The Director's Diary

What Would I Tell My Daughter About Female Entrepreneurship?

by Diana Bourke

My 15-year-old daughter decided to join the team at Echo-U for her work experience. At 15 I’m not sure the world of business is quite ready for her, but it did make me ponder on whether I would recommend this as a path for her.

My world looked very different 23 years ago when I took the entrepreneurial challenge and started Echo-U with David Blakey (a man – I know!). With the confidence and naivety of youth, I thought I had nothing to lose and I would have unlimited freedom to become the person I aspired to be. It must be noted I had worked for a successful female entrepreneur (Lorna Moran – NRG) who made it seem possible (“see it – be it” in action). There weren’t too many Lornas around in the 90’s.

I was a woman but a single one – so I had mobility. Long days travelling around the UK and Europe establishing some impressive clients. Would that have been possible if I had had children? There were no online meetings then, and clients thought nothing of expecting a face-to-face 1-hour meeting, no concern for the eight hours of travel it would take me.

When my two lovely children came along the business had been trading for 10 years, so, whilst I didn’t have any maternity leave in the traditional sense, a working style evolved that allowed me to prioritise my children but still run the day-to-day operations. Was it a juggle? Yes. Was it stressful? Yes. I can telepathically feel all the women (and men) out there who juggle business and children nodding in agreement. However, I never missed a sports day, school play or parents’ evening – but more importantly, I have never expected any of my team to miss anything involving family either. Us women know the value of a healthy work/life balance.

Echo-U has caused me a lot of sleepless nights, wild parties and brilliant friends – but most importantly it’s allowed me to singlehandedly provide for myself and my two children, giving them some financial stability without ever the threat of redundancies or job loss (although I should have sacked myself a few times over the years!).

Has it given me the freedom I so longed for? No. A business is something that needs persistence and attention at all times. But, with the onset of technology, I have been able to take holidays and still keep in touch. Shout out to all the entrepreneurs at the side of the pool trying to sort an issue out for a client, or close a deal, and watch your little bundle of joy in the egg and spoon race.

It’s refreshing when I hear people declining a meeting as they need to be there for their child/parent a dog – I applaud it. It wouldn’t have happened in the 90s, where “lunch was for wimps” or leaving on time meant you weren’t committed. I hope I have, by my example as a female entrepreneur, moved the dial on that mentality a small bit.

So, would I recommend entrepreneurship to my daughter?

Absolutely, but my advice to her would be: mould the business world to her needs and wants, do it her own way, and change the landscape. Mum will keep turning up to Echo-U, changing her little bit of the world so the next generation can take off from where we got to. You never know, she might experience the freedom I so longed for. For now, she wants to be a PE Teacher – think of the holidays!!!

If you are thinking about starting a business or want to ask Diana any questions on her journey so far please get in touch: