Dionne Smith, founder and MD of DPS Brand Consultancy, is an award winning brand coach and consultant, supporting service based entrepreneurs to create clarity and individuality in their personal and business brand.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
My name is Dionne Smith, I’m 47, mum of two boys Ethan 22 and Makari 10 with my husband Chris. I started my career at 16 after getting hit by a car and breaking my arm halfway through my GCSEs.
I decided to go straight to work, which you could do back then, working in a chartered accountancy firm in a small village in Kent. Unfortunately, I soon learned that this was not the career path for me and I left to join a YTS scheme with the Department for Trade and Industry (as it was called then). I gained my NVQ qualifications in Business Administration and progressed to travelling with the department on trade missions to the US and India.
Although it was a great role, I really wanted to experience working in the private sector. So, left after 10 years and spent the next 13 years working in the investment industry within the marketing teams of 3 different firms. During that time, I studied for and gaining my level 3 marketing diploma.
I was made redundant from my first long term role within the industry and then had my second son. Went back to work when he was 18 months for a firm in SW London for 6 months, then left there and went to work for a big investment firm in the city for two years until I got made redundant again. It was at this point that I decided to take control of my career and started my business in 2014.
I’m now a personal brand coach and business brand consultant, supporting new and existing service based entrepreneurs to create the clarity and individuality within their business that can only be gained by focusing on their unique personal and professional journey and incorporating their story into their brand and how they deliver their services.
I take my clients through a series of personal brand development sessions and then transpose that information into their own unique proposition through their business brand development. Building their business in this way, means it’s truly authentic to who they are, and they are able to connect with their ideal clients who align to the knowledge, skills and experience they’ve gained throughout their life.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
To be honest, no. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do when I was younger. I’ve always been creative and thought I would end up as a beautician or hairdresser as this was something I’d dabbled in. I loved singing and used to write songs when I was at secondary school, but again never followed through on that ambition. I think, like many of us, I just kind of fell into the positions I have held through out my career so far and found something I enjoyed doing.
I remember going for an interview when I was looking to leave the government to go into the private sector. I had to do one of those psychometric tests, which resulted in me being more aligned to a HR role as opposed to the marketing role I was applying for!
I think bearing in mind that I really love coaching and always being a people person, I know I’ve come full circle now. I have the opportunity to work really closely with people on their personal development as well as using my creativity and experience in brand and marketing to help them build their business, so although it wasn’t planned, in a way I guess it was. I just didn’t know it at the time.
I’m able to use both my personal and professional experiences in my work, so it’s a win, win for me. I truly feel that I’ve found my purpose, but it did take a long time to get here.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I think my biggest challenges have been overcoming my own lack of confidence and self-value for the things I have achieved. Not going to university and getting a degree really did affect my confidence over the years as having that level of qualification was much more of a big deal when I applied for jobs.
I was never particularly academic when I was at school, but this was a skill developed as I grew older. I would say that I got through by listening a lot and using my common sense.
It has taken me a long time, a lot of coaching and upskilling to educate and understand myself to get where I am today. Everyone’s path is different for a reason. Not having a degree doesn’t make me less worthy or less capable. My path is my path. I was never going to follow someone else’s. I know how to appreciate my uniqueness, which we all need to do.
This is one of the key reasons why I’ve structured my business the way I have. I am passionate about helping people to value and use their real life experience which is often much more powerful in building relationships than a qualification could ever be. That’s not to say they aren’t important, after all, I’ve now gained life coaching, success and cognitive behavioural therapy diplomas too, so learning is always a key part of our development. The two go hand in hand, and is a key part of our growth as a human being.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Aside from my children, I would definitely say starting and maintaining my business. It’s been a challenging road and going though so many changes to ‘find myself’ as the saying goes has been a struggle alongside dealing with personal challenges.
Despite wanting to give up several times, I’ve never been able to get rid of that innate sense of knowing that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. So, I’ve continued to persevere through everything to be where I am today, which is in a much happier and stable place.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Success is relative. For me it’s maintaining a sense of who I am and being able to share the gifts and talents I’ve been given to help support others. That may seem like a little bit of a cop out statement that everyone says, but I know that in I’m only successful if I help others achieve the same. My reputation is very important to me and I generally go above and beyond, not because I want accolades but because it’s a natural way of working for me, I expect high standards so I do my best to provide high standards too.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think mentoring is a great way of giving back and I’ve mentored and coached younger people to support them with their career development or starting a business. It’s definitely an area where I would like to do more work and be an integral part of nurturing future generations.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
I think it’s important to continue giving a spotlight to how the participation of women and girls have changed the world we live in. Education is important for all of us and it’s only by giving everyone an equal chance to develop the skills and talents we have that will a much richer world. Ironically, I believe its continuing to educate leaders, governments, businesses and large organisations about why gender parity is so important and the difference it will make in the world that will accelerate the pace of change.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
The only thing that defines who you are and how successful you will be is YOU. So, value every experience, good and bad, trust your instincts, think big, trust and believe in yourself because with that mindset, whatever you can perceive, the reality can be so much better than you ever imagined.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Right now, I am co-founding a new personal development business that I’m really excited about and will be launching later on this year. It fits in perfectly with my current business and is much more focused on helping people to achieve their lifestyle and business goals through community based education, coaching and physical products, guiding them step-by-step to achieving their ambitions.
My hope for the future is to make a global impact on equality, diversity and humanity as a whole. A big ambition, but I’ve learned that by thinking big, staying focused on the end goal and maintaining faith is what gets me to where I want to be. So, stay tuned!
WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.