You have a background of self employment for over two generations so tell us about this.
It actually goes back further than 2 generations; my parents owned pubs and a hotel, usually ones that needed lots of renovation before they could start trading. My paternal Grandfather owned a corner shop that belonged to his father-in-law before him; he must have inherited the entrepreneurial gene from his Grandfather and Great-Grandfather who were clock and watchmakers with stalls on Burnley market.
As well as ancestral entrepreneurs I have a descendant, a sibling and in-laws who run their own businesses. My eldest son has recently stepped out on the path of self-employment; just before his 21st birthday around the same age that I was. Prior to that he completed his apprenticeship in my brother-in-law’s plumbing business; my brother-in-law inherited this business from my father-in-law. My brother and sister-in-law have been self-employed for most of their working lives and my husband, self-employed for 16 years, now works for my brother. I do believe that an entrepreneurial attitude is more about nature than nurture, something I regularly find myself debating with people.
You have been inspired since your early teens by small businesses, so what are your first memories of this ?
My first memories of behind the scenes in a small business were before my early teens. Mum and Dad bought their first pub, when I was 2 years old. From the around the age of 5 I remember Mum wore casual clothes, she was the Chef, Dad worked front of house and always wore a tie. On Saturday nights I used to creep in to the very busy kitchen of the pub and get a plate of chips as a treat while my Grandma, Mum’s Mum, looked after me. My Grandad had taken early retirement and moved from Lancashire to Yorkshire to support Mum and Dad; Dad’s parents had also followed us from the county of the red rose to the county of the white.
Just before my early teens Mum and Dad moved us, my brother and I, from a lovely village pub where we had friends, a pony, a roof over our heads to a run down, desperately in need of renovation, drafty former vicarage that needed re-roofing - I thought my world had ended! But as my parents set about renovating the property, mostly on their own except where skilled tradesmen were needed, I realised how hard they were working and wanted to be part of what they were creating. I started to learn many of the skills that I have developed to help me run my own micro businesses when I was 14 years old.
You developed your first business with your mum, what can you tell us about this?
Mum and Dad decided that working long hours and being on call 24 hours a day was starting to wear a bit thin, once the passion has gone it is time to get out is a motto I still use to this day. They put the award winning Country House Hotel that they had loving created up for sale. Mum wanted to run a 9 to 5 business; this was somewhat of a novelty after a pub and a hotel and we looked for a business we could run together.
We found a small property letting and management agency in Scarborough. It was being run on a part-time basis by two ladies that managed it for the owner who had ill health, when Mum and I took over there was an element of resentment from the existing staff mainly because I was so young, I was just 21. But as we grew the business threw a recession one of the ladies moved to a new job and the other became part of our extended family and still is to this day. I bought Mum out of the business in 1998 whilst pregnant with my second child; Mum and Dad went off to renovate another pub with my brother and his wife at a time when they should have been thinking about retirement – 1998 and 1999 were very busy years.
You have had a lot of ups and downs along the way, so how when it got bad did you find the courage to carry on?
My parents gave me the courage to carry on in most cases; every time I have a business problem I chat to them about it and they have a ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ example of something similar that they experienced running their own businesses.
In the work I do now, supporting micro businesses, I constantly encourage people to surround themselves with other micro business owners who can support them through difficult times and who also want to share success stories. I have lots of micro business friends that I chat to and that helps me to keep going.
Add to the above the fact I am rather a determined person and do not give up easily. When my accountant advised me to go bankrupt in my retail business I refused because I was too proud and felt that this was failure – I should have listened to my accountant!
The one thing I have learnt is that actually if a business does not succeed this can be for a lot of different reasons and not because you have failed as a person. Don’t let it put you off – it’s like falling off a bike, get back on and give it another go, the path can be a lot smoother the furtherer down it you get.
You do a lot of volunteer work for charity, so why is this so important to you?
When I was about 3 years old my nursery school teacher said to my parents ‘If the army come knocking be careful what Tina volunteers for.’ I didn’t sign up for the army but I have certainly been a serial volunteer, Mrs Wilson was right.
Doing charity work keeps me grounded, I am very grateful for the things I have and there are a lot of people that need support from charity and community organisations.
It is important to give something back; large organisations have corporate social responsibility policies but I find micro business owners are great at supporting the community where they live or trade.
You are also a mum so how do you manage your job and motherhood on a daily basis?
My boys are 21 and 14 now – Tom my eldest is no longer at home, though this is not always apparent with the amount of his washing that keeps appearing in the laundry basket. Charlie is quite an independent young man and has a great social life so I find working from home is easy most of the time as there is a lot of piece and quiet.
When the boys were younger however I did not work from home I worked from business premises. It was important to ensure I had a good childcare framework around me and I was very lucky. Both Mum and my Mother-in-law looked after the boys and they also had great childminders, nurserys and a nanny that worked both looking after the children and in my office as well. The boys loved the variety and it helped them build some fabulous social skills.
When the boys started school the one thing I insisted on was dropping them off every day, even when they were probably old enough to walk there themselves. This was important to me and was a principle I stuck to as I very rarely was available to collect them.
What is a normal day like in your world?
I don’t really have a normal day nor a regular working day. The beauty of what I do is the ability to fit things around what I want to do in many cases. If I want to have a Tuesday off then I work on Saturday or if there is something pressing then I will work long hours to complete it and then take some time off. Neal and the boys are very understanding of my commitment to both my work and my voluntary roles and they support me most of the time – it’s usually when there is no food in the cupboards or a lack of clean clothes when they moan; its so nice to know you are needed for something!
What is next for you?
I am passionate about the businesses I run, Only Me Here and Priorat Provenance, and the community interest company, Enterprise Rockers, that I co-founded in January 2012 to help make life in micro business better and fairer. At the moment I am content developing and growing what I have but I am sure it will not be long before I utter the words ‘I have an idea’ – this is the point when Neal, my husband, turns ashen and says ‘Oh no not again’ before waiting for a new business suggestion, usually one that he manages to talk me out of before I get too carried away.
What is your response to people that believe a women's place is still in the home?
I will never forget the day I told the boys, who were about 13 and 7 years old at the time, that I was selling the children’s shoe shop I owned. ‘Oh no’ said Tom ‘you are not going to stay at home and look after us are you’ he asked to which Charlie responded ‘no Mum please don’t’. I knew then that the childcare I had put in place for them from the day they were born had worked and they did not feel affected by that fact I had not been a stay at home Mum.
Staying at home with my children was never an option, I had my own business that was based around customer service and when you run a micro business you are the business even if you have excellent staff to support you. If a Mum chooses to stay at home and bring up her child that is her choice though in this day and age you can run a business from home on a part time or full time basis and still be there for you children – you just need to get the balance right.
Whatever you choose to do, go out to work or stay at home, is not a reason to preach to others if they do the opposite to you. It takes allsorts of people to make a world and this is what makes it an interesting place to be.