How I went from corporate life to running my own small business
Hi I’m Helen, founder of Brilliant Together and proud Mumpreneur! But how did I go from corporate life to running my own small business?
The idea for Brilliant Together came when the corporate company I was working for was relocating from its Hertfordshire office to one in central London. I was surrounded by brilliantly talented parents (predominately Mums) that were all faced with the same decision:
- Do I relocate to London and compromise my family life?
- Do I try to find another corporate part-time role, within easy commute (like there are loads of them, right?!)
- Or do I retrain to do something more in line with school hours (again, unless you want to work in education there aren’t that many options here)
I decided to do something else. I decided to take redundancy and build something that enabled me to do something I do best, without compromising my life with my family. I decided to build my own business
The Problem to solve
I’d spent the last 20 years’ or so working in business and marketing strategy for big business and the last 10 of those years also advising my husband on his small business. I knew I was very good a solving a problem and I love working with people, so how do I make that into a business?
At first I decided I’d take some time, enjoy having the cushion of redundancy and spend some time being a full-time mum (now that is a hard job!!!) Exactly 12 months after I left corporate life, I woke up in the middle of the night, brain whirring remembering those brilliant mums in our old office and thought, I need to do something that fixes this, its not right that you must choose between being the parent you want to be and the career you want to have – why shouldn’t we have both?
I got up, it was 4am, and started to write my business plan, I had an idea as to how I was going to make a difference, a small one, but at least something. When my plan was written I circulated it to a few trusted friends and ex-colleagues for their advice and tweaked and changed it a bit, but fundamentally it was still the same idea that I’d let flow from my mind in the middle of the night. But there was one big thing that stopped my moving any further. Fear.
I’d never built a business before, what if it didn’t work? What if people didn’t take me seriously? What if I did it all wrong? These fears (and the fact I still had my toddler at home with me all day) stopped me from moving forward, until I found the Mums Enterprise Roadshow, I went to their first ever roadshow in June 2016 and was totally blown away by the whole army of mums that felt the same as me. They knew they wanted to have a different choice, they didn’t want to compromise their family, or their career and they wanted to know what to do, but were also feeling the ‘fear’
There were loads of inspiring amazing exhibitors to talk and I came away with lots to think about, but for me the most powerful part of the day was listening to the Q&A. On the panel that day was:
I remember asking a question “I have a tiny idea for a business, how do I get the confidence to do something about it?” and Hannah replying, “I bet if you told us what the idea was, it would be more than a tiny idea”. And I thought, “she’s right, it is more than a tiny idea, all I’m missing is the confidence to try”. It’s a funny thing being surrounded by women who feel the same as you, or women that have started on their journey and were making it successful, it is incredibly empowering, motivating, reassuring, safe.
I started to think “who cares if I fail”, well me, but what would really happen if I did? I’d pick myself right back up again and try again, I can do this, I’m not just a mum, I can have a flexible career and it can work.
At the end of that amazing day, I got interviewed about how I found the day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRPN2cn_X3c and then I had a very emotional chat with Lindsay (founder of Mums Enterprise Roadshow) and she set me a challenge, to return in a year and sit on the Q&A panel to share my story (and that got caught on camera too!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp8123nFqro
Plans brought forward
I was so enthused that I came home and straight away started working on my business strategy; Brilliant Together was born shortly after! In my first year my youngest daughter was still at home with me, I had just 15 hours a week when she was at nursery, so I had a modest launch plan, with one big ambition, to launch my business in time to sit on the panel at the London Mums Enterprise Roadshow and I had 12 months to do it in!
I was due to officially launch Brilliant Together in September 2017, this coincidentally was when my youngest started school and the Mums Enterprise Roadshow came to London. However, my plans shot forward somewhat when I unexpectedly bumped into Lindsay and got chatting to her about the roadshow they were doing in Brighton in February, I thought, maybe I’ll just get some business cards printed and have a go down there.
However, just 3 weeks before the show was due to happen I spoke to Lindsey again, she got me so enthused and excited about the Brighton show, that I found myself agreeing to exhibit there – what was I thinking? I had no brand, no key message, only a rough idea for a product suite and certainly no website – but I thought why not!
So that’s what I did, I cobbled together a logo, a banner, some flyers, enlisted the help of Laura Affleck to build me a holding page on my website and I went to Brighton. I had a fabulous day, testing out my business idea, seeing how it landed with people and of course I met some amazing mums. I even picked up a bit of work! The Mums Enterprise team got me on camera again and have since put a story together of my journey with them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anGN5vZtluE
That roadshow was fabulous, it helped test my business idea, build confidence and my network of contacts and give me lots of experience. From there I then completed 6 “situation assessments”, resulting in some 5-star reviews (see my facebook page) and lots of compliments!
Succeeded at my first business goal!
Since the Brighton show I continued to work and develop Brilliant Together, I changed my branding and my messaging and in September 2017, 1 year after I started, I succeeded my first business goal. To exhibit and be part of the Q&A panel at the London Mums Enterprise Roadshow.
This was a truly amazing feeling, reaching my dream, sitting on stage alongside Hannah Martin, one of those that inspired just 12 months before, and telling my story to inspire others.
The feedback since, has just been lovely, one lady, Caroline Doran, was so inspired by what I’d said she went onto blog about her experience at the roadshow: https://fromfleetofree.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/a-turning-point/
Since then I continue to work and develop Brilliant Together, helping small businesses grow and reach their potential, whilst supporting parents in business to make a difference, so they can achieve the balance between work and home that they want to achieve.
I work with small businesses to help them with their business and marketing strategies: creating plans that build towards their hopes and dreams, identifying their hurdles and suggesting ways to solve these.
But what about the Brilliant Mums?
So how did I solve the problem of being the parent you want to be and the career you want to have – can we have both?
The answer is yes, the how is by us collaborating together.
I’m an expert in business strategy I’m not an expert in everything else. So, I connect the small businesses I work with to other expert mums (and a few dads) to do the things that I can’t from accountancy to web-design and everything in between.
Why am I called Brilliant Together?
So why is my business called Brilliant Together? It’s ‘Brilliant’ because it’s about creating brilliant businesses using brilliant people and ‘Together’ because I will do this with you, I will hold your hand on your journey and help you find the right way forward. Think of me not as a coach, an adviser or a consultant. Think of me more as your ‘Business Friend’
If you’d like to build your business while balancing family life read my top tips as to how to get it all done in just 15 hours a week!