Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sarah Williams Conquered Everest And Now Is Conquering Starting Her Own Business - Tough Girl Challenges...

We thought we were supposed to be the inspiring ones? Well wait until you meet Sarah Williams from Tough Girl Challenges, 100 miles per hour, full of energy and passion for life, she might just be one of the most motivational and inspiring women The Women’s Organisation has ever interviewed! Now that’s a lot to live up to…

The story starts off pretty grey though! Sarah used to live and work down in London and spent eight years working in banking which she describes as something that began to frustrate her; ‘It was all about waking up in the morning at 5:45am, getting on the tube, commuting to Canary Wharf, and staying in the office all day. And I just wasn’t very fulfilled in what I was doing.’ Although on the surface of things, Sarah was doing fantastically, she was being promoted, getting pay-rise’s and bonuses, but she knew deep down that it wasn’t what she wanted.

Initially she combated this feeling though running; she completed the London Marathon five times (YES! Five times!), but still wasn’t feeling the sense of satisfaction inside. And here is where the story gets really interesting. Sarah begins to make change after change in her life. Doing more charity work, working with UN Women and Women for Women International, and it was here she finally found what she was looking for, that personal enjoyment that she was after. It came from motivating, and inspiring others, especially women and girls, in tough situations. Sarah says; ‘It all sort of came to a head about then, I knew I had wanted a change for a while. So when I was 31 I quit my job and decided to go travelling for a year.’ Sarah headed off to Australia, South America, did a Ski Season for 6 months in Switzerland, and…Wait for it…Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!

At this point Sarah realised that she could return home and would be in the position of explaining to future employers what she had spent the year doing and how it would impact would the future could hold. ‘I couldn’t turn round to employers and say; “I’ve had an amazing twelve months travelling the world” I needed to have done something productive. So I ended up writing a book about climbing Kilimanjaro’ after writing this book, she went on to write another one about her time spent as a Chalet Host. ‘So many people were asking me what it was like, so I wanted to share my experiences.’

And what was it like? For anyone who has ever done Chalet Hosting, knows as well as Sarah does, that it is one tough job! ‘It’s possibly one of the most physically demanding jobs I’ve ever done. You’re up at 7am and you go up to the chalet and cook breakfast for 10 people before tidying the whole chalet and then cook afternoon tea. At that point you are free between 12 and 6, and it’s a choice between sleeping and skiing. Of course, I generally choose skiing! Then you come back and would cook a four course meal. It’s very demanding.’ 
So when Sarah returned home, what was the next step for her? For the woman who has so much under her belt, loves adventures and is passionate about motivating and inspiring, her own business seemed the best option. ‘I’d been thinking for a while that I wanted to start my own company, well I thought let’s start Tough Girl Challenges, which is basically all of my passions and all of my loves combined. I love adventure, I love travel, I love pushing myself both physically and mentally, so that’s where Tough Girl Challenges came from.’
Tough Girl Challenges is a multi-layered business and is ever expanding as Sarah finds more opportunities to get involved with. There’s the blogging, the fitness, the book-writing and so much more. 

One aspect of the business is Sarah going to visit schools, specifically girl’s schools to speak to them and give motivational talks about challenging yourself, pushing yourself and stepping out of your comfort zones. And if there is anymore more apt to speak on this topics, then we’d struggle to think of them! Sarah has run marathons, travelled the world, bungee jumped, sky dived, climbed a live volcano and cycled down the world’s most dangerous road. 

‘Talking to the girls is really interesting, because some of them might tell me that they want to be a pastry chef in France, which is great and really interesting! But then you might have a few from the other end of the spectrum who will say that they want to be a reality TV star, or the wife of a footballer. And it’s almost as if it’s down to the lack of belief that they can do so much better with their lives. And sometimes all it takes is for someone to come in, and something might click in their heads and they can understand how much more they can do.’

A lot of Sarah’s success comes down to the way she prioritises her time, and for her, one thing that works really well, is to set herself goals. When Tough Girl Challenges website launched in December she wanted to become more connected with her local community and set herself the challenge of doing 100 motivational talks in schools. To help her on her way, she knew she needed to start networking more, and that’s how she found out about The Women’s Organisation and began to attending our networking events. From there she met with Senior Business Adviser, John Jones, who she works with to focus on the business aspects of the business. 

The best thing about working with John, for Sarah, is that it gives her another goal, using her meetings with him as targets to get things done by. ‘Working for myself, that’s one of the things that I struggled with, because when something comes up, it’s too easy to push another thing back and reallocate. Having a Business Adviser meant I had accountability, and having a meeting meant I had a firm deadline to get things done by.’ 

So what does the future hold for Tough Girl Challenges? Most recently Sarah has been storming the internet with her Tough Girl Podcasts which she started this summer. These podcasts came from a frustration that she found at opening the sports pages and continually seeing no women there. 
Whereas on Twitter she could see incredible women doing incredible things, that nobody really knew about. ‘I know of a woman cycling across Australia, there’s a 92 year old woman who has just run a marathon, a woman who is skating across Amsterdam. There are all of these women doing fantastic challenges and they never get the publicity’

So Tough Girl Tuesday’s is born! Sarah will be interviewing some of these great women facing great challenges, and she hopes to expand these into bi-weekly podcasts too. The Tough Girl Podcast got to the Number 1 Slot in iTunes for New & Noteworthy for Sports & Hobbies, and Personal Journals.

As well as this Sarah spoke on Bay TV’s show; 52% with another speaker from the This Girl Can campaign, on motivation and inspiration and says; ‘Even if just one person watched that and thought, do you know what, I’m going to go for a walk today, or I’m going to turn off the TV and read a book, then I’ll be really pleased!’ You can watch Sarah speak on 52% here, and she is now a regular panelist on the show! 

All in all, Sarah Williams is one tough cookie, and it’s great to see her inspiring women and girls to face their challenges and step outside their comfort zones. We can tell you that even after interviewing her, we felt that little bit more powered up to go out there and do something great! 

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Bay TV Interview

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rosie Jamieson Faced Adversity And Overcame Obstacles To Support Her Family

Rosie Jamieson has had an interesting year, and her story is different to the stories that we are often told. This story is an incredible one of perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances. 

Rosie had, as she says herself, her dream job working as a Footwear Designer for twenty years; ‘There are very few jobs where you can travel the world, shop the world and draw pretty pictures for a living, so that was really lovely!’  Rosie ended up as Design Director for that company, working with a team of six designers, doing what she really loved best. When her husband, Phill, received the offer of a new job in Amsterdam, this was the point where things began to change. Rosie and her husband, with their young son and daughter decided to give it a shot, move to Amsterdam and try out ‘A European experience.’

Phill was to start working for MEXX, the fashion company similar to Zara and Mango, becoming their Head of Marketing. ‘We moved over there in the last week of July, and started finding our feet in the school holidays with my daughter starting school at the end of August.’ – And then the unthinkable happened. Rosie’s husband suffered from a serious stroke which resulted in his speech and language become severely blocked, and the family returning to England after only 2 months. 

Rosie and her family decided to move to Liverpool, as this is where her husband was born and grew up, and where the rest of his family still live; ‘He’s got a big family, so that support network was obviously important to us at that point in time.’ Their original plan for Amsterdam was that Phill would work and Rosie would take a break to settle their family into their new way of life, before pursuing one of her interests like upholstery and soft furnishings to bring some income in, but not be the main bread-winner as she had been previously. 

Now that so much had changed, there were many choices to be made, and at first one of self-employment and starting a business seemed the right thing for Rosie and her family. Rosie came to The Women’s Organisation to gain support and advice in starting up her new business venture; Social Media Mama, which would provide Social Media Marketing support and training for small businesses and sole traders. 

But yet another twist was to happen in Rosie’s year … as she prepared to get started with Social Media Mama, in which she would be supported by Phill, the marketing expert, a new opportunity arose here in Liverpool. Rosie found a job in Footwear Design! ‘I was very fortunate to find out that the footwear brand, Hotter, were considering advertising for a Designer and that the Design Director, Ian Spedding, was actually my very first boss from my first Footwear Design job at Hush Puppies – he employed me exactly 20 years ago when I was straight out of university, and did so again this summer!’ 

Hotter’s Head Office is based at their factory site in Skelmersdale, which manufactures more pairs of shoes per year than any other shoe maker. Hotter now have 70 stores around the UK and a huge catalogue and website business in the UK, America and Germany, and Rosie is delighted to have found something so perfect for her, so close to her new home here in Liverpool! ‘It’s a really exciting challenge for me to work for a brand like this, using my existing 20 years footwear experience and skills but learning new areas of manufacture and target market and styling at the same time.’

At the moment, Rosie has been working for Hotter for over a month and is enjoying her time there, and one of the best parts about it is that there will be much less overseas work and travel then there was in her previous job, giving her more time to spend with her family and have a better work/life balance.

Although Social Media Mama is on hold for now, in her short time running the business, Rosie wrote a double page spread for LINK magazine, worked on a website for author Tracy Bloom and worked on the Social Media presence for Spa Rose Lane Beauty Clinic, and hopes in the future that it can make an appearance again. 

Rosie says; ‘Hopefully the financial stability that this job brings for our family will allow Phill to fully access all the support that he needs to make as full a recovery as possible from his stroke. Stroke recovery is a slow and often frustrating process for the survivors as well as the surrounding family, but we are fortunate that Phill continues to show encouraging progress. My children are adjusting well to my working full-time and are forging stronger bonds with Phill again which is lovely for us all.’

Looking back at the year that Rosie and her family have had, it’s safe to say that nothing is ever certain and your whole life can change in the blink of an eye. From moving across Europe, to starting the journey of self-employment to finding your perfect job right under your nose, all the while supporting your family when they needed support most – we think Rosie is an incredible woman with an incredible story to tell, and we wish her all the best for her future…

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jayne Thistlewood Jumped At The Chance To Make A Life-Altering Change With R&R Safety Systems Ltd

Jayne Thistlewood is a highly experienced individual, in fact so experienced that when she sits down and tells us her background, the ream of letters after her name last for quite a while! Jayne is currently a partner in R&R Safety Systems Ltd, a Health and Safety Training and Consultancy Company. The centre is accredited to provide examinations in IOSH, NEBOSH, CIEH and Fire Safety (See, those where the letters we were talking about!) and 

Jayne became a partner in the company in April 2014 alongside Dave Fanning who as an ex fire fighters brings the fire specialism to the company in the form of Fire Risk Assessments and also his passion with Fire Safety Training from his Fire Brigade Training Centre Role.
Jayne’s background is as a Health & Safety Executive which she worked as for 18 years, calling herself; ‘Civil Service through and through’, she then took a career break to have children and when she returned found it difficult to travel with work and moved to an Online Risk Management Company where she was for 12 years.

‘Then the opportunity came about 18 months ago for me to make a career change. I was hot-desking from R&R Safety System’s offices and there was a retiring partner. It was then that they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so I bought into the company. I took a massive gamble, resigning from my well-paid job, but it’s definitely paid off!’
Going from working in large organisations and being supported with holiday pay and a steady monthly income, to becoming the boss of a company is a big change but Jayne says; ‘When the opportunity came about, I did jump at it. Everything was pointing in the right direction and it felt right, although I must admit that I was nervous. I’d worked for the Civil Service for 18 years, had a career break to raise a family and then gone into another job where I was managed and had company and staff around me. So to actually take that step into self-employment and be responsible for paying bills, paying staff and managing reports and finance, was quite difficult.’
Although luckily Jayne seems to be a natural at it, citing her strengths as her social skills and abilities, enjoying working closely with her clients and the different activities that each day can bring, as the partner of the company. ‘I love the fact that one minute I can have my hard hat and high-vis jacket on, and I’m onsite and the next minute I can be invigilating an exam or running training. One day is never the same, and I can plan my diary which is great.’

And Jayne has already making big plans for the future of R&R, looking to introduce e-learning into the company. She has a background in Online Risk Management so introduced an online learning perspective to her clients and to new contacts that she has worked on making. ‘I’ve worked closely with schools and written a programme of training, where I go into the schools and speak to Year 11’s or Sixth Form students who are about to go out and do Work Experience. I’ll speak to them about their roles and responsibilities in the workplace, their rights and what they are entitled to from employers.’

Jayne is passionate about making people understand that their own safety is not someone else’s responsibility and she says; ‘You do have a voice, you can positively engage, actively question and challenge unsafe practices.’ And by going into schools she is hoping to engage young people early on, and make them see if everybody works and acts safely then it can have a big effect. She is currently working with four of the biggest schools in Merseyside and two junior schools also.

From someone so experienced you might be thinking what help did she gain from The Women’s Organisation? Jayne met Ali McGrath, our Enterprise Enabler and John Jones, Senior Business Adviser many years ago when she was on Maternity Leave and we were called; Train 2000. At that point, Jayne had a wildly different business idea; she wanted to start a sweet shop! But this didn’t come to fruition as she had another child and later went back to work. Then about 12 months ago Jayne attended a networking event and met Ali again, both remembering each other and striking up a rapport again. ‘She said that she always knew I would do something on my own, and it was then that I came to The Women’s Organisation for some help and support when I bought into R&R. And it’s been great, the information and the help that I’ve had, has been great! John chatted with me on the accountancy side of things and Ali is very motivational.’

Looking back on the journey and transition that she has made, Jayne feels proud of herself and so she should do! ‘I’m a firm believer in that I never say no to anything. I did take that gamble and my friends and family thought I was crazy. I was on a good salary, had a nice car and was comfortable, and I walked away from it all, but now I sleep better at night. I can manage my own diary and I’m able to see direct results. When things happen, I can say to myself – well done. It’s nice to know that you are making a difference, we help people with that we do, and we have a relationship, and at the end of it they come back and say thank you…’
Before meeting Jayne we might have been guilty of considering Health and Safety as something of a dry topic, but when we got the chance to meet and talk to her, we were happy to be proved wrong! Her passion, enthusiasm and love for her job and the sector that she works in was catching and we found ourselves becoming enthused about all the things that she is passionate about.

But she says; ‘There are still very few females in this male dominated sector although we are becoming more and more. It’s had its moments in the past, where I’ve gone to meetings and been seen as the PA or Receptionist, and it’s only when I’ve taken my place at the front to start the meeting or presentation, you see everyone’s eyes in the room change. But I’m confident in what I’m doing, and I know that the guidance I’m giving is competent and effective, I can’t help how other people feel about it.’

Jayne is clearly a woman who knows where her strengths and weaknesses lie and works with them every step of the way. The future looks great for R&R Safety Systems Ltd and with the work that Jayne is doing, we know it will grow and grow…