Continuing our exploration and celebration of female confidence into the new year, we met up with Poonam Gupta, OBE. Founder and CEO of PG Paper Company Ltd, Poonman continuously supports women-led businesses to gain more recognition.
Forever aiming to inspire and promote female entrepreneurship, she is a founding member of the Women's Business Mentoring programme in Scotland, and was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year for Scotland. With a background story of hard work, ambition and determination, it is clear why she is recognised as a true role model to other women.
We talked to Poonam about moving countries, founding her company and personal style...
You’ve remained close to India through both your business (exporting paper products there) and through your charity work, how do you think staying true to your heritage has contributed to your success?
It helps to grow as a person when we have multiple perspectives on different cultures. Being born and brought up in India and moving to Scotland to a Western society has contributed to giving me a wider perspective on life, whether it is professional or personal. To be able to deal with people from different countries and understand them has helped in business and helped contribute to my success.
What would your advice be to women looking to bring more of themselves into their business?
Women have different requirements than men have. Having good support networks is important. I would also say, don’t be shy to ask for help, so that you can juggle life effectively.
What would you say is the most important thing for women to focus on when updating their business skills, particularly if studying an MBA isn’t an option for them?
Studying for an MBA does not make you successful. There is a wealth of resources out there for free, from business networks, online journals, podcasts, etc. But the most is important is strong leadership qualities and quick decision making.
You founded your company after moving to Scotland from India and struggling to find a job. How did you keep your morale and confidence high in the face of setbacks?
Always look forward and focus on your goals. Do not focus on failures, learn from them and move on.
What advice would you give to any women who might feel a lack of confidence is holding them back from starting their own business?
If you have a good idea, then take it forward and see it through. You need to believe in yourself. And find a mentor who can help you build your confidence. With every small win, or move towards your goal, your confidence will grow.
In what ways has moving countries made you grow as a person? And what’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learnt by relocating.
The two cultures are very different. I chose to take the best of both and this helped me as a person. I take everything in my stride. What surprised me when I moved to Scotland was how nice and accepting people are here. I also come from a country where hospitality is at the core of our culture and hospitality in Scotland is great.
What works best for you in terms of leadership style? What works less well?
For me leadership is about inspiring others and leading by example. I think dictatorial leadership is the worst form of leadership.
How has your personal style changed over the years?
I believe a person grows with time. Everything changes and I embrace change. I have also learned to have a more diplomatic style of speaking. My dressing style encompasses traditional Indian outfits, like saris, my favourites to wear in formal occasions globally, as well as wearing a shirt, trousers and jacket in work meeting and wearing dresses mainly in the office.
What does ‘dressing for confidence’ mean for you?
Wear what you are comfortable in. I feel more comfortable in trousers/ jeans. Confidence comes when one feels comfortable in their own skin and dressing style, no matter what it is.
How do you use your Sarah Haran bags?
Sarah Haran bags are great and I use mine for work generally. The bag is spacious and has many pockets, and it’s also great for travelling.
Which clothes brands do you love when it comes to your work wardrobe?
I like a mix of high street fashion labels and haute couture. I wear whatever I feel good in and constantly mix and match.
Which work ‘styling tips’ have most served you over the years?
At work, one must wear functional clothes. I wear shoes and sandals depending upon what my day and diary hold. I generally always tend to carry a scarf and a jacket, which can add a professional style if I have last-minute meetings to attend.
What’s your ‘go-to’ work outfit?
Comfortable trousers or jeans with a shirt and a short jacket. I always wear a nice, comfortable scarf. I can’t do without my Hermes scarf; it brings a little bit of colour and design pattern to my outfits, which stand out and are unique.
What boxsets are you watching at the moment?
Power on Netflix. Heard a lot about Motherland and Fleabag, so will try and to catch up on these over the holidays.
Have you read any inspiring books recently?
Life has been really hectic and busy of late and my reading has been very limited. A New Year’s resolution is to read more for pleasure.
Are there any podcasts you recommend at the moment and why?
The Tony Robbins Podcast: The 7 Forces of Business Mastery
Poonam wears the Dahlia 2-in-1 Tote in Berry