I am grateful to Beki Gowing who has shared her story of changing direction by leaving a safe job to set up a business. I found some of Beki’s business tips really helpful and I hope you do too.

Leaving A Safe Job To Set Up A Business

“I remember sitting in a meeting with my boss, and senior management from numerous other teams. She’d had a great idea, and was trying to get it passed through the bureaucracy of the business. As I watched her negotiate numerous complexities, watering down her idea with each one and taking on more and more work, I realised that I didn’t want her job.

On paper I was in a great position. I’d left university with a first class degree, and won a place on the highly competitive John Lewis Graduate Scheme. I’d been there three years and was working as an Assistant Buyer in their home ware department. I ran projects, travelled to overseas factories, managed a small team, and created products to sell in shops. However I had never fallen in love with the job, and missed the creativity and freedom I’d experienced while studying textile design at university, freelancing as a designer, and interning with fashion and design companies.

Deciding to leave was a big, terrifying decision, as I loved the people I worked with, and knew I was leaving a safe, secure job for something unknown and very risky. I spent over six months researching, planning and securing funding to see if my business was possible. I would recommend anyone considering starting a business to get as much support as possible. Try and go to as many networking events, trade shows, webinars, and free events, and see what free support is available from your local council, chamber of commerce, and local groups. You will get lots of unhelpful advice, but ideas and feedback from people who aren’t involved with your business, and the feeling that you’re not on your own, will make a huge difference.

I set about creating what would become Print & Press, London in the evenings, weekends, tube journeys, and any spare time I had. I knew the important thing was to create a point of difference with my company, so it could offer something different and better than other fabric printing companies in the UK. One of the easiest ways to start creating an identity for your company is to look at your competition. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and visit websites, shops, and markets. Find out what you like, what seems overly complicated, what seems to be missing, and decide on your unique selling points. I decided that Print & Press, London should give excellent, personal customer service; have an easy to use website; clear, easy to understand prices; and a focus on high quality professional prints suitable for designers and businesses. These aims gave me the foundation for the business, and everything we do relates back to this.

When I left my job (with lots of tears, and a small amount of panic), I thought I was cutting ties with my buying career, and starting something completely new. Since then, I’ve realised the opposite is true, and the importance of playing to my strengths. Most of our customers are small businesses and designers, who want to sell their products to earn an income. My previous retail and buying experience has been invaluable, as I have been able to offer support and advice on pricing, working with suppliers and retailers, launching collections, and building a strategy. I do this partly through our blog and weekly emails to help our customers grow their business, and am looking to develop this further to offer bespoke training and coaching. This is an avenue I would never have considered when I set up Print & Press, London, and I would encourage anyone considering starting a business to think about all of their skills (even if they seem unrelated) to see if they can be incorporated.

The past year has been tough, and I have had too many top of the world highs, and ‘I’ve made the biggest mistake’ lows to count. But not only do I now want my job, but I have the power to make my ideas happen without watering anything down.”

About:
Beki Gowing is the founder and Manager of the digital fabric printing company Print & Press, London. They help customers to print their own fabric, and create printed textiles for numerous small fashion and homeware brands in the UK.

Are you thinking about leaving a safe job to set up a business?”

It takes a lot for the women I feature to share their stories so openly so please do hit one or more of the sharing is caring buttons below.

My Random Musings

In my series of interviews speaking to inspirational business women, I was delighted to talk to the founder of Pudding Fairy who provides patisserie for special events.

patisserie for special events

 

Describe your childhood

I grew up in a small village not far from Lyon in France, in the Beaujolais countryside. The eldest of 4 girls, I spend most of my free time horse riding for hours with my best friend, around hills and vineyards. My grand parents on my dad’s side lived in the same village and I spend a lot of time with them after school. They were both amazing: My grand mother was a great family cook and host. She had a cupboard full of “aperitif” nibbles, always ready for someone to come in spontaneously for a drink or two. My grand dad was an amazing gardener. He had a big allotment at the bottom of the village and grew enough fruits and vegetables for them, us and my cousins family who also lived nearby.

What was your first career and why did you choose it?

I didn’t! I was more of a fan of “follow life where it takes you”. Even now, although I have started planning a little since having children. I travelled to Seattle for a few months whilst at Uni, came back, then enrolled into a 1 year living and studying in Dalian, northern China. Back in France, my first job (an office admin role) didn’t work for me. So I went back to training Polo ponies in Paris for a season. From there I moved to London, first with a sales assistant job at Maison Blanc in the French area of London, then for various high end restaurants and outside catering companies. This was an exciting time. I got to organise fantastic events like a masquerade Christmas Ball at the V&A, a dinner at Saint James Palace, PR nights at the London Aquarium….Life took another turn and I found a job as a marketing assistant for a local business in West Sussex. Marketing then web experience became my life for the next 15 years …

What did you gain from your first career?

Besides the obvious marketing and web skills, I’d say 2 principles:

Listen and learn – I have learnt to listen to people I work with (and close friends, family, and my husband!) . Really take on board their feedback and ideas. I can be quite defensive (it’s my French Latin side!!) so it’s not always easy. But it’s helped me to become better at my job on many occasions and still does. I think you live and learn everyday. Sometimes the impact is immediately obvious, sometimes it resurfaces months or even years later, and you think…..oh yes, they might have been right here! Lol

Make it happen – I was very lucky to work as part of a small team for an exciting start up in my last role. We were given a lot of independence in our jobs; at the same time every dollar invested in the project counted so we were also very accountable (and being 4 or 5 in the team to start, things are very transparent). I learnt how to create a bigger impact on my goals, to make things happen. Thinking about new ideas for your business is great (I constantly have 30 tabs open in my head!); in the end to reach success you’ve got to action them. I use this discipline a lot now, even more since I am my own boss. And once a month, I look back to tick what I achieved and set up a new list of priorities to get done in the next 30 days. Oh and this works with non work stuff too, like home projects….

What made you want to change your life?

I came to a real crossroad moment in 2013:

I needed to adjust my work/family life balance. I was away a lot, and it was taking its toll at home.

I also wanted to practice what I preached more – I often tell our kids that you’ve got one life and should try to find what you really love and if you can, make it your job. It’s so much more fulfilling. I had been talking about becoming a cake maker for quite a while, and thought “you can’t just keep talking about it. Just…do it”.

I spotted a gap in the market for a new type of event patisserie

Patisserie for special events

Pudding Fairy is all about patisserie for special events. I marry delicious French inspired recipes and techniques, with creative designs inspired by the British lifestyle and the gorgeous Sussex countryside, where I live. I describe myself as a “franglaise”, French born and English “adopted”. My cakes and sweet treats are like me, franglais and a little quirky. I design bepoke cakes for weddings, celebrations and corporate events; I also run private cake decorating classes and team building events like mini Bake Off challenges, buttercream piping and glitter (a great way to relax after an intense conference for example)…share delicious happiness!

What life lessons would you like your kids to take from you?

Have a plan (a bit of a plan at least) but be prepared to be flexible with it and adapt your course. I am a great believer in saying yes to new opportunities, even if they appear a little challenging or daunting. I have actually written about this in my blog, The Patisserie Diary. (http://www.puddingfairy.com/the-patisserie-diary). Beyond that, remember to smile and have fun, and be kind. To you, to people around you. Carpe Diem! (my life motto).

Who supported you in moving forwards positively?

My family and friends are all absolutely amazing at supporting me and Pudding Fairy. The kids are incredible ambassadors, telling everyone and anyone about it. My husband is a very talented, successful and recognised sales coach expert working for himself. He’s fantastic at helping me grow the business commercially- not only helps me be a lot more efficient at selling but also launched his own business 4 years before me, so knows about the importance of measuring efforts versus returns to make it a success.

I have also been very lucky to gain great support from my previous employer when I started, as well as from the top marketing agency I worked with in London. Those guys gave me a real leg up. I hope I’ll be able to do this in turn for someone else in the future.

On a day to day basis, what can be challenging working for yourself is the lack of human interaction. I have joined a great support group run by Janet Murray from Soulful PR last year. It’s a brilliant virtual hang out place. Janet has got tons of energy and top level advice.

What advice would you give a woman who has a dream but lacks the confidence to pursue it?

Do your research – you’ve got to make sure your plan stacks up financially. Passion is brilliant but you can’t live on it alone.

Find your niche- you should be able to explain what makes you and your business unique in 30 seconds to anyone. Having a clear vision of what your business is about really helps with decision making and prioritising

Experiment and learn – I tried things like print advertising and pop up shops that didn’t work and cost me money. But I tried them, and learnt from those, to refocus and narrow down where to place my marketing efforts. Not everything will work but you’ve got to find out. Assign a small budget to new tests, and look back at the result with open eyes.

Network – Word of mouth is my best and biggest source of new business. Attend local or industry relevant events. Find forums of likeminded people (Twitter is brilliant for this). again be pragmatic and see what they bring to you versus the amount of time you spend on there. There are only so many hours in the day.

Just do it – there is rarely a perfect moment to start making your dream a reality. No one will do it for you. But as the great Mr Walt Disney once said “if you can dream it, you can do it”. Bonne chance.

I hope you enjoyed reading Laure’s inspirational story as much as I did. Now go and get your tastebuds tingling by checking out The Pudding Fairy cakes and patisserie for special events.

It takes a lot for the women I feature to share their stories so openly so please do hit one or more of the sharing is caring buttons below.

Pink Pear Bear

I was delighted when inspirational blogger Donna agreed to my interview request. I am sure you will be fascinated by what Donna has to say.

inspirational blogger

Why did you start to blog?

I started to blog when my daughter was seven months old to document her weaning journey. We did baby led weaning and there wasn’t a huge amount of information about it at the time so I thought it could be useful to other people about to start weaning their babies.

How did you feel when you started blogging?

It was just like I was jumping into a new hobby. I didn’t tell anyone about the blog or really promote it so it was often just like I was talking to myself but I loved having something productive to do in the evenings.

What is your blog about?

Although it started being very focused on weaning as the blog, and my children, have grown the content has adapted too. It’s now a blog about family life, days out and all the little ordinary moments as well as recipes, reviews, competitions and travel – when we get the chance to go away.

What is your proudest achievement related to blogging?

I have been nominated for awards and have been shortlisted in some too but for me, my proudest moments come from helping other bloggers. Most of my time now revolves around critiquing other blogs, offering advice and just being a point of referral for other bloggers. It makes me happy and I do it purely to help, not to get anything back. I think, because of that, when another blogger nominated me for an Outstanding Contribution award last year and said I was ‘a pillar of the blogging community’ that was my proudest moment. To know I have helped people and for other bloggers to know I am there if they need me – it just makes everything worthwhile.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

My favourite part of blogging is actually reading and commenting on other blogs. I run and take part in quite a few linkies each week and month and I love getting to know the people who join in as well as reading other blogs as something to do each evening. For me, other bloggers and the blogging community are a bigger part of blogging than my actual blog.

What do you find most challenging about blogging?

I think the most challenging part for me is trying to keep all the plates spinning. There are photos to take, posts to write, recipes to plan and when you’ve put it all together you then have to promote the posts and be as active as possible across social media. Then there’s an inbox to keep on top of, linkies and everything else. Blogging has evolved into so much more than just writing – and I love it, but it can be hard to keep on top of all the different aspects of blogging.

What surprised you most about blogging?

When I started blogging I had no idea that blogging was a thing. I didn’t know there were other people out there writing blogs and doing the exact same thing as me. It felt like there was just me, talking to myself online. So the blogging community, when I eventually found it, was the most surprising part for me. But one I am so thankful for.

How do you collaborate or work in partnership with other bloggers?

I have an interview series on my blog called Blogger Behind the Blog where I interview a different blogger each week. It’s proven really popular with both readers and bloggers wanting to take part and it’s a series I’m so glad I started.

I also host and co-host a few linkies – Living Arrows, Ordinary Moments and Siblings – and it’s so nice to find other bloggers through linkies and also work so closely with likeminded bloggers too.

What would lead to you giving up blogging?

That actually made me laugh out loud. I can’t imagine a time where blogging isn’t in my life. I’m a blogger, it’s a huge part of who I am – it’s my job and it brings me so much happiness. Without my blog I don’t really know what I would do – I wouldn’t have a job but more than that I wouldn’t have this outlet, this place to express myself, to write and to document the children growing. I don’t think I will ever give up blogging willingly.

Why should I read your blog?

My blog is such an eclectic mix that I think most people would find something they’d enjoy reading – from family updates and little adventures to family recipes and pretty photos. But, I write regular opinion pieces on anything that may have popped into my head – current affairs and things I see on Facebook mainly. They’re always good to read.

What are the aims of your blog?

Really my blog is there to record the children’s milestones and updates as they grow. It’s somewhere to record the little things that I would forget otherwise and somewhere to have photos of them – ones that I would never get around to printing. But, it’s also a source of information for people on so many aspects of family life as well as being my only true hobby and my job.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

When I started blogging I was just this person writing a blog. But, over the last five years I have become a blogger – and my blog, and the whole blogging world, is such a huge part of my life. Starting my blog is definitely the best decision I ever made.

You can find Donna’s blog at What the Redhead Said

If you would like me to feature your blogging journey please get in touch or leave me a comment.

It takes a lot for the women I feature to share their stories so openly so please do hit one or more of the sharing is caring buttons below.

Life as mum or Beth as I like to call her is the first blogger to feature in my inspirational blogger interview series.

life as mum

Why did you start to blog?

I started my blog to document our day-to-day life, family adventures and memories. It was an online journal where I also wrote letters to my two girls. I thought (and still do) it would be something lovely and memorable to look back at in years to come.

How did you feel when you started blogging?

I remember feeling very confused but excited. I was excited to see where about blogging would take me but I was also confused because I didn’t quite understand the whole ‘blogging world’. I mainly started it to document our family memories and so I was excited writing about them and being able to read them again in a few years when the kids are older.

What is your blog about?

My blog is mainly about parenting and our family life. I share my life experiences of being a Mum of 3. I also talk about my pregnancies, weight loss, our family adventures and quite a few other topics too.

What is your proudest achievement related to blogging?

My proudest achievement has to be when I earned more money blogging than I did with my two previous jobs. Although I was super busy constantly working, the money was worth it in the end.

Other than money, I think my next nearest proudest achievement is being recognised. I’ve had local people coming up to me saying they read my blog often. It can be nervewracking but it did make me feel happy and proud of myself that people actually do read my blog.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

I would say I absolutely love writing and that has to be the main reason I enjoy blogging. Very close to that is being able to practise some photography. I’m not the best person on taking photos, but I love to learn and capture the kids growing up.

What do you find most challenging about blogging?

Sometimes I find it hard to keep on top of everything such as the social media and e-mail side. I am trying to get myself a bit more organised by scheduling social media posts after writing a post.

What surprised you most about blogging?

What surprised me the most was how much work you need to put into blogging. It’s not the matter of just writing a post and posting photos. It takes up so much of my time but it is something I enjoy doing.

How do you collaborate or work in partnership with other bloggers?

I link up to a few linky’s during the week and weekend. I comment on other blogs and I also try my best to socialize on Facebook and Instagram too. I have offered a few spaces for guest posts and interview-type posts too.

What would lead to you giving up blogging?

I think the only thing that would stop me blogging if it made me extremley unhappy or it was some how damaging my kids as they grow older.

Why should I read your blog?

My blog, Life as Mum is a very truthful parenting blog. I hide nothing about our lives as I think it’s important to say the truths about parenthood. I also share some lovely family adventures and all my posts are full bright photos.

What are the aims of your blog?

My blog is my little space on the internet. It’s a place where I feel I can share what I want. It’s a hobby as well as my job. After a long day with the kids, I blog during the night when the kids are in bed and it’s just my time to myself which I really enjoy.

Huge thanks to Beth and now go forth and read Life as Mum

Please do get in touch if you would like to be interviewed as an inspirational blogger.

It takes a lot for the women I feature to share their stories so openly so please do hit one or more of the sharing is caring buttons below.

The Pramshed

Dear Jo Cox

When you were killed someone contacted me as they thought I might know you. I didn’t and as far as I know was never in the same room as you. You were clearly an incredible woman and you should still be here.

Jo Cox

I wish I had met you. I think we would have got on and perhaps more importantly got each other.

I was raised in the same area as you. That place has so many problems including generations of poverty and what Theresa May can write off so lightly as “just about managing”. Adversity creates strong communities at best and a pride in your roots.

I was surprised to hear you were shy, something I have suffered with all my life. I too get people to make phone calls for me when I bottle it. And like you, somehow against all the odds, I found myself at Cambridge University and was the first graduate in the family.

Cambridge just made me even more left-wing as I saw how easily you can be written off for having gone to the wrong school or not having the right accent. I have always worried about my Yorkshire accent and yet listening to you speak in the House of Commons, you used your voice with its beautiful accent not trying to pretend you were anyone but you.

You were a few years younger than me so our paths did not cross in the beautiful city of Cambridge.

How brave you were to go off to live in another country working in Brussels. Another beautiful city. Your family must have been so proud of you.

Then to Oxford and Oxfam where I worked for a period too. No wonder I was asked if I knew you. You and I have shared pavements.

How you juggled all the amazing feats with having a young family I do not know.

Yesterday I read your husband’s description of you life and how you put your children first. It made me make changes to my day to ensure I was doing the same with mine. Too often I put other responsibilities first when what matters is making memories with the children.

I have often wondered about returning to West Yorkshire. Should I return whatever skills I have to the town that welcomed me into their community and funded my through university. People who never left probably think I have had an exciting life and that is true. But how I miss the familiar structures of home. That place has a great way of instilling the right values and perhaps particularly in its women. Now I am wondering if I should leave the country altogether as it has not served me and my family well. I wonder what you would make of that.

You were killed and that can never be put right. But so many things can be and I hope all of us are moved by your story and your strength of character and take baby steps to be better mums, to think globally and to do out bit.

Rest peacefully.

The Pramshed
Diary of an imperfect mum