Q&A with Anna Knudsen, CEO, and Founder of AW Magazine – winner of SHE Award 2022!

As an ambassador of SHE, Anna represents the community with what has become a hallmark of drive, fearlessness, and inclusivity.

Business

Written by: SHE Community

22.04.2022

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Anna Knudsen at SHE 2022 // Photo by Siv Elin Skoglund

Anna Knudsen is one of the most dedicated ambassadors for gender equality and a serial entrepreneur. A guiding light in the community.

She uses her wealth of experience as a serial entrepreneur, the chief editor of AW Magazine, and a personal trainer to advocate for equality in the business sector tirelessly.

As an ambassador of SHE, Anna represents the community with what has become a hallmark of drive, fearlessness, and inclusivity.

We want to get to know Anna Knudsen better and share her story with our community, to inspire you in your path – wherever you are.

What thrives and challenges you?

I think that I thrive to make an impact – wholeheartedly! I go all in. It’s both a curse and a blessing. What if I can make an impact? What if I can make a difference? Then I kind of have to give it a go!

I have also found that I handle challenges quite well; it’s like I’m telling the universe “try me!” And the universe, unfortunately, listens. I would like for things to be easy, to just go as planned, or as I optimistically think it will go. Maybe that is what keeps me going – being optimistically naive.

Thinking that it’ll work out, and then handle whatever gets thrown at me, fixing one thing at a time, one day at a time – it keeps me going. And when I overcome it, when I am at the top of a mountain, I take a breath, and then I look up, and it is like I am at the bottom again, because there’s another mountain to climb.

You volunteered with SHE in 2016, how was your experience?

I contacted SHE at the end of 2016, to see if there was a way I could contribute to the community. I liked what SHE stood for, and I believe that it is important to have a community like this.

Anna Knudsen at SHE 2022 // Photo by Siv Elin Skoglund

At that point, my best contribution would be doing SHE’s social media, where I had experience. At that time I think SHE had 600 followers or so, and during the spring of 2017, I believe it was up to 2500 followers or so on Instagram. I was happy to help!

But that also led me to do more work within the community, helping out at the SHE Summer conference and being the project manager of a new part of the conference in 2018, called SHE Arena. It was a great way to contribute and to meet like-minded people – some of whom are still great friends to this day, and an important part of my life. 

How do we drive diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion in the business world?

In Norway, we have so far done a lot of things right. On paper, we all have the same opportunities, regardless of your gender, ethnicity or background. This is great, but unfortunately not enough.

It’s like changing an organization from the top-down. Many who have studied Change Oriented Management, will tell you that is not the way to go. You have to start with the people and get them on board. And a lot of “departments” are already on board – both SHE Community and AW Magazine are already on board. But nearly everyone is on the ship with us. There are many ways in which we can get more people on board – and we have focused on one of them.

I believe that we have achieved a lot when people in general have the same self-esteem and confidence regarding their opportunities, and the same belief that those opportunities are within reach.

If we showcase the woman, who got hired as a manager, right before her maternity leave is about to begin, because she was the right candidate for that job – other women might feel the permission to apply for that job she really wants, despite being pregnant. If we showcase that entrepreneur who started her journey, and now has a thriving business – despite the risks that came with it, someone else might also take the leap.

We need to showcase the diversity in genders, ethnicities and backgrounds in different industries. Building our self-esteem and confidence – to really make us understand that it is within reach. 

Anna Knudsen at SHE 2022 // Photo by Siv Elin Skoglund

What is the backstory of creating AW Magazine as a serial entrepreneur?

I started my first business in 2016 (FRAM Education), my second in 2018 (Sommerfuglen Media), in 2020 (AW Magazine), and in 2022 I want to help other businesses grow, with INIZIA.

Back in 2015 I had the idea for AW Magazine. In my former job, I traveled quite a bit, and when I wanted to pick something up to read on the flight, I didn’t really find exactly what I wanted to read.

I wanted a magazine where I could learn more about leadership, business, entrepreneurship, etc. in a way that inspired me. Where I could get to know the people behind the knowledge and their stories.

I found that the magazines that visually inspired me were either filled with gossip, beauty, fashion, or interior – none of which interested me in particular. On the other hand, the magazine that did interest me, which wrote about the things that I wanted to read about, was so visually boring, filled with small text from top to bottom – that I literally would fall asleep reading it.

My thoughts were that they were designed by and for men.

I still have the logo on my phone from 2015 – it was still called AW Magazine even then. When the pandemic hit, we lost a few customers at Sommerfuglen, so I then reopened my idea for AW Magazine.

Maybe this was the time to create the magazine I wanted? We did have some human resources and some capacity – why not?

The magazine is all about telling those stories that inspire and educate – stories that now get written into history. Gather stories from people, who have an interesting story, background or message – who we believe to be great role models. Role models who aren’t necessarily telling their own stories anywhere, but who still ought to be told. 

We write about leadership, entrepreneurship, finance, business and sustainability, and are now taking on another pillar; technology. These are all areas where there could be more women, better equality, or where we could need even more knowledge.

AW Magazine says, “A magazine with a new look at entrepreneurship, money, sustainability, and business.” What does it mean to you?

I think that we bring people into the equation – it’s not just facts, theory, how-to’s, or strategy – we get to know the people behind their accomplishments, thoughts, decisions, and opinions. We get to know where they come from, why they act as they do – thinking “How can I relate to this person”.

Do you have a role model?

Many! And every one of them has parts that I admire. I am also lucky enough that I, over the years, have gotten to know a few of them as well.

The parts that I admire, could be their ability to always take value-driven decisions, or the way they stick out, or how they dare to be opinionated, or in the way they are true to themselves, or how that one just goes for it, being fearless, changing direction or their achievements despite difficult situations.

There are so many reasons to admire others, and everyone is in some way a role model to others. You might not know that you are, but you are!

What are your next steps in life and with AW Magazine?

With AW, first of all, to prove that you can still run a paper magazine in 2022. That it is self-sustaining. Building bridges, growing a community – then we can talk bigger; finding more role models, inspiring stories, and crossing the bridge to other countries. 

I hope that we can make an impact, if it’s that one person who changed directions, or a message that gets through to millions of people. 

Personally, I want to have fun – doing something that gets me up in the morning, that challenges me, and keeps me growing – leading a life where I am true to myself and the people around me. 

Three tips for future entrepreneurs to succeed on their journey?

  1. Just get to it – don’t overthink it. You’ll manage and learn as you go!
  2. Believe in yourself, your business, and what you truly want. Don’t let anyone blow out your candle.
  3. Be patient and don’t lose your drive – things take time. It’ll usually take longer than you might believe, but don’t give up too soon. 

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