By Fati Gorezi
Ellen Bjerkehag is a ’Network Specialist’ with 10 years of experience within Sales, Leadership and Marketing within both startups and established companies. As the Founder & CEO of her new Company ’CC Group’ she has created a company with seven connected Companies within Education, Audiobook Publishing, Workshops, Marketing and Events. She is one of the pioneers of ’Global Woman Club’, the National Director of ’Global Woman Club Scandinavia’ and also highly involved with the Marketing for ’Global Woman Magazine.
What is your background and how would you describe your early life?
One way of describing it is that I had everything that most people on this planet wish for themselves and for their loved ones. When I say this I’m both humble and grateful for my reality, but the reason I’m telling you this is because that’s my driving force. To work harder and always try to develop myself and learn new things.
I was born in Sweden with a Swedish passport and I grew up in a family with social and financial security. I grew up with a mother and a father and three siblings that together always showed each other unconditional love. We travelled more than once every year, our grandparents had a summerhouse where we spent our summers, we did homework with our grandmother and celebrated every Christmas and Birthday with friends, family and with lots of presents. This was part of my reality and many of my friends’ too – but this is far from the reality most people live in and I’m very much aware of that. My siblings and I grew up in a house with “high ceilings”, where we could always speak our mind and show our feelings. My parents taught us that anything is possible, that you should always show others respect and that it’s fine to be both sad and happy. That’s life. Also, on every trip we made we would also learn some things about that Country and its culture. My childhood was not perfect and my family and myself aren’t either – but from where I’m standing today my start in life was in many ways easy, and because of that I want to pay it forward. Nothing in life should be about being perfect. It should be about making progress from where you started from. It’s how I found my passion to help women globally. It’s about paying it forward.
How would you describe your experience in ‘’Global Woman’’ ?
Transformational, loving, growing and extraordinary. Mirela Sula, our founder, and my partners and friends in Global Woman have forced me to level up and to take fast decisions. During my journey with Global Woman I have really focused on progress rather than perfection, and that’s what I love. I’ve seen and felt the need of our community across the world and we have done everything in our power to meet this need as fast as possible. Global Woman is growing rapidly across Europe and it’s giving us some challenges but at the same time a lot of rewards. I’ve found Global Woman ’Soul Sisters’ across the world and we learn from each other and support each other without asking for anything in return. Mirela Sula’s vision to create a supportive community of entrepreneurial women across the world lives in my body day and night, and – trust me – we have only just started.
Can you tell us about your entrepreneurial journey?
My whole career has been moments of saying ’yes’ to opportunities that come my way – and then learn how to do it. I started to work when I was 14 years old, and at the age of 16 I was employed by three different companies. At the age of 21 I was Head of one of the biggest departments within a big franchising company in Sweden. Saying yes to a meeting four years later led me to be part of starting up a food brand with Paolo Roberto, who is a former Boxer and a famous entrepreneur in Sweden. Saying yes to another meeting led me to ’Zinzino’, the Company that completely shifted my way of thinking in terms of work and earning money. Without Zinzino I probably wouldn’t have met Mirela Sula or ’Global Woman’, because it was with Zinzino that I started to work outside of Sweden and work while I was travelling. I believe it’s by knowledge, mindset and experience that you create new opportunities. For me one thing led to another, and the only thing I needed to do was to say ’yes’ and then put a lot of my energy into it.
The new brand, ’Connected Companies,’ that I’m developing now, comes from ideas and encouragement from people around me. This is why I always speak about the power of networking. It’s not only the power that you have inside yourself, it’s the power that a network of people can create together. I always try to make the best of everything I do, and in that way I’ve been prepared to take the opportunities that come my way – that’s been my whole career.
What are the main challenges that women entrepreneurs face today? And how can they can overcome them?
Firstly, this is not just a challenge for a specific gender. What I see and feel many people lack is the courage to try and what they hold onto is the fear of failure. This is also why I always say – “Life is a collection of moments, memories and experience”. A big part of your experience should be a collection of failures and mistakes. Without mistakes and failures, you will lack a lot of experience and without experience there is a lack of personal growth. Get yourself a lot of experience, reflect and learn from it, then you will grow faster. Also, if you act fast and collect a lot of failures in a shorter time frame then you won’t have time to think about them because your next step will need your total focus and attention.
The challenge that I’ve seen and felt, from my own experience, is that we are women first and then entrepreneurs, and we get questions related to gender. Men are just ‘entrepreneurs’ or ‘investors’ without clarifying gender. Focus on what you want to do and don’t spend time thinking that your gender or age could be an obstacle. Just shift your mindset and thinking, because words are energy and energy affects you.
There are so many bright, ambitious women in the world, but few seem to have a career. Why do you think that is?
I spend time with many bright and ambitious women, and a lot of them have great careers. I understand a part of what you mean as many could have better careers, run their own Companies and make a lot more money than what they do. This is a big question and could depend on both history, culture and society, and I don’t think I’m the right person to answer for the whole world. What I’ve found in many of the women that I’ve met across Europe, is that they are over-competent and they underestimate themselves. We all know more than we know that we know! What I mean by this is that we are great at collecting experience and competence all the time, but if we don’t spend time on reflecting we will never be conscious of what we know. Then, all the knowledge just stays in our unconscious minds. Just by being a mother you learn sales, negotiation and patience, but do we add them as skills? So, like I said, we are over-competent and we underestimate ourselves because we learn more than we reflect, and this is something I want to change. If we could take all the experience and competence that women across the world have and “build” this into Companies, I believe we could change the world.
What is your biggest passion and why is this a big passion of yours?
My passion is people – and my passion to help women globally live in their body and soul, day and night. It’s something bigger than myself and everyone that’s part of female empowerment globally is part of something bigger than themselves. Because it’s not about ’you’ anymore, It’s about a human’s right to equality. For me, it’s about paying it forward. I speak about ’The power of network’, and a big mission in my life is to connect people with each other and encourage them to build partnerships. Many people told me many times that I’m a strong individual, but let me tell you this, I’m not a strong individual – I’m just a small piece in a big puzzle. I really don’t believe that we should focus on being individuals. We are much more than just ’one’ and we are all stronger together..
Believe me when I say this – I never created a single thing without tapping into other people’s knowledge and I want to encourage women globally to do the same. You don’t need to know and do everything yourself. Women are brilliant at creating groups or teams, and if we could just agree that competition is out and collaboration is in it would be so much easier to spread confidence and knowledge. I’m just a small piece in a big puzzle, and by tapping into other people we can together create a big beautiful puzzle.
What are the three phases of personal development and what is most important?
I would say; Think – Plan – Do – because it’s easy to understand. Many are stuck in either ‘think’ or ‘plan’ and they never take action or believe that ‘you need all of the parts to really succeed’. Thinking is both reflection, self-education and self- awareness. Self-awareness is about being aware of what you already know. Are you aware of your skills, strengths and weaknesses? Self-education is about reading, listening and learning. It’s about investing in yourself. And are you regularly reflecting on what you know and on what you’ve learned so far? Planning is about doing things with intention. In what areas do you need to develop? There is an ocean of things we could read and listen to, but if you don’t have a plan you might build skills you don’t really need and spend hours on your personal development without ever using it. Action, which is my favorite part, is all about using everything you’ve got and putting it to the test. Trying, failing and trying again. Personal development at its best is ‘building’ your knowledge in your whole body, and you can never read your way to that experience. If you just take action, and do a lot of things without reflecting on what you have done and learned, you will struggle to take yourself, or your business, to the next level. Without action as personal development you will never reach self-mastery, and self-mastery is what leads you to succeeding in achieving both outer and inner goals.
What are some of the best business ideas you could give to women?
If you want to start a business, start by asking yourself two questions; What do you love doing? What are you good at? Then find a problem that you want to solve by doing what you love doing and what you’re good at. Business is all about solving problems – the bigger problem you solve or the more people you solve it for, the bigger business you’re building. What you really need to know is what you’re good at and what you like doing. Because if you are going to run your own business you need motivation to work and it’s easier to motivate us to do things we like. When you answer these questions you have given yourself ‘the Best Business idea’. You don’t need lots of money or experience to start most businesses. You just need to know why you want to do it and from that ’why’ comes passion and motivation. Create partnerships – and focus on your brilliance.
To get started, write a list of what you have done in your life. After that list, you write a list of what skills you have developed from these experiences. From that list, you write a list of what you are really, really good at, and finally, you make a list of what you think is fun. Then you think of a problem, small or big, that you could solve and create a business around. Think, make a plan and take action. You can create a Company whilst still having a job if you really want to. When people say they don’t have time, I rarely believe it’s a lack of time. I believe it’s a lack of motivation and a lack of courage to try.
What are three things that women entrepreneurs should know?
Number one – You already know more than you know that you know. So for most people this means you know more than you need to know to get started. You just need to find the knowledge by reflection. Also, you really don’t need to know everything. Do like I do. Create partnerships and/or just tap into other people’s knowledge.
Two. Words are energy and energy affects you so tell yourself what you want to feel. Write down what you are grateful for and what you want to achieve in life. What you focus on grows and you don’t want to grow your problems or your obstacles – you want to grow your dreams and goals.
Three. If you have a bad money mindset – change it and find reasons to make more money. Money will make you more of what you already are. What would you do if you were the richest person in your country? With more money you could contribute more if that’s what you want to do. Within growth and contribution there is a lot of happiness. I believe we become happy by giving to others. Money could probably solve a lot of things for people around you, if you think about it.
What does the future hold for you?
A lot of focus will be in growing the ’Global Woman Club’ and to help Mirela build our Global community of supportive women across the world. I will also let my new brand and Company grow even more in mind and spirit, and then launch it at the end of this year. I want to contribute to solving more problems for more people, and create more partnerships, collaborations and network across the world.
I will also spend as much time as I can to grow as a person and as a business owner. And also to contribute and pay it forward to more women globally. As I see it, personal growth, life and business are the same as a big puzzle. You need to build it – piece by piece.