Meet two inspiring women

I’d like to introduce you to two women who knew they wanted to be their own boss but more recently ‘made the leap’. So until not too long ago, they may have been in a very similar position to the one you’re in…

Meet Cleo Walters, founder of House of Cleo 

Photo by RÅN studio

I first came across Cleo on Instagram. She wrote this post about having had an idea to launch a business but thinking that as a single mum, no one would take her seriously.

Eventually, she found the confidence to make her dreams of running events – supper clubs and brunches – come true.

A few days later, she’d registered her business House of Cleo Ltd.

Now, she’s got that business up and running. Cleo is the perfect example of identifying a need to change her work-life balance – and just getting on with it.

She loves cooking and bringing women together so this made sense. I asked Cleo to share her tips for ‘making the leap’…

Be honest with yourself, be yourself

This can be a difficult process but you really need to be honest about what you actually want, how you’re going to get it and what your barriers might be. Try and get to the root causes of the narratives you tell yourself. For example, I had major hangups about asking for help because as a child I was told asking for help meant you were weak and people would take advantage of you. That translated into me doing everything – to the detriment of my health – which doesn’t serve me because if I’m unhealthy, I can’t work. Think about the things that make you feel good about yourself – whether that’s performing daily affirmations, wearing a certain outfit, dancing to a certain song, working out etc… build these into your life on a regular basis so that you can feel good about yourself more often than not. Add value to yourself so you can add value to others.

Draw from your own experience
Everything you need to get to where you want to go you already have within! When making a change that can impact your life, your mind can go into panic mode and throw up all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it, why you can’t do it. It will also keep you up at night replaying examples from your past that appear to validate these negative thoughts. IGNORE THEM! Draw on the experiences that showcase your versatility, knowledge, patience, management skills and anything else that will help you build your own business. If you feel you don’t have any skills, get some. Read books, listen to audiobooks, podcasts, read magazines, blogs and articles, build relationships with people already in the field you wish to work in. Familiarise yourself with the industry you wish to be a part of. Look how others are doing what you do and see how you can make that work for you. With knowledge comes confidence.

Find/create a support network
Building a business can be stressful and the people around you may not understand or support what you’re doing. This can be due to their own insecurities. So set boundaries and seek out people in business who you can talk to and build relationships with. There are some great Facebook groups out there with a high engagement rate – meaning people reply to your messages and if they can’t help, they’ll try to recommend someone who can. Doing it for the Kids and No Bull Business School are my favourite resources and really do leave me buzzing. Having a community of people I can go to any time of day and ask the questions that plague my mind really helps, it’s like having cheerleaders in your pocket. They let you know that what you’re going through is normal or they can advise on what is normal conduct in your industry, you can even go to the admin of the group and ask to post anonymously.

Meet Emma Merry: founder of Home Milk, interior design business

Emma was working as a creative producer at Selfridges but it was no longer doing it for her. She wanted to be closer to home, have more time with her school-aged son and to be her own boss. She had this idea for an interiors Instagram account, featuring one house per week – a post a day. She wasn’t sure where it would lead but it felt right. However, she was worried about quitting her job, leaving behind a decent income and her new venture not taking off. So she started by ‘dipping her toes’ in the freelance water….

“When making this big shift, money was a big concern. I thought leaving my permanent, full-time job at Selfridges entirely was too risky so requested I move to freelancing three days days a week. Remarkably they agreed. However I still felt like I wasn’t gaining enough momentum with Home Milk so eventually I grew a pair and left. I don’t regret it for a minute, the pressure of not having a permanent income is a big motivator for me. That may not work for some but I would say that once you make a bold decision it’s amazing how many doors open. I read that it’s ok to have fear, perfectly natural in fact… but do it anyway.”

I actually met Emma on the school run, as her son is in my daughter’s class. We’d walked past each other lots of time when they were at nursery but never spoken. When they got into the same reception class, we started talking more and Emma quickly started telling me about her business idea. We’d chat after dropping the kids. I loved how much energy she had for it all and that before she’d even launched, she was telling the world. This meant she immediately had me on-board and telling about people about what she was doing, too.

Emma has shared three tips for launching her freelance business:

I networked like a b*tch. In my spare time I met up with as many inspirational people as I could. They weren’t just random people, they were related in some way to what I was trying to achieve, which meant mega inspiration for me and hopefully not a waste of time for them. The nuggets of information and the encouragement I received from each person was transformational for my confidence. Also join as many online/offline communities as you can e.g. Mothers Meetings, AllBright Academy, Southwood Social Hub, Doing it for the Kids.

Goal setting
I’m a producer by trade, so mapping out a timeline is in my bones. I spent time looking at where I wanted to be, and mapping out the steps I’d need to take to get there. Seeing it laid out in clear stages helped it feel less scary and more achievable.

Telling absolutely everyone
I think of all the things this one has been the most effective. Tell absolutely everyone you meet that you are going to launch your own business. The act of telling everyone had two benefits: 1. You get lots of lovely encouragement and people telling you to do it. 2 . The next time you see these people they’ll ask you how you’re progressing with your project/business. The embarrassment of having nothing to tell is enough to spur you on to make some progress. Also, I tried to talk the idea UP with other people (and myself). Every time I spoke about Home Milk I spoke about it in fully fledged business terms, which helped in terms of external promotion but also worked incredibly well as an internal motivator and to visualise it as a business.