« If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.» (Chinese proverb)
I have had the great opportunity to benefit from the advice of remarkable mentors, notably Jack Francès, the founder of the Suez Group. I worked with him for several years on different projects and different files, and I learned a huge amount. But above all, I had his trust, and he listened to my questions, and answered many of them.
I have also had the great opportunity to be close – as an advisor - to some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our age ; people such as Francois Bouygues and Serge Kampf, who, without knowing it, became major role models for me. Each, in his own way, encouraged and supported me to set up my own business : to see my ideas through to the end, to follow my dreams, and to learn how to overcome obstacles.
In addition, I have had the great opportunity to study at Stanford Business School. Stanford has always been, and always will be, a place of inspiration for me, a resource to which I can turn – a dynamic place, which constantly re-thinks the entrepreneurial approach to business.
With hindsight and experience, I can now fully appreciate the value of having had access to experienced people, people who appraised my project with an objective eye, and who appraised my own skills and competences in a disinterested way, and whose only motivation was to help me – without judging me – in a relationship of trust, respect and openness.
But despite all this wealth of advice and support, I often felt alone in those first few years after setting up my business because the problems I met were really specific to me (as is the case in all business projects) and I would have appreciated a mentoring programme to help me overcome the challenges I faced. Being a new CEO - and a female one at that – brought many challenges, and a mentoring programme would have helped me to get through some of the more complex stages in the development of my company much more easily.
Today, after twenty years running my own business, and having spent some years helping younger entrepreneurs set up and develop their own businesses in an informal way, I realise that this type of professional, disinterested and one-to-one support is very rare, in fact only too rare. And consequently it is to fill this gap that, together with my friends and professionals who share the same ideas, we have decided to move on to create a more structured mentoring programme and to support women entrepreneurs. Hence the creation of the Women Business Mentoring Initiative (WBMI).
This programme is aimed at women entrepreneurs because we believe that the challenges they face are greater: the challenge to succeed, the challenge of confidence, the sense of isolation. Moreover, we want to contribute, in our own way, to the good of society in general and to the development of the French economy.