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Grow A Small Business Podcast

Feb 28, 2021

In this episode, I interview Frances Valintine, the Founder, and CEO of The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab. The Mind Lab is a platform that empowers students, schools, teachers, and principals to develop contemporary knowledge and practical skills for today's rapidly evolving world and the future of work. Frances was named one of the top 50 movers and shakers in technology education and awarded a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to education and the technology sector.

She started Mind Lab in September 2013 in her early 40s, The Mind Lab being the 5th organization she has started.  From being a small incubator with five full-time team members, they had a very steep growth and now have around 100 people who work with them on a constant basis with at least 80 working full time. The Mind Lab operates as a social enterprise and has been sustainably profitably all through.

Before The Mind Lab, Frances had a consultancy business around marketing, got involved with an organization that was geared towards developing talent for the film and creative industries, and also started an Italian food store that she sold eleven months later. She says the hardest thing in growing a small business is knowing when to accelerate and when to put the foot on the brake, and that the one thing she would tell herself on day one of starting out in business is, “Go fast and don’t let any naysayers get in your ear” Stay tuned to learn some really valuable small business growth tips from Frances.

This Cast Covers:

  • Running the only private graduate school in New Zealand with students who are typically between 35 and 55.
  • Their two brands under one organization and what each is all about.
  • Generating revenue from tuition fees, scholarships (Government funding), short courses/one-day workshops, programs that are paid for by corporate clients, and government contracts.
  • Being a technologist from a young age and discovering the appetite for education centered around technology for the older population.
  • Starting out with 5 people and having a steep growth to achieve profitability and the current 80 full-time employees.
  • Frances’ amazing serial entrepreneurship journey and how she loves being involved with impactful businesses and organizations. 
  • Her legitimate desire to do good in the world through her work.
  • Working towards the adoption of continual professional development as a culture in New Zealand.
  • Fragmenting their marketing across multiple channels and why small businesses should ensure their marketing is mobile-first, web-based, and highly responsive.
  • Being comfortable with self-funding her businesses using her own assets.
  • Dealing with the different stress levels that come with being a small business owner.
  • Doing well during the pandemic due to their being largely digital and remote-oriented.
  • The challenges they have in finding great talent in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other tech-oriented disciplines.
  • Starting her first business in her early 20s and never working for anybody.
  • The beauty of being able to watch an idea come to life to become a successful business.
  • Developing habits around more of what makes you happy as a small business owner.
  • Hiring for attitude and aptitude instead of putting so much focus on paper qualifications.
  • Why every small business owner should make sure they hire people personally.
  • Building a culture where employees feel that they’re trusted.
  • Continuously learning and getting to university after 40.
  • The importance of having a rapport going with board members outside the office.
  • Her experience with exiting a business.
  • Getting out amongst interesting people and learning from others.
  • The value of digitizing as many processes in your small business as possible.

Additional Resources:





Music from "Cold Funk" by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (