I Thought I Was Happy
I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, but when I was in a full-time job it paid for the bills and paid for my lifestyle; there wasn’t enough motivation to take the jump out of my comfort zone. After university, I went into retail, retail management and customer service. My favourite thing throughout all my jobs was helping people. My last employer was a small family business, and it gave me the opportunity to take on tasks across the company and not be confined solely to my role as Customer Service Manager. I thought I was happy, I thought I was challenged, I thought I was fulfilled.
In 2014 I went on maternity leave to have my son, expecting to go back to work. While I was on maternity leave the company went downhill; it went into administration and all staff were made redundant. At the time it was a shock, it was stressful, and to make it worse no one in the company had the decency to actually tell me what was happening, they simply stopped paying me. At this point, I couldn’t foresee that this was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
When the redundancy had sunk in, decisions needed to be made for the future. I had 3 choices; find a new job, be a stay at home mum or start my own business. I applied for one job, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to be a stay at home mum, I wanted to work. That left one choice. I started thinking about what I wanted to do – that took quite some time! Being addicted to To-Do lists, naturally organised and able to put my hand to most things, I was guided down the VA route. It felt right.
Settling Into A New Role
I’d decided that I wanted to be a VA, and then started the research into opportunities and local competition. It was then that I came across the Pink Spaghetti website, and I saw that they had franchise opportunities – that’s where my VA story started. I am cautious by nature, so there was more research, deliberations and conversations with my husband about the future. I applied, went through an interview process and knew as soon as I was offered the franchise that the answer would be yes! And then came the hard work...
I chose to buy a franchise as I wanted the support and the established business model. Looking back I think I went in a bit naively, but I didn’t know then what I didn’t know. I have never been afraid of hard work and always go the extra mile, but there were unexpected challenges, things I didn’t know to expect. These are the things that have made me more determined. I chose this route because it had the potential to fit around my family, to fit with the hours I wanted to work, and in reality that has turned out to be completely true. One of my first challenges was child care, and that took a while to be ironed out. My flexibility and discipline were tested, and at one point I had a timetable for the week so I could clearly see when I could fit work in.
Overcoming Challenges, and Loneliness
Loneliness was also a challenge to start with; no one tells you that working for yourself at home can be isolating. Business networking was my saviour. Getting out, meeting like-minded people and building relationships, all while I was pitching my business made a huge difference. I can’t recommend networking enough to any small business owners; I have made friends and business connections, and the majority of my clients come through networking. The first year was tough, satisfying but tough; it was a huge learning curve. There were ups, there were downs, and all my experiences have, good and bad, have made me stronger. Through the second year I have faced challenges, overcome obstacles and celebrated success.
Year one let me build a strong foundation, and in year two I built on that. At a recent company-wide conference, I won an award for the highest growth, year on year. A very proud moment, representing how far I have come on my journey as a small business owner. I have learnt a lot and evolved over the last 2 years, and each lesson has been invaluable. I do sometimes feel like I work more than when I was employed, but every minute of it is for me and my family, not an unappreciative boss! An unexpected but fabulous side effect of being self- employed is that it has brought out my “Go-Getter” side; a resourcefulness and tenacity has been uncovered. I have really pushed myself. On the personal side I have taken up running, and now run 5K races for fun, this girl really can! On the professional side, I identified that the networking opportunities in the very local vicinity were limited; to combat this I have started my own networking group that fills a gap. My business will continue evolving, and I’m looking forward to the journey
Learn more about Ann and her business here!
- From Redundancy to Resourcefulness: Ann Little’s Story - April 12, 2017