International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world.
Some people ask why women need a special day – and it’s true, we shouldn’t need one – but I guess it will exist until we achieve true equality and don’t need it any more. This year the theme is #EachForEqual.
I want to help forge a gender-equal world, so each year we celebrate four inspirational female leaders at various stages of their business. I’m lucky to call them all my friends!
It’s longer than our normal blogs, but these ladies had a lot to say once they got talking! Enjoy…
Victoria McDonald is owner and founder of Quirk & Colour Eclectic Interiors, an interior design company based in Brighton which helps busy professionals transform their homes to reflect their personality and increase their happiness & well-being.
Jade Staiano is a social media consultant and strategist, based in West London. She helps entrepreneurs and business owners use social media to engage, inspire and connect with their audience.
Tammy Banks is Co-Director of Taye Training, a social training company delivering core and specialist training to professionals working in criminal justice, social care and charities.
Teresa Boughey is the founder and CEO of Jungle HR. She is also a national award-winning commercially versatile Board Director and Non-Executive Director. Her book, Closing The Gap, on diversity and inclusion, has just been nominated for a Business Book Award.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
Victoria McDonald: I’m 38 years old and the eldest of 5 children. I grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland and for most of my childhood we didn’t have a TV! I went to an all-girls school and never skipped classes. Art was always my favourite subject. I went to University in Manchester when I was 19 to study Art & Design and specialised in Graphic Design. Then I did a complete 180 and went down a different career route into the police force after a chance encounter. I lived in Newcastle Upon Tyne, for 8 years but moved to Brighton in 2013. I currently live with my partner, my two stepsons and my five chickens!
Jade Staiano: I live in Ealing with my husband, Howard, and 3 young children. I grew up in Kent. I’m the eldest of four girls…my sisters and I are still really close! I went to University in Manchester, where I studied Social Anthropology. After graduating I worked for a charity organising volunteer overseas visits and then went on to join the Home Office as a civil servant. My roles varied but I ended up working in the Government Equalities Office on policy to support women and girls in education and business. After my third child was born I took a career break and started my own social media business.
Tammy Banks: I live with my husband, two wonderful daughters age 11 & 14 and chihuahua called Poppy. The best thing I have ever done is becoming a mum. My girls light up my life. I grew up in a little Cambridgeshire town and now live in beautiful Yorkshire. I love travelling and my dream is to emigrate to Australia.
At 14 I left school, and spent many childhood years homeless. I returned to studies and focused on psychology and have spent the last 18 years working in criminal justice & social care services. My values inform every decision I make.
Teresa Boughey: My family and friends are important to me. I’m married to Mike. I have two children and a granddaughter. There’s a big gap between my two children and it almost feels like I had my children in completely different life spaces. I had my daughter when I was just 16 and she’ll turn 30 this year! And I was fortunate to have my son in my mid 30’s having climbed the corporate ladder. I’m also officially a grandmother – although I like to be called ‘Nanna’. I have two dogs and value the time I take out of my busy schedule to reconnect with nature when I take them on long walks.
I love spending time in my garden and find it therapeutic to plant seeds, flowers, vegetables etc and see them grow. This aligns with my philosophy for business too I suppose.
I also love shopping – my friends laugh that I know my way around the UK by designer outlet shopping villages. I love shoes and have over 150 pairs!
Tell us about your business. What led you to start it?
Victoria: About 3 years ago I had a lot of unexplained health issues and it made me really take stock of my life, and what I wanted from it. I discovered my niche was interior design after a lot of soul-searching. At first, I bemoaned the fact I hadn’t worked this out when I was at university, but I realise now that life would’ve worked out rather differently if I had, so I don’t begrudge it now!
So, at 35 years old I decided that I wanted and needed to start my own business to live my life on my own terms, and I re-trained around my job in the police. Shortly after starting my business, Quirk and Colour Eclectic Interiors, and enrolling on a business course I found out that I suffer from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and have been told that due to this and other hormone issues it’s highly unlikely that I will be able to have children of my own, and certainly not without medical intervention. This was highly distressing news, which I’m still coming to terms with, but I now see my business as my ‘baby’ and it gives me purpose.
Jade: I was on a career break from the civil service, and feeling a little bit lost if I’m honest. I’d just had my third child and couldn’t imagine a world where I could return to work. One day I saw Sapna (founder of InnerVisions ID) was advertising for some help with her social media. I was thrilled when she recruited me. The role quickly developed from curating relevant content to developing campaigns, editing blogs, maximising our social media impact and spotting other PR opportunities including awards entries.
It seemed natural to invest in my newfound skills and so I took a Digital Mums Diploma and graduated last summer. I’ve already done some work for a couple of other clients, but as my children get older (only one more year until the littlest is in school!) I can develop the business, taking on more clients.
Tammy: Taye Training was an ‘accidental business’. I had learnt the power of tailored solutions during a safeguarding auditing role and my friend Faye had just spent two years seconded as a learning and development manager. When we returned to management in a homeless charity and criminal justice we were frustrated by our team members coming back from training days ranting about what a waste of time they were, so we started to deliver training in areas we had operational experience in.
All our training was values-led and tailored to the organisation. We literally developed it to meet our needs as operational managers. It received great reviews and we were recommended to others. Over the next few years, demand grew but Faye and I wanted to continue our full-time jobs so we asked other people with operational experience to train for us too. We now have hundreds of clients who deliver much needed, often emergency services to complex and/or vulnerable people. We now have 40+ operational experts delivering for us nationally.
In 2019 we analysed why we receive such phenomenal results and are about to publish the book outlining the Training 4 Influence methodology and an accredited train the trainer qualification. Our aim is to share the method so other freelance trainers and internal trainers can deliver their sessions from the same perspective so collectively we can have a huge impact on the sector.
Teresa: I started my business 12 years ago after having my son. At the time corporate life just wasn’t able to offer me the flexible working that I required so I stepped off the corporate treadmill and entered the world of entrepreneurship.
I have a proven, consistent track record of working with executive boards and leadership teams to deliver business improvements through and with people and my big passion is to create inclusive workplace cultures.
What do you love – and hate – about running your own business?
Victoria: I’m still very new in business but I’m really enjoying the whole journey and taking it as it comes. Which is surprising as I’m normally very impatient and a very ‘all or nothing’ person! I love the freedom that being your own boss brings and the fact that you can take it in any direction or tangent you want. The freedom and fluidity are really liberating.
However, it can be quite lonely at times. I offset this by joining a coaching group and surrounding myself with wonderful peers and mentors to reach out to, learn from and help to build myself up. Having my own business and getting out of my comfort zone and networking has allowed me to meet people I never would have otherwise met or interacted with and I’ve made great friends for life.
Anything I really hate about business (tax, techy computer stuff, etc!) I just delegate or outsource so it doesn’t stop me doing what I love most.
Jade: I love the freedom to set my own hours and manage my own workload. I love that I can get creative with images and words. I’d never have described myself as creative, but I’m now able to embrace that side of me. It is also rewarding to see something through from initial idea, to a completed campaign. Working with start-ups is one of my favourite things. I’ve learnt a lot from Sapna about the importance of branding and I feel that gives me a real edge when it comes to my social media strategies. If it isn’t ‘on brand’ then it shouldn’t be on your company feed. If you understand who you are and who you’re engaging with, it makes deciding on content much easier.
I’m not a massive fan of admin! But that comes with all jobs so isn’t unique to my business. I just make sure I get it done at the beginning of the day. That’s when I feel fresh and energetic. I don’t have to rush. In the beginning I was also nervous about presenting ideas and strategies to clients – what if they didn’t like them? But I’ve learnt that receiving feedback needn’t be scary. All creative processes need a feedback loop, and I’d rather someone ask me to change something than them not be happy with their social media feeds. After all, their pages represent them and their business.
Tammy: I love the difference we make. I love that people can book us to deliver their mandatory or specialist training and because of our methodology they receive so much more. They receive expert skills-based training tailored to their needs and are also reminded of their ‘why’ and the values and mission they share with their organisation. We rebuild their emotional resilience and reignite their passion for changing lives. In the criminal justice, social care and charitable sectors this influence is priceless.
I hate sales talk. My background is in statutory and charitable services. Sales just feels icky. We know our training is transformational but some people will still choose to provide e-learning or a cheaper service to their staff team. I wasted too much time telling these people that by booking us they are saving money as their team will also be happier, stay with the organisation longer and take away applicable learning rather than disconnected information. Sales made me so unhappy that I went on a sales course to try and find a solution….. now I focus on sharing our impact and providing useful free content instead and follow up inbound enquiries. This has made a huge difference to my happiness and helped us grow as an organisation.
Teresa: I love the difference that I make when working with my clients. I also value the flexibility that being an entrepreneur brings.
Running your own business requires you to not only be a technical expert in your chosen field but also requires you to be finance director, sales director, marketing director and commercial director. That’s why it’s important to have a great team around you who can support with many of those roles. I also appreciate business frameworks such as Daniel Priestley’s KPI methodology, this has really helped me to shape and grow my business.
Were there any big or lucky breaks that – or people who helped or inspired you?
Victoria: My ‘big break’ was joining a business course. It was scary and I didn’t think I had the money to spare. But when I thought of the alternative, I found a way to make it work. It meant tightening my belt for a year, not going out and not going on my beloved holidays, which seemed a real wrench at the time. Then I realised that the reason I ‘needed’ my holidays was to escape from my life – it was a vicious circle that I needed to break.
I took a leap of faith and joined the Shifts To Success programme and Alexander Seery and all the mentors involved, including (InnerVisions ID founder) Sapna Pieroux, have been amazing.
Another breakthrough for me was when I worked with Sapna to create my brand and branding on one of her One Day Branding Workshops. I cried tears of happiness when I saw what we created, and I knew then that my business now had a visual brand that totally suited, encapsulated and introduced me before I even spoke.
Jade: As I mentioned earlier, my first social media client was Sapna. She took a risk employing someone who didn’t have a specific social media background, but she was looking for people with the right attitude, a growth mindset and she wanted to build a business which empowered women. I have certainly felt lucky to be one of those women! In social media things change so quickly, but she’s shown me that the basics of offering valuable content and being clear about your brand remain the same.
I have a group of very supportive female friends. And I was really lucky to find a kindred spirit in my friend Elsa, who also started a career in social media management at the same time as I did. She’s also a mum of three, and the childcare swapping, late-night Whatsapp conversations, and her all-round encouragement has been invaluable.
Tammy: Gosh so many people have helped and inspired me throughout my life and I appreciate every single one of them. I feel like life is a constant lesson and am lucky to be surrounded by amazing people with such a range of experience to help and guide me. I try to do the same for others, life is about collaboration and support, making the biggest difference we can whilst we are here.
My lucky business break was meeting Faye all those years ago. We worked together in the same charitable services and became best friends and then business partners. Our values align, her strengths balance my weaknesses and visa versa. TAYE stands for TAmmy and faYE – a great reminder to us that people are what matter in life.
Teresa: In my early career I was fortunate enough to work for someone who was an amazing mentor. I got exposure to strategic business activities such as mergers and acquisitions, executive remuneration and business restructure at a very early stage of my career which has been invaluable in my career trajectory.
How do you define success? What success are you most proud of?
Victoria: Success to me can be as simple as just getting out of bed in the morning! I have suffered from depression on and off throughout my life, and I’ve learned to celebrate the little things, the baby steps. Success is built up through everyday habits and actions, and they’re the ones that will lead you to your bigger goals.
The success I’m most proud of is how I’ve really turned my mindset around and that didn’t happen overnight. I made a conscious decision that I was going to do it. Life can deal us cruel blows, but it’s how we react to them that counts. Through doing this I’ve now managed to come off my anti-depressants, which is an accomplishment I’m really proud of.
Jade: I’m proud of reinventing myself and my career after having three kids in four years. It sometimes seemed like those baby days would never end. I loved them (most of the time!) but I’m not the first woman to understand the value of work for my mental health. I started out only working 3 hours a week. Even though that has increased I still work around the children and their holidays. I’m proud that I’ve been able to create a life which balances quality time with my children and getting out there and working with really inspiring and interesting business owners.
Tammy: Honestly, I’m most proud of my children. They are kind, empathetic, opinionated girls who will absolutely change the world. I love that they are happy, fortunate enough to have amazing experiences and see me and their dad trying to make a difference and already want to do the same!
I’m proud of my journey. After a difficult childhood, I’ve now spent 18 years working in statutory and charitable services helping people avoid the pain I suffered. I look for the most complex of problems and try to change them. I’ve taken all my learning and understanding of the pressures in the system to develop a creative solution. I will always champion for system and political change and I truly believe Training 4 Influence will have a huge impact on front-line professionals. I’m so excited that other freelance trainers and internal trainers are now using the method to transform their training too.
Teresa: Success comes in many different shapes and sizes. Success is helping clients achieve success. It’s transferring knowledge to others so that they can grow and develop. Success is being able to spend time with my family and friends.
One of my personal successes was writing and publishing my book ‘Closing the Gap – 5 Steps to Creating and Inclusive Culture’ which became #1 bestseller within a month of publication and has been shortlisted in the 2020 Business Book Awards in the ‘Exceptional Book that Promotes Diversity’ category.
How do you balance running your business with having a family? What are your typical days or weeks like?
Victoria: As I’m a step-mum to two lovely boys aged 10 and 13 years, I manage my business mainly when they’re not staying with us. I try and spend as much time with the boys as I can when they’re here. The boys love the business and they often want to get ‘involved’ so I’ll set them little tasks they can do and earn pocket money for. They get to help and they get rewarded for it, and I see it as a positive life lesson for them.
Life can be stressful and hectic so I have an always updated Google Planner, a personal wall planner AND a family calendar. You put the non-negotiable life events in and work around that. Because it’s visible on the wall, my partner is aware of when I’ll be working on my business.
I used to love my lie-ins but I began struggling for time, so I decided to start getting up earlier, which made a massive difference. We all have the same hours in a day, a week, a month, a year – it’s how you plan to use them that counts.
Jade: I have a pretty set routine for myself and the kids during the week. My husband works long hours and isn’t home until after bedtime, so I have the freedom to run things the way I like! The older two are in school, they have clubs like drama, Beavers and swimming. My youngest goes to nursery two days a week, which is when I get all my face-to-face meetings and networking done. The rest of my work gets done around playdates and evenings. I often grab an hour or two at the weekend as well.
Thankfully my husband is supportive and understands the need for flexibility. We share a digital calendar and are learning to use it diligently.
I’m also determined to get exercise in when I can. I find it difficult to get out of the house with the kids around so we got a Peloton bike at home. I love that I can fit in a 30min spin class with very little planning. At weekends I do longer rides. I’m training to do the London to Brighton in September.
Tammy: I do my best. I’m sure I don’t always get it right. My priority is my family and historically I’ve selected roles based on how they fit around my families routine and needs. I remember years ago my husband bringing my baby daughter to me to be fed on all of my breaks when I worked as a supervisor in a homeless hostel and working shifts so I could attend playgroups and school trips.
Now I’m running Taye Training full time and my girls are older I arrange my own diary and turn down opportunities which clash with key family events. We are a team…for instance, last week I was at a Jonas Brothers concert with my 13-year-old and one of our amazing facilitators was delivering a safeguarding keynote I was originally booked for. But next week my husband is taking my other daughter to an event so I can attend a meeting with an organisation who are interested in us delivering training nationally for their front-line professionals.
My days are a balance between home working and school runs and travelling the country to client meetings and speaking events. I’m honest with my family and they know I work hard to provide for them AND the difference Taye training is making.
Teresa: There’s no such thing as typical day or week! The key is flexibility. I will often start work early in the morning, then switch to ‘mummy mode’ and get my son ready for school before switching back into business mode. My husband is of tremendous support. We make a fabulous team enabling us both to do the thing we love as well as be present as a family.
What strategies or tips do you have for…
Victoria: I have a massive A1 mood-board in my home studio that I look at when I’m having an off day. It reminds me of why I’m doing this. I also stick pictures of things I want to the fridge so I see them all the time. I have a motivational screensaver on my phone that is a constant reminder to me every time I pick it up to not just blindly watch or consume useless crap on the internet.
Jade: I love that phone tip! One of my biggest challenges is getting off my phone!
I’m careful to include some ‘bigger picture’ thinking time in my life. When you set yourself goals and remind yourself of them regularly it really helps on a cold wet Thursday!
Tammy: Consciously think about why you are doing what you are doing. The big picture and granular. What difference are you making to yourself, your family, your customers?
Teresa: Set your goals and believe in yourself. Surround yourself with people who are better than you, but also who support and encourage you.
Victoria: If I have a deadline to meet then I’ll self-impose an earlier deadline to meet, and I’ll make it specific – day, date, time. This means that I’m giving myself a buffer for life getting in the way or plans changing. It’s a great sense of achievement when you get something done earlier than planned and people appreciate it. This is also where my online and offline calendars come into play too.
Jade: I like to divide the day up into sections. Life admin, business admin, bigger projects, smaller weekly tasks. Then I think about the week coming up and prioritise based on deadlines. It’s taken a while to get used to working only a few days a week. It means planning further ahead, but it helps me focus.
Tammy: I’ve only been full-time self-employed since November 2019. Prior to this, I had a full-time job as a charity CEO too. I work best under pressure and have some amazing accountability buddies. We message each other daily with deadlines and inspiration. I also really try to make the most of my time by listening to audiobooks for self-development when driving. Also, I schedule all meetings and calls for as early in the day as possible to ensure I’m up, ready and my brain is switched on.
Teresa: I make lists for everything! It helps to empty my head of all the things I need to do, but it’s also therapeutic to tick things off as you’ve completed things.
Victoria: People always ask me how I achieve so much, and I tell them that I rarely watch TV. Although I understand that people watch it for relaxation and a bit of escapism. However, I think it can be negative to watch too much of it when they could be using this time to achieve their own goals instead. I also try and avoid sitting around thinking too much and instead get up and start doing. Best laid plans can always change, so it’s wasted time to plan or think about things TOO much.
Jade: It’s amazing how much you can get done in pockets of dead time during the day. Ten minutes and you can write a blog outline. Five minutes is enough time to search for relevant content to share with your followers. Also, in terms of social media, it’s much more productive to plan out a week or month’s worth of posts than try to think of something new every morning. It seems overwhelming at first but you’ll find the creative juices get flowing, you’ll be in the right mindset, and the ideas will come.
Tammy: Collaborate, support others and outsource. We all have completely different skills. Learn to be happy with yours, and develop in ways that build upon existing strengths. Collaborate with others rather than trying to do everything yourself.
Teresa: Lists and timers. As I have to juggle so many things I have to set myself deadlines and windows of time to complete things. Sometimes I have to shut myself away to get things completed.
Victoria: I struggled with procrastination a lot! But then I read Brian Tracy’s Eat that Frog. It explains that if you get the biggest task or the thing you really don’t want to do out of the way first thing in the day then it’s all good after that. Hold yourself accountable. Do what you need to do and reward yourself with a break and a treat afterwards. That’s usually chocolate or ice cream for me!
Jade: I also subscribe to getting the biggest task over with early in the day. It sets you up for a great feeling! I also find taking time on a Sunday afternoon to think about the week ahead, the kids’ schedules and my own, helps me limit that overwhelming Monday morning feeling.
Tammy: I’m the biggest procrastinator! People always tell me that I’m not but against my own standards I am. I’m getting better at being kinder to myself and recognising when I work best and my pain points. I spent a long time feeling terrible about this but recently I’ve really looked at what working style is best for me.
I need to procrastinate! It’s part of my process so I have a list of small tasks in a bullet journal. When I’m procrastinating on a big job I do those little tasks. This means I’m still achieving and don’t berate myself! I then time block for bigger jobs – this is how I completed my book. Initially, I tried the recommended ‘hour-a-day’ but it didn’t work for me. So I time blocked days in a row, procrastinated on little jobs for the first 2 hours of each day, then cracked on.
Teresa: I still struggle with this one at times! I ask myself why I’m avoiding something. It helps me to understand if I’m avoiding it because I don’t want it enough or because I need others’ help for example. By asking myself this question helps me to reprioritise it or help me to understand why I’m avoiding it.
Victoria: I love a long, hot bath with essential oils as it relaxes both my body and my mind, which are intrinsically linked. I also have a foot spa. When I need to get some work done on the computer I sit with my feet in it: relax and multi-task! I also find reading before bed relaxes me and helps me sleep better as it clears my head of all the day-to-day worry, but I’m also consuming and learning at the same time.
Jade: I read a lot. I enjoying fitting in a chapter while I’m watching the kids in the bath…and just before bed. I’ve joined a book club and it’s lovely to meet up and discuss books over a glass of wine.
My husband and I love watching a good box set. Although he always wants to watch one more but I have to get to bed on time!
I also love going to Kew Gardens on a Tuesday with all my mum friends and their toddlers. The fresh air and long walk help me feel relaxed.
Tammy: Most of our training is delivered to frontline professionals. They are working with people who have complex needs and/or are vulnerable and really recognise the importance of looking after yourself. If you’re tired, overworked or stressed you can make bad decisions or blur boundaries. For front-line professionals, this can be the difference between life and death!
Prioritising yourself is important. Downtime gives you chance to reflect, helps to generate ideas and reignites passion for your work. I love reading and make sure I get to spend lots of time with my kids. My favourite is movies and cuddles! We have ‘mum and daughter 1:1 dates’ too for quality time! I also regularly go to the cinema and for breakfast with my friends. In fact, I’m celebrating my 40th this year in New York with them.
Teresa: I struggle with this one too because I’m always on the go. However, taking time out is really important. I enjoy movie nights with my family, swimming, walking my dogs and like to listen to meditation music.
Victoria: I do love a good glass of Prosecco! I prefer a quieter life now and would rather have friends round or go out for a nice meal as I adore my food. That’s not to say that I don’t still love dressing up and having a good night out too, but I save this for special occasions, which makes them even more special.
Jade: I love to celebrate with friends, family and a glass of bubbles! We also like to celebrate with travel. I love going to new countries and cities. My husband and I went to Washington DC to celebrate his 40th last year. And the whole family are going to Italy to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday in the summer.
Tammy: I literally like to celebrate whenever possible. We celebrate every single holiday – having Easter hunts, Hallowe’en parties – they usually include lots of children! This year’s Easter party was in the dark with glow sticks and raw egg runs…life is short!
From a work perspective small wins, big wins – every step forward is worth celebrating. I genuinely celebrate other people’s success. Life is amazing when we realise we are all on the same journey. I send gifts, thank you gestures and little random notes to friends and colleagues at every opportunity.
Teresa: I’m fairly self-sufficient and I love a good party! ‘Recognition’ however looks and feels different for everyone, which is why I believe it’s great to be surrounded by a range of people. Family members might be pleased for your achievements, but they may not have the appreciation in terms of the effort invested to achieve the outcome. Not in the same way that my entrepreneur colleagues do.
So I believe it’s important to surround yourself with cheerleaders but equally, you need to be your own biggest cheerleader too. My mantra is ‘Be proud, Be Brave and Be you!’
A great mantra for us all, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Ladies, thank you all so much for sharing your valuable time and wisdom with us. Hopefully, it will inspire our readers too. Feel free to share your own tips with us.
One last thing…Sapna Pieroux, founder of InnerVisions ID is honoured to be the keynote speaker Wimbletech CIC IWD2020 Celebration. It will be an evening of inspiring stories and a chance to network with other like-minded entrepreneurs.
The event is in Wimbledon, on the 6th March from 6pm. Click on the link for more details and how to register.
Happy International Women’s Day!