The number of women working in technology roles has continued to increase over the past year, with 31% of UK tech jobs held by women, according to a February report released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). However, while the data might show progress, other statistics indicate that women in the UK are still widely underrepresented in professional and leadership roles.
The tech industry is crying out for more diversity, and in this article, Samantha Famulare, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Groubook, shares her wisdom and hopes to inspire other women who want to start a business. She shares her insights on productivity, pushing yourself and making your voice heard. She is passionate about taking strides towards making the tech industry in this country more innovative – and inclusive.
Originating from New Jersey, USA, and after finishing university in the US I was presented with an opportunity to come to the UK on a basketball scholarship and to earn my Master’s in Management and International Business. I chose Nottingham Trent University because of the great academics, athletics, and international department. I planned to stay in the UK for a couple of more months until my student visa expired. Becoming a female founder in the tech industry in the UK was never my plan.
Then, next thing you know, I met fellow founders Bradley Gough and Ollie Pod and helped to launch Groubook. We spotted a gap in the market, and Groubook is a new platform that lets groups book, organise and arrange nights out online and take advantage of a wide range of discounts and rewards.
Groubook launched in Nottingham in August 2020 just after the first lockdown restrictions began to ease and we saw rapid initial take-up with numbers growing by 250% in the first six weeks. We had spent months planning the launch of Groubook, only to have our plans put on hold as Covid-19 closed down the hospitality sector.
But we turned the crisis into an opportunity, as the app allows bars and restaurants to easily sell pre-booked slots to customers, so they can effectively control numbers when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
From moving to a new country, to launching a new hospitality app during a worldwide pandemic, it’s been a whirlwind of a year, but there are several takeaways from my experience so far that I’d like to share.
If you have an idea, speak up and make your voice heard!
No matter how many great ideas you have in your head, they’re useless to you and your team until you express them.
You can’t let other people’s opinions get in your way. Many people will tell you you’re a “dreamer” when they hear your ideas and your vision. Just because others don’t see it, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
In the early stages of Groubook, I brought forward a lot of ideas, and thankfully my ideas were listened to, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from my co-founders. This early collaboration led us to have early success. If I had never spoken up and made my ideas heard in the initial conversations, who knows what Groubook would look like right now, and I might even be back home in the US.
Push yourself outside of your comfort zone
Starting a business takes guts. And, pursuing your passion requires you to take risks.
My journey all started with me taking a step outside of my comfort zone, coming to the UK to play basketball. Nottingham is very different from New Jersey, but my friends and the Nottingham community made a place so unlike my home feel like home.
Voluntarily doing things outside your comfort zone prepares you for scenarios when you are forced to do things you wouldn’t normally do. If you step outside your comfort zone, you familiarise yourself with new experiences, and more often than not, become stronger for it.
No substitute for working hard
Working for a start-up, you’re going to make mistakes, but the key is to get back up and to keep working hard. Hard work, drive and energy is key to making it in business.
Hard-working people try to find ways of solving some of the setbacks instead of giving up.
People don’t understand the hard work and the countless hours you are putting in every single day. You have to have tunnel vision, blocking out the outside noise. Stay true to yourself and your vision. My parents have always taught me to believe in myself, and that anyone can accomplish anything they set their mind to if they put in the hard work.
People think it’s easy when they see you in the press or see things are going well. They don’t see the early mornings or the late nights of you being by yourself on your computer and notepad, working or learning new ways to get better. It’s when you put in the hard work when no one is watching, that’s what makes you successful, and that’s what will set you apart.
People might know more than me or might have better skills, but they won’t outwork me. I know I’ll work 10 times harder than the person next to me. That’s why if there’s a competition I’ll bet on myself every single time. The same thing applies to Groubook. My co-founders have that same chip on their shoulder that I have, and that motor to keep on working hard. That’s why I’ll bet on Groubook every single time.
Have a strong team around you
The fact that my fellow founders Bradley and Ollie listened to my ideas and let me run with them, shows the type of company we’re creating here at Groubook. Groubook has valued innovative ideas from the start! Having a workplace that values employee ideas is important! It doesn’t matter if you’re a board member or an intern, we’re building a company that values innovative concepts and values being open to new ideas. I think what makes Groubook’s founding team so strong, is that we each bring different perspectives and ideas to the table.
Embrace your situation and celebrate the wins
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry can present a few challenges. The majority of the meetings I’ve been on whether with investors, partners, the company, or other businesses, most times I am the only woman. I don’t shy away from that, I embrace it.
Being an athlete my whole life and growing up playing sports, there were many times I’d be the only girl on the basketball court playing with the boys. I never shied away from being the only girl, it motivated me to work 10x harder to prove that I belonged on the court too.
Personally, seeing how much I’ve grown by learning new things and improving my skill set has been cool. I know how many hours and the hard work I’ve been putting in, it’s a great feeling when you see how far you’ve come and when you achieve those small wins. Small wins like doubling followers on social media, winning new business partners or creating marketing content that increased engagement. All of these small wins are still exciting, it’s the small wins every day that will lead to the big wins!