Inspirational Woman: Sara Hill | Founder of TreatNOW

sara hillI had an ‘eventful’ early family life, adoption, bullying, divorce, bankruptcy, eviction…all before I was 16. It resulted in me leaving my Coventry Comprehensive school with 5 O-levels and 1 A-level. It’s made me very independent, resourceful and actually rather optimistic. I’m living proof that if you put your mind to it you can achieve success. I escaped to Wales and then after a year in America, I moved to London and in time, worked my way up to be one of the top sales directors in the UK Television Post Production industry. Then, last year, I left it all behind to start from scratch again. This summer I launched my Startup – TreatNOW is the new way to book last minute health and beauty appointments with highly curated salons, spas and therapists, in real time.

You have gone from a hugely successful career in television to stepping off that ladder and taking a completely different path. What inspired you to start?

I was earning a six figure salary, with a great expense account. I was the commercial director of a large international post-production company and worked closely with our offices in India and New York. My team had just won an Emmy and we went to LA to collect it together. I had loved my job for many years and devoted long hours to it, but I needed new challenges. I realised, underneath it all, I was bored.

I started working with a life coach and began to reconnect with my passions and discover new ones. I started attending talks at Google Campus, I was shortlisted for a big job at Twitter, I had 5 interviews and got down to the last two. I was distraught when I didn’t get it. I started applying for other jobs, but I was generally deemed too senior to switch roles. I had transferable skills in spades, but even if I went for lower paid jobs to gain experience, I was told I was too experienced. Catch 22. I’d been fascinated by apps for a while and decided to take a “how to build an app” course with the fantastic Decoded, set up by Katherine Parsons.

Then one day I was sitting at my desk with a very sore shoulder and I had a lunch meeting cancel. We’d all been working flat out on a big TV series for months. I suddenly had a 2 hour gap in my diary before my next meeting. Right I thought, how do I find an osteopath or a sports masseur who’s really good and available right now?

This was July 2013, there were no apps that did this and even desktop sites only did next day. Even then everything was low-end discounted deals, my time and my body are precious. I was frustrated, how do you find the good people? I suddenly had an epiphany, everything came together and I instinctively knew how solve the problem and in that moment TreatNOW was born.

I often travel to Europe and America for conferences and the first thing I’d do when I arrived was get a massage, blow dry and manicure. I’d spend ages trying to find reputable places. I instantly knew this service could help improve the health and wellbeing of busy people – and businesses.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

There’s never enough hours in the day! Running a startup takes over your life. I wake up and think;  who do I need to be this morning? The product manager, head of marketing, sales director, FD, PR, strategy consultant? – I used to have departments for all of these.

The greatest reward is freedom of choice. Freedom to fail, freedom to try things, freedom to succeed. I can choose my own schedule, choose who I work with, choose to help who I want to, when I want to. Choose the values I want my company to embody. My motto is: Help who you can, when you can, treasure your memories and look forward.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

These last two years have been a huge learning curve. My knowledge has grown, yet the old adage ‘the more you learn the more you know you don’t know’, rings true. I would advise learning enough to get by, focus on what you can do really well and delegate everything else. There’s a huge freelance outsourcing market out there with some great talent. Setting KPI targets is really important and helps keep you focused, but be prepared to change them too. Starting small means your advantage is that you can be flexible.

Everything takes much longer than you think it’s going to, I’m desperately impatient and it can be frustrating. It’s important to start each day by recognising what you achieved yesterday, last week, last month, last year. Don’t just focus on what you haven’t done yet.

Also you can’t do everything all at once, so write a list and decide what you will focus on this month, this week, this day. Shaa Wasamund gave me some great advice: every morning think “what is the most important thing I can do today to move my business forward?” It helps to focus the mind.

Every day you will progress in some way. I’m incredibly determined so if there’s a setback, I try to see what it’s taught me. What did I learn from that? What aspect didn’t work? Was it the message? The method? The context? The audience? The timing? What could I do differently next time? How can it be better? Knowledge is power.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

I would always recommend coaching and mentoring

I’ve had 3 coaches in the last ten years and it’s completely changed my life. Each has a different style and was right for that time.

Sue Ingham, author of recently published, How To Fire Well, started me off on a path of self-discovery. I was coming up to a landmark birthday – what did I want to do with the next decade of my life? What on earth was I interested in? I shall always thank her for introducing me to Wired Magazine, still the highlight of my month. My inner geek was delighted! Within 3 months I had a better job, with a better company and a £20k pay rise.

Next was Nicola Bunting, author of “Who Do You Want To Be?” – five years down the line I needed new challenges. She came out with a great quote “Sometimes you get to the top of your career ladder and you realise it’s against the wrong wall”. It resonated. Hers was a very different style of coaching, I had strict homework and a very defined structure to follow. I didn’t like it at all at first. But after a couple of months it clicked. I needed to go through this process, I was changing my preconceptions of myself deep down.

Now I’m part of a monthly coaching circle run by Shelley Whitehead. In a wonderful twist, the first day I turned up, who was there but my very first coach Sue Ingham! There’s 5 of us and we’ve been meeting for an afternoon once a month for 11 months now.

We’ve laughed and cried together, we help each other and have all become great friends. We all run businesses and having that structured support is invaluable. It’s great to have completely unbiased advice from people that know you so well, yet are outside your normal circle, with no hidden agenda. They just want the best for you and will also be honest.

Shelley is opening a new circle in November.

Mentoring

I also had the benefit of giving and receiving mentoring. I’ve had many mentors at different stages in my life It’s great to have people with no vested interest to bounce ideas around with. I was thinking of doing an MBA, but in the end we decided I’d learn just as much if not more, by setting up a business.

Then I was invited to be a mentor to the students at one of the Peter Jones Academies. It was a privilege to be trusted with these young hopes and aspirations. I hope they find it helpful, I certainly learn a lot from them. You gain so much from listening to their ideas and enthusiasm and it also helps you learn more about yourself. You discover new passions and start to believe, like them, that anything is possible – with the right plan and analytics.

Through this I met another mentor who ended up being my first angel investor 18 months later.

It gets harder as you gain more experience and need to seek out yet more experienced mentors who are where you want to be in a few years time.

Successful people are busy, they have less spare time and don’t really need to network. They have PAs and armies of people around them, so they are harder to bump into.

My dream mentors would be Natalie Massenet or Eileen Burbidge MBE. I have a huge amount of respect for their achievements and I’ve also heard they are also very nice people.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

I’m fascinated by people and I’m quite sociable, so I’ve always loved networking. However after working in television for over 20 years, apart from a few friends, all I knew were TV people. Who generally thought I was quite bonkers for quitting to do something new!

The night before I resigned from my job of 7 years, purely by chance I went to a talk about how to finance your start up hosted by Shaa Wasamund MBE of Smarta. I’d never even heard of her or Smarta. 2 weeks later I spent 3 nights in a converted Barn in Kent with 18 other business women taking part in her third One Retreat.

It changed my life, not only did I have a practical and tested framework of a plan to develop my business, I had an instant network of incredible entrepreneurs. It’s was tough, we laughed and cried and worked hard, discussing practical ideas and getting rid of preconceptions. I think it gave me a head start of at least 6 months.

I’m still close friends with a number of those women, the network has grown and we all continue support each other. It’s also reverberated out, as we have all introduced each other to other people, other networks, formed new friendships and alliances. I was introduced to the Women in Business Network last year, I go to Blooming Founder events, Girls in Tech, Tablecrowd, The Pause and I now have many friends and supporters. There is so much support out there for women.

I’m a member of the Soho House Group, which has been a huge help, great workshops and it’s super helpful to have a series of nice places to work from and hold meetings in all over London. Then there’s the amazing Three Beards organisation, who have done so much to build a close community of entrepreneurs helping each other, learning, drinking beer, eating burritos, celebrating and commiserating and generally having a laugh together at; Silicondrinkabout, Don’t Pitch Me Bro, Chew The Fat, hackathons. Then there’s Demo night at Techhub, great talks at Innovation Warehouse, the British Library, Enterprise Nation, Second Home, We Work and a hundred other meet up groups, bringing like-minded people together. Bit by bit you find your tribe.

I threw myself into it all at first, I’ve cut back a lot now as now my business is running it takes up most of my time and energy. But I wouldn’t be here without that huge amount of support and connections and we can reach out to each other when I need them or someone needs me.

I’ve met so many fantastic and supportive people, some of which have become part of my team – far too many to name here. I wouldn’t want to miss anyone out!

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

What does success look like for you? What kind of life you want to live, visualise how you want to spend your working days. Where? Who with? What kind of business will suit your lifestyle? City? Countryside? Commuterbelt? Globe trotter? Family? Party animal?

I’m ambitious, I knew from the start that I want TreatNOW to be a large global company. I’ve planned for it to be multilingual, I’ve made sure the payment structure is scaleable. I’ve brought in experts like Julian North who has experience of building a backend that can grow and evolve and I’ve got some great advisors. More are always welcome! I’ve got a plan for the first 3 years, broken down into achievable steps.

How important is looking after yourself in creating your own success?

Be kind to yourself. We all have our “why did I ever think I could do this… ?” moments. If you’ve had a disappointment take time out, do something different. Go for a run or a swim, go to an art gallery, walk in the hills, draw, paint, go out dancing, listen to loud music, drink wine with a friend. Hug someone, help someone. Get some perspective, don’t beat yourself up too much. Find a way around it. That didn’t work, so what’s next?

The same when things go right, celebrate each small triumph, ring a bell, whoop a bit, tell someone, tell everyone! Create a triumph list, stick them on your wall or in your Evernote and look at them frequently to remind yourself you actually are quite good at some stuff! Then step back and reflect: great that worked, why did it work? What can I learn from it? So what’s next?

What does the future hold for you?

The next stage is raising a significant investment round. Brand new territory for me, I’m partly excited and partly terrified. I know it’s going to be a lot of work and it doubtless will be a roller coaster ride. Finding the right people to work with is the most important thing of all.

In a few years time, TreatNOW will be in every major city. Excellence and expertise will be valued and people will look and feel better all over the world.

Alison Simpson
About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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3 Responses
  1. Avatar
    Chari Espino

    Very inspiring! Congratulations Sara and it is an honor to have met and worked with you.

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