Female Entrepreneur of the Week 30th July 2012
This story is about…
Female entrepreneur: Jackie Speight
Company: Angel Virtual Assistant Ltd
Industry: virtual Assistance
She started her business after having children
Age range: 40s
What motivated you to start your business?
I was a relatively late-starter as a mum, having my first baby at the age of 39 and my second at 41. Until then I had enjoyed a 20-year career in the Civil Service which gave me opportunities to work in a number of different disciplines, travel to interesting places. But having my sons changed me, and I knew I couldn’t continue with the long hours, nights away etc knowing they needed me, and knowing that I wanted to be there for them. So I took voluntary redundancy when the chance came up and spent the next 4 years as a full time mum until both boys were starting school. In that time I thought about a number of different options for career which I could work around my family and started looking at family-friendly franchises & ‘work-at-home’ opportunities advertised online. Around this time I saw a feature on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ programme about this issue, and one of the people interviewed was a Virtual Assistant. The idea appealed to me straight away as I knew I had many useful skills which I could use; even so, it was quite a while before I actually go going – as well as the research I needed to do in preparation, I lost both of my parents within a short space of time and this threw me off-track for a while. Eventually, though, thanks to great support and advice from my local Business Start-up Adviser Geoff Reeves at Blackpool Enterprise Centre, I finally managed to get going and Angel Virtual Assistant Ltd was established in March 2011.
Tell us about your business…
I provide lots of different kinds of business support to small businesses – usually the type of business which isn’t able to take on a full-time office person, or which has peaks & troughs in it’s workload or special projects from time to time, so they don’t need to have someone working for them permanently. I work from home, saving them the cost of setting up a work station on their premises, and all work is undertaken via the internet; documents are shared by email, meetings are conducted via Skype, Google+ hangout or something like gotomeeting.com and so on. I cover secretarial services such as word processing, transcription, diary management, setting up meetings, making telephone calls etc, and can also help businesses to optimise their admin procedures by working with them to help them set up systems, templates etc which they can maintain. I’m an HR specialist, so I can provide admin support for businesses for recruitment exercises and HR record keeping. I’m also a social media enthusiast, so much of my work involves getting people set up on Facebook, Twitter etc and then helping them with updates.
What is a day in the life of you like?
During school terms, I spend as much of the day as I can in my office, both working for clients continuing with my own marketing to build up a bigger client base. I then work during the late evening, and sometimes into the early hours if necessary, depending on what my clients need. During holiday times I change the pattern slightly and do just a few hours most days with more in the evenings.
In terms of the work I deal with, it covers a wide variety. Some of the most interesting work I’ve had so far includes admin support for HR consultancies, typing up academic assignments for people in further & higher education, transcribing legal documentation and, possibly the most interesting, transcribing and formatting a workbook for a vocal coach. I love the fact that my days can be very different depending on who I’m working with.
What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?
It’s taken quite a while to establish my business, get my brand recognised and build up a prescence and reputation online so that clients would find me. That was key to being able to operate a virtual business.
Getting into a routine to fit in work and family time was also a challenge – when your office is in your home it’s difficult to switch off and I’ve been told off more than once by my children for working when I wasn’t meant to be!
How did you overcome these challenges?
I’ve really plugged away at social media for the last 15 months, and it’s paid off as most of my business has come through connections I’ve made on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s also meant that I’m knowledgeable about how social media works, which has opened up more business for me as I can help and advise clients.
As for the routine – well, that’s improving but I’d still describe it as ‘work in progress’. As the business grows it’ll change again, so my key to this is to remain flexible as far as possible.
What have you found to be the most effective way to get new clients?
Without a doubt , social media. For a business like mine it’s an essential part of the marketing strategy – in fact it’s the central feature. Facebook & Twitter in particular are great for building relationships with like minded people, businesses and potential clients, and some of them are now actually spreading out and setting up regional meetings for people who have only come into contact via social media prior to that.
Other than that, face-to-face networking is a close second. I’ve found an excellent ladies-only Business Networking group, Pink Link Ladies, which runs in my local area, and this has been invaluable in making connections which have converted to clients.
What advice would you give to other business owners?
Make sure you have a business plan which you revisit, review and revise on a regular basis – if you aren’t clear what you’re intending to do, how can you assess your success otherwise?
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Knowing that I’m doing what I do to give my children the best start in life by both being there for them but also contributing to the household income. I also hope they may decide to start their own businesses when they grow up as a result of seeing me do it – it’s probably the best option many of our young people will have in the future
What’s your favourite quote?
‘Never mistake motion for action’
Who inspires you?
Jacqueline Gold – love the way she’s taken a difficult business and reinvented it to produce a popular high street brand. I also love the fact that she’s a great supporter of women in business through her ‘Women on Wednesday’ feature on Twitter.
Do you have a business philosophy?
Treat everyone in your business life as you would like to be treated. At the end of the day we’re all doing our best to make a go of things in difficult times – support and co-operation for other businesses are important.
Get in touch…
Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/AngelVirtualAssistantLtd