From corporate woman to woman in business
Justine Rogers went from an advertising job travelling the world to setting up her own business after working and balancing three children for 10 years just got too hard. Here she recounts her journey from corporate woman to entrepreneur.
The last thing I ever expected to do with my life was start my own business. After I graduated with a 2:1 in Business Studies from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, I moved to London and started working in the advertising agency world. I then moved to client side working in the global brand teams of multinational telecom corporations such as Motorola, BT and for the last 10 years Orange. I was a corporate career girl and very determined to get to the top (or as near to it as I could!).
Even after having my first son Charlie I went back to work full time, commuting from Bristol to London and travelling internationally many times a month. I think I just expected to “manage the juggle”. The initial inkling that this was not going to be easy was my very first nursery drop off – my then nine-month-old son screamed and clung on to me with all his little might – it was heart wrenching and I could feel my mother instincts roaring at me even then.
I duly tried to manage a career and being a Mum for 10 more years and a total of three children – I kept it all going on a part time, three-day-a-week basis, but it was not easy even with an employer who was fantastically flexible and supportive. The numerous complicated and very expensive childcare arrangements, the constant stress of “being just slightly late” for school events and the years of long looks from my children as I disappeared off on yet another business trip eventually wore me down and heavily outweighed the attraction of the corporate career ladder. The balance tipped in 2011 when I missed my eldest son’s first important athletics event. The look of disappointment on his face when I turned up too late, red-faced and guilty made me realise that there had to be another way. I had done the best “juggle” I could and now it was time for a change. However, I knew that I wanted to keep working and realised that starting my own small business could be rewarding if I found the right niche.
I had spent my career working in brand management and advertising and I wanted to use the skills and experience I had accumulated. I had spent a lot of time using digital and social media and understood the benefits of an engaging on line environment as a way of attracting customers and therefore potential sales to a website. I also harboured a neglected skill – I am not bad with a needle and thread and have always had an interest in the garment trade. How I could mix those skills and interests together, become my own boss and do the school run became a conundrum that I was determined to solve.
Many months of late nights experimenting with craft-based ideas and researching market gaps resulted in the idea for Dainty Dizzy, a fun children’s special occasion wear brand that allows customers to design their own garments on line on a unique virtual illustrative doll. In America, handmade special occasion wear is done fantastically well and my vision was to create a British take on this; a well recognised quirky children’s brand which symbolised handmade British quality and was fun to engage with. It felt realistic to think that I could run this type of web-based business out of my home office.
Thus my business concept was born and the Dainty Dizzy brand began to take shape. I designed the product range I wanted to sell and spent a lot of time sourcing the correct suppliers of fabric, embellishments, labels and packaging. I hired a local professional designer to help create the look and feel I needed for the brand and a professional photographer was used to run the shoot for the website. Finally the brand was ready to be translated by a website developer onto its web platform as an online shop. I also planned how I wanted to use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to help promote the Dainty Dizzy on line presence.
The website was finally launched on the 16th April 2012. As SEO (site traffic) can take months to build I accompanied the launch with a small leaflet drop and print advertising promotion. This was targeted at a mainly A/B Mum audience using a leaflet drop agency and free local “mum” magazines. It was small scale but a start to my business being fully realised and beginning to bring in some income.
It is of course early days, but the benefits of running my own business are already abundantly clear – a sense of freedom as I really do call the shots, a feeling of pride as the hard work of getting the business to launch stage is realised and above all the fact that I can still be a professional woman with ambition and drive but also be a mum who is present in my children’s weekly lives rather than a hasty late comer.