Inspirational Woman: Ali Golds | MD of Operation Enterprise & The Juno Project

AliGolds1My name is Ali Golds and I am the MD of Operation Enterprise and The Juno Project

I am a serial entrepreneur, having run 5 businesses since 2000, and have also had my fair share of ups and downs – including losing my business, house, car and job when my marriage broke up in 2005, as well as a spell in a women’s refuge in 2009.

I left school at 16 with few qualifications, and returned to education twice in the intervening years, to study for an HND in Business and Finance Management and then a Postgraduate Certificate in Education in 2008-09 which led to me teaching Business and Management for two years, before I returned to entrepreneurship.

I found out when studying to become a lecturer that I am dyspraxic and dyscalulic, which explained my dismal school examination results and phobia of Mathematics – and allowed me to finally be proud of how much I have achieved academically, rather than ashamed of the fact that I saw myself as – and had been told over the years that I was – an educational failure.

I have the best job in the world working with budding students and particularly, female entrepreneurs; and my passion is developing start ups and the skills of their founders, to achieve economic viability and, ultimately, their dreams – whatever they may be.

I also speak about my journey, both as an entrepreneur and a single mum/survivor of childhood and adult abuse

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge to date, in terms of my business career, has been juggling my family commitments. When I became a single mum in 2005, I decided to set up my first business on my own a year later – purely because work and childcare were so difficult to get right. It was incredibly stressful, and I found myself physically pulling my hair out on occasion. There was also no holiday provision in my area, unless your child was sporty (which mine wasn’t) or you were only working from 10-12 (which I wasn’t!). I also have no family to rely on, so had no outside support from anyone either.

Even though my youngest son is now 15, childcare is still an issue. He doesn’t need a childminder of course but I still need to be aware of his needs – and the fact that he is on his own – when I am asked to attend meetings hundreds of miles away, or invited to late night events.

Turning them down is difficult, and I am sure not always the best thing for my businesses but my son comes, very firmly, first.

This has meant that my businesses have developed more slowly than they might otherwise, which I see as a good thing as it has enabled me to really seek out what they should be doing and establish them as reliable, and high quality, leaders in their field.

What’s been your greatest achievement personally?

Bringing up my family whilst battling through a very nasty marriage breakdown, and then supporting them – emotionally and financially – singlehandedly.

And coming through an episode of domestic abuse, which resulted in my going into a women’s refuge in 2009; but not letting it stop me achieve my goals.

In fact, it motivated me in no small part to set up The Juno Project, which works with women who want to set up their own businesses – particularly single mums who, I believe, demonstrate extraordinary entrepreneurial skills.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?

I can’t imagine not running a business, so I would probably be running an interiors shop (I have a passion for old houses and furniture) or a smallholding!

When I was young, I was incredibly musical; I played all sorts of instruments and sang. As a result I wanted to be a pop star.

I never quite made it but like to think that there may still be a chance….

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I am inspired, without doubt, by my two sons – who always motivate me to be bigger and better.

I am also inspired on a daily basis by the entrepreneurs that I work with. Quite frankly, you cannot fail to be motivated and encouraged to achieve your dreams when working with young people who see nothing as a barrier, and only want to do their best for their futures.

I am very, very lucky.

What does the future hold for you?

Well, the future is always a vision of positivity for me.

Given that I control it, I always want to make it the best I can.

In terms of my businesses, I have great plans to take Operation Enterprise across the rest of the UK over the next 2 years and then internationally in the next 3-5. I want to reach as many student entrepreneurs as I can.

The Juno Project is the same; my passion is in working with women of all ages, particularly those who have had a rough start to life like me, and my dream is to empower single mums in all parts of the world – particularly those in areas where they are shunned – to achieve economic independence through the work we do here in the UK.

Given my interest in the subject, I am currently writing a book for single mums who want to run their own businesses, which is full of case studies, hints and tips and lots of nuggets of start up information.

I hope that this will be the first of many books – I love to write!

And for me personally? I am still working towards my goal of providing financial and housing stability for my kids, having lost everything when my marriage broke down in 2005, so once I have achieved that I want to look at setting up a range of other businesses – including some female only projects.

I can’t ever see me stopping and settling, and my sons joke that I will take my last breaths in a business meeting.

I’ve realised that my life is a mission to improve the lives and prospects of others, and I won’t stop until I’ve achieved that – however long it takes.

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