Introduction: Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently
I started out life as a teacher, had two children and when they were very young I was divorced. That left me in a very difficult financial position and I knew something had to change. I left teaching and went to work in the public sector and that is where my first business Forward Ladies was started. I set it up because I wanted to support, inspire, encourage women to achieve their full potential.
However when my children were growing up I had to work all hours and so always felt guilty that I missed out on so much. Both my children now live and work in London and I wanted any time spent with them to be quality time so we went for afternoon tea. We always talked about producing a guide so people would know the best places to go. However due to pressure of work it never happened. Earlier this year I sold Forward Ladies and decided I wanted to start a site dedicated to afternoon tea so sconesjamandcream.com was born. I always like to do what I say I will do. Having worked for 42 years it is hard to stop and I love the buzz and challenge that starting something new offers. I have the support of my children so that means even more quality time together.
1.What inspired you to start a business?
There is nothing quite like the challenge of running your own business. I have been employed and loved my work however to be able to make decisions, drive the business, follow your dream is so exciting. There are always risks in everything we do however that feeling of independence and creativity is worth it. When you start to grow your business and employ people there are huge hurdles to climb and big decisions to make but you can see your people develop and grow and together you can succeed.
2.What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
The greatest challenge is that everything starts and ends with you. You are responsible for every aspect of the business and staff etc. sometimes it is hard to switch off. Now with sconesjamandcream.com I find I am thinking about it 24/7. However thinking about afternoon tea is very pleasant!
The greatest reward is when you see a germ of an idea come to fruition, when you make a difference to others and someone actually pays you! I have been in touch with so many contacts setting up Scones Jam and Cream.com it is great to hear their reaction!
3.What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures.
I am ever the optimist. Be realistic in your goal setting however never underestimate what is achievable. You have to be passionate about your product-I love afternoon tea, be honest and ethical in the way you do business and never give in. Things don’t always go to plan but that doesn’t mean you stop. Learn from the failures, pick yourself up and do it better next time.
4.What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
Establishing a brand from scratch. Getting others to buy into your idea. Staff. Now it is pacing myself as I am getting so many invites to afternoon tea I am actively recruiting people who will test and review on Scones Jam and Cream.com for me!
5.How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I believe we all need someone to talk to. Someone who is not close to the business, who can listen objectively. I have been very lucky that I have some personal and professional mentors who I trust and are happy to give me time. In return I am happy to do the same for others. We don’t have to do it alone.
6.What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
People do business with people. I have spent the last 20 years networking (not selling). I have reaped the rewards a hundred fold. If you connect with people, respect and support them they will always be there for you. Take the time to network properly, you won’t regret it.
7.What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
In any business you can’t stand still otherwise your competitors will overtake you. The supermarkets are a good example of that. You need to constantly review, refine and innovate. With sconesjamandcream.com I already have plans for the next stage. Keep a very careful eye on the money. As they say Cash is King. I learnt that to my cost. You must understand the finances in your business, cash flow etc. don’t take your eye off the ball.
8.What does the future hold for you?
Lots of afternoon teas! Seriously I am really looking forward to developing sconesjamandcream.com. I have lots of ideas. It means I can keep in touch with so many people I have met over the years. However, as it is an online business I want to keep it under control. I now volunteer for various charities,sit on various committees and spend more time with my children (now adults). It’s been a tough road as any single mum will tell you but it has all been worth it.