Celebrating 7 Years in Business
7 Years in business empowering women
Today I’m celebrating my business birthday. It’s 7 years and I have zero regrets about deciding to take the plunge and become self-employed. I’m incredibly grateful for the support around me and proud of what I’ve achieved so far. Self-employment is certainly not for the fainthearted, it’s an emotional rollercoaster at times and it has definitely not been plain sailing to get me to this point where I am today.
Do you believe in fate? I do. When I think back there are so many serendipitous events that all add up to a bigger picture that make me think about the phrase ‘what’s meant for you will find you’. I mention in my book that my business came about from a time of me feeling rock bottom and my friend, Pam, asking me what I could do that would make my heart sing but today I’m going to take you further back than that fortuitous question.
Health, beauty & life skills
Over 20 years ago I was asked to stand in for a fellow Slimming World consultant, at very short notice, and do a talk at a coffee morning. I had no idea what the organisation was – I just knew it would be a group of women. At that time, I was running a Slimming World franchise (long story for another time) and had not long since started my Virgin Vie Cosmetics business after impulsively deciding to not go back to my full-time job as a college lecturer after my maternity leave.
As I was chatting to the organiser over a coffee after my talk, she asked me if I had any teaching experience. Ermmm yes! I’d been teaching at art college for 10 years at this point. By the way, I have no idea why she randomly asked me this question other than serendipity coming to play.
She went on to talk to me about the possibility of me delivering a short course covering aspects of health, beauty and life skills with a view to engaging hard to reach adults in the community. It sounded great! A wonderful way to keep my hand in with my teaching without the responsibility of a full-time role, it would fit around my new Virgin Vie business and mean that I could afford to give up my Slimming World group that I was no longer enjoying. Win win.
Makeshift colour analysis
I went on to design and deliver these short courses in the community for over 4 years! I loved those Thursday morning classes in the church hall. We covered all kinds of topics around how looking and feeling good could impact confidence. It became a really supportive community for the women who attended. One woman found the courage to leave an abusive relationship as a direct result of those discussions.
I remember using my very small budget to buy a load of flannels from Dunelm so that we could do a ‘colour analysis’ session for one of the lessons. I hadn’t got any formal training in it at that point, I just been fascinated by it since the 80’s and had a couple of books. Flannels were the cheapest way I could think of to find lots of different coloured fabric ‘drapes’ – it was great fun. The women loved it. It was only when the funding ran out that I had to stop that work.
These classes in the community were the inspiration for my business some 13/14 years later when I was asked by Pam what would make my heart sing. At this time, I was on leave from my role as prison education manager and my relationship of 23 years had also broken down - stress, anxiety and depression were the order of the day. I had no desire to go back into that job.
Law of attraction
I began to dream about what my life might look like as a self-employed person helping women look and feel good about themselves… I was excited about the possibility of getting some formal qualifications that would sit perfectly alongside my background in textiles/fashion design and make up to set myself up in business. I’d previously tapped into the power of colour and clothes to get myself out of a destructive rut of poor self-image when my marriage had first started to break down - I could mentor other women who were feeling down on themselves…I got fire in my belly to make this happen.
Feeling fragile and in need of something more than medication I looked into Reiki, which led me to training in it myself. It was during this training I first heard about the Law of Attraction which in the simplest of terms means that like attracts like – if you think negatively about stuff, you attract more negativity and vice versa re positivity. I began to practise gratitude and changed my mindset by focusing on the good stuff in my life rather than the shit storm that was happening around me. I began to look for the life lessons. I surrounded myself with people who had similar attitudes and gained strength from being in their company.
Empowering women to experiment & have fun with clothes
When I first started my business, it was something I needed to do to help myself recover from the trauma I’d experienced. It gave me a focus and kept me busy. Those first few months before I officially started trading on 1st December 2014 were spent building up followers on my Facebook business page, volunteering at our local Mind charity shop and styling the dummies, Dolly, Polly and Molly, in the shop window and learning the basics about marketing your own business.
I had previous experience of self-employment with Slimming World and Virgin Vie but I had the backing and promotional materials of big money behind me then. This time it was just me and no budget whatsoever – totally relying on word of mouth to bring the money in. Nothing much has changed from that point of view if I’m honest.
I’ve learned so much over these past 7 years through all the ups and downs and I’m so happy to still be here empowering other women to experiment and have fun with colour and clothes. I’m dead proud of myself for getting my first book published this year too. I’ll be raising a glass to myself this evening and looking forward to what the next 7 years of my business will bring.
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