Business diva

Emma Wimhurst has gone from self-made millionaire to stay at home mum to business mentor. Workingmums finds out how she did it.

Emma Wimhurst knows what it takes to run your own business and be a working mum. After working for Revlon and Max Factor, she decided to set up her own cosmetics business. Diva Cosmetics launched just a year after she gave birth to her first child. The business has made her a millionaire, but it has been hard work. Emma is no sloth, though. After she had given birth to her son William in January 1999, she says she asked for her in tray to be brought into the hospital. “Other mums were getting flowers,” she says.
The idea for Diva Cosmetics came from looking at the market and realising where the gaps were. In 2000 The Spice Girls were on the scene and Emma wondered where teenagers went to get the kind of bright make-up that was all the rage in the world of pop. New Look was undergoing a sharp growth and was aiming for teens. It was, said Emma, the right match for Diva Cosmetics. She had taken on another worker to build up the business and they were chewing over the possible names, when her colleague told Emma she was a bit of a diva. “We looked at each other and both said Diva Cosmetics,” says Emma. The logo for the make-up was deliberately marketed to stand out from the crowd: it had the word Diva written in raised glitter against a blue background. As the business grew, they recruited more staff and bought offices in Bournemouth where Emma lived, converting an old electricity generator office.
Tipping point
Meanwhile, Emma was reaching a “tipping point of guilt” with William. He had been going to nursery three to four days a week since he was around seven weeks old. She says: “When he was a blob I was happy to work as he was the reason I was doing it.” However, one day when he was a toddler she was in a meeting with a shipping agent. It was a beautiful day and she was sitting in a cafe, looking at the beach full of mums and toddlers. “It looked idyllic. It probably wasn’t in reality,” she says. “I sat there and I wasn’t listening to what was being said. It all felt wrong. I thought, ‘William and I don’t do that’. I don’t have the freedom to do that. As I walked back to the office, I realised I would have resigned if I had been employed. However, I had around 12 staff dependent on me so I could not resign. I had suppliers dependent on me. I made myself a promise that if I ever got pregnant again I was going to stay at home.” Emma had just split up from William’s father at the time and didn’t think it was likely she would get pregnant again, but a year later she met her current husband and got pregnant with her second son Charlie. She immediately started setting up an exit strategy and sold the business in 2003.
She says she was okay at first with being a stay-at-home mum. She needed a break after thinking about Diva 24/7, plus she moved house. However, after a while she was beginning to get bored and a bit lonely. Then she got pregnant again with her daughter Hattie and postponed any decision-making about working. The following year was hard and she decided she needed to make a change. She started asking herself what were the qualities she brought to Diva. Aside from her passion for the business, she realised she was good at motivating people and that only two people had left the business in the time she had run it and there was a very low sickness rate. “It was a really motivated, passionate, achieving team,” she says. “I realised I have always wanted to encourage people to achieve their potential.” One of the people who worked for her wrote to her in 2006 and said Emma had had a huge impact on her working life and described her as her “work ethic mentor”. “Something resonated in me,” says Emma. She drew up a plan for EMpwr, her “high-energy” business mentor scheme. “It’s very exciting,” she says. “Diva was about being the best in own label cosmetics, but EMpwr is just about me, what I want to do and sharing the insights and experiences that have shaped my professional life. I have gone from being a product to a service industry so it has been quite challenging.”
She had envisaged the business being about hands-on mentoring every day, but a lot is about public speaking at conferences, exhibitions and shows and sharing her expertise in building up her own business. She says that when she started she had a couple of clients who she saw once a week. Now she is contacted on a nationwide basis. Once she diagnoses the problem with a mentor client she suggests changes in the way the business operates and reviews it. She has also written a book about business mentoring which is due out in the autumn. It’s called BOOM! – 7 Disciplines to Control, Grow and add Impact to Your Business – a motivational self-help guide for business owners and entrepreneurs! Check for details.
Emma says she hasn’t seen any fall-off in demand for her services since the recession. “Many businesses recognise they need to invest in themselves. Some managers don’t take time for themselves, but the ones who invest in themselves and in training will do the best,” she says. "A recession isn’t the time to stop investing in your business – it’s a brilliant time to help you get head and shoulders above the competition!’
Emma also mentors franchises and agents and holds one day workshop especially for them. She is featuring on 25th August on the BBC children’s TV favourite, Beat the Boss, as one of the big shots taking on a group of would-be child entrepreneurs. "Of course, I know the outcome, but we’re sworn to secrecy! It terrific to be part of this show!"
She says one of the main secrets of her success, both at home and in work, is planning. She works on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and co presents an internet radio show in London on Tuesday evenings.  She is taking part in the everywoman conference on 18th November and has a packed diary of speaking gigs. She’s also presenting at an event created by Jo Cameron, from The Apprentice.

Friday is “a sacred day” for the family. Her husband works for himself in IT so can be flexible as long as they coordinate their diaries. For the holidays, Emma has scheduled two days a week when the children will go to a childminder and her oldest son will go on sports courses. She has total admiration for stay at home mums, having done that herself, but she likes the balance of her life now. “I love my children, but I love working,” she says.

You can contact Emma on 01202 830653

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *