Building A Global Girl Gang: An Interview With Pippa of City Girl Network
So, after finally overcoming my fear of sharing my new website (perfectionism is just an excuse, guys!), it's time to show you the first in my new series of interviews with brilliant businesswomen!
I have always loved reading about other people's journeys in life and business, but sometimes the story is just a bit too perfect and this can be really disheartening when you just want some reassurance that they've been where you are.
So, I wanted to share with you some real conversations with women for whom I have tons of respect. Pippa is a great example of a woman who is the boss of her life and who's not afraid to talk about the ups and downs that come with that.
I hope you enjoy this and if you don't have time to read the full thing, please make sure you scroll to the bottom to find out how you can get involved with Pippa's amazing girl gang movement!
Hi Pippa! Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you're up to at the moment?
Well, I go by multiple names! I am the CEO of City Girl Network, which is a new business that I've just started to bring together women in their twenties in cities across the world. I am also a blogger; I've been running Pippa Says for 7.5 years. I am also a freelancer, so I help small businesses with their social media and content marketing.
So, what motivated you to start City Girl Network?
In October 2015 I was walking along the beach where I live in Brighton and I saw a girl looking out to sea. I started to wonder about her, and wondered if she was lonely. At the time I was feeling quite lonely, as I didn't have the network that I used to have at uni and so I decided to create a magazine full of resources for women just like that, twenty-something women living in Brighton, to make them feel more at home. So, I'd been running Brighton Girl Magazine for five months and I realised I needed to bring together these women to find out more about them. So I created a MeetUp group, thinking that just one person would turn up, and 17 people came!
Over the next couple of months I started running more meetups because there was a strong feeling that it was really needed in the city. By about October 2016 we had 300 girls in the Brighton Girl network, and two of the girls were moving abroad - one to Edinburgh and the other to Berlin, and they asked if they could take it with them. So, in December, the City Girl Network was born! It's evolved so much since; we've now got 1000 girls in the network and we're running six meetups a month.
It's really starting to change the lives of the women in these cities, which is what motivates me to keep it going.
Can you talk a bit more about how the City Girl Network has changed some of your members' lives?
Quite a lot of our girls, especially in Brighton, weren't happy with their living situation, so they've actually moved in together. There are now quite a few Brighton Girl houses, which is really nice because we'll always have a little Brighton Girl party when they move in!
We've also helped over 40 women who weren't happy where they were find new jobs. Even more excitingly, 25 women have left their jobs and become freelancers, based on the support of the other girls within the network.
It gives them that support to allow them to do what they want to do, rather than what they feel they should do.
What values underpin City Girl Network?
Our slogan is Empower, Inspire, Support so we really believe in empowering women to go forward with what they want to do. We hope to inspire them by showcasing examples of other women doing just that, which simply happens by talking to each other. As for the support element, we've had a lot of situations where women have been trying to either get a pay rise at their job, or stand up for themselves at work, and the network allows them to speak up about this, either at meetups or in our Facebook group. There have been situations across every network where a girl has got a pay rise, or a better position, or she's been treated better at work because of what the girls in the network have said.
What does solidarity with other young women mean to you?
It underpins everything we do. There's strength in numbers. A lot of women feel like they're going through something alone; they might feel like they're in a job that they hate when everyone else seems to love their job. This is often down to social media, where you'll find women showcasing these amazing lives, when in reality they can't afford the cocktails that they're posting or the coffees that they're drinking, so it's all very false. So for us, it's all about bringing women together and allowing them to speak up, so it's OK to say "You know what, I can't afford that at the moment because I'm saving for a house, is anybody else?" It's about making sure women know that they're never alone in the things that they're going through.
Have you noticed a trend among young women starting their own businesses? If so, why do you think that is?
Absolutely! There are loads of reasons for this. I think social media has played a big role; on the one hand it can be a real problem because people are comparing themselves, but on the other hand, it's showing women how possible it is to go and live your dreams. Joining communities like the City Girl Network really does inspire people to do what they want to do, and this comes alongside a real wave of female entrepreneurs standing up and going for it. There's the Female Entrepreneur Association that's growing every day, and there's things like One Girl Band (an awesome co-working space for female creatives in Brighton) popping up all the time too. I also think books like #girlboss are really changing the landscape for young women.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Feel the fear and do it anyway is probably the biggest lesson I've learnt, because the thing is that, when you're running a business you're just filled with anxiety. It's really terrifying and one of the biggest and scariest things I've ever done, but that's just fear and you have to break through it. This leads onto another great piece of advice; follow your gut. That fear is probably there because you're doing the right thing. When you know that you're doing what you need to be doing, it really matters and I think that's why it's scary. When you're leaving a stable job to create a business, which is what I did, it feels like it could fall apart at any second but you know that you just have to do it. I think you just have to fight through every single person that says that you can't do it and every single moment where you feel like you can't carry on. Just know that there are so many other ways around it, and that's how you'll find success.
I've found that it's been quite the emotional rollercoaster since leaving my job and starting my business, have you had a similar experience and if so how do you manage that on a day-to-day basis?
I feel exactly the same. Some days I just wake up on the wrong side of mental health, basically and I just think "Oh God, what have I done? ... Am I actually doing this?" because sometimes it just feels terrifying. I think the absolute best thing I've done has been to tell people.
I had a day recently when I felt like I may as well go back to bed, but then I met up with Sofaya who helps me run CGN and I told her about all these fears that I was having, and over time they just went away because you realise that you're not alone.
The more you go through it, the more you're reminded that it always turns out OK in the end.
That day, for example, I ended up going to a Benefit blogger event in the evening and meeting loads of cool people and I realised that actually it was fine; it was just a bump in the road. It's difficult because you can't control how you're going to feel, there was no real reason that I felt so anxious that day, it just came all at once - it just hits you like a brick sometimes!
You have to remember the last time you were anxious and how you got through it. I find that doing videos, especially Instagram stories (which I like because they go away after a day!), is great because you have to put into words how you're feeling and then it's a really nice reminder that it does always end up OK. You just have to trust. Trust the universe!
What has your experience been of the ideas around the Law of Attraction and manifesting?
I discovered this through friends when I was going through a really big life change. I pictured my life differently to what it ended up being when I first moved back to Brighton, so I started to naturally visualise this life and then things just started to happen. Manifestation can just come from conversations and hearing stories. At the end of the day, I'm a storyteller and it's what I've always done. I think The Secret is important to watch, but really it's just about taking a step back and thinking about who you want to be.
If someone had sat me down a year ago and said this time next year you'll have quit your job, you'll own a business that's running in three, soon to be four, different cities, I don't think I would've believed them, but actually that is what I wanted a year ago. The network that I have in Brighton, across the entrepreneur circle and the Brighton Girl network, has really made it happen for me. It kind of feels like a bit of a "fake it til you make it" thing, and then one day I just woke up and realised that I'd done it!
Maybe it's just the case that when you envision what you want, you make decisions that get you closer to that vision.
Also, the things in your life that won't help towards that vision start to fall away. I really believe in manifesting in the sense that you can make what you want happen. Of course, it's you that makes it happen, but the universe also helps with that.
How do you make the things that you want happen in your life?
I sit down once a month and decide on three things that I want; one for the year, one for the month and one for my life, and then I write them down when I wake up and when I go to bed. Very often they come true! For example, last month I wanted to get enough freelance clients to survive from May onwards and I made that happen by the end of the month. These things are happening because I'm constantly reminded of the end goal. You make decisions based on those goals and never lose track. It keeps you so focused. You have to be quite ruthless and you have to be your own businesswoman and only make decisions that help you get to that end goal.
What is your favourite thing about being your own boss?
The fact that I'm in control of my life. The best moment for me so far has been booking a trip to Berlin, where it turned out to be cheaper to go for six days rather than five and I could just do it! No holiday to forms to fill out, I can just go! I've given myself freedom. Of course, freedom is for sale in lots of ways, but when you're your own boss you can make those decisions about what days you want off. For me, I can just hop on a train to London one day if I want to. I want a life that travels, and being my own boss enables that to happen.
When I was working in an office environment and had to start at a certain time and leave at a certain time, I felt so locked in and it just doesn't work for me. Creativity doesn't flow for me if I'm being watched over all the time; it's not where my best work happens. Working on my own terms, on the other hand, my clients get the absolute best out of me, which makes me feel better because I know I'm providing a really good service.
What are your favourite books, resources or podcasts that have helped you on your journey?
I love Ctrl, Alt, Delete by Emma Gannon, which has a focus on women who've really pushed through on the internet, which I find very empowering, my background being blogging; my whole career has grown up online. Then there's the NPR podcast called How I Built This, where Guy Raz interviews billionaires like Richard Branson and the owner of Zumba. I like Emma Gannon for getting really real about stuff, and then How I Built This is really useful for inspiration, so for example you learn that Richard Branson failed a lot on his route to building this huge empire, so it makes you realise that failure is OK (and comparison is not OK). It reminds you that these really successful people were just like you once.
I use Trello a lot, and everything I do is on Google Docs because I think that the Google Suite is the best way to run a small business. Then to keep CGN going remotely, we use Slack, which has been a great way to bring together all these women in different cities who are working on the network. You can download the app on your phone and it feels like text messaging, it's really good!
I really like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, that's been very important to me personally. In terms of business books, the best one's got to be The Lean Startup by Eric Ries; every single businessperson should read it!
Finally, what have you got planned for City Girl Network over the next 12 months?
We're planning to roll out the network across the UK, so we're going to a lot of Northern cities and a certain Western city (Editor's note: YAY!) and just really trying to spread the word across the country and get as many different girls on board as possible.
If you'd like to get involved or set up a network in your city, please get in touch with Pippa!
For all of you Bristol Girls, I can now reveal that we're officially part of the network! I will be the Community Manager so I'll be hosting regular meetups around Bristol to bring together our community and support each other to call this wonderful city home. Please join our Facebook Group to meet everyone and keep up-to-date with future events! We'd also love you to join us on Meetup!