Life & Culture

How to turn 'fluff' to fortune

First Angelica Malin built a network of female entrepreneurs, now she's written a book to give them advice


She’s had only four “proper” jobs in her life, and she was fired from two of them. Yet the relentlessly upbeat Angelica Malin has parlayed defeat into success and confidence — and now this London-based whirlwind has put all her many business successes, and mistakes, into a compact book — She Made It, subtitled The Toolkit for Female Founders in the Digital Age.

Malin, daughter of the acclaimed portrait painter Suzi Malin, has been a vibrant digital presence since 2013, as the founder and editor-in-chief of the eclectic About Time magazine. It grew out of a conviction that those who were “time-poor” would be keen to sign up for curated lifestyle advice, from where to buy the best bagels to the ideal capsule wardrobe to take away for a long weekend of clubbing.

Unashamedly aimed at her millennial generation, About Time was, and remains, a hit. And then Malin, just turned 30, began hosting “empowerment” festivals for women called SheStartedIt, with an accompanying podcast, designed to attract the brightest and best young female entrepreneurs.

But, as she made clear when we spoke on Zoom at the end of last year — with time out for endearing cuddles with new puppy Alfie — Malin found the same questions were being raised over and over at every SheStartedIt event.

“They weren’t just questions, but similar concerns: things like worries over imposter syndrome, how do I know when I’m ready, should I get experience before I start a business…”

So she decided to address the issues in a book, a problem-solving companion which looks at common worries for young women starting off in business. And because About Time magazine was conceived when a number of other young women had begun their business journeys, a kind of “informal mentorship” had sprung up, with each keeping a eye on the progress of each other’s business. “I wanted to bring those voices together and offer case study elements, a feeling of sisterhood with women by whom I had been inspired”.

She Made It, therefore, is an engaging compendium of real-life advice and experience, with hard-headed input about the importance of proper financing to underwrite a business. If you can’t do the figures yourself, the book declares, get a good and sympathetic accountant whom you trust, to work with you. Each woman interviewed is asked for specific advice — such as “How do you manage cash flow as a business? Any specific tips for money management?”

For, as Malin makes clear, it’s no use having “fluffy” ideas at the kitchen table without having the business smarts to make them happen. And, while many other writers are bemoaning the timing of publication in the age of the pandemic, Malin says She Made It was “largely written before Covid, and a lot of things I talk about in the book are to do with being able to work anywhere, to run things remotely, and to use digital platforms as much as possible to amplify your business’s successful message”.

Her target audience, she says, would never use “traditional” marketing methods such as taking a TV ad or a billboard poster. Instead, they want to know how to monetise Instagram stories and develop sales of their product or service. “It’s a slightly backward way of doing things, because often it’s not a case of having an idea, it’s building a social media presence and then selling to that audience”.

She also intended the book to be of use to people working from home — which is pretty much all of us these days — and says that many young women’s business ideas depend on more flexibility in working hours than has traditionally been the case.

Malin herself learned the hard way about being a minority and punching through. At 13 she became the only Jewish pupil at Heathfield School, an independent girls’ boarding school near Ascot.

“Lovely school”, remarks Malin, “but there was no understanding about what a Jewish person was. They put on a Holocaust memorial service, for me” — an act which strikes one as quite empathetic, in fact.

But for her sixth form studies, Malin transferred to Charterhouse, the public school in Godalming, Surrey, and home, at the time, to 750 boys and 50 girls. “It was a tough environment. There were a few other Jewish pupils, but it wasn’t really until I went to Bristol University that I really connected with other Jews”.

Boarding school was a tradition in her family: her brother and her mother boarded, while her uncles were at the Jewish public school, Clifton College. It may well, she thinks, have encouraged an independence that she has carried forward into her business life.

While at Bristol, Malin and a friend took advantage of a university scheme that enabled people to stay in the city for the summer, if they could come up with a business idea. “We began a cake company”, Malin laughs, “only we couldn’t really bake”. But it did teach her some basics about selling and marketing, so it wasn’t an entirely wasted opportunity.

And, like everything else in her life, Malin has discarded the bad and unnecessary and emphasised the good in order to achieve success. She thinks the business world is changing and that many people would rather buy from small, emerging start-ups, rather than faceless corporations. If she is right, then She Made It seems to be the ideal handbook to have by your side.

She Made It by Angelica Malin, published by Kogan Page, is out this week

A New Era Of Flexible Working by Sarah Hughes click here

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