Delivering Books and DreamS
By Mirela Sula
Mindy is a native New Yorker who arrived in the UK 25 years ago and she is now a dual citizen. Mindy spent half of her career in corporate marketing roles, then started her own business: speaking, training and coaching people on ‘personal’ marketing, profile building and thought leadership. She is best known as founder of The Book Midwife®, a book coaching company helping aspiring authors from ‘conception’ to ‘birth’ of their books as well as Panoma Press publishing house.
Mindy is a very positive and optimistic person, and she has certainly got great energy which she tries to share with everyone she meets! She is married with two sons in their twenties, which is hard to believe as she looks very young! Mindy lives in the beautiful and historic city of St Albans, Hertfordshire, which is one of the most perfect places in the UK, being a fantastic and interesting place, on the edge of the green belt and still just 20 miles north of London. From this interview you will see how much she loves her life and how she spreads this love with people around her.
How do you remember the beginning of your journey to become a business woman?
I’m what you could call an ‘accidental entrepreneur’. I was looking for a new position in the corporate world and nothing seemed to be working out. My kids were five and six years old, and I suddenly thought ‘I don’t want to travel and be away from home any more’. So I used my marketing, training and coaching skills to set up on my own. I wish I could say it was strategic and well planned-out but I’d be lying. It’s kind of fun when it’s organic though. You are open to different possibilities, instead of having everything all planned out and rigid. Although, this could be my way of rationalising things! Anyway, it all started to work out, and I am very happy now.
What motivated you to enter the publishing industry?
It’s been a bit of a strange and circuitous route. I started out as a life coach, but I was also running a marketing consultancy and doing book marketing. When my first book came out, everyone was really interested in that and they wanted help with their books, or they knew people who wanted to write books… So I changed the business to work with aspiring authors at the start of their book journey, instead of the final stages. I had no intention of running a publishing company, as I wanted to remain ‘independent’ but that changed when a colleague asked me to help him in a new venture. I had seen clients become disappointed with their publishers, and we thought maybe we could do it better ourselves. Eleven years later, I am running the business with a great team and we are still constantly looking for ways to do it better.
What are the challenges that you had to face when you started this venture?
We started without any external capital or borrowing, so you could call it a true bootstrap business. Looking back, I think I felt frustrated at the slow pace of growth, but it grew steadily and I learned a lot in those early days. Since then, we have used various financial strategies including debt and equity solutions, to grow faster and stronger. The other challenge that took me by surprise was the complexity of running a full-service publishing company. There are so many moving parts, and if you want to run a world class company, you need to be on top of all of them. I started out just doing the sales and marketing, but when my co-founder left, I chose to lead the entire business and didn’t bring in any other directors. It’s been tiring and challenging at times, with no one to join me in making the big decisions, but it is also rewarding.
Now you are a thought leader helping many women and men around the world achieve their dreams of becoming published authors, how does this make you feel?
That makes me feel humble yet proud. This coming year, The Book Midwife® will be 15 years old, and in that time, we have helped over one thousand people write and publish their books. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. I am so happy for all of the authors who have sold books in many countries, seen their profile and business grow through increased credibility and exposure, won awards and most importantly, felt the sense of achievement and fulfilment that comes from bringing your very best book into the world. My companies and I have also won many awards for our methodology and successes, but even more important than those accolades is the pride and satisfaction I get from seeing people realise their dream. When you think that most people who would like to write a book never do it, and they die with that book still inside them, it is a fantastic achievement to get your ideas into shape and see a great book with your name on it. Being part of that is the best feeling in the world.
Who has supported you to grow and develop your business globally? To whom do you dedicate your success?
There are too many people to list here! I have been part of some incredible organisations, such as BNI, the Institute of Directors, Ecademy BlackStar, the Professional Speaking Association, the RSA, local chambers, the FSB… and many more. I’ve aimed to get involved and build relationships within those associations and communities, and I’ve now got a broad network of loyal and supportive fellow entrepreneurs and colleagues. But it’s not just about having the network. It’s about noticing when it’s time to ask people for help and support. It can be hard for the successful entrepreneur to show vulnerability, but it is essential to allow others to see the real you as well. The key is to share your challenges with those whom you can trust, and then that builds even more trust. We have just come through a very hard time (as I understand many people have in 2016) and close friends and business colleagues were invaluable in keeping me positive and on the right path.
Following your achievements it seems that you have found your life purpose: What is the most important thing in your life?
The one most important thing? There are so many. I guess the theme that keeps coming up is Growth. My own growth, that of my family – as individuals and as a unit – and the personal, professional and spiritual growth of my clients. I’m what they call a Lifelong Learner and always looking to find out more about new ideas, places and people.
Life is a journey – but only if you step outside your comfort zone. Many people don’t push themselves very much at all, but it is so worthwhile pushing yourself when you see the end result and achieve wonderful things in life. We will all get older and continually change, but growth is optional. But even though it can be challenging and painful to push through your comfort zone, it makes you a better person. I believe that if you leave the planet a better person than when you arrived, everyone wins.
You are also a mother of two – how would you describe the relationships with your children?
When they were small, I’m not sure they appreciated the time and effort I had to put into my businesses. I did travel more than they may have liked, but that allowed us the freedom and the lifestyle to travel for fun as a family and see many places around the world. I tried not to feel guilty but that work-life balance thing is very real! Now that they are fully grown and learning about life as an adult, I think they understand a lot more about how my husband and I navigated all the challenges, and the tough decisions and sacrifices we needed to make at times. One of the toughest decisions we ever had to make was to move house because our younger son was accepted to a scholarship programme at a dance school. It created a huge amount of upheaval for our older son, who was forced to uproot his life and move because of his brother. He is an incredibly brave and inspirational young man, having coped with massive personal and professional dilemmas, and now he is only a few months away from graduating from university. And our dancer son followed his dream despite many setbacks, bullying and uncertainty. He worked very hard at college and has just got his first job: dancing in a professional musical theatre production travelling to Zurich and Dubai! I’m so proud of both of them.
My mother became self-employed when I was 11 years old, and I watched her take control of her career and her life. She is still working and continues to inspire me, with her ability to keep a great work-life balance whilst maintaining many friendships, interests and enjoying her own life.
How do you remember your childhood?
I remember lots of happy times and feeling loved. My parents were quite strict about schoolwork, discipline and rules in general, but they also allowed me and my sister to explore many sports, music and other activities. They also provided us with a stable environment and I feel very blessed to have developed a healthy self-esteem from a young age. My mother became self-employed when I was 11 years old, and I watched her take control of her career and her life. She is still working and continues to inspire me, with her ability to keep a great work-life balance whilst maintaining many friendships, interests and enjoying her own life. My dad was a very loving person, very tactile and always hugging people. I also aim to be warm and loving to everyone I meet, following my parents’ great example. It’s because of my dad’s support and encouragement that I started writing. I used to say I wanted to be a writer, and Dad was so keen to see me achieve that dream. He always wrote, and so did his father before him, but neither of them had been published. I think Dad was even more excited than I was when my first book was published in 2001!
Have you become the person that you wanted to be? If yes, what is your formula?
The person that I wanted to be? I’m not sure I really had a picture in mind about that. I knew I wanted to express myself, through writing and speaking (well, as a kid, I thought I wanted to star in films and theatre – but hey, it’s still being on stage!) The other goal I had was to be happily married and raise confident children and I feel very proud that I have achieved that! I’ve also taken a lot of risks in my life, in business but also personally. I moved to a new country without knowing anyone and with no idea how things would work out. If I could offer a formula to others, I would say it starts with being okay with not being or having everything instantly. We live in a fast-paced society where everything is possible, but maybe it doesn’t all come in the package or the timeframe you would like. I have always tried to enjoy the journey, and all the little achievements along the way, while keeping an eye on the goal or destination. That way, I can be happy all the time. It sounds like such a cliché but it’s true. I see a lot of people who are so focused on their goals that they are missing the journey completely.
I see a lot of people who are so focused on their goals that they are missing the journey completely.
As a thought leader what is your opinion about women leaders?
Women are amazing! Look what we have to deal with sometimes – careers, marriage, kids, the household, ageing parents – we take it all on board and we just cope! I love supporting women leaders, especially as so many women do not realise how amazing they are and are less confident than they ought to be. Simply due to historic reasons, women are still not as visible and vocal as men, so I think they need an unfair advantage sometimes, to ‘catch up’ or compensate for the unconscious bias in society (and the current ratios). I don’t like making statements about women’s skills or attributes, since that really is generalising. But it’s true that many women running companies or departments within companies could probably achieve even more by using their intuition, empathy, compassion and other typically female qualities. Women also need to be more visible and vocal because we have just as many valuable ideas to share, and when we keep them to ourselves, we deny ourselves and the world.
What is your resolution for the New Year? I have quite a few, as you might imagine (I never like to stand still). On the professional side, I have a big goal of doubling our companies’ profits by the end of 2017. As I mentioned, we have had a challenging time in the business recently, and now that we’ve turned things around, it’s time to play a bigger game. On a personal note, I am focused on relaxing and being mindful, and spending quality time with friends and family. I know it doesn’t sound that ambitious, but it’s the most important thing in life, and when we focus on business, we can unconsciously put relationships second. I’ve neglected friends and family a bit over the years, and I am keen to rectify that. The relaxation goal is very important, although I love being active and having a lot going on! I do have some holidays booked already though.
What is the message that you would like to share with our readers?
Let’s use a book as a metaphor for this one. You know how people say everyone has a book in them? Well, that means we all have a story to tell, a message that could help others and help us to feel more fulfilled. Find a way to express that message. It doesn’t have to be by writing a book, although that is an incredibly powerful and tangible way to package up what you know, what you feel and who you are. Challenge yourself to write and speak about your experiences and the things you are passionate about. Find a way to express your message – you never know who you could touch and inspire by speaking your truth. And the act of putting your own thoughts, ideas and experiences together in a clear and coherent way is an incredible confidence builder. So many women think they need to wait until they have more clarity and confidence and then write their story. In fact, the exact opposite is true: the process of planning and writing actually creates the clarity, which in turn creates the confidence. So I definitely recommend writing a book. If you feel you need help, get in touch as early as possible, even before you start planning. That way I can hold your hand and help with every single step as you create your best book.