I accidentally started out in business at the age of 23, having been in a pop band that toured with Take That and then playing Cinderella in Disneyland for a while. My CV certainly wasn’t impressive, in fact it looked like a 5 year old child had dreamed it up.
No degree, no clear career path and no idea what I actually wanted to do. Luckily for me, the one thing I had buckets of was ambition and that (with some added sheer, dumb luck) has found me running a successful business 5 years later.
The Wharf Ltd. is a music school based in Norwich. I knew I would be involved in music, but never anticipated full-time teaching for a living. However, my role here at The Wharf began with me teaching 10 hours a day and then catching up on Admin and lesson planning in the evening, 6 days a week. Over the last 5 years I’ve gained a team of 10 brilliant tutors and Administrators that has allowed my role to change. I now manage my team and develop the business, teaching a few students in the evenings. In 2010 I won the Young Business Woman of the Year Award, giving me the boost of confidence I needed to grow my business further. We now have a client base of 500+ students and a turnover expected to hit £200k next year.
As a young female in business, I did encounter difficulties. From the patronising Estate Agent who wasn’t keen to even discuss the lease on a premises, to the networking events filled with men in suits who had no interest in my business, but wanted me to sing at their staff parties. To be taken seriously was difficult and I’m still finding moments to this day when I feel the need to justify myself to people. Occasionally I will have a brief moment of regret about not achieving a degree, usually when I’m struggling with a difficult situation. It’s these moments when I remind myself that I have achieved more than I could have anticipated, that having a degree would not have made this process easier.. I’m learning constantly by mistakes I make every day. Running a business is like learning to drive a car. You can be taught how to do it, but until you’re out on the road by yourself, hands on the wheel and steering alone, that’s when you learn to take control.
Looking back over my career in business so far, the one thing that really stands out to me is just how great other women in business have been. Whether it’s specific groups such as the team at Everywoman (a dedicated, online support network for women in business) networking groups in the city aimed specifically at women, Twitter members who support and share advice… there is a wide network of people out there, both male and female, who will support women in business and appreciate just what we are able to achieve. The idea that for a woman to succeed in business she has to be brutal, cut throat and willing to sacrifice starting a family is long gone… this is the new dawn of female entrepreneurship and “mumpreneurs”. It’s meant to be difficult, but that’s what makes it so very rewarding.
The Wharf Academy
While October might seem an age away from the glorious burst of summer that we are having it is all systems go in Girl HQ at the moment so we thought we’d take a quick break from it all to do a quick update!
Back in April some of our lovely colleagues at UEA nominated the project for a Community Engagement Award – and we’re honoured to tell you that we won! This award means that Day of the Girl Norwich is doing a really good job of working outside of the University and contributing to the community in a great way – but only because of the wonderful support of so many other people and organisations such as the Schools we work with (Mulbarton Junior, Notre Dame, Norwich High, Ormiston Victory Academy, Cliff Park Ormiston Academy, Recreation Road Infants, Stoke Holy Cross Primary and Magdalen Gates), Norfolk Guides, Future Radio, our friends on the committee, and of course, the lovely people at The Forum in Norwich who really do go over and beyond to help us bring the event to life. Without your support and belief in the importance of girls’ rights we would never be where we are now – in the run up to number 3! Yikes!
This year we thought we’d try something new. Some of you might not know this but Norwich is very lucky to have an amazing film archive – based at the County Hall site near Trowse. EAFA, or the East Anglian Film Archive, to give it it’s full title, is a wonderous place, rammed full of all kinds of old films including lots of amateur films made in the early part of the 1900s. Neither of us are archivists so it was a fascinating chance to have a glimpse at the mysterious world of refrigerated vaults (designed to stop film from degrading) and old Steenbeck machines which would once have edited news reels and movies.
What took us to an archive on a sunny afternoon, you might be thinking? Well, Norwich is not only lucky to have an archive it also has a brilliant resource in Fusion, the public screens that are located in the Forum. One day, while having a leisurely meeting in our town based office of Cafe Bar Marzano, we struck upon a new idea – using Fusion to show archive footage of girls throughout history. Given Sarah’s background in film and television studies and Tori’s work as a media studies person it made perfect sense and so, with help from the wonderful Richard at Fusion, Sean and Clare at EAFA we began figuring out what we needed to do.
Fast forward a few weeks – Sarah and Tori are camped out in Sarah’s house trawling through the EAFA database for films about girls, and what gems we found! Our favourites included a little girl looking after her cat in 1901, girls from Yarmouth in the sixties talking about how they spend their pocket money, girls being allowed to wear trousers at school for the first time in the seventies, girls skydiving at Shipdham in the nineties and loads more of girls doing sports ranging from boxing to gymnastics, trampolining, skateboarding and football.
But until its time for you to enjoy these films at Fusion from the 6th of October we’ll leave you with the song that’s been helping us get through these days stuck inside