Spotlight on Hayley Southwood
A very inspiring Spotlight today on the blog. I have Hayley Southwood of Southwood Stores and Southwood Social Hub, an entrepreneur a number of times over so this is a really interesting read for you first timers. But, the reason I asked Hayley to come on the blog, is that she now also runs a Social Hub for female entrepreneurs, to allow them to network, to ask questions of likeminded peers and to provide a community of support and workshops.
One of the main issues that runs through my Spotlight blog posts, is the lack of social support for business.
What do I mean by that?
Well, there are a lot of online resources for you to read and digest when running a business, Google is full of them, but actually what many of you want, is the ability to ask questions, even what you consider stupid questions, of someone who is in your situation. The ability to ask, "am I okay?", "am I doing this right?", "who might help me with this?", and to do this in a non-judgemental situation.
In one of my very first blog posts, I talk about how lonely being an entrepreneur can be. The buck stops with you, and while this can be exhilarating and free, for those of you lacking confidence, it can also be challenging, and this is why communities like Southward Social Hub are important.
If you want to shop Hayley's gorgeous store you can do so here, otherwise read on for a truly inspiring story.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I started my first business when my boys were tiny as I couldn’t make childcare work for us and I wanted to be my own boss more than anything. 17 years ago.
Then I outgrew childcare and my Mum got really ill. She tried to help me start something new but I had no idea what to do really. I felt completely lost at that time. Then, horrifically, my Mum lost her 10 month battle to lung cancer. It hit me so hard and I felt like I couldn’t go on in more than one way. I felt like I was crawling through mud to be honest.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
So, about a year after my Mum died my husband went to the pub and when he came home I announced I had bought a vintage ice cream van off eBay. He thought I had gone crazy, totally lost my shit. I think I may have, looking back, but I had a vision for that little van.
I sold my van 3 summers later and opened my shop www.southwoodstores.co.ukI launched that business from my kitchen table, then ran out of room quite quickly. I invested in a summer house for my garden but got really lonely hence starting up Southwood Social hub.
We then moved into offices with a showroom two years ago. That felt like the biggest financial commitment ever, I was really scared. After a few months, I started to see how much more productive I had become. I had a much bigger driver, I needed to pay the rent and I had staff to pay too. Best decision I ever made.
3. How did you fund your business?
My van cost me a couple of thousand pounds that I had stashed away but I just did it up over time slowly and we worked really hard at weekends. It became a real project that really helped me through my grief.
I have always been self-funded, I don’t have parents or a husband who funds my projects. I have had many a time where I have wished for that, but in hindsight it has always made me work much harder and I think it has been such a positive thing for my personal growth and development.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
I have started many businesses and the thing I have learnt the most is that, you think you need hard cash more than anything but I think I just needed connections even more.
I launched my shop with £1000 and just kept reinvesting in stock in week.
5. What help was missing for you?
I found networking really hard, I just didn’t fit in anywhere. I started my own community to bridge the gap and it has been one of my proudest and successful achievements to date.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
Oh blimey, the list is too long to mention. With the nursery, I opened at 25 years old we learnt loads. My expectations were so high, we thought we were going to be full capacity after 2 weeks of being open. But all that said we made that business amazing and it is still hugely successful 17 years on, ran by one of my best friends and the co-founder Sally Cotter. She is still hugely passionate about childcare and continues to sustain excellence.
Patience has never been my strong point if I am truly honest with you. But I never see anything as a failure. I am very resilient, I think that trait is born out of having to be. My childhood was quite complex. My whole reason, my core values for doing everything I do comes down to my Mum. I want to show EVERY single woman that she is CAPABLE of anything her heart desires. Success looks different to each and every one of us.
BUT WE ALL DESERVE TO LIVE a full, happy, successful, rich life!
7. What have you learnt?
Networking is key! Surrounding myself with women living it, making it happen!!!
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Be around other people who get it, read lots of books, if something doesn’t go to plan that it is OK. Just adjust and find a new direction. PIVOT is my favourite word!!
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I have tailor made my own career and I love the fact that I am in charge of my own destiny. I can push as hard as I want or need. I can take a day off whenever I want. I love that fact that I am now surrounded by amazing creative women who are fearless in the pursuit of their OWN VERSION of happiness.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
I don’t find it hard at all.
I find it thrilling. Business for me is adapting and finding a way to make it work. I don’t see anything as a failure. Things never go to plan but I am OK with that. I think to stay in business you have to be resilient and adapt to all sorts of outside elements. Don’t get me wrong over the years I have had my fair share of tears and tantrums but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It would kill me to have to clock into an office or shop every single day at the same time and be told what to do by someone else. I love being my own boss and being in charge of time. I know I can work whatever hours I need to make my life balanced and a happy life that works for me personally. I just think we are all incredibly lucky that we are able to create this unique way of working no matter where.
Nicola says "So I've already covered the reason why networking and social communities are important and I now want to talk about Hayley's comment on PIVOTing. Pivoting in business is changing your strategy and business plan in response to feedback; be it customer feedback, perhaps something that is happening in the environment or just your need to do something different to grow.
Businesses shouldn't be afraid to Pivot, it's pretty normal. My first ever business plan was obsolete within 10 months because some technology we were working on failed. We had money and a team, we needed a pivot, which we did and went on to raise nearly £12 million. If customers are not liking some aspect of your product or store, pivot, do something else. But, make sure you understand the reasons first so you don't head into another area that is not going to work for you."
The Girl with The Green Sofa