Nov 29, 2019
INTERVIEW WITH HERBUSINESS CEO.
Words by Andrew Woodward.
Photographs by Joe Vuong & HerBusiness.
Suzi Dafnis CEO of HerBusiness supports women to follow their unique passions, realise their business potential and create a difference in the world. Suzi Dafnis shares her inspirations and what drives her to succeed.
Since starting her first business in the spare room of an apartment in 1994, Suzi Dafnis has experienced first-hand the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Her unshakeable belief in the power of business to create freedom, express passion and make a difference in the world has driven her success, but she is no stranger to the sense of isolation that can come with starting a new company.
Today, Suzi is the force behind HerBusiness: a community of more than 30,000 members providing education, training, resources and mentoring to women starting out in business or looking to expand their professional horizons.
How long have you been a MINI owner, and what drew you to the brand?
When I moved to the inner-city suburb of Chippendale, I was looking for a car that would suit my lifestyle. I live in a converted warehouse that opens on to a narrow laneway; my new location and the fact that my daily commute is only 7 minutes each way led me to look for a car to get me from A to B quickly while also suiting the type of driving I’d be doing in my neighbourhood.
I wanted a reliable brand—a car that I could customise to totally suit my aesthetic and love of comfort and quality while also having the driving force I wanted.
What does it mean to be a MINI owner?
I love my MINI so much. I think I’m on my third one now, having changed colour each time.
I feel like I’m part of a special tribe of people who like to show up and show their individuality. I’ve noticed when I pass other MINIs that the drivers exchange courteous ‘hellos’—and I don’t think that’s on account of my friendly face. I think it’s that we know we share something special: a MINI-driver attitude that is generous and thoughtful about the environment.
Can you tell us about HerBusiness and what motivated you to start out?
HerBusiness is the most collaborative and supportive community for women who want to grow and scale a business. We provide online education, mentoring and support for women who want to grow their business, connect with other business owners and grow their entrepreneurial know-how.
I started this project alongside starting my own business, at a time when I felt isolated and disconnected. I knew that to grow I needed to expand not only my knowledge but also my connections.
How has the company and community grown since the early days?
Community is everything. One thing that women who start their own business often say to me is, "I wasn't expecting to feel so alone."
Running your own business can be exhilarating, empowering and rewarding but there can be lonely days too. Times when you feel isolated—as though you're doing it all on your own.
Even when you're surrounded by people who love and care about you, there can still be times when it feels like there's no one to turn to. Friends don't get it. Your partner, your family – they may mean well, but they don't always understand what you're going through. You can begin to second guess yourself, questioning whether you're even on the right path.
But, if you're lucky enough, you meet others along the way who do understand; people who speak your language and inspire you, because they're on a similar journey—trusting their ideas, building something, making a difference.
These are the people you can turn to when you need advice, or to celebrate a win. To get that nudge you need to step up and take that next leap. They help you feel connected, and they teach you the lessons you didn't even know you needed to learn.
Your community is one of the secrets to your success—they help you keep the spark alive, they boost your confidence and help you build your momentum, and they lift you up and let you know you're never in this on your own.
I'm so passionate about the HerBusiness community because there is always someone there to support you.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I usually start the day at around 5am. While I love the idea of sleeping in, I rarely do. I like to get to my desk before everyone else starts their day: this is when I do my ‘deep-work’, when I write, plan and organise the top priorities for myself and my business.
Nothing happens before I have a coffee, though, a piccolo with coconut milk which fits my paleo way of eating.
Leaving my home workspace, I typically get to the office by 9am for a 9.30am team huddle. Then, depending on the day I could be recording a podcast, hosting a Facebook LIVE-stream, running a webinar or leading a live event. I also spend a lot of time connecting with our clients and prospects.
I leave work early to get to the gym three times a week. I’ve trained at a CrossFit gym for 12 years and it is my sanity. I work long hours so getting my body moving is essential for maintaining my mental and physical wellbeing.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced with HerBusiness so far?
The biggest challenge has been stepping into the CEO role in my business. By that, I mean stepping out of the doing, and into designing the business; working on the big-picture and leading (rather than managing people and tasks).
This isn’t easy when you have a small team. But stepping into the CEO role is what has served my business most and allowed me to build a strong team around me.
Is there anything you would do differently now, with the benefit of hindsight?
I do what I love. Every. Single. Day.
If I was to do anything differently, I’d probably hire sooner. In the first couple of years, we were very strapped for money and so we did everything ourselves—occasionally hiring a friend’s teenager to do odd jobs and admin. If I had my time again, I’d put people in roles much sooner to get me out of doing the day-to-day tasks and instead, focusing my best work as the head strategist and leader.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received along the way?
This advice came from one of my mentors, Robert Kiyosaki, the author of the international bestselling book, Rich Dad Poor Dad. He said to me that business is a team sport and to always surround myself with people that ask more of me than I do.
Those words remain true to me. To grow, I continually put myself to the test by having peers who push me to be my best—to reach my potential.
What are you currently working towards?
Right now, I’m preparing for our annual business retreat held in Hawaii. This is our third year of taking a select group of women business owners to Kona for a five-day immersive experience, working on their business direction.
It’s always such a special group of women and they leave the retreat totally transformed, as do I.