How do you start not one but five successful businesses, while dealing with the ups and downs that come with life?
We recently spoke to serial entrepreneur Sam White to find out, who notes the need to think big picture before determining the details, to stay flexible on the life moments that unexpectedly come up, and to learn to diligently prioritise the things that matter.
Motivated by a strong desire for financial independence, White started her first business, Stella Insurance, at the age of just 24. Not only that, but she started in a traditionally male-dominated insurance industry and has been a driving force in creating an insurance business that is passionately pro-women.
White’s life hasn’t always been easy, but her unstable childhood and experiences with trauma have been a catalyst for her endeavours, giving her a strong sense of purpose.
Growing up, White’s mother, a dysfunctional alcoholic, didn’t give her the feelings of safety and security that most children receive. This meant that White learned to take care of herself from a very early age – something that lends itself to her career in insurance and the sense of security that she works to provide for women.
Twenty years after starting Stella Insurance, White has become founder and CEO of five very successful businesses, including Stella. She’s an incredibly successful entrepreneur, employing over 200 people with over 35 million dollars in revenue.
We recently profiled White in episode three of our podcast series, Moments That Make Us. Here, we are sharing more of the valuable insights and lessons we learned from her conversation with Shivani Gopal.
Talk honestly about money
White is a believer that women should talk openly about their successes and failures. Her own entrepreneurial journey has been filled with both. This year, her businesses generated $35 million in revenue, but she’s also happy to talk about the years when she lost money.
“I think money is one of those things that people have shame around on both sides for both success and for failure. And shame is a very destructive emotion and it’s something that can massively hold you back.”
The nature of entrepreneurship is filled with ups and downs, and White encourages all women to share their successes and learn from their mistakes.
“You’re also teaching other women really powerful lessons on, ‘it’s okay to take risks,’” says White.
Start with the big picture and let go of details
As an entrepreneur, White knows it’s necessary to keep her eye on the big picture and not get bogged down with details.
“I always find you get your first big thing, and then the detail cascades off that and I will always bring in a team of people around me to support me with that stuff.”
There’s no way for one person to do every little thing in a business, but White says there are always people out there who know what to do and are willing to help.
“You have to trust people, but you also have to accept that there are a thousand different ways that something can come into life and form that will all work and that your way doesn’t have to be the only way. And in doing so, in letting go, then the magic happens.”
Don’t be afraid to make changes
When White was in her twenties, a series of difficult events – breaking her leg, separating from her boyfriend and the death of her mother – caused her to pause and make big life changes.
“I have found many times in life that when things get really, really difficult, that’s the time to go. I want to shift gears, do something different, make a big change because that, sometimes, is the only way that you’re going to get out of that dynamic.”
White says it’s important to recognise when it’s time to ‘get off the hamster wheel’ and change any lifestyle choices or behaviors that are not serving you.
Prioritise things in your life
Each month, White organizes her calendar to reflect the three or four really big things that are going to make an impact in her businesses and doesn’t stress about the rest. She does the same on a personal level by identifying what is important to her life and relationships.
“What you find is that the little things that don’t really matter will often fall off the radar. I don’t try and do everything. People say to me, ‘Oh, you must be so busy with all these businesses, and you must have no time to yourself.’ And that’s not true at all, and I would not let it be like that because that would make me really miserable, and it would be no way to live.”
Many women are used to being people pleasers and White says this can lead to their agendas being directed by other people.
“If somebody needs help or contacts or advice or whatever, I will try and find time for that in the week as well and put that in. But what I won’t do is take on a load of tasks that are not my tasks and that are not necessarily serving me.”
Own who you are
White finds that becoming clear about who you are and what you want is essential. When you own who you are, the people who don’t like it will give you space.
“It’s extremely true that I am, so obviously, who I am and what I’m about. That I will only pull into my sphere people that actually like that and engage with that. And that’s absolutely fine because the people that don’t like my particular style of doing business or the strong sort of feminists agenda will just stay clear of me and I won’t waste time with them.”
When the people bringing you down leave, White says it’s easier to create your own, supportive tribe.