My guest was born in Germany, in 1933 – the year the Nazis came to power – she fled to Britain at the age of six as a Kindertransport refugee, one of 10,000 Jewish children whose parents sent them away to escape persecution.
She was raised by a couple in England that took her and her sister in. As a girl with a passion for mathematics, she studied voraciously and had a thirst for knowledge. It was during this time that she decided to make her life a life worth saving — and that’s exactly what she did.
After dealing with endless bouts of sexism and not being allowed to get ahead in her career, she had an idea. She decided to start her own company, selling software. That doesn’t sound controversial today, but it sounded crazy 50 years ago. With just £6, she set up her business from the dining room table.
That was 1962 and she was 29. The company was Freelance Programmers and, mainly because of the workplace misogyny she had faced, she employed only women software specialists, and, even more shocking for the time, women working from home.
Dame Stephanie went on to create a multibillion-dollar IT software consultancy, the F1 Group, from which she made a £150m fortune. Since retiring, she has devoted her life to giving away most of her wealth – up to £135m – to autism research.
She has won countless awards and accreditations and truly is an inspiration everyone, entrepreneurs included.
Now… let’s get to the interview with Dame Stephanie Shirley.
What you will learn in this episode:
- How building a business is a creative undertaking
- Why you need to have a certain level of naivety to succeed as an entrepreneur
- Entrepreneurs need to do things and make things happen
- When and why Dame Stephanie changed her name to Steve, in order to get business
- How Dame Stephanie decided to live a life worth saving