Ariane February 15, 2021 8:31 am

The disruptive entrepreneur: Maria Surcel

We have created a new series at Neat. We interview entrepreneurs from around the world to share knowledge and advice on why they decided to start their own business, what challenges they came up against and what advice they would give to a new entrepreneur!

Our second entrepreneur is Maria Surcel. Maria owns well and fed and is a business and empowerment coach. Let’s hear it from her directly.

What is your background (including what you did before this startup):

So I actually come from a family of entrepreneurs but I chose to not take the entrepreneurial route for the first 10 years of my career. I tried to fight against the nature of entrepreneurship.  My family encouraged me to go and get something steady, something with security and did warn me that starting your own business is hard work. 

My background is marketing and HR and that is what I studied at university. I worked for a variety of companies, from charities, startups to tech companies – all sorts of companies and this is really because I wanted to see where I would fit. 

Tell us about your startup – 

My core business is the well & fed brand which is a coffee shop and deli set up in Peckham, London and it was set up with the idea of becoming more in time. My second business, I am a business and empowerment coach and I help other people, especially women to empower them to start a business. I was very unprepared for starting my own business and had to learn the hard way so I want to give others a bit more of a head start. 

What made you move into starting your own businesses and away from working for someone else?

It has always been in me to create my own thing and I have always had that need to take ownership. I am a deeply creative person, so there was always a calling in me to create something along with the need for freedom and flexibility. These for me were much higher than the need for security and certainty. 

Most people stay in jobs and careers because of  financial security and stability, those are their core needs, whereas mine was freedom and that is what made me make the switch. I did it gradually by starting with freelancing and dipping my toe in the water despite the desire for freedom. I used to be quite fearful and I couldn’t take the leap straight away so I just decided to do some work on the side and that is how I transitioned into starting my own businesses. 

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

I would encourage you to just start, wherever you are on your journey and however ready. Just start – you will never regret starting. But I think it is important to have the awareness that you will have to learn new skills and it is definitely not a walk in the park. 

Starting is only the beginning – the hard work comes after, so prepare to change as a person –  you may have more responsibilities with other people depending on you or your customers. 

What is the most exciting thing about starting your own business?

There are 2 really exciting parts for me: 

  1. The creation and inception part – being able to create something and putting it out into the world is so fulfilling 
  2. Seeing results – When I realised I am in control of how much money I make and how much I put in is what I get out of my businesses plus seeing that the business I have created is succeeding. 

The freedom associated with knowing I am in control of my life and business is really thrilling for me. 

What are the biggest challenges you have found with starting your own business?

I found the biggest challenges for me were execution and consistency.

To keep showing up and to keep going especially because it takes a least a year to really see any results from your work. In the first year of starting a business it was hard to keep going and not give up. The other side was I didn’t have all the skills and knowledge, I didn’t know what to expect and I felt a little unprepared. As much as I dreamt about starting a business and how it would go, I didn’t have enough processes in place when I first started. 

Do you think women are more reluctant to start their own businesses?

Potentially, women tend to have a lot less self-confidence and self-belief. Most women I work with really struggle with just believing that they can or that they deserve it. There is a lot of conditioning to break through that mindset. It is really empowering to see that more women are starting more businesses. 

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