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‘Your age can be your superpower’ – why entrepreneur Liv Conlon enjoys being ‘too big for [her] boots’

‘Your age can be your superpower’ – why entrepreneur Liv Conlon enjoys being ‘too big for [her] boots’

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

From setting up her first business at the age of 13, to founding a million-pound interiors business — The PropertyStagers —  by 19, with no funding or experience, Liv Conlon’s entrepreneurial drive has always been on full throttle. Her new book, Too Big for Your Boots looks at her journey so far and discusses the unique challenges and opportunities around young entrepreneurship. We chat to her about some of the key takeaways from her own experience that can help others to scale up and succeed. 

 

Ignore other people’s preconceptions… 

Throughout my career I’ve been told ‘don’t get too big for your boots’ or ‘don’t get above your station’ — always by people older than I am. What that really comes down to though is people saying, ‘Don’t shine your light too brightly because you’re offending other people,‘ which I find interesting. I realised early on that when anyone projects anything like this onto you it’s because you’re holding a mirror up to them and making them look at something that’s either lacking in themselves or triggering them. It’s important to remember that it’s never actually about you. I called my book Too Big For Your Boots because I don’t really think there is such a thing — we actually need more people to shine brightly, especially young women.  

 

You decide what is possible… 

I knew from a young age that I wanted to work for myself, so I went to the school careers office and told them I was going to leave and start a business. They thought I was crazy, so I took their doubt as a bit of a challenge. I think often people look at younger people and dismiss them as just having ‘big dreams’ and wonder whether can they actually achieve them. People’s ideas of what is possible for you as a young entrepreneur can also depend on the kind of business you’re going to start. When I was 13 I sold false nails on eBay as my first venture, although I don’t think you’re actually allowed an eBay account until you’re 18 so I must’ve been doing it quite covertly! But setting up Property Stagers at 17 was a different proposition. Traditionally the property industry is a very male-dominated space, and no one of my age was running a company in it. Had I chosen something online or a bit easier to run perhaps I might have got more indulgence from people initially. 

 

Your age can be a superpower… 

I was embarrassed about my age in the early stages of the business and wouldn’t often tell the truth about it. I eventually got ‘outed’ for being 19 at an awards ceremony where I had won an award because of my age and what I’d achieved. After that I did notice a shift in the mindset of other people, because I now had the credibility of being an award winner, but importantly in my own attitude towards my age. It became something I would address upfront as I realised it was something I really had going for me. Ultimately, in business, people buy people — they buy why you do something, not what you do. When I started sharing my story, the business grew massively because people started wanting to work with me. It was a real lesson. I would encourage young people to share their story and their age proudly — not just to catapult their brand but to grow their bottom line. 

 

How you position your brand on social media can be a powerful catalyst for success… 

When I started the business, social media was much younger and for the first 12 months I didn’t really use any platforms, building my brand through networking instead. When we did finally start to share what we were doing on social media though we experienced massive growth; profits leapt from £30,000 per year to over £1million in 18 months. There wasn’t a brand like us on social media at the time, but to be honest all we were doing was documenting everything we were doing, day in, day out. A lot of entrepreneurs miss this point; you don’t need to dedicate four weeks every year to content creation — just pull out your iPhone and record content as you go along, because people want to see real life and behind-the-scenes and people they can connect with, not a carefully curated grid where you’ve been holding images for weeks on end.  

 

The right mindset can overcome any obstacle … 

I’m fortunate that I had a lot of self-belief instilled in me as a child by my mum. Nevertheless, I was bullied at school, which is an experience that can really knock that self-belief away, and from there, things can go either way — for me it became one of my biggest drivers forward. Shifting your mindset from, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ to ‘Why is this happening for me?’ is incredibly powerful. I still struggle some days with confidence dips, but it all comes back to proactively managing your state and I’m always working on it. It’s vital to take a few seconds to take stock of a situation or interaction, and then choose how you are going to respond, rather than react. Your mindset is literally everything in life. And conversely, it’s the only thing that’s ever going to hold you back; never money, resources, time or people. 

 

To build confidence you have to take action… 

You’ll can’t sit at your desk and think, ‘Ok, I’ll get the confidence today to start a business,’ –  you need to take a bit of a risk; just start it. You have to take action, and it doesn’t always have to be the right action either, just something that’s going to move you a step forward. When I started The PropertyStagers I had no clue how to run a business or finance it and I was pretty much trying to do it all in the dark. But confidence builds when you’re in action and the more action you take, the more confidence you build, and the more confidence you build the more action you take — it’s a cycle.  

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help… 

Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix, was a guest on my podcast and at the end of the interview I told him about my book and asked him if he would write the foreword. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done, but he agreed. Being able to ask for help is one of the secrets of success, but it often puts you outside your comfort zone. When I was growing upmy favourite saying, apparently, was ‘I’ll do it myself.’ But in building my business I realised that you just can’t do it all yourself: there are clients, partners in your business, employees and teammates involved. Asking for help will take your business to the next level because business is all about people — who you’re connected with, who can help you and of course who you can help. There needs to be a value proposition for the person helping you though and an exchange of energy between you. Don’t start with, ‘Can I pick your brains?’ Instead say, ‘This is what I’ve got to offer,’ and ‘How can I help you so you can help me?’  

 

Too Big for your Boots (£11.99) is available from Waterstones, Amazon and selected bookstores.  

 

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