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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Emma Serlin

Emma Serlin founded London Speech Workshop, developed the Serlin Method® for effective communication and has written two books about effective communication.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

At 16 I wanted to be a film director. I planned to go to university, work in advertising, spend six months in a Buddhist monastery and then leave to become a film director. That changed in my third year at Edinburgh University whilst studying Philosophy and English. I realised it was ridiculous, so I quit university to work in film. Two years later, I did a drama school postgrad. After this, I set up a theatre company in a disused shoe factory, put on four productions and won a best director award.

I moved into TV drama working on The Bill as a trainee story editor. With a handful of TV drama ideas under my belt I left to be a freelance producer and set up London Speech Workshop (LSW) as a sideline business.

One day, I wrote an email to my future self and decided it was time for a rethink. I trained in Psychotherapy with a view to rehabilitate ex-offenders. I did a Psychology MSc and moved to San Francisco to work with ex-offenders and trained as a life coach too. Meanwhile, LSW was running and I developed the Serlin methodology. Back in London, LSW started to grow whilst I set up a social enterprise. In 2015 I took time to reflect and realised I had to make a choice. I saw the work at LSW was changing lives – even without my full attention, and everything was deeply in line with my values and my purposes. I decided to step in fully at that point and since then, it has grown from strength to strength.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

LSW happened when I was looking in the other direction. I set it up as a means to an end; to make money while producing drama.

How did you achieve awareness?

Initially, I put a course ad on Gumtree, and fortunately, there was enough demand to keep me busy. I found someone to do PPC, asked everyone to write testimonials, and things just grew. A year or so in, I was contacted by a journalist for a comment on the Royal Wedding – which led to a big stage of growth. Suddenly, people were hearing about us.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

I’ve never tried to get funding, we’ve grown organically for 15 years. I had no idea about business when I began, so the whole thing was done on instinct.

What are the key successes?

  • Being featured in the Times.
  • Supporting the Korean Winter Olympic bid team to win their bid.
  • The Serlin Method was trademarked in 2015.
  • Becoming B Corp certified in September 2023.
  • Hitting the £1million mark in 2021.
  • Celebrating our 15th anniversary with such an inspired team.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Self-awareness: understanding my limitations and strengths. I did an executive leadership course during the pandemic, which helped me to see where I’m both good and lacking. I then made sure I brought in the right people to manage my weaknesses.

How to manage people: I initially felt a lot of pressure and brought my stresses into the room. I’m still learning, but kindness, empowerment and authenticity all help – appreciation is also crucial.

How to hire the right people: I made several mistakes. Then I finally worked out that we hire for kindness and grit – and it’s going brilliantly!

What are your plans now/for the future?

Next month we are launching a new website and new product offering.

Over the next three years we’re planning for significant growth in our B2C and B2B businesses and to be a globally recognised provider of communication training – and the best.

I want to focus a lot of my attention on putting our unique method into a medium that is accessible and affordable, ultimately, to benefit thousands and hundreds of thousands of people.

Our ambition for growth is huge over the next three years because we genuinely want to move the needle in the world – we’re all about bringing our values of kindness and authenticity into organisations and making companies kinder and the people in them more empowered.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

Know your purpose: know your particular brilliance that will help achieve that purpose. That’s going to be your north star when the going gets tough.

Be self-aware: know your strengths and limitations without shame, in a straightforward, congruent way.

How to hire: know the kind of person and culture that you’ll be happy working with and in, then hire well to accomplish that.

The importance of values: know your personal and company values and hire people who share those values. This creates a company with a culture where people knit together.

Funding and planning: it’s taken 15 years to get to our current point, and had I got funding, it could have been four!

Who are the 3 people who inspire you the most and why?

Oprah Winfrey inspires me because she’s unique, authentic, powerful, empowered and genuinely trying to make the world better.

Vanessa O’Brien: (Guiness World Record holder for Everest, Space and Challenger Deep) is inspiring as she threw out the rule book and courageously went on her own journey.

Victor Frankel: The author of Mans Search for Meaning. He survived a concentration camp, and his book is the most humane and inspiring book – with a powerful philosophy at its core: that we get to shape and choose the meaning of our lives.

What are your favourite inspirational/motivational quotes?

‘You write your own book’.

‘You create your life, you don’t discover it’.

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.

‘Where the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window’.

Wesbite: www.londonspeechworkshop.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/london-speech-workshop/

Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/LondonSpeech/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpeechWorkshop

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/londonspeech/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb4Q262PBly0Dn5Ao-xyJGQ