Philippa Symes found a new way of life for both herself and her husband through selling aloe vera products. Now she wants to help other working mums who want a challenging job but one where they have a lot of freedom.
Philippa, who has two grandchildren and another on the way, had around 25 years’ experience in sales and advertising when her family moved to New Jersey in the US in the late 1980s for her husband’s IT job. It was this move that brought out entrepreneurial skills which have served her well with her current business.
Her children, who are now aged 29 and 30, were very young at the time of the move which was initially supposed to be for two years. At first, she was not able to work. She did some work as an emergency medical technician then was a PA for a Fortune 500 company. But she has always, she says, been a bit of an entrepreneur and likes to think outside the box. “I looked for business opportunities,” she says, “and eventually set up a painting business called Best of British. It was an exclusive business. I have always been motivated by money. It may not make you happy, but it allows up to have choices and freedom.”
She was taught by a friend to hand finish kitchens and other furniture. The business was a success. “The US loves everything about the UK,” she says.
She admits the work was hard and quite physical, but it fitted around the children’s school hours. It also gave her the taste for running her own business. However, when the family returned to the UK she got a job in sales and marketing at Capital Radio. It was fun, but she lacked the freedom to do her own thing.
She started looking around. She looked at franchises and thought about opening a restaurant. Then she came across Forever Living which specialises in aloe vera products. “I knew nothing about health and nutrition,” she says.
She answered a job advert for self-employed, independent distributors and started part time. “I was so excited I couldn’t sleep,” she says.
There was a small initial outlay for products – she says it was under £200 for start-up costs – which are sold face to face or via the internet.
Philippa’s main motivation was to improve her family’s quality of life and to help her husband out of a stressful job as senior vice president of a company. “We never saw him. We did not have a life. We had money. Our life looked amazing from the outside. We had a six-figure income, but we couldn’t spend any holidays together and didn’t have any time together as a family. It became a real mission for me to change our lives,” she says.
She couldn’t afford to give up her job at first, but kept a pen and paper handy to jot down ideas. “I was 44 and I had finally found what I wanted to do,” she says. “I worked in the pockets of time I had. I did long hours, coming home and starting on my Forever business.”
After 10 months she left her job in radio after looking at what she was earning part time and working out what that sum would be if she did it full time.
She says she was given a lot of coaching and support from her mentor. “She wouldn’t allow me to fail,” says Philippa.
Her husband was combining his job with an MBA and looking for a change. He went to a Forever Living event with Philippa. “He was flabbergasted by what he saw. There were a lot of men, which he didn’t expect. He listened to other people’s stories and said to me ‘can you get me out of my job’. He was keen to move quickly. I didn’t think he would be interested, but he saw the business model and could see it would work.”
A few months later he took early redundancy and decided to risk joining Philippa in her work. The family moved to Wales and haven’t looked back.
Within 15 months both were working full time for Forever Living. Most of their income, which is now a six-figure sum, comes not from selling products but from building a team and helping their team members to be successful. They get paid a bonus based on the productivity of their team members.
“It’s about helping people to build their business. It’s more coaching and mentoring. That’s the most rewarding side for us and it pays for us to work our socks off to ensure they are successful,” says Philippa. “It’s our retirement fund.”
She says independent distributors come from all walks of life and she and her husband travel around the UK to meet them. “They can be doctors, accountants, lawyers, anything, but we are particularly keen on people with experience of working with people such as HR workers, teachers or nurses. Most of the people who send us cvs are disillusioned with their working lives and want to improve their quality of life,” she says.
One woman she worked with is a young mum whose goal was to put her second daughter through private school. “She didn’t want to go back to work, but didn’t just want to make pin money. She now has an amazing business that continues to grow,” says Philippa.
She advertises on Workingmums.co.uk and says this supplies her with her best distributors, who are all home-based. “Mums tend to be big on communication skills and that’s the most important part of what we do,” she says.
Her experience as a working mum has made her a passionate advocate of working mums being able to do something that “challenges their brain cells and allows them to earn a good income”. She adds: “Women who take a career break find it difficult to get back into work and if they do they can feel guilty and face massive childcare costs. They need to be empowered.”
For more information about Forever Living, email Philippa at email@example.com.