Flying With Both Wings: An Interview With Jo-Ann Hamilton

We are just THREE days away from our first Black Women’s Summer Mingle, in partnership with our friends at TRiBE. Now with the countdown fully underway, we thought you might want to find out a bit more about our special guest for the night, Jo-Ann Hamilton.
Jo-Ann A. Hamilton is the Founder of SecretBirds, an enterprise which encourages, supports and promotes entrepreneurship to women and girls. She is a UN Empower Women Global Champion, where she champions women’s economic empowerment both on and offline. She is a blogger and writer about all things entrepreneurship and has three passions: women’s economic empowerment, entrepreneurship and sustainability. These passions have now become her raison d’etre and she flies around speaking to as many women as she can to make sure that they too are using their wings!
Jo-Ann will be giving a keynote speech on the night before the mingling gets underway. She will also be giving away two month-long memberships to the SecretBirds club to help budding entrepreneurs with their business goals by providing mentorship, advice, and useful resources. 
We sat down with her to find out more about her inspirational story. Check it out.
Jo-Ann Hamilton

(NFotW) Tell us about yourself – what’s your story?

(JH) My story began in the Caribbean. I was born and raised in St. Croix, which forms a part of the USVI. My parents migrated there from St. Kitts and Nevis. I am a West Indian, with a heritage that spans a few Caribbean islands. I moved to the USA when I was 18. I studied, worked and lived in different parts of the USA for several years. I later moved here to the UK, where I studied and worked some more. In terms of my career it is very non-traditional, what I guess one would call a portfolio as opposed to a trajectory. In terms of the corporate space my involvement in that arena has always been in construction and property. However, parallel to that I worked for myself as a freelance writer, I later started an artistic publication, then co-founded a dance organisation and also worked as a consultant to multiple social enterprises. I am curious about life, I thrive on ideas and I have a fertile imagination. I am passionate about three things: entrepreneurship, sustainability and women’s economic empowerment. Somehow along my journey everything that I have done up to this point has led me to where I am today, which is living and working within my purpose and pursuing the aforementioned passions with intent and a bucket full of happiness.

(NFotW) What is SecretBirds and why was it founded?

(JH) SecretBirds is a global membership based community for female founders. The first Nest is here in London, where the community is on-line. The mission is to empower, encourage and support women entrepreneurs through the ‘connect, collaborate and grow’ platform. SecretBirds will also teach entrepreneurship to girls aged 8-13 in disadvantaged communities through our Nestling Pop Ups.

SecretBirds was founded to bring together women who want to grow their businesses’ in a community of like minds. The problem is many female solopreneurs and/or female led startups are cash strapped, in addition to that many are juggling family responsibilities or working several part time jobs or working a demanding a full time job all whilst trying to grow a business. There is one thing these women all have in common, they want to grow. The quagmire is they want to grow but they are busy with this that and the other. This huge challenge means time, money and energy are limited. The on-line community gives said women access to the connect, collaborate, grow platform which allows for bartering of skills, tapping into resources at a defrayed cost and connecting them with people they wouldn’t normally be able to connect with. This is all with an aim to grow their business.

(NFotW) Who do you work with at SecretBirds?

(JH) My members are startups, solopreneurs and women who have an idea.

(NFotW) How do you support budding female entrepreneurs?

(JH) Budding entrepreneurs are best supported through the Bird Enhancers, who form “Team Fly.” They include Christie Fidura (Branding and Community)  Jane Whitgift (Tech & Security)  Natalie Costa (Overcoming Fear and Self limiting beliefs) Olivia Charlet (Quitting the 9-5 to pursue passion) Ian Dodds (Vision and strategy) Dene Stuart (Leadership and management) and Maximillan Maddy (Productivity and Performance). They are all established entrepreneurs who have been through everything members have gone through so they understand and empathise.  Together we form a team who are passionate about helping women build their businesses.’ We are fuelling wings to help women entrepreneurs fly!

(NFotW) It’s great to see so many women starting something – why do you think self-employment is becoming increasingly more popular amongst women?

(JH) I think there are many reasons for this, I will outline just a few. Firstly, the corporate world is a system designed by a certain type of male for a certain type of male (aggressive). It was not designed with the woman in mind. It does not work for us, especially after we have children. Granted some organisations are progressive but ultimately it is a rigid and often ruthless system with rules and those who don’t play the game, often get left behind. Secondly, we live in an Internet of things driven world. Technology has given us so many opportunities that women before us did not have. It is just easier to create and live a life we want and in our way by our own rules. Thirdly, freedom! More women are choosing freedom. They want to be free to pursue a life that is purposeful. My experience with women is that we like to do things because they mean something to us and if given the opportunity, then why not?

(NFotW) Economic empowerment isn’t often something people concentrate on when discussing Feminism, but why is it important?

(JH) An economically empowered woman can make choices for herself, which will affect every aspect of her life and her family’s life too. Economics is the foundation, which affects everything else, whether that be education, health, the environment, etc. Until a woman is economically empowered she will never be free. Investing in a woman’s economic empowerment is what enables her to have that choice, thus removing barriers such as gender inequality, poverty and lack of access. The stats show that when a woman achieves her full economic potential the entire society is better off.

(NFotW)How do women become more economically empowered? 

(JH) Every woman’s journey to economic empowerment is different and the term means something different to every woman. I do believe however it starts with knowing who you are, taking a stand and using your voice. I have met many women who have all the trappings of an economically empowered life but choose not to use it and conversely I have met women who have had to struggle and overcome unimaginable situations to achieve economic empowerment. Personally, my economic empowerment began with knowing who I was and what I wanted and that is now manifested through my entrepreneurial pursuits. For another woman it will be something else. Every woman’s story is different. It is about honouring those stories and sharing them so we can continue to uplift and inspire others to reach their own economic empowerment.

(NFotW) Why is it important to take an intersectional approach to tackling gender inequality and inequality between women?

(JH) This approach is important because we have to again appreciate the nuanced stories and experiences of every woman. It is impossible to approach gender inequality with a blanket approach and we would be doing this entire movement a huge disservice by attempting to do so. Again we have to honour the stories, discuss them, learn from them and devise solutions to ensure that every woman irrespective of her age, nationality, ethnicity, religious, gender affiliation, and so on, is able to achieve her full potential.

(NFotW) How have your experiences leading up to being your own boss prepared you for the obstacles and challenges that come with the territory?

(JH) All of my experiences to date have shaped me in so many ways. There are many lessons which have prepared me for this path, and I am so grateful for all of them – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is all for a reason and it is only until I started pursuing what I really wanted is when I started appreciating the experiences and having those “aha” moments.

(NFotW) What advice would you give to women wanting to get into business? 

(JH) Feel the fear and do it anyway.  Don’t wait, just get out there and do it and be relentless. If you believe in it, then make it happen. When an individual decides they want it, they go out there and get it.

(NFotW) What can we expect from you on August 28th at our Summer Mingle?

(JH) I will share my personal journey to economic empowerment in an engaging way through my ten steps to flight-which are the steps I had to take to fly. I did not always use my two wings, like many women I chose to fly with one but now I am fully utilised I want to help other women do the same. We will talk, learn from each other and have fun. I look forward to it.

The No Fly on the WALL x TRiBE Black Women’s Summer Mingle will take place on Friday 28th August at The Proud Archivist from 6.30pm to 10pm. You can purchase your ticket/s here

Black Women Summer Mingle

And you can find out more about our past events here.

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