Company: Complex Creative, Chess for Children, BYOB, Corporate Chess

Website: Sabrina Chevannes

Years in business: 14

Q: What inspires you to get up every morning?

A: Coffee… lots of coffee.

OK, but before I even have the energy to get out of bed and get coffee, I get up knowing that I have the ability to positively impact someone’s life every day. Whether that just be through my direct work, through teaching and passing on my knowledge, or being in this privileged place of having influence in certain areas.

Knowing that I am helping to impart wisdom, is truly powerful.
Q: When you were younger, what did you think you wanted to be? How did you end up on this path?

A: I grew up always wanting to be a doctor. I come from a family of medics and I truly believed that this is the direction I wanted to take too.

However, whilst at medical school, I started my first company and was addicted to the thrill of running my own business. That feeling of winning clients, growing my brand, earning my own money (and bloody good money for a student!!) and helping people was just too empowering for me.

So, I took the degree you get after 3 years of medical school and concentrated on entrepreneurship.

Several years later… here I am now.

I fear that if I were to tell you the details of that long-winded path from then until now, the website wouldn’t even load. So, I’m going to point you in the direction of a little Pecha Kucha presentation I did a while ago so you can get a bit more insight.

Q: Can you name a really low point in your life? How did you get through that?
A: About a decade ago now, I was working for a guy who didn’t actually respect me at all. I didn’t realise this at the time and actually thought it was a “dream job”. I got to essentially be a PA for a man I admired at the time – very influential in the field I was in. Plus, I got to teach kids and help launch an initiative I really believed in and thought would empower thousands of kids all over the country (and eventually all over the world).

I was incredibly passionate about it all and worked my butt off in that job, but yet I was considered by people in the organisation to be extremely lazy.

I was bullied by someone on their team continuously because he found out I was getting paid more than he was (he looked up company records that he shouldn’t have had access to) and belittled me and made me feel like crap every day.

I was also suffering from a condition that caused me to lose consciousness from time to time and at the time, the doctors didn’t quite understand it and hadn’t found me medication that worked. So, I had to take precautions. However, whenever I would pass out at work and need to take a moment, I would be accused of faking it and being lazy again.

During that employment, I was involved in a car accident as a passenger and it left me unable to walk for a little while. I was still making the effort to come into work on crutches, but yet, I was then accused of faking that.

I started to seek other forms of employment because I felt like I was just in a toxic environment all the time that was making me seriously down. I found other opportunities, but unfortunately, my boss did what he could to try and sabotage those out of spite, when he heard I was leaving.

Needless to say, I left that job for good, but sadly I stayed in the same industry for several years. The people in that organisation did what they could to ruin every opportunity I had, including sabotaging potential book sales and block me from access to important events.

As a result, I reached an all-time low in my mood and I really didn’t know what to do. Most people didn’t understand what was going on and I was also in an abusive relationship, which didn’t help. I thought there was no way out.

It took a serious incident with my boyfriend at the time to finally get me to file that restraining order, reflect on my life and completely get out of that toxic world I was living in.

I completely changed paths and chose a completely different career. I was new at it, I was alone, and I was scared. But it was definitely better than the world I was living in previously.

Thank goodness I’ve always had hugely supportive parents to be there for me and I actually moved back in with them for a while until I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Without them, I don’t think I could have got through that period in my life.

So, I now cherish those who are there for me no matter what, and never take them for granted.

Q: Please tell me about an experience of discrimination you went through. How did you handle it? How has it affected you?
A: This is a really difficult question to answer, as a lot of discrimination is covert, so you cannot even prove that they’re discriminating against you.

Unfortunately, I’ve also had several incidents where people have overtly been discriminating against me, so I have plenty of those stories to tell.

But I think I will just mention the numerous times a man would ask to speak to my boss, or a web developer because I “wouldn’t understand what he meant”. When I would tell him that I was the boss or could help him with his development enquiry, he would say “Are you sure there’s not a man around? I really think they’d just understand me better.”

When you’re a woman, running a company in a male-dominated environment, this is always going to happen. The milder cases are when a man says: “Oh wow – you really know what you’re talking about!” Technically a compliment, but still has that same underlying tone of being surprised that I’m not actually stupid.

Again though, I don’t know whether this is because of my gender or my race… or something else – who knows?!

It used to affect me pretty badly – I got upset every single time. In fact, I even got so down about it, that I once hired a man… to be a man.

It wasn’t until the last few years, surrounding myself with incredible people who recognised my worth, that I then realised that the issues lied with them and not me. I knew that all along, but didn’t really believe it. You need a strong gang around you to support you and to consistently hear great feedback from your clients for it to actually click.

Q: When you have your bad days, how do you keep going?
A: If you asked me a couple of years ago, I may have jokingly said… wine. But now I realise that there are so many entrepreneurs who do turn to alcohol to cope and that’s NOT good. So, I won’t even joke about it.

When I have bad days (and there were times when it felt like every day was a bad day!), I now do what I can to switch off. I turn on Netflix and watch something that’s so far away from reality, I can’t even possibly relate it to business. So, no documentaries etc. Marvel is a good shout – cos as much as I’d love to have a superpower, I know in reality, it ain’t gonna happen. But a girl can dream… and that’s what I do! It takes my mind off things.

I then wake up the next day, have a shower with some aromatherapy oils, grab my coffee (essential) and tackle the day ahead. After all… it’s a new day. Sure, the problems from yesterday are still there, but I’m now on a full tank and got a different perspective.

I also think about the bigger picture – I go back to my why. Why am I doing this? Yes, there are bad days, but I’m still getting closer to my bigger picture. These are just necessary obstacles to overcome. And if I didn’t have them, then the journey would be too easy… and I’d get bored. So, really, these bad days are for my own benefit!!

That’s what I tell myself anyway :-).

Q: What book has helped you the most and why?
A: This is such a hard question!! I am an avid reader of business books and there are so many which have seriously helped me over the years. But I’m going to pick one that wasn’t necessarily the most revolutionary one that inspired my business, but the one that was super practical and has helped me see a clear and definitive improvement that I can 100% pinpoint to this book.

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

Simply put, he highlights the importance of profit in business. You may be thinking… well duhhh!! But we business owners tend to focus on growing the business and we end up just putting money back into the business to help its growth.

Mike sets out a systematic method to ensure you always have a profitable business. I read the book, implemented it and have never had a month where we have not been profitable since.


Q: Who is your business inspiration and why?
A: Remarkably, there are very few people I admire in business! I’m very sceptical about people and don’t agree with many people’s ethics.

However, there is one businessperson I seriously admire, who just happens to be quite popular these days.

That’s the Happy Sexy Millionaire himself – Steven Bartlett.

I won’t bother giving you his resumé as you can just Google him to know more, but I will tell you why I admire him.

While many of you will have only recently heard of him, I’ve been following him for years, and watched him just release content each week, with not that much engagement, but consistently and persistently did it… building up his personal brand.
He’s not afraid of hard work or speaking out, but he’s always providing value and is always professional.

Moreover, he’s done this as a mixed race guy, who would have faced his own discrimination along the way. Yet, he’s managed to achieve things that most others haven’t ever come close to doing.

Q: What tools do you use on a daily basis that help you?

A: Recently, I’ve been OBSESSED with Notion. It’s changing my life! I use it to plan my life! All my content calendars are on there, databases for books, restaurants etc., and I’ve even created vision board and business plan on there.

You can even create websites within the platform!

However, for project management, Asana is still my choice! Our team can’t live without it.

Toggl is a really useful time-tracking tool, which doesn’t have to be for billable hours, but also to track your own activity which can help to assess your productivity.

Q: What does success look like to you?

A: Success to me is getting to a stage where I’m finally content with my life – where I feel like I’ve achieved everything I wanted to. Granted, as an ambitious entrepreneur, I will always be trying to achieve something, so that day may never happen.

Likewise, my answer to this question may always change, but I’m going to answer what it is right now.

Success to me is being respected in the fields I’m in – clients, peers, mentees etc. admire the work I’ve done, the person I am and listen to what I have to say with respect. I do also factor money into success – I would like to be at a point where I didn’t have to worry about money. So, live in a beautiful home (I do that already), have nice things, go on holiday to fancy places but not worry about working my butt off to pay the bills.

I’d also like to have a beautiful family that I’m proud of and be able to enjoy life without worrying about business. If I get to that stage, I would definitely consider myself to be successful.

Q: Name three things you think are essential for success?

A: Ambition, passion and hard work. You need a combination of these three things, in my opinion, to be successful.

Without ambition, where are you going? Without passion, you don’t have that drive to go far; and without hard work, you will slip behind.

I believe this is the recipe for success.