Can you tell us a bit about you and your career
I worked in recruitment after graduating for 15 years, after my second child I decided to embark on a change in career and started working in the charity sector as a fundraiser. I currently still work for a domestic abuse charity alongside running my social enterprise Freedom Foundation which I set up with my friend and business partner Stacey Green in 2017.
The business was born out of a passion that Stacey and I have for using our experience to help shape children’s future. Stacey and I met at 13 when we were given the opportunity to follow a dream of becoming an actor at the TV workshop, it was an outlet for us, a place we felt safe to explore ourselves and a time in our lives that helped us believe we could be anything we wanted to be (there’s a song about that!). We took the plunge to approach children’s mental health, and particularly those arising from social media. We help children explore how to build positive mental wellbeing using the creative arts.
Freedom Foundation run programmes in schools and community settings using music and dance as a platform to educate children and young people to become confident, resilient and believe in themselves. As our business started to develop in July 2018 my husband was diagnosed with cancer and passed away 3 weeks before his 40th birthday in January 2019 leaving me as a young widow, a sole parent for 2 young girls and with a decision to make about my future.
Stacey and I decided to work hard to build our dream and we are now starting to see the success from our hard work. The coronavirus epidemic may be an opportunity for our business as we look to see how we can reach more children through digital learning and we are looking forward to continuing to build on our success over the last year.
What does a “typical” day look like?
I am a planner, lists, trello boards, red and blacks and planners galore so I always plan my day the night before (sometimes a little bit to the minute). I tend to get up early and have a cuddle with my cavapoo Charlie before doing an hour or so work before the girls get up. If I have a bit of time I will do some yoga or mindfulness to help me face the day in a positive way.
Once the children are fed and off to school my day is normally full of meetings to build relationships, talking to our teachers to make sure they have what they need for upcoming sessions. As a social enterprise we are funded for some of our work and I will need to submit detailed reports. We work with a number of volunteers so I will make sure that they have everything that they need.
I love going out for a walk at some point in the day and normally before this I will rewrite my list! My girls are busy dancers so I will be running them back and forth from their dance school making sure they have been fed and got their ballet shoes! I’ll sometimes try to squeeze in a bit more work (and do my list for the next day!) before preparing dinner for their return and doing some house chores. We try to have a little bit of time together after dinner and then as a fall into bed I will always read to try and switch off.
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
The challenges have been huge. I am quite a resilient person (you have to be to work in recruitment!) so I can take knock backs but this last three years have been really tough. When we first started people said to us ‘it takes three years to build a business’ and we thought ‘it won’t take us three years. It was nearly three years to the day that we first paid ourselves a salary.
Getting ourselves heard and understood has been the biggest challenge because we use music and dance as a platform schools don’t have the time to hear the rest of the story and why we are different so that is the biggest challenge.
The challenges have been juggling our passion and ambition for the business alongside daily life, still working for the charity, which is something I love and provides me some income, aswell as running a home yet wanting to give everything to my work. Obviously my husbands illness and passing has been a challenge to come through personally and professionally.
‘Don’t look behind you, you’re not going that way’
How did you overcome those setbacks?
I have just kept going and believed in myself, Stacey and what we can create. It has been really hard to get back up sometimes and I allow myself off days and down days. The good thing about being in a partnership is that we don’t tend to have off days together so we can pick each other up. I’m a quote lover so I tend to look for inspiration through this, one of my favourites is ‘Don’t look behind you, you’re not going that way’
Young women need to see that there is a pathway to success for them
What’s great about being a female in your role?
For me one of the biggest things is showing others that we can enjoy success as a working parent. Young women need to see that there is a pathway to success for them and I’d like to think that I can show people it is o.k to have fun along the way.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
Don’t feel guilty – there is a lot of pressure on us as working women and we’ve got to learn to not put additional pressure on ourselves. I have learnt to not feel guilty about the decisions I have made whether that be a small one about choosing to finish an email instead of watching a programme with my daughter or a large one about choosing to go back to full time work. I believe we make the best decisions at the time for us and our families – we are tuned to do that and that is therefore always the right thing so don’t feel guilty.
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
Work hard, play hard
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
In 2015 I had the pleasure of working with Judy Naake, who is the lady responsible for bringing St Tropez to the Uk. A true entrepreneur, lovely lady and as a hugely successful and wealthy business women remains very down to earth. I learnt a huge amount from her but one of the main things is to take opportunities and build your own path and that is what I am doing!
If we change ones persons future, it has been worth it
What are your key motivators?
To drive a change for people. That’s why I started working in the charity sector. I believe even if we change ones persons future for the better then it has been worth it.
Work hard and stay true to yourself
What advice do you have for women in their careers?
Work hard, good things come if you work hard and stay true to yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or who you think you should be. If you work hard and stay true I really believe the opportunities come.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Listen. Sometimes a leader we are so busy and need to get an outcome from a meeting, a conversation, an update with a member of staff but sometimes they just need to talk and you just need to listen. People want to tell you things, share what they think is important and have their own focus. I can’t promise I always do this but I do try.
For more inspiring stories from the fantastic #YesSheCan organisation click here.