Entrepreneur, Coach, Single Mum – how a positive attitude delivers the unthinkable!
Entrepreneur, Coach, Single Mum – how a positive attitude delivers the unthinkable!
Astrid Schmitt Bylandt
Astrid, who is originally from Germany, moved to London to work for a Travel Wholesaler and a few years later set up her own first business, a Sales and Marketing Agency for the Travel Industry. Five years after that she opened her second business helping foreign students finding work placements and internships in London. Coaching had been a side-line all these years but it has now become her new number one daily business. Her first book has just been published and she is also the proud mum of twins. Astrid loves the challenge of every new situation, from coaching unemployed people from the jobcentre back into work or working with people who would like to change their careers or who face difficulties in their work or private lives. From finding out what the status quo is to digging deep into what people really want to be, do or achieve, she helps with changing your mindset, to teaching solution- based thinking as well as setting the right goals, planning each step and finding the right solutions with you. She will hold your feet to the fire to achieve what you set out to achieve.
Astrid had her twins on her own through IVF and she has helped many women considering and going through the process of IVF either alone or with their partners. Now she is concentrating on her writing and her speaking career, growing her coaching business appropriately ( solutions-finder.com )and loving being a mum to her beautiful and amazing twins Bella and Zac.
Tell us more about your whole experience of IVF, from the beginning to the birth of your twins.
I always knew that I would have children, there was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. I even bought a book in my early twenties and filed it in my filing cabinet with the words “for my first daughter”.
In my mid 20ties I was engaged to be married, living in Germany at the time, but my then fiancé had developed testicular cancer and at the time we were not able to go back to a normal relationship after his various operations. He became so jealous I could not deal with his constant need for control, his self-doubt and his self-sabotage. We separated and I moved to London when I was 26. Then for two decades I did not think about children but concentrated on my career, travelling the world and living my life. I started playing polo, studied various languages and eventually opened my own businesses.
I always felt that the right man for me will come along at some point but at the age of 46 the desire for children was so big that I finally decided that life without children was just not an option for me.
I had heard about sperm banks and IVF and I did a lot of research. Eventually I went for one of the two main sperm banks in Denmark and for weeks and weeks searched through the various donors. It’s crazy – it’s like ordering on Amazon!
My first treatment I had in London, I was pregnant for two weeks but then lost the eggs and for one moment I thought that maybe I was too old. But then I was never one to give up, so I tried again three months later and this time it worked. After two and a half weeks I had my first scan and clearly two pouches were visible, probably the most amazing moment in my life to see them on the screen. I was lucky that the pregnancy was easy and I was in the office until the day before my scheduled C- section in week 37.
It’s been an amazing journey so far, not always easy but amazing and wonderful and gets even better every day!
Would you recommend IVF to other women and why?
Absolutely yes! It doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship or having children on your own like I did. If for some reason you find that you cannot become pregnant then IVF or IUI are definitely worth exploring. If you have the money, then I would recommend to go private. I had my second round done in Spain, the service was better, cheaper and overall the experience was a lot nicer but obviously that might not be an option for everyone.
What led you to set up your business?
I am the youngest of three and when I was twelve, I visited my older sister in London for the first time. She had moved to London to work for the BBC and from the first time I visited this city I was hooked, and at the age of fifteen I decided that one day I too would move to London. At 25 I was given the opportunity to apply for a job in London and I immediately knew, this would be my next career move.
After a few years I was pushing for a director’s position but I was told it was not available, so I handed in my notice and decided I would go to Beirut to learn Arabic for three months. I took various language courses during this time but alas three months were not enough to learn such a complex language. I had an amazing time though and made some wonderful contacts, one of which I built part of my current business on.
My old boss called me on the day before I was about to fly back to London and asked me if I was still interested in the Director of Sales position, which I was. So, they re-hired me and for another year, I was their Director of Sales. To achieve this position was of my very early goals that I had set myself and I had finally achieved it. Yet I still felt that I wanted something new.
That same year 2001, the tragedy of September 11th happened in New York and the travel industry suffered hugely not just in the US and the UK but world-wide. As a result, I was made redundant, together with 20 other people, and immediately afterwards decided to open my own sales and marketing business in the travel industry.
Many people told me at the time not to do it, because the situation was so precarious but my feeling was that the industry was down and the only way was up. So, for a few years I started building my company, first working from home, then eventually moving into my first office and hiring my first staff. I began making loads of mistakes along the way but of course also had loads of successes.
Eventually I saw another opportunity, with students coming to London looking for internships in various fields. I had developed a huge network by then and felt I could help students and build a business around it at the same time. Networking has always been something I very much enjoy. My circle of people had grown from knowing no one when I first moved to London to knowing hundreds in different areas and walks of life, so I was able to point most students into the right direction. Hence, I thought, heck I can make a business out of this and be helpful at the same time.
With the decision for Brexit nearly 3 years ago I saw new opportunities and threats as I could see the influence in all my businesses, so I turned all my life and yearlong mentoring, coaching and solutions finding experiences into a whole new business. I recently also started working with and coaching people from various job centres to be able to go back into work and find their way back into society. Of all the businesses I have worked on this is definitely my most rewarding work but it is also fun.
Did you have a mentor?
Regrettably not. I never used to have mentors and I know I could have done with one in several instances. Someone to look at my successes and my mistakes and failures would have helped me grow much quicker. Someone who would have supported and helped with my weaknesses and furthered my strengths would have helped avoid (at times) hiring the wrong people, keeping the wrong people for too long, but also continuing down paths that I had to turn back from.
How can we find great mentors, and then become great mentees?
I guess in today’s world of YouTube, Facebook and Internet generally, this is a lot easier. There is so much free guidance available and courses that you can take; it’s no longer sink or swim after a university degree. Of course, it is always good to look around in your family, among your friends, among your industry peers and superiors and other sectors that might be related. There might be someone who is doing well, and very capable and willing to help you learn from their wisdom, or even how you might join and grow with them. What are they doing that you can emulate? You can also just ask people that you admire if they are willing to give you their time. They might charge, they might not. But even if they charge, consider your options and consider if the knowledge you can learn will accelerate your career or your growth in your future, thus making the investment well worth it.
Why do you think that public speaking is important?
I studied and have a degree in teaching and one in tourism. I have always loved speaking in front of people. I was invited to give talks at various universities in the past, and was also asked to give a talk at one of the annual Visit Britain travel industry’s main events (VIBE) about the particular field of tourism I was in at the time. I believe inspiring people or making them laugh, or better yet do both, is a great way to motivate and help. You also naturally spread your word, increasing your own branding and ultimately gain more influence and outgrow yourself each time.
Why is your service especially important in today’s modern world?
First and foremost, I love what I do and I do it with passion, and people know that. From my travel background I have many clients that have been with me for nearly 20 years, and that is mainly because I care. I really fight for things to be done right, on time, and with great service. When you have a combined sales, marketing and recruitment background, you develop empathy and life experience. Such qualities you can then turn into the kind of coaching and advice I can now give on career or personal development to really help people grow and achieve their goals they set out to achieve.
Secondly from a very early age I set myself goals and have achieved nearly all of them so far, so I know how important it is to clearly define what it is that you want and to go for what you believe in with all your strength and focus!
Of your client success stories, what is one that really stands out?
One of my clients came from an abusive background and also felt that he was being bullied at work. He was invited to a meeting he really didn’t want to go to, but I coached and persuaded him to go and face what he needed to face. He went and wrote to me afterwards: “You were right! Now I feel I can face anything and have nothing to fear!” I was so immensely proud of him. He took on board everything we had discussed and he went, despite the uneasy feeling in his stomach and he overcame all anxiety and really made a huge leap during the last coaching sessions we had together.
What advice would you give to someone trying to find and follow his or her life purpose?
Always think in solutions! Always think of the final goal that you want to achieve! Where there is a will there’s a way and never, never give up!
How do you balance your family life with running your business?
Well, every day has 24 hours and when you have children I think you will always have a feeling that you could or should do more – so I have had to accept that splitting my time between work and my children, I would have to employ nannies or babysitters, and right in the beginning I had a maternity nurse.
I have 2 full days and 3 half days in the office during the week, so 3 half days and 2 weekend days with the children. I try not to work when I am with them but that’s not always possible, I do sometimes get phone calls from clients or the office. But all in all, the time divide works well.
You need to be able to plan well, set your tasks and goals and work on them daily. You become a small logistics entity planning for children, staff, office, business, nannies, time for yourself and other things. And you have to accept always that 90% is good enough and don’t beat yourself up if plans don’t go exactly how you envisaged. It’s ok. Be flexible!
I’d say the biggest issue has been staffing, as not many really understand what it takes to juggle everything. But if I had the choice, I’d do it all over again!
What plans do you have for yourself for next year?
I have two more books lined up and I would really like to write a children’s book. Of course, to grow my companies, reach more people to find their perfect solutions in life, as well as growing the various charity projects I am working with. I also have a few speaking engagements lined up which I am very excited about and more training of unemployed people to bring them back into work. Seeing them take pride in themselves again for achieving their next growth step is simply phenomenal.
Last, but by no means least, I look forward to helping my children to grow, learn two languages, start nursery, learn various sports activities with their Mum, and just live and enjoy life with my children, grow my businesses and help as many people excel in their lives as possible.