The life of a entrepreneur: Manjaree Gamage-Brooker on coaching small businesses to success!
Manjaree Gamage-Brooker is the CEO of Blue Diamonds Jewellery – a high-end diamond jewellery maker based in Sri Lanka – and also an online small business coach.
Manjaree studied at Durham University for an Economics degree and then attended the London School of Economics for her Masters in Human Resources. After working in HR consulting in London, she moved back home to Sri Lanka to work in her family business Daya Group, which is a diversified conglomerate in construction, finance, apparel, agriculture, retail, electronics, printing, tourism and aviation. She mainly worked in HR, overseeing a workforce of more than 1500 and in apparel marketing and production export garments to the US and Europe. Recently, she also ventured into coaching online, specifically for female small business owners.
We had a chat with Manjaree Gamage-Brooker about her coaching practice and overall thoughts on small businesses in Sri Lanka. Here is what she shared.
How did you venture into coaching small businesses?
Initially, I was heavily involved in my family business, but last year, I took a step back and focused solely on Blue Diamonds as my main business. Taking the success and experience as well as the advantage of lockdown during the initial onset of Covid-19, I also decided to start up a service-based business online as a small business coach.
I did this after pivoting from career coaching and have so far worked with over 50 female home-based business owners through my coaching programme and 1:1 workshops! My clients are overshooting their revenue goals, hiring staff, exporting abroad, paying themselves and building business they love and setting up to scale.
How have you found the journey to be so far?
It happened almost by accident! But such a happy accident. It’s been a completely different hat to wear – doing a service-based business that’s focused on me and my own personal brand as opposed to a product-based business! But I’m loving it and giving back to the community of female entrepreneurs in this way has been very fulfilling, personally.
What challenges did you face along the way?
If you specifically take the Sri Lankan market, people are reluctant and hesitant to invest in themselves, especially women. They are very quick and willing to invest in a degree for example, which society has told us is a good investment. But my own work experience and the investments I’ve made in learning how to run a business such as Facebook Ads courses have taught me more than I ever learned from my own two degrees.
There’s also a lot of limiting beliefs that I’m having to face when it comes to showcasing why it’s important to invest in yourself. People think they can only achieve so much. All my clients are women-owned and run businesses and at the beginning, few of them thought that they could make any real money. Even to take that leap and have the confidence that it will make a bigger return is a big jump for a lot of people.
Once they make that jump, every single client I’ve had has more than made back the money that they invested. I’ve got clients who are now making more than half a million rupees in sales every month and paying themselves salaries higher than they were earning at their corporate jobs!
What is your coaching programme like?
My 1:1 intensive coaching programme is called The Wake Up Call, where over four months, we dive into the biggest issues you’re facing in your business. This is to help you increase sales, make money, set up systems and strengthen your mindset so you’re building a business you love! I’ve also got two incredible online workshops available – a Planning Workshop which includes a personal video review from me and a Price for Profit workshop, which comes with an incredible money-maker calculator to figure out your pricing, pay yourself first and make profit! Interested parties can direct message me on Instagram at @manjareegb and we talk about it to make sure it makes sense for them!
What aspects do you focus on when coaching?
My style of coaching is very customised. Before we even get on a call during the 1:1 programme, my clients have to do my planning and pricing workshops. This sets them up in a solid place to support overall business strategy, marketing tactics, systems to scale, sales avenues and most importantly, the mindset work needed to succeed.
As a mother, how do you balance your work life and being a mom?
I actually hate that question because it’s one that only mothers get, we don’t ask fathers this! It implies that we have to sacrifice and give up certain things – whether it’s with your career or your kids. This is a guilt mindset that has been forced on us. I love being a mother, but it’s not my only job! I personally would hate it if it was my only job.
If you’re somebody who has the entrepreneurial spirit enough to be a small business owner, you should never approach it from the thought that you have to be one thing or the other. Just see it as having two jobs; one being a mother and the other running a business.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Many makers or product-based business owners are so talented at what they make and a lot of the time they are also good at one aspect of their business – such as Instagram or having great customer service. What they fail to look at is the business as a whole – they only look at it through 1-2 lenses. If you’re not making profit and you’re not seeing it as successful (as per your definition of success) – then you don’t have a business, you just have an expensive hobby! I fully believe you can build a business you love around the life you want – not arrange your life according to the needs of your business!