Inspirational Woman: Jennie Bayliss | Founder of J Bayliss Consulting

I have run my businesses for over 10 years. I would say I am the typical entrepreneur – I have more ideas than I know what to do with and I am always looking for new opportunities to get involved with.

My choices in life haven’t always been by design. Fortunately for me, I had my children when I was young and that has been beneficial since starting in business on my own. I don’t ever remember thinking having my first child at 19 was a disadvantage but I always found myself having to justify it which wasn’t great. But in the longer term, I have benefited. I found having small children much more challenging than the independent teenage years and this helped me when I was working flat out to build a business. It allowed me time to explore different pathways, make mistakes, work ugly hours, and not have to worry about dinner, bath, or bedtime.

Before I became my own boss, I had worked in a wide range of corporate and public sector environments, watching how the different businesses were run and working out what mattered to me. I felt frustrated in environments where I couldn’t make a difference and knew that I wanted to build a business that delivered more than just profit and gave me time to volunteer. I hated the constraints of public sector methodologies, but I understood them, so knew I could find ways of working across all types of organisations.

One of the ways I would describe myself is commitment. I tend to go all in once I find something I believe in and want to be a part of. I guess others may describe it as obsessive but, either way, I don’t think that it is such a bad thing to be focused and driven to achieve something you believe in. I thrive on having lots going on, which is just as well with two businesses, three dogs and a house full of people all over 21 years old.

My two current businesses are poles apart in offering but based on the same values of people first, product or service second. Which is great for the customer, the team and the company.

My project management company specialises in telecom and tech programmes and has helped to deliver over £100m of social value into London. We now run a wide range of tech projects with a human focus – projects that give something back as well as provide flexible employment for our team. People-focused is part of our strapline and the golden thread of our company.

This summer, I acquired another business. As a family we felt we wanted to do something together we could all be a part of. After several months of looking, Letterbox Cocktails came up and it felt like the right fit for us. We could see how this business could also be very people-focused – providing excellent customer service with the highest quality products to ensure a first-class customer journey.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I can’t say I ever sat down and meticulously planned out any of my career from start to finish. Instead, I’ve always been open to opportunities and followed my interests and passions. The world is not just about what you know or who you know, but about who knows you. You could be the best in your industry but if nobody has heard of you then you are not going to get very far.

I believe in taking a proactive approach to my career by continuously learning, adapting, and seizing opportunities as they come. Self-development is a constant for me. While at times I’ve had a general direction in mind, my path has been more shaped by experiences, mentors, and unexpected opportunities along the way. Staying flexible and open-minded has been key to navigating my career journey effectively and enabled me to be part of some very exciting things that I could never have sat down and planned for.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Life and business have rarely been smooth sailing. Along the way, I’ve encountered my fair share of challenges, and I could probably tick the box for all of the top 10 challenge categories, some several times over. Whether it was dealing with unexpected setbacks, no money, divorce, grief, loss, child-related drama, navigating through periods of uncertainty, or facing tough decisions, challenges have been (and continue to be) a constant companion.

Both businesses have faced similar starting challenges – learning something new, building the right team, ongoing brand development, building the customer base, problem-solving, and poor cash flow. Most challenges continue with new challenges thrown in – failing partners, poor-quality products, and changes in the tech investment landscape.

Nothing is easy or simple but it’s in our response that we find ourselves growing and improving and overcoming the problems. They’ve pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, develop resilience, and refine my problem-solving skills.

I have also learnt to ask for help. When the team need to be paid and there is no money in the bank, sometimes you have to swallow your pride and ask for a loan to get through to the next month. I think money is one of the most emotive challenges in business and can be the make or break for some companies. There can be a shame attached to money difficulties, but most entrepreneurs and start-ups have experienced some kind of money challenge along the way. When your back is against the wall, you will make better decisions to ensure your survival.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Pinning down my biggest achievement to date is a tough one because success comes in many forms and is super subjective. For business achievements, I have won national awards and worked globally in my first business. I have set up two more businesses since then and also bought a business.

Outside of business, I do several voluntary roles and these all come with huge achievements attached as they have the greatest impact on others. As a secondary school business mentor, I have mentored many children through their final school years and helped them to see beyond the exams and to believe in themselves and their ambitions. I have run several charity projects, and I am now the Chair of a Board of Trustees for a local charity. I also set up and ran the charity’s Baby Bank, helping over 1,000 families in our first year. I also sit on several advisory boards and mentor new businesses through their early months.

And I have two fabulous daughters who are also making their way in the world. Both my girls are now in their twenties.  They still want to spend time with me as a choice, not as a have-to. For me, the fact that they choose to share their time with me and want to still be a part of my world is probably my greatest success.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I think the main factor in my success is self-belief. I have never not believed that I can do something. Pretty much everything can be learnt so if I want to achieve it then I just believe that I can and set out to do it. Self-belief is foundational to achieving goals, overcoming obstacles, and persisting through challenges. It’s our inner drive that propels us forward, even when faced with setbacks or doubts.

This is why I wanted to be a school mentor – as many children don’t have that self-belief – and all children deserve the best start to their adult lives possible.

Self-belief fosters resilience, determination, and a positive mindset, all of which are essential for navigating the complexities of life and achieving success. When you have confidence in your abilities and believe in your potential, you’re more likely to take risks, pursue opportunities, and persevere in the face of adversity.

And it is contagious. Self-belief often radiates outward, influencing how others perceive and interact with you, and giving you confidence that can inspire trust, collaboration, and leadership. This then helps with opening doors to new connections and opportunities.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I am a strong advocate for mentoring and believe in its transformative power for both mentor and mentee. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of both being a mentor and a mentee. As a mentor, I find great fulfilment in sharing my knowledge, experiences, and insights with others, and watching them grow and succeed. It’s incredibly rewarding to play a role in someone else’s journey. I mentor both school children and business owners – everyone can benefit from the support of a mentor.

Conversely, as a mentee, I have benefited immensely from the guidance, advice and support of mentors who have helped me navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and unlock my full potential. I have been able to grow my businesses with this support and also get through some pretty tough times.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a valuable dynamic that gives everyone the chance for growth, learning, and mutual respect. I believe in its power to empower individuals and shape the future of our businesses.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

If I could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for gender parity, it would be to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and equality in all spheres of society. This means everyone actively challenging stereotypes, biases, and systemic barriers that perpetuate gender inequality.

Education and awareness are key components of this cultural shift, as they can help dismantle ingrained beliefs and practices that contribute to gender disparities. Children also spend a lot of their young lives in school – so schools have a real responsibility here to shape young minds.

The school curriculum needs to pay more attention to the softer skills and offer more real-life-based education that looks beyond algebra and chemical equations and more around home financing and entrepreneurial skills.

Achieving gender parity requires collective action and a much broader commitment to creating a more equitable and inclusive world for everyone.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I could give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to embrace authenticity and to be myself, unapologetically. Too often, especially in our formative years, we find ourselves influenced by external expectations, societal norms, and the desire to fit in. We mould ourselves into who we think we should be, rather than embracing our true selves.

I would tell my younger self that the most fulfilling and meaningful path in life is one where you are truly your authentic self. It’s about embracing your quirks, passions, and unique qualities without fear of judgment or rejection. When you live authentically, you attract people and opportunities that resonate with your true essence, leading to genuine connections and fulfilling experiences. I was always scared, to be honest about what I liked and disliked and felt like I had to meet expectations rather than what I thought.

I would remind my younger self that it’s okay to be different, to have your own opinions, and to pursue your own dreams, even if they diverge from the expectations of others. In fact, it’s often those who dare to be themselves who make the greatest impact on the world.

Being true to yourself requires courage and vulnerability. It means standing firm in your values, expressing your thoughts and feelings authentically, and embracing both your strengths and vulnerabilities. It’s a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, but one that ultimately leads to a deeper sense of fulfilment and purpose.

So, to my younger self, I would say: Be yourself, not who you think you should be. Embrace your uniqueness, follow your heart, and trust that the right people and opportunities will come into your life when you stay true to who you are.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next business challenge is I want to build another business, probably from scratch and in a bricks-and-mortar environment which is new for me. Not giving too much away but it is much more of the ‘boring’ variety and one where I can test out automation and technology in a traditional shop-style business.

I will also be continuing to grow the existing businesses and building on their successes.

Personally, my biggest challenge will be moving house. This is pretty complex as it involves moving one daughter out into her first home, selling two houses and then moving into one new family home, a home which we have yet to find. Blending two families is a challenge in itself, finding a home to suit all of us will be pretty impossible. We have been in our current home for nearly 20 years, and it will be hard to say goodbye, but it is time for a new beginning, as a new family and in a new home.

Reflecting on all of this, I think 2024 could be one of our most challenging yet.

Read more about our inspirational women here.

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