How a shy teenager became a founder and found her confidence

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How a shy teenager became a founder and found her confidence

By her own admission, Stephanie Weiss is a very shy person. 

So uncomfortable about speaking in front of people, Stephanie was even able to weasel her way out of performing her Year 12 English oral exam. 

But, at 23 and addressing a summit hosted by the Accelerator for Enterprising Women at the University of Technology, Sydney, there’s little sign of nerves. 

A change she puts down to her co-founder’s decision to step away from Arula, the medtech business they ran together which designs custom-made breast prosthesis for women who have had a mastectomy. 

“She was this larger than life co-founder who filled a room, and I was the quiet technical engineer in the background who had never pitched before,” said the biomedical engineering student at UTS. 

But becoming a solo-founder provided Stephanie with an opportunity to grow in confidence and develop important skills like how to establish and maintain relationships and find customers. 

“I spent a lot of 2020 trying to work out who I was and building the confidence to be a startup founder,” she said. 

Stephanie says the co-working space at UTS Startups helped navigate the change, with fellow young entrepreneurs providing valuable support. 

“It’s being able to share that journey with them and go to them for advice like public liability insurance or how much should I pay myself,” she said.  

And while Stephanie is clearly thriving in the role of CEO and Founder, it’s a journey that leaves little free time. 

“I actually work two part time jobs, I study full time, and I run my startup full time as well,” she told a room full of young aspiring female business owners.

“I only just found out that ‘me time’ isn’t sleep,” she confessed. 

Stephanie is a barista two mornings a week where she begins before sunrise, and on the other mornings she likes to catch the early morning gym class, so she feels like she’s achieved something before 7am. 

And when asked how she copes with living a life so different to her friends also in their twenties, she stresses the power of reflection and perspective. 

“You have to stop and look at yourself and not look at what everyone else is doing, because the grass is always greener.”