Inspirational Woman: Sharena Shiv | Founder, Devotion Property Management & START UP. START NOW. Podcast

Sharena ShivSharena Shiv is a 30 year old business woman who is also studying for a Master’s in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge Judge Business School (Cambridge University) while running Devotion Property Management in Devon.

Sharena hosts a podcast show called “START UP. START NOW.” and has been campaigning for gender equality in the workplace since 2014, when she founded Aston Women in Business society.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

In 2017, I pursued a passion and started Devotion Property Management in Devon and I host a podcast show called “START UP. START NOW.”. I am also studying towards a Master’s in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge Judge Business School (Cambridge University) and held several leadership roles at The Cambridge Union (oldest debating society in the world).

I have been campaigning for gender equality in the workplace since 2014, when I founded Aston Women in Business society, influencing over 2,200 young females, and hosted over 90 female speaker sessions. Working at Microsoft as a Sales intern in 2014 and having attended a WeAreTheCity Women in Tech event opened my eyes to the male dominated environments that young girls were entering and this had a negative impact on my ambition as there was a lack of female role models to aspire to within the workplace. On my graduate scheme at Royal Bank Scotland (RBS), I had the opportunity to contribute to ‘The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship’ (CEO, RBS) and felt privileged to interview her as she was the first woman to lead a major UK bank.

I started “START UP. START NOW.” at the beginning of the pandemic to help aspiring entrepreneurs hear stories of successes, challenges and overcoming setbacks from business founders’. The podcast focuses mainly on what founders’ wish they had known when starting out. The 5-star rated podcast is currently ranked “Top 20 for Great Britain – Entrepreneurship category” and “Top 100 for Global Business” category on Apple podcasts (2022). Most recently I have interviewed UK’s most successful entrepreneurs: Ben Francis (Gymshark), Steven Bartlett (Dragon’s Den), Holly Tucker MBE (Not On The High Street) and Edwina Dunn OBE (Tesco Clubcard). My aim is to provide relatable role models to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew I wanted to start my own business or be a CEO and this was apparent to me because I had an interest in studying business from GCSEs to Masters level. I also looked up to business leaders and I was surrounded by successful business owners at Coutts Bank (subsidiary of RBS) and my housemates whilst living in London. These experiences led to following my passion of having my own business. Now that I have my own business I am able to properly plan where I would like my career to go in the future.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Absolutely!! Personally, my biggest challenge was losing my mum at the age of four and everything changed. Our days out and shopping trips were replaced with hospital appointments and in-patient visits. Dad went from being a businessman to being at home all the time. Our usual home cooked meals were suddenly different and unfamiliar. He was the only dad amongst the many mums at the school gate. During this difficult time, I was very fortunate to meet (Grandma) Paula who was a volunteer at the Home-Start charity which you could read more about here:

Professionally, I had a number of issues ranging from having inexperienced managers through to running a business during the pandemic.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Undoubtedly, getting into Cambridge University and the opportunity to interview business leaders. This has been a dream come true for me. Other big achievements include, being recognised as “one of the UK’s top 50 brightest young leaders” by Henley Business School and having the opportunity to work alongside the late Jamal Edwards MBE on the digital age debate, an opportunity to discuss how new technologies impact entrepreneurs both personally and professionally.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I am not afraid of asking for help! The biggest factor in aiding my success would be surrounding myself with positive and encouraging people such as friends, family, and mentors as they’ve been my biggest support system. Being an entrepreneur is a very solo path and your vision can be clouded by self doubts and questions about if what you’re doing is right. Being around open minded people has helped me overcome moments of mental blocks and helped me follow my ambition.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is free talking therapy. I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of mentors that achieved things that I aspired to such as Roger Wilkinson (owner of Wilkinson Grant and Co.). He was the first business leader that believed in me and entrusted me with responsibilities that I had no experience in. He always paid attention to my curiosities and was more than happy to provide me with his unmatched knowledge that has ultimately helped me to launch off my career in property.

Dr Heather Melville OBE, who I met at RBS has played a significant role in my work in women in business. Last year we recorded an episode for START UP START NOW. You can listen to the full episode here.

Learning the value of mentoring, I now mentor two new undergraduates every year advising on various subjects including internships, graduate jobs and/or side hustles. Additionally, I have been selected for the second year running alongside esteemed CEO’s of FTSE 250 companies to mentor through the “PwC Female Executive Mentoring Programme”.

Recently, I have become a mentor for Virgin for Startups which is exciting!

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

SPEAK UP. Solving significant issues in society requires unity therefore, we need male allies to become a part of this journey to accelerate the pace of gender equality it’s important that everyone stands up for injustice rather than taking a back seat and disregarding it because “it’s a woman’s problem”.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

What you do today, determines tomorrow! Therefore, take every opportunity and live life to the fullest.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Completing my Masters in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge University! My dissertation will focus on the success factors for the fastest growing female-led businesses in the UK and what key learnings can be applied to future aspiring female entrepreneurs.

I am looking forward to interviewing more successful entrepreneurs and growing the podcast in 2022!

Lastly, completing the London Marathon in 2022 for Cancer Research in memory of my mum.

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