five tips on how to run a successful business. It didn’t feel very relatable or real.
What is your background, have you always been entrepreneurial?
Yes! In the school playground I was selling gel pens for ten times their original price. I have had to work hard to get where I am today. I left school really young and I don’t have a degree. At the age of sixteen I went straight into work and got a job in financial services. I was promoted four times and managed an overseas mortgage platform where at the age of seventeen I have six people under my authority (they were all in their thirties and forties.) During the financial crisis I was made redundant three times and I was also headhunted so I have experienced both ends of the spectrum.
What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
My biggest challenge is the stigma of the crime I committed. I fear I am being judged but in reality there really isn’t much stigma. I often think, ‘of course they are judging you because you committed a crime but they are also watching and seeing how you have overcome that.’
What crime did you commit?
When I was really young I was in a bad relationship. The guy I was with was committing fraud and eventually I joined him. Almost ten years down the line after I turned by back on my past I had founded my own business, I was in a different relationship and expecting my daughter. Then the police come knocking on the door. I had my daughter in prison because I had to pay for what I did in my teens.
What’s the secret to creating a united and successful community?
Transparency. I am very honest and transparent about my story – I tell people about my mistakes. I think this is why we have managed to gather these amazing mentors and women; they all want to help and give people second chances, third chances and even fifth chances. As long as someone is willing to change, why hold them back?
I think it’s also how you host a gathering. I have been to hundreds of networking events that I have found through eventbrite and I don’t go to them anymore. You end up standing there awkwardly sipping stale wine and contemplating whether you should say hello. So I wanted to create a community that acted like a family. It’s real life. Support isn’t just about your business, it’s ‘guess what I’m struggling with my childcare’, ‘I don’t know if I am going to survive the next six months’ etc.
As a mumtrepreneur how do you keep sane?
I don’t know. My daughter is about to jump off the bed as we speak. [I hear a cheerful squeal at the other end of the receiver.] You know the old saying , ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, it literally does. [I hear an even bigger squeal]. I have the most amazing support system around me. My daughter’s father is amazing. He does everything, we co-parent really well and he is very supportive. If you don’t have family around you then you can also find that support from friends. You could find a friend to look after your child for a few hours in the morning and you might look after theirs in the afternoon. It’s just about getting the support and community you need around you.
What have you learnt in your first six months on Mentor MatcHER?
That my story and what I had to overcome is far less scary than so many women I speak to. I met a woman who’s biggest challenge has been to overcome her violent past. She was abused thousand of times and now runs an enterprise helping other women trapped in abusive relationships. Woman like this is far more inspirational than the lady in the magazine. And never quit. Never, never quit. There will be some people telling you ‘why did you start now, it isn’t the right time’, ‘you don’t have the resources, the time, the money’ but if you believe something enough you can make it happen.