My name is Emilia Ohrtmann and I am originally from Germany but have lived abroad for the last 16 years.
Although I studied business studies, my passion was and still is fashion and design. I worked as a buyer for a big German retailer in Germany and the UK for many years before I started my first business, designing children’s wear in the US in 2009. Since then I have started two more businesses, I am the co-host of the Mums in Biz Podcast with weekly episodes helping mums in business with their business and life journey. I have recently written and launched a book called ‘It’s Your Life’ and I’m in the final stages of making one of my biggest dreams come true…to launch a clothing line for women that inspires confidence.
I’m a mother of two boys and two girls, a wife, a triathlete and we currently call Dubai our home. I believe women of all ages (including young girls) should be able to live their life on their own terms and I’m an avid promoter of how to be confident to achieve this goal.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, I never really did that for my career. I’ve always had a clear idea of where I want to go. For example I knew I wanted to work abroad and I knew I would eventually start my own business. I did not know how or where that would happen but I did work towards that. And it’s still the same, I know what I want to achieve and that helps me to stay on track.
In my life, it is easier to focus on the goal that I want to achieve than to plan it out step by step. Many unexpected things happen in life and you need to be able to adapt all the time. For me it’s often coping with moving to different countries.
There was only one time when I actually sat down with my husband to really discuss my next career steps. I was the co-founder of a business and had stepped away to focus on being a mom for my three young kids. After about a year I was missing work and wanted to go back and start working again, that’s when we sat down and actually planned what I would do and decided together what made the most sense.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Yes, I have faced many different challenges. Often it was me, standing in my own way. Often it was knowledge that I was missing and didn’t know where to find it. Sometimes it was other people, especially a boss, who challenged me a lot. It was also moving to different countries and starting over again. In recent years, I think one of my biggest challenges was being seen only as a wife or a mum of…
Leaving a full time career, following my husband and his career to two different countries where I was very often labelled as his wife and later on as a mom and not as my own person, with my own business and life, is something I struggled with. It took me quite some time to define myself and to realize that it is enough if I know who I am. I don’t need a job title or a husband to be defined. I, as a person, am enough.
Overall though I love challenges, I think they are positive and give you something to work towards, something to overcome, something to grow by. So I am not sure I would really say the issues I faced were challenges but rather small obstacles that are there to be overcome.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Apart from my four children and having a great family, I would say overcoming my fear and worry about other people’s opinions and publishing my first book ‘It’s Your Life’.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
My strength is not only to dream big and to set goals, it’s also to actually follow through. If I really want something I don’t give up. Life might get in the way but then I would try again later or in a different way. One thing I don’t want to ask myself later in life is “what could have been if….” So my own imagination, commitment and will power are major factors.
How do you feel about mentoring and coaching? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee? Have you been coached?
I love the concept of both mentoring and coaching. I’ve had many mentors as well as worked with a few coaches along my career and life path. In my early twenties I saw a psychologist although my family was against it but it was my first step towards my personal development journey and I am still very grateful for that lady.
Some of my mentors know they are my mentor but sometimes they also don’t know it. There are people I follow through social media, have taken an online course with or have read books by, I feel they are my mentors but they don’t know it. There are many ways of finding a mentor.
Because I have had so many mentors, I love the concept of mentoring and love to give back by mentoring other people. This can be just one meeting or over a longer period of time, through my podcast, blog posts and now obviously through my book. And I’ve been a mentor to other business owners but also for life issues.
We can’t do it all alone. Asking for and getting help is not a sign of weakness, it is actually a sign of strength and wanting to grow. The best and most successful people have coaches and mentors and I feel there is still sometimes a stigma around asking for help from professionals. So I hope by speaking openly about myself getting help, it will make other women realize that they can also get support from a mentor, a coach or a psychologist.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Personally I believe that the biggest factor is that women are expected to be the main caregiver of their children and family. In most parts of the world, we are the ones taking time off work (or more time off than the father), we are the ones who make sure the family as a whole is organized, we have a job and we raise our children. Times have changed a lot since my parents were my age and fathers are playing a much bigger part in raising their children than back then, but it is still not equal.
Personally I believe confidence also plays a huge role. Confidence in women to speak up and to ask for help. But also women supporting other women. I feel so many women are still working against each other in many ways.
Giving women a voice and confidence is only one side, I also want men and boys to see women as their equal. And that is something that begins very early on in life. So women not only need to speak up for themselves and teach their daughters but also need to teach their sons (and husbands) how to support gender equality.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Don’t listen to other people’s opinions or potential judgment but follow your own dreams and desires. Do what you really want to do, it is the right thing and everything will work out just fine.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I want to spread confidence to women of all ages, also teenagers around the world. I want every woman to speak up and stand up for themselves, in the workplace and at home. I have many different ideas. But one way is to support by providing education for all children around the world.
I’m in the process of starting a clothing line with fashion essentials that give women confidence. My book and it’s message are a part of that brand. It is what I love doing and am good at and so I use that as one tool to spread confidence.
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