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St James’s & The Abbey, 1995 Leaver

I left school feeling confident, ambitious and believing that I could achieve my dreams. But over the course of the next decade it was a struggle to pin down what those dreams were and to find the opportunities to help me realise them. I enjoyed working in television, loved teaching excluded teenagers. I got a degree in English, and a few years later, in Psychology and by my late 20s, was enrolled on an MSc, but deep down, I knew I was a businesswoman. 

Then boom! My beloved Dad got a brain tumour and my life recalibrated. After he passed away we decided, as a family, to create a business in our beautiful home as a venue for celebrations. We did not want to be ‘just another wedding venue’ and aimed high from the outset.

The start-up years were epic (and coincided with starting a family). This was the steepest of learning curves! We built the business on a party space in a barn, which had no kitchen, loos or running water and only one wall (luckily the house itself was in much better shape)! But it worked and eventually we invested in the barn and brought our food in-house. This was a game changer. Nowadays, eight years on, we are often cited as one of the top 100 venues in the country and attract a national and international clientele. I run the company with my brilliant Mum and we have also joined forces with some of our favourite competitors to create a software platform to support similar venues in planning and running events.

I have learnt that an amazing education opens up the world for us, but once we are out there it is down to us to seek out the opportunities, commit to a pathway, and to trust and believe in what we know we are capable of. If your trusty gut says you can do it, then you definitely can.

What does success look like?

A business is always evolving and an entrepreneur always searching and creating. Success feels too finite to define but to feel inspired daily by what you do, to have created a business which fits in the world you want to live in and affords you the lifestyle you enjoy, then that must be heading in the right direction!

What is your best piece of advice?

Early starts (extra time at the beginning of the day just for you), granular analysis and planning ahead can sound incredibly dull; but when applied to your own personal development, the performance of your business or being prepared for the future, they all become extremely exciting.

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