Sharmadean Reid is known for her drive to empower and connect women through technology and media. Passionate from an early age, the British-Jamaican tech founder started out by creating a hip-hop magazine for women, which evolved into the agenda-setting WAH Nails, and she’s since launched Beauty Stack and The Stack World. Her work has transformed the beauty landscape with its feminist outlook and innovative approach, paving the way for a new type of salon experience. But her real mission, to create meaningful change, makes her an ideal mentor for The Art of Drive.
You have the power to be a complete blank canvas and write your own story in any way you want. The thing that drives you towards change might be the thing that defines you.
Find your way
Sharmadean's is a voice of authority. Her path has led to royal recognition with an MBE in 2015. Despite this success, her mission continues. One of the things that keeps her going is a list of 'things that make me happy'. She says "when I feel like my life is in chaos, I ask myself 'Am I actually doing the things that make me happy and motivate me?'". By staying true to the list, she stays true to her mission.
Here, she shares her take on defining your vision, owning your narrative and creating long-term change.
Define your vision
“One of the first things I did when I started a company was to write out the company vision. For months before, I noted down little things I would hear from an interview or a podcast or a book, then whittled these down to the principles by which I believed our company should operate to achieve scale with integrity.
One of our leading principles is ‘Smartest Idea Wins’, which is about non-hierarchical idea generation. The reason I have this principle is because I love hearing from young people and outsiders. These are the things that bring me joy. If anyone can bring me new information, they're a winner in my book.
Growing a business shouldn't come at any negative cost. It doesn't need to come at the cost of my mental health or that of the team. The challenge is, how can you grow something big with a company that's happy and thriving? It's not just about what you put externally to the world, it's how you rewrite the rules of the workplace. Try to think of your team holistically when deciding what they need – for example, I'd much rather have a nanny than a ping pong table in my office.”
Own your narrative
“One of the biggest barriers to starting something new is the fear of criticism. Usually, people have imposed a narrative on you that helps them understand how you fit into their lives or into the wider world or society. It might be down to your age – older people don't start businesses. It might be down to your race – a Black man can't start a financial recruitment firm. It might be down to your gender – a woman can't work in cryptocurrency. But whatever it is, all they're doing is imposing a narrative on you that you haven't written for yourself.
The thing about being inspired by people is that you never know what's going on in their life. You don't know what pain they're going through, what they're experiencing, what they've had to sacrifice to be who they are – and that might not work for you. Surround yourself with inspiration, by all means, but then use that knowledge to determine, ‘What's the right path for me?’
The first step is understanding that you have the power to be a complete blank canvas and to write your own story in any way you want. The thing that drives you towards change might be the thing that defines you.”
Create long-term change
Your vision is something that stays true for a long time. It might seem like I've done separate businesses, but actually they're all based on the same long-term mission: my life's work is about economic empowerment of women. The way you execute your mission could change every three to five years, or whatever your timeframe is. But the end goal remains true.
I'm really fascinated by how you create long-term change. I think you need lots of little things all pulling in the same direction. Gender equality will not happen by closing the gender pay gap alone. Gender equality will not happen by changing laws alone. There are so many different layers in society that will mean that for the next generation, they'll be inching closer towards a truly equal world for men and women.