We will send the money for the air fares, but please, just come home…
These were the words I was lucky enough to hear from my parents as they offered to bail me out of the African bush. I had lived in the paradise of Malawi for ten years and experienced a nasty relationship breakdown where he also took claim on our business and property together. I’d lost everything but my gorgeous children and in this most importance sense, I’d lost nothing. Although my determination to succeed as a single parent in the middle of Africa was admirable, it wasn’t enough to pay the bills and so I quit.
In 2004 I came home to live with my parents, aged 32 with my two boys and our four cardboard boxes of things. What a comedown. I knew this was a great opportunity to start all over again but I also felt like a failure, with a low self esteem and the thought of how I was going to turn this around was overwhelming. I’d literally lost the last thirteen years of my working life.
I was technically considered homeless by the council and allocated a house on what I saw as a less than desirable estate, where feral, free range children monopolised the streets, only dispersing when their mothers called them in ‘for their fooking tea’. Fabulous.
‘We might be here now, but we won’t be here for long’ was what I repeatedly told my children, because my vision to create a better life than my small family had experienced together, was incredibly clear. I believed I could turn this situation from a negative into a positive.
I set up a website as a retail strategist, wrote a book and pitched myself at local business meetings with my experience in retail and capability of designing websites. I wrote as much content as I could online and whilst researching mannequins – a part of retail that I was unfamiliar with – I created one web page that punched above its own weight. It had pictures of mannequins, a title saying they were for hire and my telephone number.
When my phone rang repeatedly with enquiries for mannequin hire, I started using my benefit money to buy them and hire them out. My collection quickly grew and by 2012 I had acquired some 5000 mannequins, 10 staff and a turnover just shy of half a million pounds.
I invested it in property and although the market has decreased in demand over the last three years or so and we have all had this pandemic to wrestle with, Mannakin has survived because of my ability to cut unnecessary costs, see into the future and is ready to bounce back as demand for events and exhibitions returns.
So those are the strengths I have. I have vision, I’m committed, inspiring and most importantly fearless and am here now as a human being to help you work out how you are going to turn your own situation around, move forward confidently, get online and show up every day in order to become economically independent using your own business ideas, just like I have done.
My journey has made me incredibly grounded because when I look back to where I was then and where I am now and see everything my children have been able to achieve, because of my business, I’m content that my fearless ability to do better has won.