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Challenges and Opportunities: The Higher Level Skills Match Journey of Two Female Entrepreneurs

The first year of your business is often seen as the trickiest, crammed full of many different challenges, but also several opportunities.
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Photo of Muneerah Dubidat & Vanessa Kelly

Challenges and Opportunities: The Higher Level Skills Match Journey of Two Female Entrepreneurs

The first year of your business is often seen as the trickiest, crammed full of many different challenges, but also several opportunities.
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Photo of Muneerah Dubidat & Vanessa Kelly

Reflecting on International Women’s Day, we spoke to two female entrepreneurs currently working with Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) (part-funded by the European Social Fund) over the last two months. Through this blog post, we look into the challenges faced when growing a business and the support available through HLSM to help provide support.

Two tales of Business growth 

Vanessa Kelly runs 2 Much Passion CIC, a non-profit organisation that teaches, trains and provides creative cooking classes that boost individual and family well-being by supporting them out of poverty. 

 We’re a non-profit organisation built on the sole purpose that food can bring people together” says Vanessa.  

 Our project’s Let’s Get Culture Cooking and Young Foodeez provides an online platform for growth and develop of cooking courses and events. We work from cooks to chefs and allow them to reach their full potential. 

We also spoke with Muneerah Dubidat, who runs Transform Coaching & Events. Muneerah’s enterprise supports hundreds of women online by offering coaching, mentoring, group workshop facilitation and events. The aim? To take women from a place of low confidence and low self-esteem to confident decision-makers and action takers. 

Reflecting on 12 months of development 

Reflecting on the last 12 months, Muneerah says “Transform Coaching & Events has supported hundreds of women online, building a beautiful community of empowered women seeking positive change in their lives. By focusing on ‘Self-Love’ and ‘Self-confidence’ the women gain the self-belief needed to take action, so they can achieve the life they want, whilst confidently owning their power and uniqueness. 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge and that is exactly what we do as an organisation. We challenge women’s thinking and help them to remove their perceived limitations so that they can create the change that they want to see.” 

With business growth comes challenges 

Fast business growth hasn’t come without its challenges. Finding the time and knowledge to develop her brand online, and transition her mindset from an employee to a business owner were just two of the many challenges Muneerah faced. That was as well as the ongoing financial pressures. 

Firstly, starting my business with very little capital during a pandemic presented challenges around balancing the needs of my family and the financial pressures to generate income to build a successful business. 

 I would have loved to employ a Digital Marketing expert to help me stand out and reach my niche, but that wasn’t an option for me at the time. But what it did give me was the opportunity to access a range of free training on-line, which opened more doors and opportunities to learn” stated Muneerah. 

As well as access to knowledge and resource, Muneerah found she needed a mental shift in her approach to work.  

Another business challenge was the transition in my mindset from an employee to a business owner. From the basics of registering my business and meeting Statutory Obligations, to decision making on a level that I had not yet experienced in my previous day to day roles. 

 Also, maintaining personal motivation and not being so hard on myself remain a daily challenge, especially being a high achiever. But I continue to draw upon my ever-growing network to help me make my mission a reality. 

Taking on multiple business roles 

With this in mind, Vanessa also spoke about the challenges as a female entrepreneur and balancing overseeing all aspects of running a business through the different stages. Vanessa reflected on the importance of learning quickly the difference in work ethic and passion within the industry and the importance of the different skills individuals can bring.  

My biggest challenge as a female entrepreneur is having to wear many different hats throughout all the different stages of my business” Vanessa stressed. 

However, the importance of embracing new opportunities as business owners isn’t to be forgotten.  

 There is never one hat fits all its really important to be adaptable and allow yourself to be open to new opportunities. At times you’re the accountant, the social media manager, the admin, the driver, cleaner, it important to be prepared to work in all the different parts of the business. Until the day you are ready to expand and take staff on.  

Similarly to Muneerah’s transition from an employee to a business owner, being familiar with changing mindsets was something Vanessa also felt was important for her when it came to business growth and taking on your first employees.  

Once that happens you have to learn quickly not everyone has the same work ethic or passion as you do, everybody has different skill sets so appreciating individuals for being different and bringing something different to the table is a very valuable mindset.  

The work and support with Higher Level Skills Match  

When it came to supporting the development and management of individual and team skills within a business, both women sought out the support of Higher Level Skills Match – our Account Managed Skills solution. We asked both Vanessa and Muneerah on how approaching Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) for this help, helped them and their business. 

“The support on offer and the quality of the placement students has been amazing, it has meant that our business will grow and will continue to grow.” Says Vanessa  

During a difficult year for business, students and graduates, and the community as a whole. The great collaboration between business and universities is incredibly valuable. HLSM enabled Vanessa and Muneerah to get access to students who were able to support their small businesses in specialist areas, as well as giving the students the opportunity to gain valuable skills to support with their career journey.

Muneerah also echoes the access to support from students HLSM provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses like me to make connections with new talent wishing to establish themselves and gain experiences to springboard their careers. I was in the exact same position a few years ago, and as a new business owner, I’m excited and honoured to be able to offer growth opportunities for the students of Birmingham City University. 

Being able to access the HLSM programme, allows me to develop my business, whilst giving the individual supporting me the much-needed business knowledge, exposure and experience to develop themselves and their career, which is a win-win for everyone.  

Aside, to the additional access to student talent both businesses found the upskilling support helped them improve their own business management skills and become more confident in their own skillset.

Muneerah mentioned “another advantage of being a part of the HSLM programme is having the opportunity to strengthen my current knowledge and skills, allowing me to take my business further and faster. I’m currently in the process of getting the valuable support needed and can’t wait to see the direct impact that being on the programme has on my business growth.”

Yes, You Can Do This 

Asking both Vanessa and Muneerah on the advice they would have for other business owners, especially on steps to growth.  

The best advice I would give to other businesses is to utilise the services that are made available, sometime you may think you don’t have the time to train a placement student or wonder if they are going to bring any value. The answer is YES, the new opportunity you open for them could be the new lease of life your business was looking for. says Vanessa  

Muneerah adds My biggest piece of advice for other business owners looking to grow would be to invest in getting the right support for you and your business as soon as possible. Yes, you have done an amazing job taking your business this far (and possibly on your own) and you should be proud of everything you have achieved. But imagine how much further you could go with the advice, support and expertise of organisations whose sole focus is ensuring the success of your business. 

Whether that’s business support through a service like Higher Level Skills Match, a collaboration with another complimentary business or having a conversation with a friend who runs a successful business. It will always be beneficial for you to get someone outside of the business give you their non-judgement feedback to help you grow your business in ways that you would not have thought were possible. 

And most importantly, enjoy the journey, look to the future with excitement and continue to influence and create change in your industry, using your uniqueness. As after all, that is your superpower and what you offer is exactly what the world needs right now!  

We look forward to seeing both businesses continue to grow and inspire more and more each day.  


Interested in learning more about how your business can grow and develop with Higher Level Skills Match? Find out more about our programme here.

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