Success Stories from 5 Female Entrepreneurs

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we asked some of our clients who are female entrepreneurs, along with our very own Managing Director from Another Answer, Sylvia Bourhill, three questions on how they came to run a successful business.

They all gave tips on how to navigate the highs and lows of running a business and share some of their key learnings. Read what they all had to say below:

  • Azra Devonshire – Founder & MD of Devaz Leathers Ltd for 24 years & MD of Seer Green Motor Co. Ltd. for 10 years.
  • Tracy Chesney – MD of Step Together, an organisation providing support and activities for young adults with learning difficulties
  • Sylvia Bourhill – Founder & MD of Another Answer Books and Accounts for 20 years
  • Emily Anna Michalakis – Founders & MD of events company Emily Anna Limited for 2 years
  • Christine Mackay – Founder & MD of animation agency Salamandra for 9 years

Azra Devonshire: Founder & MD of Devaz Leathers Ltd for 24 years &
MD of Seer Green Motor Co. Ltd. for 10 years

1. What do you put your success down to?

I strongly believe in the following:
  • I follow my own path, however unconventional.
  • Truth and honesty over and above profit and advancement are my touchstones for business and business relationships. My customers and suppliers know that I can be trusted.
  • Fearlessness in stepping into new realms and ideas in business. Trying out new concepts.
  • Not just looking but creating business opportunities, sometimes when none seem to exist.
  • Nurturing clients and customers and suppliers to grow and offering expansive sources to work with.
  • Keeping loyalty and exclusivity intact at all times.
  • Always interlacing personal and professional relationships – this makes for better business growth and opportunities.
  • Always learning new technologies and advances in the leather industry and in the motor industry.
  • Humour and banter – very very important.

2. What are your key moments in your career?

High points:
  • Launching my own British brand of leather camera bags GILLIS LONDON.
  • Collaboration with Olympus in 2017, producing bespoke leather camera bags for one of their newly launched camera.
  • Taking Seer Green Motor Co. Ltd. out from failing to a thriving sustainable business since taking over thereby keeping my husband’s legacy alive and successful.
Low points:
  • Covid – leather bags were one of the first consumer goods people stopped buying. Retail shop closures led to a complete cessation of production and sales of leather products for 3 years so no earnings from Devaz Leathers Ltd. It was tough.

3 Any tips you can give fellow female entrepreneurs who are starting their own business? 

  • Total confidence in your products OR services
  • Why should a client or customer choose you instead of another company? What is so special about your company and you?
  • Stand out from the rest and be the best in it.
  • Be fearless.
  • Make customers and suppliers feel they are part of one big team including you and your employees.
  • Keep learning and grow with your clients and suppliers.

Tracy Chesney: MD of Step Together for the last year

1. What do you put your success down to?
I would like to say we are very successful as we are a great team working together to improve young adults lives who have additional needs. We are all passionate about our work and consider it a privilege to be trusted with these fantastic young adults.
2. What are your key moments in your career?
My highlights are every time I have the chance to actually spend time with our participants and enjoy their days with them.
My lowlights are when I see my participants struggling with life and achieving their goals and not being able to help.
3. Any tips you can give fellow female entrepreneurs who are starting their own business?
Stay strong and never give up. Perseverance and stubbornness and don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer. Anything can be achieved.

Sylvia Bourhill: Founder & MD of Another Answer for 20 Years

1. What do you put your success down to?

I’ve been working here for 20 years now, in fact we’re going to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Another Answer Books and Accounts on the 10th of June, which is very exciting. For those of you who don’t know what we do, we’re a bookkeeping and accounting practice, based in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire.

I think I would put my success mostly down to hard work, but also to having a supportive family. I know for many women that’s not always the case but I’ve been very fortunate to have a family that supports me all the way and a husband who actually works for me (that’s quite handy too!).

I also think it’s been perseverance, there have been times when I’ve really not known where the next client is going to come from, and we’ve had times when I’ve been putting more money into the business than we’ve been taking out. But those times have passed, and I now have a successful business with nine employees, all of whom are women, apart from Neil, who wishes we had more men in the team, but I’m very happy to keep it all women.

2. What are your key moments in your career?


  • (Before Another Answer) 1988-1997: Working for an NGO providing support to teams delivering literacy programs and bible translations in unwritten languages in Côte d’Ivoire.
  • 2013: moved from the dining room table into my first office and got my first employee
  • Winning the LUCA award for Small Bookkeeping Practice of the year 2015, Large Bookkeeping Practice of the year in 2019 & Bookkeeping Team of the year 2021

Not having a consistent approach to employing the right people in the early days.

3. Any tips you can give fellow female entrepreneurs who are starting their own business?

  • The main thing is perseverance!
  • In terms of work, I think my biggest tip would be ‘honesty’. I know that sort of goes without saying, but it means if you’ve made a mistake, put your hands up and say you’ve made a mistake. The worst that can happen is that the client will walk away. That’s only ever happened to me once from making a mistake. And it’s happened to me twice when I didn’t admit to a mistake. I learned a big lesson from that!
  • Find time for yourself. Don’t spend so much time doing work that you don’t have time for yourself, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or the inclination to do the work that needs to be done. Have a fixed time when you stop working, and do something else.
  • Network, network, network. Build up a list of people that you can work with, be that clients, suppliers, staff and people in related businesses.
  • Get yourself a business coach, we’ve had a wonderful time working with our business coach, I’m going to give a shout out to her. That’s Helen Pethybridge from ActionCOACH Chilterns Central. It has transformed our business – to have somebody to whom I’m accountable for actually delivering the results that that we’ve said we want to deliver. I spent a long time saying I want to do this, this and this. I’m going to retire in however many years and it was always five years away. I’m still not sure that it’s not five years away, but when we at least have a position where we can understand what we might be retiring to and what we might be handing on as a legacy.

So I would say to all our all female entrepreneurs, get on with it, just do it. You know, that’s the real thing is don’t Don’t be afraid. Do it. Grab that dream. Have a Dream, grab the dream and deliver it!

Emily Michalakis: Founder & MD of events company Emily Anna Limited for 2 years

 1. What do you put your success down to?

I absolutely love what I do so the long hours and the odd tricky client never stop me wanting to create the best possible event and experience for my clients.

2. What are the key moments in your career?

Highlight – Getting the business incorporated in the first place! It was something I never realised would be so important to me and such a proud moment.

Lowlight – Trying to do any sort of accounting before using Another Answer Books and Accounts…”

3.  Any tips you can give fellow female entrepreneurs who are starting their own business?

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals, male and female, it’s the best way to learn. Even when you run your own business you need to constantly be learning and understanding your industry better, so make sure you are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone whenever possible. Also remember, the goals you set in the beginning are not the ones you have to stick to. As time goes on, you and your business will evolve and your goals might change, that’s normal and no one is holding you to them apart from you!

Christine Mackay: Founder & MD of Salamandra for 9 years

Thank You Another answer for asking me to contribute to your International Women’s Day 2023 campaign by answering your three questions.

1. What do you put your success down to?

Well, my success is largely due to hard work dedication, luck, and resilience. I believe strongly in having dreams and keeping them alive. I also believe in trying to surround myself with like minded people who can help support and encourage me. In my case, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have my husband and children as my biggest support.

2. What are your key moments in your career?

Well, some of the highlights of my career include starting my own business and seeing it grow, winning awards for the work that my super talented team has produced, and having the privilege of working with amazing clients. Some of the lowlights have included the inevitable business setbacks or failures. But I’ve always tried to pick myself up, learn from those experiences and come back stronger. This is easier said than done. And like all entrepreneurs, I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights, and gut wrenching worry.

3. Any tips you can give fellow female entrepreneurs who are starting their own business?

Your third question, any tips you can give fellow female entrepreneurs who are starting their own business? So my tips for fellow female entrepreneurs starting their own business would be to first of all believe in yourself. Stay, focus, and have gumption and persistence. And don’t be afraid to take risks. It’s also important to build up a strong business network and take time to celebrate your successes. And finally, remember to be kind to yourself and never forget to enjoy the journey. Something I often forget to do myself. Anyway, happy International Women’s Day 2023 And good luck in building up your own dreams.

Further reading:

Read our blog on tips to avoid stress when running your own business

Find out more about the team here at Another Answer and what services we can offer you to setup your business and then keep it running smoothly.

Read about the International Women’s Day’s Mission to forge inclusive work cultures where women’s careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated.

Published On: March 14, 2023

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