Empowering Women Entrepreneurs with Laura Saperstein
#BreaktheBias is the theme for International Women’s Day 2022 (IWD 2022). Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. However, knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. Action is needed to level the playing field.
In celebration of IWD 2022, we have interviewed 4 of our Neat women entrepreneurs coming from different industries to talk about the bias that they have faced during their startup journey and how they have overcome the challenges.
Our last interviewee is Laura Saperstein, CEO of BOXXERWORLD.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I started out life as a TV news reporter and producer while studying law. I then went on to become a Judge’s Associate on the Supreme Court of New South Wales in Australia. Next, I moved into corporate law and travelled to London to take up a position with a pre-eminent law firm, Freshfields. While there I took up boxing after a friend invited me to a kickboxing class. I never intended or loved being a corporate lawyer but I needed to make money. It taught me to be rigorous, trained me how to think thoroughly and to analyse details, but it’s just not for me.
I decided I wanted to become a professional boxer at a time. It was a tough ride but I retired in 2012 undefeated. I left the law in 2005 and became a property developer and landlord. In 2008, I founded Boxxerworld while training in Thailand.
The business was originally started to help a housemaid who had sewing skills. It now employs around 38 people. All the staff come from disadvantaged backgrounds and had little formal education. Boxxerworld sells high-end customised fightwear to boxers all over the world. Many champions have worn Boxxerworld gear including Roy Jones Jr, Mikkel Kessler, Anthony Mundine, Kel Brook, Nathan Cleverly, Anthony Crolla, and Kevin Mitchell.
2. What inspired you to start your own business and why in this industry in particular?
It was an accident. I was in Thailand training where I stayed with a lady who had a maid with good sewing skill but she was in a bad situation. I tried to help her set up her own business since there’s a huge opportunity in Phuket, with the influx of tourists and athletes getting their MMA and Muay Thai training. But she couldn’t do it without me because of the language barrier. That’s how everything started.
3. What is the most exciting aspect of running your own business?
For me, I didn’t plan to start my own business – I did it to help the maids. But I’m the type of person that once I get my teeth into something, I go as far as I can. Running a business is full of excitement and challenges. I personally enjoy the creative side of it – I love coming up with new ideas, new products.
4. Have you ever encountered prejudice while running your own business? How did you overcome it?
I didn’t when I’m running my business but I did encounter prejudice massively when I was a female boxer and competitive surfer. It wasn’t very long ago, but when I was boxing professionally, it was a crime for women to do boxing in my home state in Australia (NSW). I was also the first female boxer to have her fight shown live on fightnight on TV. Tough is not a remotely strong enough word to describe the prejudice that I’ve gone through.
To be honest, it hasn’t been easy. It had quite a bit of impact on my mental health. However, I’m determined and I also know which fight to pick. Sometimes things just aren’t worth the time and effort and after you weigh that up, if it’s not working it’s best to spend your energy somewhere else.
5. What advice would you give to other girls out there who are about to start their own business?
You need to be confident. When I was a landlord, I would go onsite and roll up my sleeves. The contractors very quickly knew I know what I was doing.
People sometimes focus on the exterior but that doesn’t have much to do with the persona that you put out there, so you need to know your stuff. There’s no easy route to start and run your own business. That’s why you need to work hard and push yourself to learn. It took me years to understand digital marketing in order to have a conversation about it. It took me 4 years of learning to be able to speak to 3D modelists and developers in the sensible language on what we can and can’t do.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your passion and the dedication you bring to that passion that matters
Check out our other interviews:
- Empowering Women Entrepreneurs with Mengyi Li, founder of Meli Business Solutions
- Empowering Women Entrepreneurs with Maria Blanca, co-founder of Womentor and Head of Operations at Carbonbase
- Empowering Women Entrepreneurs with Huguette Ova, co-founder and CMO of GEARXPro Sports
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Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW) provides a platform for women and to learn and network as well as companies to market their business events and expertise to an engaged community of 20,000+ influential women members throughout Asia. FEW Consulting offers business consultations to women-led businesses and MNCs that care about inclusion diversity and sustainability. Our clients include small-medium to large companies from real estate, mobility technology, and lifestyle sectors. Learn more.