I’ve always loved business & the idea of selling things that other people need! I have an early memory, I think I was about 8, of setting up a dolls clothes washing business in my parents’ front garden. Having spent a few hours washing some filthy dolly dresses and seeing the colour of the water go from clear blue to a disturbing grey, I thought ‘there must be loads of other children whose doll clothes and teddies are also dirty’. With that, I wrote a sign and propped it on our gate. ‘Dolls clothes washed for 1p per item’. The fact that at that time we lived on a country lane near a dead-end, meant that we hardly had any passing traffic & for that reason my first business venture was soon wound up (before bed time).
That was not my first venture into entrepreneurship however. At the age of 6 I had glimpsed a news story on the black and white TV about children suffering from famine in an African country. It shocked me into action. I rallied some friends, spent a day making ‘crafts’ from toilet roll holders and yoghurt pots, and before the day was out I had set up a stall in our cul-de-sac and was selling our ‘crafts’ to anyone who ventured close enough to enquire what we were doing. My mother still has the letter from ‘Save the Children’ thanking me for the £1.36 donation to their famine appeal, congratulating me too on the ‘marvellous stall’ I must have had! I just loved the fact that one minute there was no money in the pot, then after an hour of attracting customers and showcasing our wares, the pot was full of loose change! A small fortune! I was so proud.
By 14 I had my first proper job, working every Saturday in a chemist. Whilst it wasn’t my business, I still loved the buzz of achieving the sale! If someone came in saying ‘I need something for my wife’s birthday’ I relished the opportunity to find out what their budget was, what their wife’s likes and dislikes were before making some recommendations from our range of perfume gift sets. The budget available would provide the steer; was this a ‘Tweed’ sale or a ‘Opium’?. I guess this is where my love of consulting stems from!
In my twenties, I was happily climbing the corporate ladder working for a large national retailer. By the age of 27 I had completed a two year fast-track management scheme, run areas of shops in London and the south-east and moved into a Head Office position specializing in HR & people development projects. I had the shiny car, the salary, the status. And then….days before my 28th birthday I gave birth to my first son and within days I knew that returning to the high octane corporate career was not going to work for me or my new baby. I resigned from my company, gave up my salary, private pension & medical insurance & my car and focused on being a full time mum. Great! No more ridiculous commutes, long hours or stressful bosses to deal with.
But it wasn’t long before the shine of being a full time Mum wore off…After a few months of not working at all, then a few more months of trying to juggle a part-time job around expensive child-care arrangements I knew I had to find a better way of moving forwards. Money was tight, my brain was aching to get stuck into interesting work again, and whilst I adored my son, I felt like something was missing – a piece of me that I had invested a lot in during my twenties & that now felt redundant.
It took some time to work out the best solution. I was desperate to be a great Mum but equally desperate to rediscover my identity which seemed to have been lost somewhere in between the bags of nappies, pots of Sudocreme and mother & toddler groups.
As I sat one day reflecting on how my fast-track career had launched, accelerated and then completely changed direction, all before I had even reached the age of 30, a mad scheme began to form in my mind…I was only 29, but I started to imagine having my own business. A business that I could work on part-time, and which used the skills and strengths that I had built in my corporate life. My skill sets and passions were around building teams, training and optimizing business & personal performance, and I began to imagine how I could use this experience to write training courses & support businesses with their staff development. I built the vision for this business in my mind, I shared it verbally with a few people, and then I set about making it real. I’d always been intrigued by business and in particular small businesses – real people, starting real enterprises and making it a success from their own real hard work and talent. I was always intrigued by the motivations and skill sets of the entrepreneurs that I met – what made them take the step into self-employment? What made some of them succeed and some of them struggle? What were the secrets of success?
At 29 I didn’t see any barriers to starting my own business – only opportunities! I didn’t for a minute think that I couldn’t do it, or that I wasn’t qualified! An old boss once asked me ‘what qualifies you to do this?’ – and I was astounded at his question. Qualified? To write and deliver great training didn’t necessarily need qualifications, did it? Where did that confidence and belief come from? I know now how empowered and motivated you can feel when you know you are ‘on purpose’, doing what you are supposed to be doing and working with your unique strengths, passions and talents.
Back then I had no computer, mobile phone or Internet access. The Internet didn’t even really exist! I just borrowed my husband’s work laptop in the evenings and started writing letters to potential clients, explaining what I could do for them & how I could help their business & staff to perform better. My sole intention in those days was to take the steps to achieve my first sale. I didn’t hide behind ‘setting up a bank account’, ‘getting business cards printed’ or ‘waiting for my website to go live’. Starting a business for me was about getting that first client. There was no business until I knew I had something that people would buy. The focus I gave to this one outcome (ie a sale) meant that all my intentions and actions were working together. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the sale came.
One day, about six weeks into the new business I had a phone-call from my first client. They didn’t want any staff training, but they did wonder if I could help them deliver some Investors in People training for businesses who were going for the accreditation. ‘Yes’ I said. And that was where it all started.
My aim in those days was clear. I wanted to get a few paid days work a month…but this soon changed into an aim of earning a full-time salary from part-time hours. I kept this intention clear in my mind all the time, and it guided me towards the right kind of opportunities and influenced how I used the precious hours of time when I was ‘child-free’.
The business and work that I had imagined, started to get a life and personality of its own. Word of mouth led new clients to me, and over the years I thrived on the intensity of working like mad in the pockets of time during the week that I had allocated to my business, and the pleasure of being able to devote myself to my family at other times.
I don’t want to bore you with a year by year account of how much business changed and diversified from those early days of the late 1990’s. The Internet arrived, websites became the norm, from having no PC I now run my businesses across four different devices (phone, table, desk-top PC and laptop). I went from working mainly in my locality to travelling greater distances to undertake higher profile work.
One day I envisioned myself delivering training abroad – I felt like I needed to up my game, and it wasn’t long before the opportunity to work across several European countries emerged & I spent 2 years flying to and from places like Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Zurich and Brussels to deliver training.
Importantly, it wasn’t just where I worked and the way that I worked that changed, I taught myself to change and adapt too. My business grew and started running bigger training contracts using associates to help me deliver. I became involved in business initiatives & projects that interested me and enabled me to make a big difference. My interest in entrepreneurship led me to get involved in a number of business skills projects, some funded by government and some funded by the EU, all aimed at building skill sets in small business owners to enable them to succeed. My passion for the small business owner was piqued again, just like it had been right back at the beginning of my own business, and for the past 12 years I have been training, mentoring and coaching small business owners.
I learned how to launch & grow businesses (I’ve had two businesses, am currently launching a third & I’ve launched a successful business start-up social enterprise).
I learned how to juggle family and business life. It worked because I developed a formula and used discipline to work out how to earn what I needed to earn, on half the hours that an employed position would have taken.
I taught myself most of my business skills and what I couldn’t teach myself I made it my business to learn from others. I know what works, what doesn’t work, and where to learn ‘how to’ do almost anything you need to know to start and grow a successful business. If I’m stuck and don’t know how to do something, I work out how I can do it, either by learning the skill myself, or finding someone who has the expertise. Ignorance is not part of the successful entrepreneurs skill set.
I started with no skills, knowledge or understanding of the internet and digital marketing approaches, and I now manage two websites, five social media channels, I run webinars, create content for the internet and record, edit and share videos. You can learn anything you want. I promise.
I’ve trained & mentored literally hundreds of business owners as they start their own business. My clients’ case studies speak for themselves and I am regularly asked to speak at events to share my success secrets! Becoming a TedX speaker is on my to-do list, so watch this space!
I know what it takes to get what you want from your business. I’ve mentored people who want a lifestyle business that fits around their family, and I’ve mentored ambitious entrepreneurs who are building £million business start-ups.
I now know the essential traits that successful entrepreneurs must possess. Ambition is one of these, and I only work with ambitious entrepreneurs now, people who want to succeed and achieve their potential. If there is no appetite for success or desire to learn, grow and develop in order to achieve success, then I can’t help you.
If you do have a burning sense that you can achieve more and you really really want to create the life and work that you know you are capable of – then lets talk.