Mum Turns Life Around and Supports Other Mums with Worklife Balance
Suzannah Butcher is a mum of two and founder of Work for Mums. She made a brave decision in her mid-thirties to step away from the security of an employed role and take her career, and income, into her own hands with the creation of her entrepreneurial web start-up.
With two children aged 10 and 8, and supporting a husband, Suzannah has a busy family life, full of commitments, but is driven by the desire to take control of her life and also make a difference for others.
She explained: “I felt that in order to do something more fulfilling I'd need to start out on my own. Career wise I've always been drawn to roles where I could help others in some way, so I seized the opportunity to do this online via my website therefore creating a better work/life balance at the same time.”
There are many challenges that come with running an online business. The very nature of it means it’s essential to keep up with the latest software, technology, SEO strategies, social media trends to name just a few. Suzannah does feel the pressure of this, but to help overcome any sense of overwhelm or fear, she proactively seeks out ways to streamline her business and develop and often undertakes training to help keep her abreast of the latest developments. She is the first to admit that she can't do everything herself and employs other mums to help (helping them achieve a work life balance too!).
Suzannah set up the business from scratch and put a huge amount of effort into blogging, content creation, building a social media following and all the other background “nuts and bolts” as she calls that it takes to run a business. She has worked hard to get to where she is, having attended a start-up course in her local area in the early days, she can now be proud that from nothing, her website is now appearing in the online ‘holy grail’ page 1 of Google, ranked for many search terms related to her industry.
Aside from her business one of her other biggest challenges is her husband's health problems as he has the life-limiting condition, Cystic Fibrosis, which means he lives with a rigid daily medical routine. He's often quite unwell and needs to go into hospital, so Suzannah of course steps back and takes time off to care for him. Suzannah views this as another key reason why creating her own lifestyle business suits her family so much, as she is able to manage her business around their needs.
One of the main driving forces Suzannah recognises as a key factor in her career is a desire to prove to her children that they can do anything they set their mind to, but also that failure isn't a bad thing as long as you learn from it, and that they should never give up on their dreams.
Suzannah’s ambition for Work for Mums is for it to be seen as a leader in return to work resources for parents as well as continuing to help people back into the workplace or start a business. She is currently developing online business training, sharing everything she has herself learnt and she’s excited about developing business awards that are in the pipeline to recognise amazing people making a difference.
When asked why she would like to win this award Suzannah said: “I feel as though I have come through so much in my life; from humble beginnings in a council house, an alcoholic father, homelessness, factory jobs through to now where I have my own beautiful family and am running my own business. I never would have dreamt it would be possible to achieve this and if I can inspire just one person to do the same, it would be well worth it.”
Rebecca Fights Illness & Switches Roles to Help Business ‘Punch Above Its Weight’
Becky was nominated by her employer for Young Achiever of the Year, and they credit her with playing a key role in helping the business double in size over the last 4 years.
It could have been that Becky left the business, when her first role there as trainee recruitment consultant didn’t work out, but the directors recognised her creative and organisational skills, and identified her as a valuable asset to the business. They didn’t want to lose her from the team and instead they created a new role within the business and Becky is now thriving as a Personal Assistant, a role she didn’t know she wanted, and hadn’t imagined she’d be good at, but it suits her down to the ground.
Craig explains some of the challenges Becky has faced: “Battling with illness Becky never completed secondary school, leaving with no qualifications, and some 9 years later she still battles with the demons of depression which can affect her confidence but she refuses to let it beat her and her can do attitude along with her healthy living and approach to keeping an active mind help her fight against this.”
Becky completed PA training with Pitman, and struggled with some elements due to her dyslexia, but with support of the team, and her dogged determination to practice, practice, practice until she mastered it, she passed and conquered new skills.
Despite her confidence issues Becky is the first to offer help and support to any new starters at the business and goes out of her way to help them settle in. She also is the lynchpin organising all the team’s corporate events and team building exercises, showing huge initiative and skill in co-ordinating multiple elements, and negotiating deals with suppliers. Craig delighted in telling us of her commitment to ensuring the success of their biggest ever Christmas party, which Becky took great care to organise and carried on doing so whilst on annual leave, 5,000 miles away in Las Vegas!
Craig concludes: “As a team we truly value Becky’s methodical organisational skills. It’s all very well winning lots of new sales, but our service has to be delivered seamlessly, at a higher quality to that of our competitors. Thanks to Becky’s attention to detail, and creative flair, we have been able to ‘punch above our weight in the industry”.
Socially Connected PA Opening New Doors
Jennifer relocated to the UK 14 years ago and made the decision to change career completely and focus her efforts on becoming a PA. Her efforts have been rewarded as Jennifer has really been making her mark in the PA industry in the last 12 months.
Having held EA and PA roles since her arrival in the UK, Jennifer now holds the position of Office Manager of London Ship Finance at Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank where she has worked since 2005. As well as her Office Management responsibilities, Jennifer is also the EA to both the London and Global Heads of Ship Finance.
Prior to moving to the UK Jennifer worked in a number of different countries including Ireland, Australia and Belgium and learnt to embrace the change such relocations bring and enjoyed learning different cultures and meeting new people. On arrival in the UK she made a concerted effort to join several PA networking associations to move her career forward and progress. That drive to connect and meet like-minded people have been at the core of her success. She was awarded the title of Networked PA at The London PA Awards 2015.
After recognising the important part social media plays within the PA profession, Jennifer decided to take some formal social media training so that she could ensure she stayed truly connected and current with the developments in the industry. Her passion for all things social grew even further when she set up her own LinkedIn group and started her PA blog. Her blogging has resulted in invitations to guest blog on industry PA sites such as Practically Perfect PA, SecsintheCity and the Global PA Association to name just a few. She continues to push herself into the spotlight further and has contributed to publications such as Executive PA Magazine, EUMA proActive Magazine and PA Life Magazine.
Her efforts to champion the PA profession have also been recognised by EUMA which is a long-established not-for-profit, member-led professional network of senior professional Personal Assistants and administrative support staff. In 2015, Jennifer was proud to have been elected as the Public Relations Officer for EUMA UK.
All this, on top of her day-to-day role!
In the past few months Jennifer has had to slow down slightly after having surgery on her back but, thanks to her social media community, she has stayed connected and immersed in the PA world.
When asked what her hopes for the future are, Jennifer said “I would like to think that I will continue to blog and connect with Assistants around the globe. Thanks to social media, I now feel part of a wider global family and I believe that together we can actively champion the PA role.” She continued “One of my goals is to convince more Assistants to toot their own horns a bit more.”
Jennifer’s husband who also put her forward for the award said “Jennifer really amazed me with all that she achieved in 2015. She always strives for excellence and likes to make a difference and help people. She is a big fan of continued personal development and her social media training has opened up a new world to her.”
Ambition and Innovation Drives Success
After having her daughter, Sam was looking to return to her Project Manager role on a flexible working basis. Unfortunately her employer quickly closed that avenue so Sam decided to resign from her position and set out to create her own opportunities and build a flexible career that would suit her needs.
Sam’s business idea came about when looking at what family activities were going on in and around her local area to keep her then toddler entertained. She quickly realised there wasn’t a central point of reference that listed all the classes and activities going on in one ‘go-to’ place and saw a gap in the market for an online directory style listing, the business ‘What’s on 4 Little Ones’ was born.
That initial business concept was put in action ten years ago in 2006. Today, with Sam still at the helm being Managing Director, ‘What’s On 4’ is now franchised worldwide with a million visitors a year and thousands of attendees to live events.
Not one to sit back, Sam’s desire to lead and influence in her sector has led to the creation of the Children’s Activities Association, a not-for-profit community interest company bringing together a founding team of experts to put in place standards for organised children’s activities – a first in the UK. This has proved a major challenge in which Sam has had to utilise every aspect of her leadership and influencing skills to see it come to fruition. Now, just 6 months since launching, already 180,000 parents every week attend a CAA member activity with their children.
Sam openly admits one of her main motivations in the early days was to prove to her previous employer that they had been crazy to let her go! Now though, her own personal drive to achieve more and prove to herself that she can make things happen. She fully credits her business partner Suzanne Borrell, non-exec Mike Dodd and the wider team for their support, counsel and belief.
As for her future ambitions; Sam is hoping to hand ‘What’s On 4’ over to the next team who can continue to drive the business even further and with the Children’s Activities Association, she is staying on track with her original goals and aims to provide grants so that all children have the opportunity to experience the wonderful children’s activities there are available.
Sam says: “My approach is to find the supporters, focus on the positive and be persistent. I hope I have demonstrated that I am a true entrepreneur, making ideas happen, delivering commercial success” she continued “My achievements have been made through belief, drive, hardwork and sacrifice, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am thankful that my past employer couldn’t see my potential and didn’t offer me that flexible job. Instead I’ve had the most amazing 10 years, full of experiences and people that I’ve loved more than I’ve been infuriated by. I hope that this award will mean others hear my story and I can inspire more people”
Life Changes Drive New Challenges for Chad
Chad is currently working full-time as an electrician. Put that together with a busy family life having four children whilst also trying to set up and launch a new business, you’d think Chad wouldn’t have any time left over for training!
Chad has been put forward for this award by Pitman Training Bristol where he has been studying for his Web Design Specialist Diploma. It’s an important point to note that prior to his training, Chad had no previous IT or Web Design knowledge, but Chad is not one to have let that hold him back.
Driven by the sudden loss of his father and wanting to achieve something special and fulfilling for himself and his family, Chad has set about achieving his mission of launching his new homemade pasta and sauces business.
With his new business, came the need to gain a good level of online IT skills. Chad has been working his way through his diploma and successfully passed all the modules he’s completed so far first time. He has been proactive in trying to apply the knowledge learnt in his diploma by designing websites for his new venture and his wife’s hairdressing business to help reinforce his new skills.
Chad has fully committed to learning and approaches his training and any challenges head on, with a positive, forward thinking outlook. He’s driving his new venture right from the concept, product creation, testing and then pushing the end product out to market. Having spent time away on residential pasta making courses in Italy whilst also gaining industry Food Hygiene certifications, Chad is challenging himself to the max and remaining focussed on his ultimate vision of being in a job he loves which will experience growth and success.
Chads family are the driving force behind his efforts, and they regularly attend street markets and food events to build and promote his company reputation. His desire is to show his family that hard work and not letting any obstacle hold you back will make your dreams come true.
The Course Advisor at Pitman Training Bristol commented “I feel Chad’s positive approach, personal commitment, passion and desire to succeed highlights a true Pitman Training Student of the Year.”