There was a young woman who graduated from the UEA with a Business Management Degree in 2009. She had trouble finding work in the unstable job market, and after many interviews and rejection letters, she settled for a job in the cruel competitive world of Estate Agency.
Working her way to a management position within a few years meant that she was able to use her skills gained from her studies and put her practical experience to good use. However, the career ladder was cut short for her, when she was made redundant after having her daughter in 2013.
At this time, with a mortgage to pay and an extra mouth to feed, her and her partner desperately needed money in order to keep their heads above water, therefore she had to find a job, and quickly. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so one day she decided enough was enough with being turned down for roles in which she was perfectly experienced and educated for, that she chose to create her own job. Thus in 2013 she set up her own virtual assistant business as a sole trader called Serena Fordham’s PA Services.
With her first client being an Estate Agent needing assistance with setting up and growing their business and property portfolio, she was in her element and soon found that networking and referrals grew her client base steadily, and ensured all her bills were covered, while keeping the new addition to the family in clothes, food and nappies!
All was well, however, the new addition was gradually growing meaning the family was outgrowing their tiny two-bed terraced house with postage stamp sized garden. They needed to move to allow their family to grow and to do that the young woman needed to secure employment as didn’t have enough years of accounts to secure a new and bigger mortgage.
Luckily, she knew her Mum’s neighbour who advised her of a job share position at NPS Norwich which suited her property related experience and was part-time to fit around caring for her daughter. Within months of starting in January 2014, a larger home was found, mortgage accepted and the family were on the move. All while she was still growing her business and working for clients around her employment in evenings and weekends.
After another few months, this wasn’t sustainable as the business was becoming too big to juggle with employment and a child too so NPS Norwich lost her as an employee in 2015.
Fast forwarding to 2016, the virtual assistant business was booming, with 30 regular clients, and various projects and events under her belt too, all looked promising for the future. At that point, a bombshell hit, as after trying for a second child for several years and facing various situations of extreme heartbreak and failure, the young woman fell pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in the same year.
Even though this bombshell was an incredible miracle, this mean that the growing business had to put on its breaks, and the young women asked a few of her close business friends, who she met through a woman’s network she runs called Her Business Brew, to help her by covering her client work while she took some time out with her new bundle of joy.
But this didn’t put on the breaks of the business at all, instead, it allowed for even further growth as when the young woman returned from her short maternity leave, even more clients, events and projects were taken on, now being undertaken by the small team of incredible women.
At the same time two dormant ideas came to life to raise money for amazing causes – An Hour or So, which is an initiative to bring together businesses in aid of charities, and Stories of She, a book about the real-life experiences faced by women to raise awareness and give support to others. Also, at this time the brainchild that is the Her True Colours Calendar 2018, that empowers and inspires other women to be proud of who they are, was in its planning stages.
Fast forwarding to today, the young woman has just registered her business as Serena Fordham Enterprises Limited, trading as Glow Virtual Assistants, and now has a team of 9 experienced and qualified individuals to ‘support your business to shine’!
So, we arrive at our current destination, in September 2017, and the young woman from my story is right here in front of you, to tell you not to give up on your dreams, change plans to reach your goals, and never underestimate what you can achieve.
Life throws us curve balls at times, but with the support of incredible people around you, you can always dodge them, and even become stronger and grow because of them!
Glow Virtual Assistants will continue to grow to support even more entrepreneurs to achieve their business dreams, however the values of the young women working at her old laptop at her small kitchen table back at the start of it all, will never be compromised, with helping others and raising funds for charity always being at heart.
And as they say in fairy tales;
“The young women lived happily ever after…
(well not quite yet!!!)
By Serena Fordham, Founder and CEO of Glow Virtual Assistants
Taken from her speech at the Inspired Women BIG Conversation, Sept 2017