Article provided by Rachael Flanagan, Founder, Mrs Buckét
I was always told I would never ‘make it’ if I started up my own business.
At 18, I failed my Business Studies A-Level and yet, was adamant to pursue the dream of starting my own cleaning company. If success was built solely upon school grades then yes, I’d stand less of a chance but luckily for me (and thousands of other entrepreneurs), this isn’t the case.
It takes more than a percentage on a bit of paper to become a business owner, it takes grit, determination and agility; and despite this era of diversity and acceptance, this is certainly true for the businesswoman. Being a woman still makes entrepreneurship a lot harder compared to our male counterparts; it’s not that we lack the necessary qualities of success, it’s that we’re still discriminated against because of our gender.
- One in three entrepreneurs are women, a gender gap of 1.1 million missing business
- Our businesses are 44 per cent less in size than those of men in terms of economic value
- Men are five times more likely to scale up to £1 million+ than women
Grit isn’t a nice word, it’s harsh and prickly but, it’s the most important part of my business journey; the hardest skill to learn but the most rewarding.
Teenage me wanted nothing more than to make Mrs Buckét work, and I was shocked at how few people wanted to see me succeed. I was constantly knocked back because of, what I thought, were menial details. Yes, I failed Business A-Level, yes, I only had £20 and a mop to my name and yes, my flyers were slightly old-school in their marketing but so what?
I can sit here now and say these things but, of course, at 18 it was a constant cycle of being pushed down and picking myself back up. It was tiring, demotivating and some days it seemed as if it would have just been easier to throw it all in the bin. But I didn’t, I clenched my teeth and I battled through, cleaning people’s houses until such a day where I needed to hire a few people to help me; and then I bought some better equipment and hired a PA. Following this, I invested in my own website, attracted some big-name clients and the next thing I know, I’m selling off the domestic arm of my business and specialising in commercial cleaning. My business has a turnover of £3m, I’m creating hundreds of jobs for Wales and the South West and Mrs Buckét has become a well-respected name.
I wish all that growth happened as easily as I make it out but, that would be an impossible miracle. Grit is important, it gives you that resilience to put your foot down and say ‘No, I am going to do this’ – determination comes next.
Business isn’t a linear process, it’s more like a mountainous valley: some horribly steep hills to climb and some smooth easy descents surrounded by beautiful views and fresh air.
Those inclines can be anything from the need to take life-changing risks, learning how to stop being a ‘yes man’ instead prioritising your business and your wellbeing, and accepting help from others when the going gets tough.
The last point is of upmost importance; with only 6 per cent of women in the UK wanting to pursue entrepreneurship it’s easy to see why many of us feel like we need to be lone warriors, needing to prove our worth. But no (wo)man is an island, and it’s crucial that we accept help from others. They provide the support and push needed to climb those hills, not to mention it feels a lot sweeter to relish in those amazing views at the top with others by our side.
Covid-19 has thrown the whole world into disarray. Businesses left, right and centre have faced real risk of bankruptcy, insolvency and closure, and many have had to make large numbers of redundancies.
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” – Sun-Tzu
Never has a quote been truer than now. Amongst the gut-wrenching uncertainties, this pandemic has opened leaders’ eyes to endless opportunities. And those who will come out stronger after this has subsided will be those who take the leap and flex their businesses around the new doors that have been unlocked.
For Mrs Buckét, agility has meant teaming up with other businesses to offer unique services to help fight Covid-19, investing a large sum of money into a new life-changing chemical that will help businesses return to work safely and securely and using our platform to speak out about the need for cleaners to be recognised as tier-one workers within our society.
Of course, agility doesn’t just have to come from a worldwide pandemic; there is a strong need for a flexible business model pandemic or no pandemic. Not only does it mean that manoeuvring through difficult times is less stressful, but it also allows you to future proof your business. It gives you the added ability to navigate your way through all the positive yet inevitable changes it will face such as scaling-up, team changes or adapting services to client needs.
Entrepreneurship isn’t a grade; it isn’t your gender and it most certainly isn’t about what others think of you. Business ventures are about tapping into pools of undiscovered economic value and a drive to make a difference. And whilst women still have a long way to go in terms of equality, the only way to get this changed is for all of us to continue fighting for a seat at the table.
About the author
Rachael Flanagan founded Mrs Buckét in 2005 at the age of 18; she had the ambition to start a unique cleaning company where standards and service were her main passion for driving the company forward. Now, Mrs Buckét employs over 250 members of staff, services 150 corporate premises daily and has a turnover of £3 million.
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