Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Simon Mainwaring, Founder of We First, located in Culver City, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My company is called We First, and we're a strategic consultancy that drives growth and impact for purpose-driven companies. These can be young startups, high-growth companies, or complex global enterprises. We typically work with a CEO, CMO, or CSO, as well as founders and marketing directors, to help them grow their business by making a difference in the world.

Tell us about yourself

I'm an Australian who spent 15 years as an advertising writer, creative director, and worldwide creative director who reached a point in his career where he recognized that business was not only causing many of the larger problems in the world, but was also uniquely equipped to solve them as such. So I wrote a New York Times bestselling book called We First, which was all about a responsible and sustainable practice of capitalism, and started the company to help make that possible for companies of all sizes. What motivates me each day is the as-yet untapped capacity of business to not only do less bad, but to do more good collaboratively so that together we can course-correct our future. All of these challenges we face, from the climate emergency to loss of biodiversity and more, are marketplace opportunities in disguise. When we start to work with the planet and each other, rather than against it, it’s astonishing what we can achieve for business and our future.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The thing I'm most proud of as a business owner is the team I've been lucky enough to assemble at We First. Both because of the caliber of their work but also because of who they are as people and the difference we get to make in the world. Everyone who works there leads with their heart and does so because they want to make a difference that gives their life meaning. To work in the company of such people is a gift.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Having been an on-staff employee for 15 years before becoming an entrepreneur, I was shocked by how demanding the role of a company founder can be, especially when you're starting out and you don't have a lot of resources or support. There are so many hats you have to wear. You work long hours, juggle different roles, and have to hustle very hard to get traction in the marketplace and build a business that can support your family and others. I've learned a lot on the way, not just about business, but about myself. I think that's the point of it all. Rather than growing a business, you use a business to help you grow.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

My first tip would be to lead with your heart. If you want to inspire people around your vision and get the best out of their work, then the currency you must trade is emotion. That starts with the heart. Tip number two, leverage partnerships, collaboration, and co-creation to accelerate and scale your impact. You can only go so far on your own and reach so much further when you work together with like-minded people towards common goals. Tip three, failure comes with the territory. There will be inevitable ups and downs, and you will think about giving up time and time again. The biggest insight into what makes a successful business is the power of perseverance. That turns on your belief in the role of your business. And that starts with its purpose in the world.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Business, and by extension, humanity and the planet, find themselves at an inflection point. We have to decide if we're going to work together in new ways to restore and protect the social and living systems on which all of our futures depend, or whether all of our futures will be compromised. This is a stark choice that is becoming more and more urgent every day. Rather than see this as a negative, I see it as a great cause for optimism because it's going to unlock the true potential of our innate goodness as human beings. And when you combine that with the planet's regenerative capacity, we can build a future that everyone can look forward to.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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