Meeting the Prime Minister

“You have been invited to meet the Prime Minister next week!”

When the email hit my inbox I dropped my iPhone on my desk! (Luckily it did not break!) I like most twenty something’s in business have dreamed about going to Downing Street, having my picture taken against the back drop of THAT black door and meeting the leaders of our government, but I never really expected it to happen!

I mean if I am being honest my day job feels not very glamours at times, especially working in a fulfilment style environment with HGV’s and fork lift trucks coming in and out of our yard all day – it’s not exactly a plush office in a swanky glass tower! So I think I can be forgiven for not really appreciating the fact that my little business employs a team of people and supports many other businesses who supply us – and that actually that is very glamours and worth merit and celebration!

As some of you know I am a massive Sage One advocate and use the system to manage the entire finances of @SuperfoodMarket. I think it is so important for business owners to personally manage the finances and people involved in their businesses, especially in the early days when knowing what is coming in and out and who is doing what is so important.
XndZll5RI have worked with @SageUK on many different projects and pieces of content in the past, all of which has been aimed at encouraging and supporting individuals in business. So when Sage reached out and told me they were partnering the Start Up Britain tour travelling the length of Britain to encourage people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams I had to get involved!

Sage are one of the sponsors of the Start Up Britain tour, which is a government backed initiative funded by a range of support organisations from across the UK’s business support landscape. The bus tour kicked off in Downing Street yesterday and will be coming to a city near you in the coming weeks!

Make sure you make note of the date near you and put it in your calendar as you do not want to miss out on the amazing support available!

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And I couldn’t not include a picture of the bus! I mean common – its very impressive and British!

Side note – if you love old buses like this one make sure you check out the Sheffield Transport Museum and the Trans Pennine Bus Rally which takes place in Harrogate each year on the first weekend in August.

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The night before I met David Cameron I was bursting with excitement, so much so that I lost my iPhone and had to dash back up to Asda after leaving it on the self service checkouts, luckily a very honest customer handed it in and I had it back within an hour or so. After iPhoneGate (yes I am calling it that!) I finally got to bed at 1:30am, and set my alarm for 4:30am (THREE HOURS SLEEP!!), also we had a big event that evening so I had to have my travel bag and an evening dress ready!

4:30am came far too quickly and that was it time to set off! I arrived in London a little after 10am and decided to park at my old Ealing apartment and get the District line to Westminster, total travel time 5 hours+ but it was so worth it as I was back in London after almost SEVEN months developing our international fulfilment centre in the North of England. It felt so good to be back in my second home, I am such a Londoner at heart!
Screen-Shot-2015-06-24-at-21.54.58-225x300I arrived at Downing street at around 11am and within half an hour I had met with some of the amazing team at Sage and 40 other incredible entrepreneurs who shared their stories with me – I felt so inspired and at ease with like minded people. We continued to make our way through security and then took turns to have our photo’s taken next to that beautiful black door.

At around 12:00 the Prime Minister came out and was all smiles, he even made some very funny jokes which really put us all at ease! I think it is easy to forget that he actually lives at Number 10!

When the PM saw the bus he joked “Let’s all hope its not one of those new Boris busses!” We then took it in turns to speak with the PM and show other cabinet members and business advisors our products and a little background on our respective journeys.

After about an hour the PM had to dash off to a meeting and the bus needed to set off to its first venue!

My commute back was so beautiful, it was such a perfect day at 24 degrees with a slight cool breeze and clear skies. It was the first time I had been on my own in months and I suddenly found myself in this really reflective head space. What a CRAZY two years it has been and what a rollercoaster I have been on, meeting the PM was almost like confirmation that the business is doing ok and that I guess I should be proud of what I have built – and encourage others to do the same if I can. All in all my commute back took just four hours, I arrived back at the office just in time to grab my suitcase, passport, hand bag and then change into my evening dress for the event!

I would just like to say a massive thank you to Ellie, Paul & the team at Sage One and also Matt & the team at Start Up Britian for inviting me along. I had the best day ever!

And now off on the next adventure!

Speak soon!!   xoxo Gemma xoxo

Links:

The story of a young female entrepreneur

Before I begin just a little disclaimer – being the boss is hard – heavy is the head that wears the crown – always think, plan and consider a new venture fully – seek professional business advice online on the various free community forums before starting to trade. And remember that you can do anything, but you cannot do everything. Dream big & good luck. 

How I arrived at this point

It came out of no where and just wouldn’t go away. Every night before bed I would find myself drawing up a mental business plan, and then not sleeping with excitement. But I already had a very successful blog, was on the committee for the Institute of Export, looked after the accounts for my families business (which is a multi currency nightmare!) oh and yes I had a full time job, was I just being greedy and impatient? Turns out not, and that entrepreneurship was for me!

I just had to push through the hard part to get to the most rewarding, exhilarating freedom and happiness I have ever experienced. I want you to have the same feeling I have right now – and I know that you can do it! In this post I will introduce you to my business @SuperfoodMarket and give you some top tips when thinking of setting up an online B2C business with global customers.

So last year I was doing a million things, working twenty hour days and loving my jet setter lifestyle but in the back of my mind thinking about all the great things I wanted to do in business, and I just kept making lists and re-writing them and then I would plan and design and sketch and soon it had consumed me and became all I could think about.

My whole career until that point was spent advising people on how to create awesome multinational businesses and everytime I helped someone all I could hear was a wise man from a previous life (long story for another post!) telling me “those who can – do” and suddenly helping others wasnt enough – I wanted to stand on my own two feet – just me – and if I fell then so be it but I had something to prove – that I can do this – to silence all of those people who wrote me off or put me down (and trust me I had my critics!) – to let my successes speak for themselves – so I did exactly that.

One weekend I was working overseas, after work I sat on a roof top terrace looking up at the most amazing night sky drinking a bottle of pino and I just thought to myself “Its now or never –  I have researched this to the point of having no fears or doubts – I know it will work – I know it will change my life – I know it will be everything I ever wanted – its time Gemma”. I knew it would be the hardest thing I ever did but I took the plunge and boy was it worth it!

Getting started

Once I had made the decision to go for it, all I had to do was create the foundation and give myself a solid base to build on. I had been through this a million times in my head and luckily I had a multi stop flight and 32 hours to kill so I stocked up on caffeine and ploughed through the following on my way back to the UK:

  • Opened a Dropbox folder for the company in my Dropbox
  • Opened a Google Drive folder in my GDrive
  • Set up a Buzz Virtual landline telephone number for the business and diverted calls to my mobile
  • Registered the social media profiles
  • Registered the domain
  • Set up the email addresses with gmail for business and pulled it through into my personal gmail
  • Set up a dedicated Google calendar and pulled it through into my personal calendar
  • Set up a dedicated tab in my filofax
  • Wrote a logo brief and sent it to a graphic designer
  • Applied for a basic business bank account
  • Contacted a chartered accountant
  • Incorporated the company at Companies House
  • Registered the company for VAT

When I landed in the UK I had built the foundations of the business and was a Director of a Limited and Incorporated company – and very proud of myself. But I had this terrible feeling because I knew what was coming next!

Leaving my job and not burning bridges

As soon as I landed I asked my bosses, clients and agents at the time to meet me for a coffee and I was terrified – I explained the situation and said I would work as much as they needed me to and that I didnt want to burn any bridges. I booked out an entire day and like serial speed dating I had to amicably say goodbye to all the wonderful opportunities I had built for myself.

One of my mentors and very senior managers told me that I couldn’t leave as I was in an elevator on the way to the top, and he could see where my life was heading. It was so very hard because I could see the life he was referring to, I was 26 years old and walking in and out of Westminster like most people only dream of.  I had respect and genuine friends who wanted me to succeed – so it was just really bloody hard and I dont mind telling you I cried and second guessed myself.

But I had the below image as my screen saver and I looked at my phone and stayed true to what I wanted and made the first hard decision on my entrepreneurial journey and walked away from my old career.

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Also this quote really helped and I posted it to my personal facebook to let friends and family know what was about to happen in my life:

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And when people doubted me, or told me I was making a mistake, I did not get drawn into an argument – I simply sent them this and used their negative energy as building blocks to help me grow the company:

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And so it had begun…

Things I wish I would have known / done from the start

  • Working 20 hour days, 7 days a week is not healthy
  • Getting 8 hours sleep a night will enable you to make sound business decisions
  • Plan your meals the night before – only eat healthy good food that will give you the fuel to power the business forward – trust me on this one!
  • Get at least 30 mins cardio in the morning, every morning!
  • Listen to music and when it gets too much dance around the office and shake it off
  • Dont reply to emails in haste – however much the person you are emailing is irritating you!
  • Dont wear nail varnish – it will look great for two days and then you will have chipped nails with no time to remove it for weeks
  • Wear comfortable gym clothes to the office – only if you are not customer facing!
  • Sunglasses are a girls best friend when she has been working on the VAT return until 4am!
  • Make your morning routine as simple as possible!
  • As soon as you can get a full time assistant – get one!
  • When you are worried about taking staff on because your not sure you are ready you are holding the business back
  • Insurance is a must
  • Custom audits suck – so make sure your always prepared and ready for that knock on the door
  • When you hit five staff you need full Health and Safety policies
  • Just because you have £100k of food on site does not mean you can eat £100k of food! That stock is your future profit!
  • You only get one chance to make a life long customer – do not waste it!
  • When you need to cry just let it out and move on
  • When you feel yourself becoming emotional go home – your not in the right headspace to lead people right now
  • Need to do a large task? Download audible and listen to an audio book and before you know it you are lost in the work and story!
  • When you build something with your own hands and someone attacks it then it is going to hurt you personally and will probably anger you – I think this is natural because the business is your like baby and your responsibility! But just remember to kill them with kindness! When in doubt act like a lady – even if you want to react to them like a Royal Marine!
  • DO NOT EVER WORK ON A SUNDAY! You cannot lose all of yourself to this as you may not find yourself again, make time for you.

If I had to pass on only one piece of advice what would it be?

Put in the hours. In the first few years of trading you need to be giving the business EVERYTHING you have. Do not feel bad about parking relationships, holidays and leisure commitments in the pursuit of entrepreneurial success – especially when you have staff to pay come month end. Hard work pays off, so put the hours in, prioritise your time and make sure you understand every cog of your business. Have zero dependency on other people to run your empire – control every movement and every aspect of your business – there is nothing you can pay someone for that you cannot do yourself by putting in the hours researching and watching YouTube videos. Dont be afraid to build your fortress on a shoestring budget paid for with hard work and long hours.

Resources & support systems:

  • YouTube – watch inspirational videos
  • Blogs – who are your business heros? Stalk them and replicate their successes
  • Family & friends – talk to people, tell them the bad and the good – it will help!
  • Forums – there are so many start up business communities online full of like minded people

People, companies and organisations that have helped me:

  • Sage One
  • Smith Butler Accountants
  • Suma Wholesale
  • Royal Mail
  • Parcelforce
  • DPD
  • Fitted Commerce
  • Linnworks
  • Peta UK

I would like to specially mention/recommend the following people who have played such a massive part in the Superfood Market journey:

  • Jess at Smith Butler who is the most amazing accountant ever
  • Gary at Suma who is the best Account Manager I could have wished for and always looks after us
  • Charlie at Linnworks who has been instrumental in all of this
  • Ellie, Paul & Team Sage for everything you do for me and your constant support!
  • EVERYONE who has subscribed to my blog, followed me on twitter, subscribed to my YouTube channel or sent me messages of support – thank you so much!

Amazing opportunities that have come from being in business:

Just to name a few…

  • Travelled the world
  • I have met politicians, celebrities and high profile figures
  • Spoken at international conferences
  • Been able to help shape national SME policy
  • Met 1000’s of like minded business owners
  • Proudly represented my Country at international trade shows

What I am most thankful for:

Without doubt I am most thankful for my amazing team, I am blessed to have you guys and you are not just staff or colleagues to me – your my best friends and fellow gladiators and everyday we go into battle together – THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!

Quotes that kept me going:

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Things that made my life easier:

  • Leggings
  • Nike Free Runs
  • Audiable
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Gmail for business
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Sage
  • Linnworks
  • Tinted moistuiser
  • Clear nail varnish
  • Grab and go salads
  • Coffee
  • YouTube
  • Tesco groceries app

One final thing:

When it all gets too much go watch…

  • Any film with Kevin Hart in
  • Pitch Perfect 1 or 2
  • Bad Boys 2
  • ANY DISNEY MOVIE
  • Lethal Weapon – ALL OF THEM!
  • The Other Woman

And remember you are NOT alone in this – if your stuck then tweet me, email me, send me a facebook message or comment below!

Good luck!    xoxo Gemma xoxo

Photo credit to my wonderfully talented friend Rosalie Ruardy!