“Making it” in business is no easy task. However, businesswomen have cited one thing that makes it much less difficult. Finding a mentor can be crucial for your success in business. Naomi Simson, one of our Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame inductees, has agreed to share her personal story about how she “made it” in business and how mentors contributed to her success. With little more than a few thousand dollars and a second-hand computer, Naomi founded RedBalloon in 2001. Today, the company is on track to become a $100 million business in the not too distant future, marking a significant journey towards a happiness revolution. With a burning desire to change the face of gifting in Australia, Naomi left a long corporate career with organisations such as IBM and Apple to pursue her vision. Her decision not only gave her the flexibility to spend more time with her family, but has also given her the opportunity to create millions of memorable experiences with her clients over the years. From birthdays to anniversaries, Christmases to other special occasions, Naomi’s business gives her a fleeting glimpse into the lives of her customers. She has been privy to a number of personal stories – from proposals and dying wishes, to sweet sixteens. “More than anything, people need more good times with the people they love – and connection creates happiness.” Naomi also believes that generosity and integrity have a place in the corporate world, working to help organisations succeed and increase productivity, all while having fun. Naomi has had a few mentors who she has looked to for advice and guidance, and who have contributed to her success in business. Entrepreneur Verne Harnish had a great impact on Naomi’s professional development and many of the practices that were put in place in the early days of RedBalloon. “Kirsten Munachen, our business development manager at the time, and I attended Verne Harnish’s first Rockafeller Habits seminar in Sydney. Both of us were incredulous and inspired to discover what amazing resources were available to RedBalloon in its start-up phase – we were not alone – others had travelled this path before. We could learn from other great businesses. Verne’s key message was about vision, values and alignment.”
Another great mentor for Naomi was her mother who was a ‘career woman’ and who always dressed in beautiful suits. “My mother taught me that women need to have the guts to speak up.” “Mentors have played a large role in my life, and as such I have made the commitment to be a mentor for others: to empower people to do great work, not let them down and to embody our RedBalloon value of integrity – doing what we say we are going to do.” Naomi’s advice for new businesswomen is to be passionate. The key to success is finding something you are truly passionate about. A good entrepreneur goes into business because they see a problem and they want to change it, and it’s something they’re completely passionate about. If you don’t have that single-minded passion, it becomes work. She also says that it’s important to believe in yourself and seek advice when you need it. Always act with integrity and don’t be afraid to seek out and ask for advice when you need it. And, you WILL need it.