I love it when women contact me to tell me about their businesses. Today I am delighted to share Ashleigh’s powerful story about the business she runs with her husband offering support for the hospitality industry. Let’s get to know more about the woman behind Halo Business Consultancy.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years
I grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne with plenty of time spent in the great outdoors of Northumberland. We had so much freedom as children (or maybe my parents did!) and would make the most of building dens in the woods, braving swimming the North Sea and have camp fires with friends.
Once I hit my teens, my curiosity to explore further took hold and I moved to Sheffield to start my degree course in International Hotel & Tourism Management, which would put me firmly on the path I’m now on.
What was your first job? What did you learn from this?
My first job was a waitress when I was 14 which I loved! It taught me to be organised and I learnt some valuable customer service skills.
My first career job was part of my university degree when I had the opportunity to work at The Broadmoor, a Five Star resort in Colorado Springs in the USA, for a year. This expanded my horizons considerably, as I was working with people from all over the world and living life as a mid-west American, skiing or going to baseball games on my days off. It was a truly magnificent time.
I knew that I wanted to work for an international hotel brand once I’d completed my studies, so over the course of the next number of years I worked with Sheraton, Luxury Collection, Shangri-La and Hilton to name but a few!
My career ignited my passion to travel and I lived and worked in Thailand for about four years. This was such a rewarding and humbling experience. I learnt so much from being there, not least adjusting my goal-orientated western management style when I initially started, to a relationship-oriented Thai approach, which still stays with me today. I had the fortune to travel to many countries in South East Asia during my residency in Thailand, which furthered my love of travel and discovery.
What made you decide to leave corporate world of hotels and set up your own business?
When I decided to leave Asia for London, it was a little daunting as I was single, had no job and most of my friends were settling down to have families. Thankfully I quickly found my feet (and my husband. who I’d actually known for about ten years but we’d been at opposite ends of the earth) and we lived and worked in London for about 7 years.
We started our family in London and whilst it was full of excitement and actually London surprised us with how family friendly it can be, the commuting and childcare combination was becoming too stressful. I remember one occasion when all the trains and tube options for my route home to collect my son from nursery were off, so I ended up having to take a cable car and an uber just to make the 6pm collection!
We decided that our time in London was coming to a close and we relocated to the beautiful coastal town of Whitley Bay, just outside of Newcastle. We’d always envisioned setting up our own businesses and had spent many an hour brainstorming ideas whilst we were out and about in various hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions to determine where the opportunity lay.
Then, mid 2019, we decided to take the plunge as we wanted to share our experiences of working in hospitality in a way that fitted around our family, as well as providing businesses a flexible solution to their marketing, communications and customer experience support.
Why the name Halo?
Before launching, we undertook a thought-provoking branding exercise which helped us to underpin who we are, what we call ourselves, what values we hold and how this is reflected in our visual identity.
We came to the word Halo. A symbol of light and positivity, the psychology of the Halo Effect which is initiated during first impressions and, of course, its association with angels…and the north!
What are your Halo’s plans for the new year (and decade) ahead?
As we enter a new decade, we look forward to supporting businesses with everything from service culture change to international marketing strategies.
Halo will also champion businesses that put sustainability and conscious travel at the heart of their values. The travel industry needs to lead from the front to minimise its social and environmental footprint. It’s encouraging to see change afoot with customers now looking for travel experiences that align with community and designed to be more sensitive to environmental standards. I really feel that 2020 is the year that we start taking real action and that there will be significant change in the decade ahead as consumers vote with their feet.
Since launching just a few months ago, we’re in discussions with a number of hotel brands and niche tour operators. We have some exciting clients coming onboard soon, including a Northumberland hotel and a London boutique hotel group.
We have made a great start to our ambition to offer support to the hospitality industry.
In addition to launching Halo, you’ve recently been appointed at an Entrepreneur in Residence at Sheffield Hallam University, what does this entail?
I take part in a variety of initiatives including delivering masterclasses and graduate mentoring, supporting graduates and recent alumni in developing their entrepreneurial mindsets to create their new ventures. It’s so inspiring to meet the students and listen to their ideas!
What’s your advice to anyone thinking of starting own business
Done is often better than perfect. Go for it, learn from your experience, adjust as you go and be open to new ways of doing things. Keep up to date with current affairs and industry trends for your sector and look for opportunities to be mentored (informally of formally).
Give back and be kind.
Would you like to work in a company that offers support for the hospitality industry?