Setting up a business whilst pregnant | Sara’s journey

Sara Lou-Ann Jones, setting up a businessFor many mothers-to-be, pregnancy is a time to relax, take things easy and to prepare for the arrival of your little one.

But for me, much of my pregnancy was spent creating marketing strategies, answering customer calls, and hiring freelancers all whilst panicking about the arrival of my baby.

I founded the Centre of Excellence in 2013 after doing classroom-based NLP & Hypnotherapy training which I had taught for 4 years and the same time I had also come out of a long-term relationship of six years and as we went our separate ways, I found out that I was pregnant. When I told my ex-partner, he decided he didn’t want to be involved in our child’s life and so I started thinking about how I could support myself and a baby on my own. At that point, all I knew was that I wanted to create the best life that I could for my child. Considering that at the time I had been teaching classroom-based courses, I was always away from home a lot so I decided I need a position that allowed me to work at home, and allowed me flexibility so that I could spend as much time as possible with my baby. This is where the idea for running online courses came from and hence Centre of Excellence was born.

Initially, I started off selling just the 1 course which was a course on Neuro Linguistic Programming. It was one of the most stressful times I went through as not only was I feeling constantly sick and tired with being pregnant, my ex-partner was being nasty as he didn’t want me to have my baby. At the same time, I was worried about what the future would hold, and working hard online trying to grow the business to make money in order to pay the bills. My landlord at the time decided he wanted to sell the rented accommodation where we were living in and the growing realisation finally hit me that I would need a home for me and my baby to live. I applied for a mortgage everywhere, but no one would accept me, in the end I just thought that if nobody would give me a mortgage I would set myself a goal of £250,000 to buy a house outright.

In the early days of my business I had no help as my mother was a midwife, so she worked most nights and slept during the day. I also had no investment or funding behind me at the time, so I had to use a lot of my own money. When my baby came along, I first started out answering the phone to a customer while breast feeding the baby on one breast and expressing milk on another. When my son was very young I would set up a mini baby assault course round the room including things like a baby gym and a swing, and different toys that would keep him entertained. I would move him round every 20 minutes on to the different baby entertainment mats to keep him occupied while I worked on the settee next to him.

I did everything I could think of to get my business out there including advertising on daily deal websites such as Groupon and Amazon Daily Deals which didn’t cost anything – they just took a commission from anything that sold. After seeing how successful it could be, I then started working with all the other daily deal websites in the UK. I was the first person/business on the daily deal websites to sell any type of online course and I saw a huge opportunity. With the money that I started making from selling my first course I then reinvested in having more courses made and the business began to grow. I used websites such as Upwork.com and Peopleperhour.com to find writers and freelancers for all sorts of work that I needed doing such as image design for courses, graphics and memes to use on social media, research tasks like creating a list of all the deal sites in the English-speaking countries with a complete set of contact details. It was great to use freelancers to help with all of the time-consuming jobs so that I could concentrate on all of the ideas and actually growing the business. Slowly Centre of Excellence went from 1 course to 200 within a year. The freelancers helped out with all of the tasks that needed to be done in order to make the growth and scaling up vision a reality.

In those 12 months, not only had I kickstarted my business and was growing rapidly, I had also exceeded my goal of saving £250,000 and instead saved £280,000 to buy a house which me and my son moved into just in time for Christmas. Since then, Centre of Excellence has grown rapidly, we now hire 16 full-time staff, supply over 1,000 courses to 30 different countries and have just reached £3 million in turnover.

About The Author

Sara Lou-Ann Jones is the founder of Centre of Excellence, a leading global e-learning platform which offers a range of online transformative training courses that are accessible to all. The Centre of Excellence is recognised worldwide as one of the leading online training providers, with hundreds of thousands of learners, in over 30 countries, having gained vital skills and qualifications online through Centre of Excellence.

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