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“Find your tribe”

I interviewed Charlotte Wibberley about being a parent and a business owner

Six years ago, Charlotte Wibberley started her first online business, Blossom Executive Support – a multi-award winning Virtual Assistant business that supported entrepreneurs and small business owners. Following that, Charlotte worked as an Online Business Manager and Project Manager and founded two further businesses. Today, she works with women business owners as a Business Coach and Strategist.

Charlotte’s other venture, VIP VA, describes itself as ‘the most collaborative & supportive organisation, training academy & community exclusively created for online business owners, VAs and freelancers’. Charlotte says that VIP VA was founded with the aim of changing the face of the Virtual Assistant industry, supporting the global VA industry as it grows and helping clients to become the VA business owners that they most want to be. Find out more here.

I asked Charlotte what it was like to run a business as a parent. Here are her answers.

Charlotte Wibberley, Business Success Coach for VAs shot at Bronte, The Strand, London WC2. 21/2/17 Shot for PA Life Magazine.

Tell me about what you do.

I work with women who want to escape employment, find a better work / life integration and set up their own business on their terms. I have a community, membership and training academy for online business owners at www.vipva.org and I also work privately 1:1 with clients to coach, advise and implement www.charlottewibberley.co.uk.  My mission is to empower women juggling motherhood and a career to have the confidence, support and tools to run things their way, leave behind mothers guilt, and run purposeful, passion-filled businesses!

What advice would you give to parents thinking of starting their own business?

As someone who has been there and now supports others, the biggest thing you can do is to find your tribe and build / find a support network. Entrepreneurship is tough, especially emotionally and mentally – you need those cheerleaders who have your back and can remind you of your achievements and guide you through the tough times too!

If you had a time machine and could go back to meet yourself when you were first starting out, what present would you give your younger self?

Love this question (maybe because I have always wanted to time travel…).  I would give myself the gift of patience. I always wanted things to happen all at once and at 100mph. If I had understood that by being patient, doing the right things and taking baby steps forward, I was ultimately creating my master plan, I perhaps would have been more patient / satisfied / less stressed along the way!

Did you end up with more or less time with your kids as a result of setting up your own business? And do you work with them around?

My focus for leaving employment and starting my business was to be there for my kids, so they have always been a driver for me.  I spend WAY more time with them than I ever could have imagined possible, and that is what it is all about for me. Making the school drop off, seeing the nativity play, being there to help with homework.  My kids are still little (5 and 3) but I have built something that is structured to put them as a priority in my life.  I work when my son is at school and my daughter is in pre-school.  If they know I am at home, I’ll never get peace / be able to work!

Do you feel that you’re passing on any particular values or skills to your kids by working for yourself?

Absolutely. Both of my kids see mummy and daddy (my husband is also an entrepreneur) working flexibly and also feel them being around – and I am thrilled that this theme of ‘building life on your terms’ will carry forward for them too. That’s not to say that it would be a must for them, but to know that anything is possible is an important message to send.

What are the advantages / disadvantages when turning a ‘passion’ into a business?

Advantages: you absolutely love what you do! And it shines through for your clients.  When you are passionate about your work then it stops becoming a chore and you immerse yourself in it 100% – you are more likely to gain clients when they can see you aren’t just doing it for the money.  Disadvantages: personal and business boundaries can be broken – you can’t switch off as you love it so much and end up working more than you anticipated / spend less time on the important things in your life.

Thinking about how NOT to set up your own business, what are the biggest mistakes a parent business owner could make?

Not investing in their venture. I’m not necessarily meaning financially, but if you want to make sure it is successful it it worth spending time and energy on planning, creating and launching your business, and beyond. Make sure you understand and invest in the right things and don’t rush it!  Success doesn’t happen overnight (or not often) so you need to ensure you are prepared to put the work in.

What are the most important skills a parent needs when setting up their own business?

I’m a believer that anyone can set up their own business with their existing skill set – it is just about ensuring you understand:

  • WHAT it is you are skilled in
  • WHO your ideal client is
  • and HOW you can help them.

I think having patience is important, but most parents will have to have learned that from spending time with their kids! I think also being able to successfully put in place and stick to boundaries (i.e. doing what you say you will, or don’t doing what you say you won’t) is an important skill. You need to make sure that by running this business you are actually moving towards living your vision, rather than compromising on it.

What about infrastructure when you first started out? What space / equipment / help did you need?

I started with an Apple Mac in my spare room! I sought the support of a business coach to help me put the essentials in place and learned how to market to my ideal client. From there I was away. In the beginning, less is more – you can then invest in other software / hardware etc as and when you need it. In the end, on day 1 as long as you can work / talk to clients / have your legalities (insurance, contracts etc.) in place then you can build from there.

What do you love most about your business?

Personally I love that I have come full circle and now spend my time supporting people who are at Day 1 to follow their own dreams, and create their own businesses that fit around their priorities in life. I also can’t imagine not being around as much or being as involved in both of my kids lives now. It isn’t always easy (in fact, some days running a business is blooming hard) but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

To find out more about Charlotte’s work, take a look at her website.

Here are the links to all the interviews in this series.

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