The Public Accounts Committee has called on HMRC to explain why some self employed people...read more
Two years ago Sarah Jane Green was running herself into the ground, working a full-time job as a lettings manager, bringing up her three children and trying to build a fitness business on the side.
She was not only physically exhausted, but emotionally drained, hating her job and resenting having to leave her children for long hours. She and her husband decided to take a leap of faith and invest in a direct selling opportunity which she says has more than paid off.
Sarah Jane, from Southsea in Hampshire, had been a project manager at a marketing company, but had given that up after having children to find something to fit around her three children. She tried childminding when they were younger, but as her household costs went up she got into debt and needed a full-time job. So she took on a job as a manager of a lettings agency where she was solely responsible for letting all the purpose built student accommodation in three buildings with over 100 flats.
It was a long-hours job and she didn’t feel her work was valued by her bosses. “I wanted the income, but I didn’t want the hours,” she says. “All I was doing was working to pay the childcare bill.” Her youngest, now five, was still in nursery at the time and she had to pay a childminder to take her to nursery, pick up the other children – now aged 12 and eight – and have her youngest when she wasn’t in nursery. “I was working from 8.45am from Monday to Friday and every other Saturday,” she says.
Her husband was in the armed forces so was not always able to help out on Saturdays. In addition she and her husband were passionate about sport and fitness and had their own fitness company, Southsea Fitness, which they started up three and a half years ago and ran in their spare time. “We were crazy busy, but we did not see our company as a way to earn a full-time income and we couldn’t do much with it as we didn’t have the time,” says Sarah Jane.
Her husband’s best friend, who lived in Scotland, had started a business selling herbal supplements through Herbalife, which specialises in sports nutrition and health weight loss products, and was earning good money. He encouraged the couple to go to a meeting to hear more about Herbalife. “At the meeting there were lots of normal people who had stories like ours. We left the meeting and I said ‘we could do this’,” says Sarah Jane.
She came home and decided to hand in her notice that weekend. The couple started to promote Herbalife products and the company helped with the marketing and other support. Sarah Jane took some of the products and people noticed positive changes in her physique. The business began to grow organically as she talked to more and more people about the results she had achieved. Initially the business was run from the kitchen of the couple’s basement flat. Now they have moved into a four bedroom house and have their own wellness centre, including a body scanner which provides an analysis of, for instance, their lean body mass, how many calories they burn at rest and their target weight.
Sarah Jane says there were long hours initially, but says it could all be fitted around the children. She could drop and pick them up from school and her youngest was able to come to meetings with her before she started school. She did a lot of work when the children were asleep. “It was hard, but it was better than working for someone else,” she says. The products they sell include everything from nutritional items to skincare products.
Two years later she says she is living a life she had never imagined. Her children are in private schools. Her husband, who had been due to go on deployment having been mostly based in nearby Portsmouth, was able to leave the armed forces. After not being able to take holidays, the family are now able to plan things like days out to Alton Towers. Most clients are local and Sarah Jane considers it a community-based business, but they also have clients around the world who they deal with over the phone. They want to achieve goals such as gaining more energy or losing weight. Sarah Jane can tailor a package for each client and supports them with advice and reminders. She also runs several fitness bootcamps each week on the beach as well as zumba, running and nutrition clinics at the wellness centre.
Sarah Jane admits the turnaround has been really quick and is due to very hard work in the first months. “Our kids have been the driving force,” she says. “Neither of us wanted to be in the position we had been in, like hamsters on a wheel, with a large amount of debt. We had a really strong why. We had to make it work. With hard work and determination we have built someone really amazing.”
They are now helping others to do the same by promoting Herbalife as a business opportunity. One of the people who they are currently advising and supporting is a single mum. Sarah Jane says: “Our aim is to help others do what we have done and given them that financial freedom.”
*Herbalife is recognised by the Direct Selling Association, the trade body for direct selling companies in the UK like Avon, Neal’s Yard and Mary Kay. The DSA says direct selling allows anyone, regardless of age, background or prior experience to set up and run their own business with minimal outlay.