Drawing on her background in marketing and product development, Lisa last month launched a Swiss “Mumpreneurs” directory — a business development service and directory for mothers in business. In May, she will be holding a Mumpreneurs women’s expo to promote and showcase women in business.
Was it hard to adjust to life in Switzerland?
I didn’t have many problems because I had no preconceptions of what the country was like — and I had a very positive attitude. There was, of course, the issue of language but I knew I could get by. I was more concerned about my son going to the local school.
The hardest thing of all was adjusting to the school hours because the kids come home at lunchtime. So you’ve got to be home between 12 and 1:30pm.
Is it distracting having your children with you while you’re working?
My kids (aged seven and three) have got to the point where they understand how important my work is. The moment I tell my daughter I’m busy on a business call, she knows not to disturb me. Arranging play dates is always a good idea – that way the kids can play with each other while you’re in a meeting.
On the plus side, anyone who works from home with their kids is teaching them important life skills.
What inspired you to start your own company?
I moved to Switzerland from the UK, where women have their own businesses and offices everywhere. When I arrived, I was shocked that there was no group specifically aimed at mothers in business. That’s the advantage of being an expat from a place like the UK or the US: you start thinking about what you’ve almost taken for granted at home.
So I started by creating a “Mumpreneurs” Facebook page. After just one week, 320 women had joined. I thought, wow! Then I decided to use my expertise to create the directory and help all these women.
Why is it so important to promote women in the business world?
There are already many women who are doing well in business and making a difference to the Swiss economy. But they’re not necessarily comfortable with marketing themselves and their ideas. I help them to get publicity and exposure. They also need support to be effective, such as childcare — which can be very expensive here. Some mothers can only find the time to work two to three hours a day.
Women are better at understanding that it’s not about competition; it’s about collaboration. So far, I’ve helped four people, including a Swedish woman who’s recently started her own grief and trauma coaching business.
What are the Swiss like?
One thing I’ve realised is that Swiss people are very good at responding. They always say “yes” or “no” right away, which means you don’t have to wait weeks for an answer.
You need to be very wary of negative stereotypes. A typical example is: “The Swiss are closed and difficult to connect with.” You really have to interact with a lot of people before you can judge for yourself.
Have you ever had problems with Swiss bureaucracy?
It really isn’t that bad. Even if the Swiss person you’re contacting doesn’t know the answer to your question, he or she will always direct you to the right person. So you always know what you’re supposed to be doing. Of course, there are translation issues, but you almost always end up getting the right information.
And, finally – any advice for expats starting a job in Switzerland?
Trust is very important to Swiss people. They don’t do the whole email thing: they’ve got to see you face to face over coffee – then if they want to, they’ll take it from there. So I tend to suggest emailing them and saying: “I’ve got something I would like to talk to you about – can we meet?”