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.