CONFIDENCE

CONFIDENCE

CONFIDENCE

Confidence is a preference, as Damon Albon (Blur) once stated.

If confidence was indeed something we could choose, would we choose it?

I’m not sure that everyone would drink the magic potion even if it was that easy, as I think confidence can be associated or frankly confused with arrogance, it’s ugly second cousin.

In my opinion you can be confident but not arrogant, you can be proud but not a “show off” you can have self belief and not a “big ego”, but the key ultimately is to be yourself.

Confidence is a combination of your energy, passion and self belief.
Fear is the one to watch out for, it can tear down your confidence, it’s down to you as to how deal with fear.

Confidence is like magic, the secret ingredient, the wind in your sails, the powder beneath the snowboard or in my case the electric propelling the OneWheel forwards. No momentum without confidence.

What is it… Self-belief?
An affirming validation of our own worth.
If we all kept in mind everything we had achieved in our life so far we’d be oozing confidence daily and propelling forwards at an incredible rate. But we forget and somehow we need external validation to help remind ourselves of our strengths to build our confidence.

Oliver Dunn
Oliver Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © 
One Truth 818 Anti Ageing Skincare

Clearly it fades, confidence needs nurture.
I think it’s important to remember this and respect it. It’s not like some qualification or trophy you can win and that’s it for life, you have to keep earning it, keep nurturing it. Surround yourself with people who fill your cup, who fuel your confidence and remind you of your worth.

We must all relate to a lack of self confidence at some point on our lives, perhaps from our childhood, school days, the feeling of not being enough or not being good enough at something which caused a lack of self belief and low confidence.

I’ve battled with that my whole life, but it’s silly really isn’t it, I mean we can’t be good at everything, okay so maybe some people are, but good for them, be inspired by that, not discouraged, bitter or disappointed by it, just be YOU. That’s all you can do. Be proud of the things you are good at and grateful for the things you enjoy. Stop comparing, stop judging yourself.

Fear kills confidence, but what is fear? Fake events appearing real?
Or a worry about other people’s opinions/ judgement?*
A worry that you’re not good enough?
Well fuck that, all of it, if something brings you joy, do it, keep doing it, that way you will continually get better at it, it’s a fact.
Then comes self belief, the perfect weapon to combat the fear, that’s what I’m prescribing here. I’ll say that again, if something brings you joy, do it and keep doing it!

*It’s important to recognise here that it’s not other people’s judgement that is the problem, it’s your opinion of other people’s judgment, which quite simply might not even be correct, this might simply be something we conjured ourselves in our little worried minds.

Remember “worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.“ (Baz Luhrmann Wear Sunscreen/ Class Of ‘99/ from original speech by Mary Schmich.

Repetition equals confidence just like practice makes perfect. Experience will bring you a strong sense of self belief which will naturally give you confidence.

Fashion.

I simply couldn’t write about confidence and not talk about fashion.
Going back to my school days I remember my confidence being higher when I had a new coat or pair of shoes, as I write this images of said coats flash into my mind along with the smell of a brand new pair of Kickers. Nostalgia.
That new leather smell, the smell of confidence, like a fresh new haircut.
What you wear speaks before you do. I am very mindful about what I wear and the priority is walking tall.

I always advise Kim “dress for you, not for anyone else, also dress for you and not for a place or environment where the expectation is that you either dress down or dress up, just dress for you” – to a certain extent of course.

I try my best to take my own advise and dress for me, to wear what inspires me, you never know who you’re going to see and potentially make an impression on, be memorable, wear what lights you up inside and makes you shine.

Inspiration is exactly how I shop for clothes, Kim always inspires me to try new styles I perhaps hadn’t considered. I might also be inspired by a place, a personality, an artist or a piece of music which has made me feel a certain way and inspired a vibe (it just flows, it’s cool, laid back and without judgement) that I wanted to express.
I love the LA vibe and I love to see what people wear there, it helps me feel connected to the energy of the place, so whether its the tie die Pete Davidson is wearing or the bright colours of Machine Gun Kelly, or even something wild worn by Miley Cyrus, I can take inspiration from everyone I see to be honest, fashion is expression and art, male/ female whatever catches my eye and inspires me, not necessarily the specific items of clothing but I will take inspiration from elements such as colours/ style/ fit.

Music has always played a huge part in what I wear, representing my inner vibe on the outside and therefore attracting likeminded people.

Shop for you, dress for you, dance to the beat of your own drum.

Task.

Write down 5 things (or 10 if you want) which you have achieved in the past year.
As you write them, feel the excitement and visualise your confidence being boosted, like some video game graphic, level up with the feeling. 📈
Feel the excitement for these like you felt when you achieved them.
Now write down 5 things you want to achieve in the next 12 months, feel the excitement you will feel once you have achieved them.
Remind yourself you are worthy and ready to achieve the next 5, ready to step out of your comfort zone and into your power.

Go after it, no one else is going to do it for you!

Peace, Love, Choc ‘n’ Roll.

Oliver Dunn aka Oli The Choc

“There is no life I know, to compare with pure imagination, living there you’ll be free, if you truly wish to be.”
Willy Wonka

Oli Choc massive easter egg
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CONFIDENCE

CONFIDENCE Confidence is a preference, as Damon Albon (Blur) once stated. If confidence was indeed something we could choose, would we choose it? I’m not sure that everyone would drink the magic potion even if it was that easy, as I think confidence can be associated...

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MUM OF 3 ON BUILDING A BRAND WHILST GROWING HER BROOD

MUM OF 3 ON BUILDING A BRAND WHILST GROWING HER BROOD

“I DIDN’T REALLY KNOW WHERE TO START, BUT I JUST HELD ON TO THE FACT THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”

Successful business owner and Mum of three, Sophie Davies, has carved an incredible path for herself – and some might say she has defied all odds since becoming a mum for the first time at the age of 15. Not letting the fact that she was a teenage Mum stand in her way, Sophie went on to complete her A Levels, and embark on a career as a well respected Personal Trainer. It was during her personal training classes that Sophie had an epiphany that would lead her into the world of entrepreneurship, and start up her business SCULPT. During her five years of running her ever growing business, Sophie has had another two children and continued to successfully manage work alongside juggling her brood! We had the pleasure of hearing all about Sophie’s inspiring journey and how herself and her partner of 12 years took a huge risk in order to chase their dreams, and build an incredible business and life for them and their three children, Lilly, 12, Oakley, 3 and Tierra 2, 

Sculpt Active Wear
Sophie Davies, owner of Sculpt
SOPHIE DAVIES OWNER OF SCULPT ACTIVEWEAR |
IMAGES BY TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE ©

INTERVIEW WITH SOPHIE DAVIES, OWNER OF SCULPT ACTIVEWEAR

You have 3 children and also run a successful business, how do you do it? 

“Well we had Lilly, our oldest when I was 15 years old. When people ask me how I do it, it’s hard to explain because I’ve never known life without having kids. My entire adult life I’ve been a parent. I’ve essentially grown up with my eldest.

There is only 10 months between my youngest two and I found having them a lot more difficult and harder to adapt to than I did having Lilly. I would also say it’s a lot easier running a business alongside bringing up a family, than it is bringing up a child whilst you are still at school and college. I did my A Levels whilst Lilly was a baby and that was very difficult, so if I can get through that then having a business alongside the kids is totally doable! Obviously having a business is hard and having a baby is hard, but I feel like I was really prepared for it having gone through what I did whilst Lilly was a baby.”

What have you found to be one of the most challenging times since running your business? 

“The business hit a pivotal point when we turned 5 and I think years 3, 4 and 5 are really difficult in a business, because it’s when you go through the transition of being a small business to a medium one. When you’re a small business your outgoings are really small, you don’t have staff and usually when people say ‘we’ on social media or their website like there is a big team behind it, and usually it’s just them; just that one person, or two people at the most, doing pretty much everything behind the brand –  and that was me and my partner! It’s that ‘fake it till you make’ an analogy. But when the ‘we’ actually means ‘we’ properly when you do have a team of staff, then your overheads are big because you have wages to pay, you need a bigger workspace and you have more stock and you have to take bigger risks and it can be a lot more stressful than it was when you started out. So, I do feel I’ve been challenged more in that last 24 months than ever before with the business and obviously having two babies going into toddlers at the same time has been hard.”

What is one of the most important things to you about your business? 

“I don’t want more people to wear SCULPT so that I have more money, I want people to wear SCULPT, so that they are wearing SCULPT, so that they are feeling confident and that they have the best quality on. Because that is at the core of why I started this brand. Our brand is renowned for its quality and we never compromise on that. I think that’s why we have a cult following with SCULPT, who buy every drop. It’s amazing because there are people with SCULPT wardrobes, SCULPT drawers and tagging us in to show us, because SCULPT means a lot to them like it does to me. If you look at our following we have 30k followers but I have friends who have 200-300k followers but they don’t have the cult core customers like we do. They might have people who buy from them as one off but it’s not the same. So I would much rather be where I am with our business and have that loyal customer base who love what we do. I think it shows that aside from what people are trained to think, followers do not equal sales.”

Becky Adlington OBE
SOPHIE DAVIES OWNER OF SCULPT ACTIVEWEAR WITH TWO OF HER CHILDREN | IMAGES BY TOM PITFIELD ©

What inspired you to start SCUPLT and when did you take the leap into becoming a business owner? 

“I started SCULPT five years ago and the idea came to me as I was a Personal Trainer and I used to watch women always pulling their leggings up! And that was the simple inspiration behind it. At the time there were no fashion and fitness brands, where that looked good but equally they were practical too. So Lilly was 6 and was 21, when I started SCULPT. It took about a year where I was trying to find the right supplier and that was a tough process. I didn’t really know where to start, but I just held on to the fact that ‘Anything is possible’ and kept going, and eventually I found somewhere. Then I basically transferred our entire savings to China, which I look back and think was so risky – they could have just taken our money and not sent us anything! [She laughs]

I look back at our first products now and I do not like them at all, but I heard a saying that I like that makes me feel better about that – ‘If you’re not embarrassed by your first products then you launched too late!’ We have come on so much since then. I say this a lot but I really don’t think the quality of SCULPT products can be matched. We pay so much for our stuff so the margins are so smaller than other brands, but it’s so important to us that the quality is unmatched so that’s why we do it.”

Did you always have the ambition of running your own business? 

“Yes, I always wanted my own business, but I never knew what direction it would be in, but I just knew I didn’t want to work for anyone else. And someone said to me once, ‘Usually what you want to do is right in front of you but you just don’t see it!’ When I first had the epiphany I kind of held it off at first, simply because I didn’t know where to start and then one day I just thought, ‘Right, let’s  just get some samples!’ But samples can be really expensive so it was hard to take the plunge initially. But when they arrived I remember feeling this fire in me that I hadn’t ever had for anything else before and that’s when I I knew it was right.”

At what point did the business become successful enough for you to leave behind your job as a PT? 

“I ran the business alongside my job as a personal trainer for around 2 years later, so it wasn’t an overnight success, but I’m glad it wasn’t, as I think sometimes when that success comes so quickly you can get a false sense of security. Whereas when it takes that much longer you don’t take anything for granted. I think you learn so many valuable lessons at the beginning of starting a business, especially when you haven’t had any background in building a business.”

What is the difference between Sophie at home and work mode Sophie?

“Having three kids is a lot! Having two was hard, but having three is like an army! It’s hard because you are constantly trying to divide your attention between three different personalities of three different ages. When it comes to the kids I’m really soft, I just melt with them, which is totally different to how I am when it comes to the business. I think there are so many qualities and skills that you can take from being a mum that you can take into business life. People always say if you want something doing ask a busy mum – because you learn how multi task so many things! My passion for being a parent and never wanting to disappoint the kids, is the same as I am with SCULPT, as I would never want to disappoint a customer either!”

Brood Shop
Rebecca Adlington SWIM!
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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KATE BALL, FOUNDER OF MINI FIRST AID WITH 4 of HER 6 CHILDREN © TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

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Mini First Aid
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KATE BALL, FOUNDER OF MINI FIRST AID WITH 4 of HER 6 CHILDREN © TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
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 Tell us a little bit about your career before starting Mini First AId and at which point in your career did you become a mum?

“I had a big corporate training role for Mars which I loved and when I had my first child, Alfie, I was really lucky to have a year’s maternity leave with full pay! It showed how much they value staff and their families, and that they want you to go back. And it was fantastic, but when you were back at work, you were BACK!  I managed to negotiate flexible working down to four days. However, this effectively meant that I was still doing my 5 day job, but in 4.I know this is a common story for so many women who return to work after having a baby. So it was really hard, but I actually fell pregnant with my second child, Grace, quite quickly (there’s only 20 months between Alfie and Grace). During my maternity leave with Grace, there was a company restructure and my job was going to change. This was going to mean more travel and time away from home. I had two young babies and I just didn’t want to do that on a regular basis. So, I took redundancy and began to look for other opportunities, which led me to some consultancy work around training and HR. But in the back of mind was always this first aid idea niggling at me.”

What inspired you to start a business in first aid and at what point did you decide to dive into the world of entrepreneurship? 

“Educating people about first aid and specifically CPR, has been something I have wanted to do ever since losing my brother, Matt. Matt had a condition called cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that we have seen in the media more recently having affected some footballers. The condition means that damage to the heart builds and then suddenly the person affected goes into cardiac arrest. When you hear about it happening to  footballers, a doctor is present, the defibrillator is there. Thankfully, we have also seen campaigns for defibrillators to be present at all grassroot football games. Unfortunately, my brother was on a beach in Portsmouth when it happened to him. There was no defibrillator and his friends did not know how to do CPR. We don’t hold them responsible in any way, but it’s always in the back of your mind: What if this group of young people knew how to do CPR until the paramedics arrived? 

So your brother Matt is very much your inspiration? 

Absolutely. I’ve always thought: What can I do to help prevent this from happening to other families? I think when somebody dies, some people go straight into activist mode and set up a charity, or start running marathons, but we as a family weren’t really there when it first happened. It was a huge shock and took a long time to get to that point. My brother was only 22 years old when he died and I was only 24, so myself and my parents were just dealing with the fact that he had gone. But it was something that was always in the back of my mind. And then when the moment came, I knew I had the skills to write quality training courses and identified a gap in the market . Accessible first aid courses weren’t readily available in my area, and that is where the germ of an idea came from.

So how did you get started with your own first aid business?

I got myself trained up and one of my mates worked as graphic designer and I paid him with a bottle of red wine to design me a logo ( The Mini First Aid logo). And he did a really thorough job and we still use that logo today! And then I started running Mini First Aid classes for parents and carers, alongside my consultancy work and juggling my two young children. In the beginning, I ran the classes in  my spare time and saw it as me doing something worthwhile, whichs gave me a bit of extra money. It grew from there and now there are over 70 franchises across the UK and we train around a thousand people adults and children every week in basic and lifesaving first aid!”

As it’s a passion project for you as well as a business, what’s the most rewarding thing about running Mini First Aid?

“We get messages from people every week telling us about different first aid situations which have happened to their baby or child, and because they attended a Mini First Aid class, they knew what to do. Often, this has saved their child’s life. We sent out a newsletter last week, about a family who managed to successfully deliver CPR to their baby, and you can’t read to the end without crying. I am not interested in getting any glory for that, but feel passionately about educating people and making a difference.  The fact that we are growing a successful business that we can earn a living from, and that all of our trainers can earn a living from, gives me a massive amount of satisfaction.”

How has your business developed over the years? 

“As well as training adults in first aid for babies and toddlers, we now train school children in first aid. In the last academic year, Mini First Aid trained 80,000 children, which is incredible! I was amazed by that, but my husband Matt – who runs all the commercial side of the business, made a point in stating that there are 6 million primary school children in the UK, so there is still a long way for us to go! [She laughs] But to go from nothing to 80,000 in 7 years, gives us a real sense of achievement! Watch this space as we’re about to introduce a new groundbreaking class!”

At what point did your husband come into the business?      

“We had just moved into our new house, done a renovation and we decided to have a third baby. When we started trying, I had a miscarriage. Sadly, it was a missed miscarriage – where you don’t miscarry the baby, so you have to have an operation – which was horrible. We had a lovely midwife who told us that although it hadn’t worked out this time around, if we wanted to get pregnant again,we should go for it. Then when I did fall pregnant, we went for the scan and there were two heartbeats! It was a proper fall off your chair moment. It felt like a gift – like the universe was saying you’ve lost one, so you’re going to have two! So it felt really lovely. And at that point I was ‘Mini First Aid’ completely on my own. I was marketing, PR, finance, website – I was everything! I was managing everything to a point and just about getting away with it, but it was very entry level and I said to Matt: “I can’t do this and have two tiny babies at home – as well as Alfie and Grace.” Matt was running an events company at the time (he’s a professional musician), so completely out of the realms of first aid. But he does know how to run a business and offered to come on board for 6 months, to give me ‘a break’ when the twins arrived. As if!’ [she laughs] Six years later, he is the Operational Director of Mini First Aid. We also have a team of 9 people in our Head Office, who look after our franchises, commercial operations and marketing etc. 

Your business is obviously like your seventh baby – especially because of the personal connection, how do you find having franchises of your business, because it can often be hard to let go and delegate when you are so passionate about your business

“Oh my god yes! It was really hard as I am a bit of a control freak. Even now, if I read something that one of our trainers has written on social media and it isn’t quite the wording I would have used, it can niggle at me. I still have to have a word with myself and say: “Right, come on Kate, it’s still getting the message out there, there’s nothing negative about it and it doesn’t matter if it’s not quite in my style.’ I also have a really good Franchise Manager , Gemma, who is really proactive in making sure everything is delivered on brand, and the style of training is replicated to the same standards throughout the franchises. But you do have to learn to let go, as your business grows or you cannot continue to expand.”

Kate Ball and her husband pitching Mini First Aid to BBC Dragon's Den
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE DAILY MAIL | © DAVID VENNI / © BBC, DRAGON’S DEN

What has been the hardest thing that you have encountered since starting your business?

“We had a situation in the very early days where someone picked up what we did and completely copied it! At the time, I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart, because of all of the blood, sweat and tears that goes into starting a new business, and then someone just gave it a slightly different name and ran with it. It’s so hard because from a legal perspective, you can’t really do anything. We’re also teaching first aid, so you don’t want to be aggressive, because you feel like you should be saying: “It’s brilliant that you’re teaching CPR, but I just wish you weren’t doing it in the exact same way as Mini First Aid!’ I remember someone advising me to take it as a compliment. You have to have thick skin and I’m getting better, because we do have competition in the market now, as people have seen we have a good business model.  

How did appearing on Dragon’s Den change things for your company and also for you as a family as you had all six children at that point? 

“It changed things massively for us, and yes, we did have 6 children at that point! When we did our audition for the BBC, they liked our reference to children’s first aid as they thought it would work well on camera rather than demonstrating our first aid kit. So whilst we were going on there to pitch for investment for developing products, producers wanted to showcase the work we do with children. We were actually due to have other children on set with us, but then Covid hit, so they asked us to bring our own children! At first, we considered changing our pitch as there was NO way we were going to take the children on the show. But then we considered what the BBC had said, and decided we just needed to go for it! So we practised at home and even the night before, and we were still panicking that it was going to be a massive mistake. Our first set of twins were only three at the time, and you know what three year olds are like! We also didn’t want our older two to feel any pressure because that’s not fair on them. Mini First Aid is our business and we didn’t want Grace or Alfie to feel nervous, so we kept reassuring them that it was fine, and there was nothing to worry about. Our children did brilliantly and then left the set whilst Matt and I were grilled. The process is gruelling! We were thrilled to get Sara as an investor, one  – because she is a working mum and two –  because she gets us as a couple, as her husband runs her business with her. We felt that she had the right persona and we’ve been proved right. When we walked out and got into the lift we were like ‘YES! We did it! And I just burst into tears!”

What is it like working with Sara Davies and her team?

Sara and her husband, Simon are just the most down to earth, kind and lovely people. And as much as Sara can’t constantly be involved, nothing is too much trouble for her and we actually see her every quarter for half a day, which is great and we’ve done that for the last two years now. 

Sara has been a really good mentor for me. She does Facebook Live on our internal group with our franchises about twice a year, and has been a huge help with the retail side of our business. We had some retailers lined up to stock our first aid kits before the show, but hadn’t committed, and as soon as we started working with Sara and they knew about Dragons’ Den, it was a done deal. Some of them even doubled their orders. Sara opens doors for us in the media too, because she has really good connections which is invaluable!”

How did the children react to the news that you had been successful in the ‘Den’?

“What was lovely was that the children had been taken off and were being looked after. Then the crew brought the children to wait for us at the other side of the lift and told them the news before we arrived, so they literally leapt on us, shouting: “You did it!” So we all went to McDonalds to celebrate as we’d promised this to the children after the pitch. We had totally forgotten that our microphones were still on, so when all the unedited footage was sent to Sara’s team, Simon (Sara’s husband) listened to the audio file. When we met him for the first time he said: ‘We knew you were our kind of people, because you bribe your kids with McDonalds!’ [We all laugh].

What would advise other people who are only at the start of their journey in business, and how do you keep the vision through those blood sweat and tears? 

“One of the things that I would say to anyone starting a business, is to make sure you do your research and know your numbers, so that you can work out from the very beginning whether you can make some money from it. From the start, you need to look at other businesses that you like and see what they are doing well. What is it that they are doing that appeals to their audience? This can help you take the best bits, to help you build your brand. For me it wasn’t all first aid brands, as I wanted to change the way first aid brands were seen and delivered. I looked at baby brands and how accessible they were. This really helped to guide our website designer for example, as I was able to say ‘I love how this looks and can you make this bit look like that?’ So I think looking around for other brands you find aspirational and you can gain inspiration from is really important. 

And I think the final piece of advice I would give, is finding your own balance between work and family. I would never say I’m an expert because sometimes it can be a nightmare, but I really do try to work when I am ‘at work’ and be ‘in the family’ when I’m with the family. Whenever I’ve tried to mix the two, that’s when it’s gone horribly wrong! If I’m sitting with my laptop when the children come home from school, they will just climb all over me and close my laptop and I may as well give up. So sometimes that means that I might be an hour longer at work but when I’m home I can be present. To help me separate that, I used to go out to work even if that meant I went and sat in a coffee shop, but at least that way I wasn’t balancing my laptop on the playdough or getting stressed if someone made a noise whilst I was on the phone! And I know it’s not always that easy as sometimes things happen to throw a curveball when you have a family, or things don’t fit in with when people want you to do stuff. I was recently asked to sdo a radio interview at 7.30am and I had to go into the bathroom and lock the door and just pray that someone didn’t come knocking at the door shouting ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!’ And I felt so stressed. I think sometimes I do things like that to remind myself how stressful it is and how important it is to keep it separate as much as possible!”

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Interviewed by
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER | IMAGES BY TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE ©. | INTERVIEW BY LOLO STUBBS

“I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.

Parents to four children under six years old, Kelvin and Liz Fletcher, are a humble yet extremely impressive couple, and their incredible appetite to create a full and vibrant life for themselves and their children is truly inspiring! Both Kelvin 38, and Liz are well known for their careers as actors, with Kelvin in particular becoming a household name through his 20 years on one of Britain’s best loved soaps – Emmerdale. But the careers that they are most recognised for are not what defines this enterprising couple as they recently added the role of ‘Farmers’ to their impressive CV’s. In their early years as a couple, Liz enjoyed a successful career as a fashion buyer but then decided to leave behind that career and return to drama school. They had only lived together for a few short months, before Liz was given the exciting opportunity to attend a Drama school in London, and despite the distance this would put between them (as Kelvin was at the peak of his career in Emmerdale at the time) he insisted that Liz go on to pursue her dreams; showing how supportive and encouraging they have always been of each other’s dreams. 

Pre-covid Kelvin and Liz were all set to embark on a new life in America, but when covid put the brakes on that dream they decided to set out to undertake a new adventure in the countryside when they bought a 120-acre farm. At the time they were a family of 4, before quickly becoming a family of six when their gorgeous twin boys, Maximus and Mateusz joined their brood. As if juggling four young children and running a working farm wasn’t enough, both Kelvin and Liz have continued with their acting careers, and they have just released their very own book – ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ a follow-on from their successful TV series. 

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Front Cover of Brood Magazine
© BROOD MAGAZINE. KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER
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Kelvin and Liz Fletcher on Careers, Parenthood and life on the farm.

We had the pleasure of seeing Liz and Kelvin, their gorgeous baby boys and their adorable cavapoochon Ginger at their wonderful family home and amongst lots of giggles, we delved into what drives them, their plans for the future, and how they manage their daily juggle of having of 4 kids and a farm! Even though managing all that they do is clearly not for the faint hearted, the endearing way they talk about their family life would be enough to tempt anyone who has a sense of adventure to don a pair of wellies and get stuck into life on a farm! 

“If you know you’re capable of it, then go for it!”

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Life on the Farm
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE

So firstly, was life like pre-kids? 

Kelvin – “Happy, wasn’t it?” [he turns to Liz and they both start laughing]

Liz – “Yes, relaxed!” 

Kelvin – “I was in really good shape, I ate really well, did what I wanted, when I wanted! Loads of Holidays..!” 

Liz – “Aww. What-a-life!” [continued laughing]

Kelvin – “We was looking at pictures the other night from before we had the kids and you look different pre kids, young and full faced! 

Liz – “We looked well slept – well rested!”

We can definitely relate to that! So at what point in your relationship did you decide to take the plunge and start a family together?

Liz – “We had been together for nearly ten years, and my dad said Kelvin was ‘freewheeling’” [Liz erupts into laughter!] “I had secretly called him up and said ‘Dad, what do you think about Kelvin?’ and as he’s quite traditional he replied with – ‘I think he’s freewheeling!’. So, I told Kelvin, my dad think’s you’re freewheeling – we’re not married, we’re not engaged, we’ve been together all this time. And I’d started thinking about it because we were coming up to our thirties, I wanted kids – although Kelvin didn’t think I was very maternal!” 

Kelvin – “That was the reason I was freewheeling! I used to think, Liz is great but she’s just not into kids and I want loads of kids – I wanted a big family. So, I just thought I don’t know if she’s going to be my wife because she doesn’t like kids!” [We all laugh]

Liz – “Yet, at the same time I’m thinking I want kids”

Kelvin – “We should have probably talked about it!”  

Well, yes especially after 10 years! [We all laugh again] So, how did you finally broach the subject then? 

Liz – “Well, I just said one day, ‘If you’re thinking of having kids, and you want this to go further, I just need to let you know I’m not going to have kids unless I’m married…so there you go! I’ll give you until the end of the year!” [she laughs] “So, I left him with that information, and this was the beginning of the year and then it took him until November – he left me hanging until NOVEMBER – and then he proposed!”

Kelvin – “Yes, 28th November!”  

Liz – “I had no idea it was going to happen, and he took me away for this amazing weekend in Anglesey. He’d done a full on reccy before he proposed, there was certainly a lot of effort involved. He’d designed the ring and everything!”

Kelvin – “The ring you don’t wear?” 

Liz can’t contain her laughter – “I know! I don’t even wear it! Well, I’m a farmer now I can’t wear it!”

“Yes, she literally keeps in a mug over there! It’s worth more than the kitchen and it’s sat in a mug over there!” [We are all in fits of giggles at this point] 

Liz – “And then from a year to the day later, we got married!”

Kelvin – “And then almost 9 months later, Marnie was born! And then suddenly that’s when things changed, and your life becomes so different.”

In what way did you feel the changes? 

Liz – “Well, a month before I gave birth, you left Emmerdale didn’t you?”

Kelvin – “Yes, I had been working my two-year notice, as I knew I wanted to leave. And I left really happy as I had a job for 20 years that I loved, but I was ready for a new challenge. I was 32 years old, and I wanted to figure out my next move. I did question if I even wanted to act anymore, as from being 6-7 years old it was all I had ever done and I suppose I wanted to know, ‘Could I do anything else?’ So that was a big transition anyway, as well as becoming a father for the first time. But that helped me too. As obviously becoming a parent is amazing, but also because I suppose it’s like when sportsmen retire sometimes, they can lose all sense of who they are. Who am I? What am I? And I think after 20 years of working that could have happened to me, but that void was quickly filled by having our daughter. So, I didn’t have time to start worrying as to whether I had done the right thing or not, so in that way the timing was really good.”

Liz – “I had started doing voiceovers at this point, so it worked well for me too, as I could do the odd job but most of the time I could be at home with the baby. I was also teaching dance at a little school down the road a couple of hours a week too”

Kelvin – “I took six months off from Acting but I was doing other bits in the background, figuring out what to do next so I never really stopped completely.”

Kelvin – “I guess first and foremost we’re actors, that’s what we are. But you’re somewhat at the mercy of other people’s decisions, so to fill that void and take some control back, we did it with a baby, with Marnie, and then we had a few more children and now we’ve become farmers. And that’s our attempt to create some continuity and consistency through family and our work life, and to make this our little world. And I think it’s healthy for us to have that. I’ve seen so many actors when things are not going their way and it’s all they know, it’s all they are, that it then consumes them in such a way that they can become resentful of themselves and the industry, and it’s understandable that people can find themselves in that position, but I will never allow any skill set, any job, any career to define me. To be the whole me. Because there is much more to life. And it’s easier said than done when you’ve got to put food on the table but I’m never going to allow anything like that to take my happiness.”

What’s the biggest positives of having the farm, for your family life? 

Kelvin – “I think one of the positives is the variety it gives us. For me I personally seek variety and I think that is key. I think that’s healthy, it’s not for everyone but it’s certainly right for us. And I’d like to think that’s something we’ll pass onto the kids. And Liz shares those views as well. It gives us new scope; fresh ideas and it expands your imagination. I also think it makes you more accepting of different people and different situations, and I think it makes you more rounded as a person, which is important.” 

Was the farm always a dream of yours? 

Kelvin – “No, I just woke up one morning and thought let’s get a farm!” 

Liz – “Yes, this was typical Kelvin! We were supposed to be in America! We were sorting a visa out to move to America, and we were 18 months into that process but then the pandemic happened, and all visa’s got stopped. But that had been our mission, and Kelvin had said ‘Well, we’ll just wait for covid to go and we’ll start it back up.’ Little did I know that Kelvin being Kelvin, was like ‘Right well that’s done – what’s next?’” [she laughs] “Then the next minute he’s on a train, he’s on right move sees this place and he say’s ‘Right Liz, how do you fancy going looking at a farm tomorrow?’ I was like ‘Whaaattt!’ [she continues laughing] “And because I can’t say no to anything, I just said ‘Ok, go on then!’ (It was kind of through gritted teeth because I was thinking farming?!”)

Kelvin -“But it wasn’t to farm originally, it was just to live here. I just wanted a different set up for us. Whether that was on a beach in California, or we even looked at New York, and central London, but I just wanted to change things up. Going back to that again – yes, as actors we want to act, and I love the hustle, but we’ve got a life together as parents and as individuals and there’s just so much more to life than just your career. So, I was just like lets just have a change of scenery, because I didn’t want to us to find ourselves in our fifties or sixties and think we’ve never had an adventure, so I just thought let’s bloody do it! And we looked at everything from Castles in Scotland, honestly as random as that, and I’m that kind of person where if I want to do something it will happen – it’s as simple as that! It can be scary and it’s not always that easy, but I think making decisions like that can give you a rebirth. It’s a new chapter and you’re creating memories and having new experiences. It could be the wrong decision; you could drop a bollock and think ‘Ah we shouldn’t have done that.’ But you can always go back.”

Liz – “Although it might seem we do things completely off the cuff, everything we thought about we researched, and we made sure it was possible. We didn’t just move to a farm with no thought behind it.” 

Kelvin – “Yes, I’m sucker for detail!”

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Is that something that you want the kids to take on board?

Kelvin – “Yes, for me that sense of adventure. If Marnie is 18 years old and she says ‘Dad, I want to go and live in America for three years’ it would kill me, but I absolutely would encourage that. But I would also encourage anything they want to do. She might want to stay here and work on the farm, but whatever they want to do but I just want them to have that sense that anything is possible. If you fancy it, you only live once go for it!”  

Since moving to the farm you have gone from having two children to four with the arrival of the twins, how have you found that transition?

Kelvin – “Hard work! It’s hard for me but it’s even harder for Liz!” 

Liz – “Well, every time I have a baby Kelvin gets a job working away! So, I’m not having anymore babies now then he might not get a job away again!” [They start laughing]

Kelvin – “I’ve only had three jobs! Three pregnancies, three jobs!” [He declares, laughing]

Liz – “Just being told we were having twins was an absolute shock. I was filled with worry. I just kept thinking ‘Oh my god two babies, how am I going to do it with the other two?’ because two weeks after they came along Kelvin had to go working away in London. So, I had two new-borns, it was the school holidays, Kelvin was working away – it just all came at once! But do you know what, we got through it, and I always just think – I’m here, we’re in it, I can’t sit here and moan about it, I’ve got to get through it. Obviously, there are days where it was horrendous, I felt like I didn’t know what was happening – I even fell asleep stood up once! But we got through it and now it’s not that bad, plus now Kelvins home again it can only get easier!”

Kelvin – “It is mad, but it’s a good crack, isn’t it? We’ll look back at this and think God we were crazy. 9 out of ten people will think I wouldn’t be doing that – they’re mad.”

Liz – “Yeah, I’ve got friends who say to me. I’m having a breakdown just listening to this story Liz! Because we live in the moment and if someone said, ‘Can you be in London tomorrow?’, we’d be like ‘Ok, yes no problem!’. We’d make it happen, whereas some of my mates are like ‘Nooo, I’d need a full two weeks of organising everything!’

You recently recorded ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ how did that come about?

Kelvin – “I was developing shows with the BBC, and this was just an off-topic conversation, and I told them what we had been up to, (moving to the farm) and I said, ‘I’ve got an idea for a TV show’ and then suddenly that process started. So that in turn gave us more of an appetite to live off the land, to grow our own food and get an understanding of animals and where your food comes from and the more, we delved into that, the more we just found it fascinating. Then we started to look at how we could commercialise it and look at the farming industry in detail. And it is an industry that everyone tells you not to get into, as there isn’t any money in it, but after looking at it we wanted to take on that challenge, because we thought it was something we could do.”

Liz – “Oh if you tell Kelvin he can’t do something, then instantly he’s going to find a way to do it!” 

Kelvin – “We want to build something here and we’re 18 months into that, and although we’re on a long journey, the aim is to make this an enterprise; something for our children, and for their future. We’re mainly a livestock farm so we’ve got sheep, pigs, chickens, we’ve got horses in the stables. We’re looking at going into cattle but as anyone in farming will tell you, livestock farming can only pay you so much really and that’s dictated on the ground you’ve got. We’ve got a 120-acre site so there’s instant limitations there, but you can diversify.”

Liz – “It’s given us a lot of purpose really, because now we’ll do the school run and then we come back, and we get stuck into all the jobs that need doing on the farm. And even at weekends, Marnie and Milo are coming to that age where they really understand it and they want to get involved too, especially Marnie. And Milo isn’t as dangerous now, as when we first moved here, he was only two, so we had to run round trying to stop him licking everything!” [she laughs] “It’s been amazing really; they’ve seen lambing season recently and I get a lot of joy seeing them get involved in it. Also no day is the same which is great.”

Kelvin – “It is full on, and it can be stressful but it’s good fun too. And whether it ends up just being a chapter of our lives or something long term, who knows, but while we’re in it we’re putting everything we can into it, and we’re excited to see where it goes. But I feel it’s the happiest and most settled we’ve ever been.”

What tips would you give to other parents who are looking to change course and take the leap into something new?

Kelvin – “If you think you can do it and if you know you are capable of it, then go for it! For me that’s what I do and if I come up short, then I come up short and I can live with that, but you’ve got to give things a go. I’m used to no one else believing in me. We can come up with a plan, and there might only be me and Liz that believe in it and that’s it – maybe our parents or our agent too, whoever it might be, but you’ve got to have that mentality where you have to think ‘Well if I think it can work, then that’s all the validation I need and if that’s different to other people and what they’re doing then so be it!’ However, you do have to put the work in, some people might have the dream, but they’re not prepared to put the work in, so you’ve got to have a good understanding of yourself and having a frank chat with yourself. You need to ask yourself, ‘What are my skills? What am I really prepared to do? That’s what I do, and I know my limitations so I don’t take on tasks where I don’t think I can do it”

Do you have a structured process to achieve your goals? 

Kelvin – “Yes, I always have a clear list of goals which I want to achieve. For example there are three/four things that I want to achieve by the end of this year and I’d say 50% are completely on our terms, and the other 50% need things to happen elsewhere to, so there’s a little bit of jeopardy there. For those goals I will do everything I can to get it as far as I can and that last part has got to come from somewhere else in order for it to succeed. Whereas the things that are 100% on us we will get them done. We have some longer-term goals too, so we have 3–6-month plans and then we have a 2–3-year plan too and we just work towards it.”

Liz – “Me and Kelvin work well together because if you’ve got a plan and it doesn’t go right that can really throw Kelvin, whereas I can help us to adapt. It’s great to have the goals and you need them, but there are always hiccups along the way and you have to find a way to adjust.”

Kelvin – “Yes, and sometimes those things can be out of your control, like market change in a business etc and you’ve failed. You take a knock, but I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.”  

If you want to read more about Kelvin and Liz’s incredible journey, then you can buy their new book ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ at all high street bookstores or click here to purchase  

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

Rob Stubbs

WEBSITE & DESIGN BY ROB STUBBS

We're celebrating 6 months of brood magazine

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It can be hard to find balance in life when we are so busy with all the other things that we have to juggle. One thing that has stood out since starting BROOD, is just how many of us are constantly looking for more ways to try switch off and spend quality time as a family. It’s also clear that we all want to incorporate ways to exercise into our weekly routine and encourage our kids to be active and outdoors too, but it can be hard to fit it in when there is only so many hours in the day! So, with a new sport activity sweeping exciting across the UK – Padel – we just had to find out what all the hype was all about, and to see if it was an activity that would fit into family life.

read more

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THE POWER OF MANIFESTATION BY OLI DUNN

THE POWER OF MANIFESTATION BY OLI DUNN

Oli Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

“You can do whatever you want to!”

The Power Of Manifestation…. ✏️

This is a topic I get VERY excited when talking about, I LOVE talking about manifestation, especially when I’m feeling aligned and in full attraction mode. If this all sounds a bit strange to you, stick with it, it should make sense by the end.

So many things have happened “for” me in my life that I now have a section in the notes on my phone lovingly called “coincidences” with a hint of friendly sarcasm or irony that is.
I believe there’s no such thing as a coincidence, by the way maybe there is but I believe there’s another type which we might sometimes mistake as a coincidence when in actual fact we talked such a circumstance, thing or event into our reality, willed it into our existence, made it happen, tuned into its frequency and sucked it right in, like a tractor beam (if your a Dumb and Dumber fan you’ll know the sound!).😜

Before I go any further I just want to be clear about something, what I write about in my Brood magazine column is purely my perspective, the way I see it, my take and I appreciate that these things are all subjective. I would never claim that my version is the correct or exact way, it’s just my way, based on my learnings and experiences and it’s a pleasure to share my thoughts with you. I hope it provides an interesting read and perhaps even conjures up some new and exciting thoughts and ideas for you which may be interesting for you too, if it does I would love to hear from you!

Oliver Dunn
Oliver Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

On we go…

It might seem unusual to have a note section in my phone called “Coincidences” which cheekily means Manifestations. The reason I have this is mainly to remind myself that through my life I’m proving this theory to be not just working but worthy of sharing with others as part of my narrative. As I’ve said before, what actually matters to me in life more than anything else, (the bigger picture) is that I want to show others that anything is possible in life, one little or big, or plain crazy manifestation at a time.

You can do whatever you want to. 💭

Fun little task, finish this sentence, “if I could do or be whoever I wanted to be, it would be this (blank) and my life would look like this (blank).

Back to my point;

I know what you’re thinking, come on then give us an example of a manifestation. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Well okay here’s a couple from most recent memory.

Manifestations for me are anything from life long ambitions to the most random small ‘wants’.

I will give you an example of each.

I think the random small ones are more fun, playful and manifest quicker because there’s absolutely no resistance to them and for me it’s the universe confirming to me that I’m aligned and everything is working out, not happening to me but for me.

About a year ago I said to Kim, “I really wish McDonalds did clothing, it would just be so cool”, I don’t know how this came to mind but I was fixated on it and getting excited about it, imagining it and how it would look, but no matter how hard I Googled I couldn’t find it, because it didn’t exist. FFWD a year and it was my birthday (13th August if you want to add to your calendar 😜) a great friend of ours gave me a birthday present, it was a bright blue McDonalds shirt, designed with their signature red packet French Fries all over it.
The point of this is that our friend was able to get this shirt after doing some work with McDonalds and this exclusive merch wasn’t available for sale to the public, coincidence?

This leads me on to a very different but equally exciting manifestation in my life which has come around in the last 18 months.

Some manifestations do require action or more specifically inspired action (I’ll save that for another time) but I believe the importance of the action is as key to showing the world you are worthy of what you want to attract (and are ready to receive) as the actual work itself.

If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up when I was 10 years old I would have probably told you I wanted to be a radio or TV presenter, a more confident version of myself who could entertain and have fun, be myself and meet interesting people out in the big wide world. There was a notion or a feeling that this wasn’t “realistic” that I should probably focus on a trade, a career, something more achievable or within reach, I got into the family business, I have no regrets doing that, I loved it and still do now. Curiously though I firmly believe I planted a seed deep within myself that I was on a journey to become a presenter. FFWD to 38 year old me (this one took a little longer to manifest) and I’m hosting live shows for Disney on TikTok with Zavvi at THG Studios, a place which I’ve regularly driven past and thought to myself “I would love to look around in there, or better still do some presenting in there one day.”
There’s a longer story as to how I got this opportunity but I’ll share that with you another time, perhaps through a video on my YT channel.
I’ve been on a journey in the last 18 months into presenting live shopping shows, that journey has been complex, satisfying and interesting to me in how its played out. More importantly doing these shows really fulfils my childhood ambition to be a presenter.
It’s powerful for me that I’m able to present live shows outside of my chocolate world (which I love and will always be a part of me).
I’m excited to grow as both Oli The Choc and as Oli The Presenter too with more live shows in the pipeline, I’m feeling very grateful for these opportunities.

A little gratitude in the last paragraph there, never goes a miss and goes a long way.
I believe gratitude to be a powerful element of manifesting what you want in life.

If I could give you some advise on manifestation, here it is, set your intentions when you are aligned, when your heart is beating faster, you are buzzing, excited, feeling like the best version of yourself.
Have fun with it, be unrealistic, your manifestations don’t have to make sense to you or others but follow whatever the inspiration is from within and don’t be afraid to dream big or dream silly. Often for me it’s the funny, silly things that manifest, because there’s no resistance to it, almost no expectation either.

I’m very intentional about my thoughts, words and actions. This year I’ve become more aligned and more in tune with who I am and who I want to be, more worthy and ready to receive the life I want. I’m very responsible for my own energy and for the energy I attract, for what I listen to and am influenced by. Becoming a Dad has been the making of me in respect of knowing myself and loving myself more.

Some advise to myself on this which you can take from if you wish, when you are feeling aligned make your intentions clear to yourself, write them down, visualise and get excited about what you are going to manifest. Be excited about the future because you can create the life you want, your own reality, your version of life. For me time writing in solitude early morning, when on a train or a plane, by the ocean or simply talking to myself in the car are all powerful spaces for me to practice the above.

Now walk tall, remind yourself of your strengths, step into your power and go manifest yourself the life you want! 💥

One Truth 818 Anti Ageing Skincare
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris
Photography by Tom Pitfield
Rob Stubbs
Digital Editor: Rob Stubbs

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CONFIDENCE

CONFIDENCE Confidence is a preference, as Damon Albon (Blur) once stated. If confidence was indeed something we could choose, would we choose it? I’m not sure that everyone would drink the magic potion even if it was that easy, as I think confidence can be associated...

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INSPIRATIONAL MUM ON A MISSION: ANNA KENNEDY OBE

INSPIRATIONAL MUM ON A MISSION: ANNA KENNEDY OBE

© BROOD MAGAZINE. ANNA KENNEDY OBE 

“We re-mortgaged our home and set up a school!

Inspirational Mum of two, Anna Kennedy OBE has been a trailblazer for Autism Awareness since the 1990’s; when her two boys, Patrick and Angelo, and were diagnosed with Autism. When Anna couldn’t find a school that could meet her boy’s needs, Anna and her husband Sean remortgaged their home with the support of local parents and built one! This was just start of an incredible journey that has consequently helped shape and changed the lives of thousands of people diagnosed with Autism, along with the parents and carers of children on the autism spectrum. Through her unwavering determination and an unbelievable amount of passion, Anna has founded a number of innovative facilities, created life changing campaigns and been the force behind a number of petitions for change. Powered by the love of her boys a desire to support and serve the Autism community, Anna is a Mum on a mission, and it is no wonder that her remarkable charity work and achievements led her to be recognized and awarded an OBE by the late Queen Elizabeth II. 

Autism's Got Talent
Anna Kennedy OBE
© BROOD MAGAZINE. ANNA KENNEDY OBE

“…Keep nurturing your children’s interests as you never know where it might lead!

You have achieved so much since you embarked on your journey to raise awareness about Autism, tell us how it all started and some of the things that you have achieved along the way.  

“When my boys were diagnosed with Autism, it was the nineties so there wasn’t a lot of support available out there at the time, so I had to fight for everything. There weren’t any schools out that could meet our boy’s needs so we remortgaged our home to set up a school. Hundreds of children have gone on to benefit from the school, so it was the best thing we ever did! We decided then went on to set up a college too since Autism is a lifelong developmental condition. The Vocational College offers a day service that runs 44 weeks of the year, it was set up this way since during the summer holidays it can be quite stressful for parents whose children are adults since school holiday breaks can be very busy. We also set up a residential home too, for eight adults. The idea was that this would be a stepping stone from living in the residential home into moving into their own home or supported living. Many of the residents have moved on to get a job or move into their own homes. 

 I set up the charity Anna Kennedy Online in 2009 because parents were contacting me about the difficulties, they were encountering with reference to getting a diagnosis, a lot of whom had been waiting for many years. 

The charity now has many volunteers that are as passionate and driven as I am and that want to support as many families of autistic children and adults as possible. The charity also provides a touchstone for Autistic adults, it’s a place that they know they can either email or call the charity office to chat or if they even just want to run some ideas past someone. Since starting the charity, we have developed many events such as the Autism Expo, which gives people the chance to come along and listen to various speakers, along with the chance to see different professionals in the clinics that we hold there. We went on to develop the Charity Autism Hero Awards where hundreds of nominations are sent in by the public from across the UK and Overseas which is a red-carpet event for inspiring individuals and groups who go the extra mile for the autism community. One of my favourite annual events of which I am a founder is the world-renowned Autism’s got Talent!

 

Tell us about Autism’s Got Talent, what made you decide to start that? 

“Autism’s Got Talent came about when I was talking to people who were contacting us about being bullied after I launched our Anti Bullying campaign Give us a Break, they would share with us that they had developed skills and amazing talents. For example, many had taught themselves to play the guitar both acoustic and electric, and other people had taught themselves to do magic, plus many other talents all from watching youtube videos. They would send in many videos to share what they had achieved, and as these videos started coming in, I got really excited. At that time, I was invited to a show by Pineapple Performing Arts School at the Mermaid Theatre and as I was looking around, I thought I want to put on a show here made up purely of talented autistic children and adults. So, I approached Maggie Paterson (the principal and founder of Pineapple Performing Arts School) and we launched ‘Autism’s Got Talent’. It has now been 11 years, and we are sent in auditions from all over the world; Morocco, Italy, Canada, America, plus many more! It’s an amazing show and I always say that you have to be there to truly appreciate what I’m talking about. Every year it gets better, I don’t how but it just does! I think it’s great how it inspires the children and adults in the audience that are Autistic to want to take part or develop a performing arts skill since it inspires them that they too can do this one day.”  

 

What issues do you still see that need addressing in terms of Autism Awareness and Acceptance?

“Since I started the charity things haven’t really changed that much in terms of for example bullying, if anything it’s probably on the increase because of online bullying. This is really sad, so we set up an anti-bullying campaign in 2011, that’s called ‘Give us a break!’ and we originally started that alongside Esther Rantzen and the NSPCC. And we run a new campaign each year.  

I also recently set up a petition that now has over 12,000 signatures because there’s not enough support or a one-stop shop if you like, with information on who will support your sons or daughters when you’re no longer around. There’s always that question in the back of parents’ and carers’ minds ‘Who’s going to look after my children when I’m no longer around’. I would advise people to set up a trust and make sure that you have a will – MENCAP has a fantastic service, and there are some workshops out there. I would say the early set it up the better it is, for your own peace of mind. 

I recently was asked to be involved in a documentary with Katie Price and Harvey. Katie talks about how she didn’t realise how far ahead you have to start the transition process for 18 plus when your child is going from school to college. From doing that documentary with the BBC we received so many messages from people saying they too didn’t realise how far ahead you have to plan, and it highlighted that there needs to be more awareness and information around this process. So, we set up a few workshops to help people navigate those transitions. My husband Sean has had a diagnosis of Asperger’s since 2013, and he is a barrister. Sean conducted a workshop online to help families with all the various legal questions that they had. So, from that one documentary we were able to help so many different parents and I’m also pleased to say that Katie did find the right place for Harvey, that can meet all his complex needs and he’s been there for over a year now and he’s doing really well.”

Anna Kennedy OBE
ANNA KENNEDY OBE © BROOD MAGAZINE

“…Don’t forget who you are.”

Your sons are older now, how do you think your work has positively impacted their lives? 

“Well Patrick is 32 now and I’m pleased to say he’s got a full-time job at Pinewood Studios. His passion for dinosaurs, which began when he was seven years old has led him to give a speech at Pinewood Studios in front of the production team of Jurassic World and all the staff there. He’s known as ‘Paleo Pat’ he’s been working there for 4 years now, and they know all about his passion for dinosaurs. I’m really proud of him. He’s obviously nervous since he’s never spoken in front of a lot of people before, but it just shows you where your passions can lead you, as that passion he had as a little boy has led him to do this. I always say keep nurturing your children’s interests as you never know where it might lead. Patrick has also just moved into his own flat, and he’s slowly getting used to it, he still gets overwhelmed every now and again however he is making great progress and his flat is spotless! Bills are a big thing for him to learn about, at one point he thought he just paid the bill once and that was it, and I said ‘No, it’s every month Patrick – if only!’ [she laughs] Angelo still lives at home; he will always need one-to-one support. Angelo is 29 now and he’s quite profoundly affected by his autism, and he’s got quite a significant sensory processing condition. He goes to the college that we set up which he enjoys so that’s been really good for him.”

You work so incredibly hard and obviously even though your boys are adults now, your role as a mum is still very hands-on, particularly with Angelo, do you get any time for yourself?

“Well, two years ago I actually brought a wellbeing ambassador into the charity, as it was covid and obviously a lot of people were struggling with their wellbeing, so I thought it was something important that we needed to talk about. For me, I use dance to help my well-being. I haven’t been for a couple of years now, but I used to go to Zumba every Thursday, it was 7-8pm and that was my release. So, I do need to start that again, but I still do try and just have a dance or exercise each morning and that sets me up for the day. Sometimes when I’m in the office on my own, I put a bit of music on, and I just start having a little dance! [she laughs] I was invited and chosen for the Peoples Strictly which was for Comic Relief and that was an amazing experience! I was chosen out of 11,000 people so it was just incredible. We got four tens’, so it was just a fantastic experience one I will never forget. I’m still friends with Robin Windsor and he comes and supports Autism’s Got Talent every year.”  

What advice would you give other parents who are juggling their work and life as a parent?

“You definitely do need to have some me time, even though it’s not always easy. I’ve actually started a campaign called ‘Take Five’ and it’s literally about taking five minutes for yourself. Whatever it may be just take five minutes to be you. Not a mum. Not in your work. Just to be you. Don’t forget who you are!”

You can get your tickets to Autism’s Got Talent on the charity website and find out more about the incredible work that Anna does at www.AnnaKennedyOnline.com

Please sign Anna’s petition at http://www.change.org/Annapetition

Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

MORE ARTICLES FROM BROOD:

Sarah Jayne Dunn & Jon Smith: On Creating more time with your family outdoors

Sarah Jayne Dunn & Jon Smith: On Creating more time with your family outdoors

It can be hard to find balance in life when we are so busy with all the other things that we have to juggle. One thing that has stood out since starting BROOD, is just how many of us are constantly looking for more ways to try switch off and spend quality time as a family. It’s also clear that we all want to incorporate ways to exercise into our weekly routine and encourage our kids to be active and outdoors too, but it can be hard to fit it in when there is only so many hours in the day! So, with a new sport activity sweeping exciting across the UK – Padel – we just had to find out what all the hype was all about, and to see if it was an activity that would fit into family life.

read more

 KEEP UP TO DATE WITH BROOD:

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Amateur star to world champion but the best title is ‘Mum’ | Natasha Jonas on returning to the ring with Adrian Adair

Amateur star to world champion but the best title is ‘Mum’ | Natasha Jonas on returning to the ring with Adrian Adair

ADRIAN ADAIR OF MORSON GROUP INTERVIEWING NATASHA JONAS. © BROOD MAGAZINE

“…You feel the social pressure to be there for your child.”

Natasha Jonas is one of British boxing’s trailblazers. Supported by Tyson Fury, Claressa Shields, Ellie Scotney, and Chantelle Cameron, Tash has become a star in the boxing world. With an outstanding amateur career, she was the first-ever female British boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games and has since become known as “Miss GB”. Spurred on by a disappointing Olympic loss to Katie Taylor, in 2017 she turned professional under the tutelage of Joe Gallagher. Tash has held the WBO female junior-middleweight title since February 2020, graduating from Miss GB to Queen GB.

A key corporate sponsor since 2017, Morson has championed Tash in the sporting arena from the time she turned pro. However, for this article, I was keen to explore her life outside of the ring; as a mother negotiating a professional dream and bringing up a young daughter. I met Tash at Joe Gallaghers Gym (professional coach of the Smith brothers: Stephen, Paul, Liam and Callum along with Matthew Macklin, John Murray, Anthony Crolla, Scotty Cardle, Scott Quigg, Hosea Burton, and Callum Johnson) in Bolton for an honest, enlightening and inspiring interview about her experiences of returning to a professional career after having a baby.

Morson Group
Natasha Jonas
NATASHA JONAS IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE
Morson Group - Find your next job

Tell us a little about how you got into boxing and your career to date

“My entry into boxing was a good accident. 18 years ago I was on a scholarship in America playing football and I got injured. Devastatingly it was the end of my football career. When I came home, I put on a lot of weight and felt like I had no direction. I realised that within a year of not doing anything, that sport was my motivation and drive to be positive and do good things. So I looked for another sporting avenue to put my efforts into.”

 

From Toxteth, Jonas first fell into boxing when she became aware of female-only nights at Rotunda Gym, north Liverpool and was brought into the sport by female boxing trainer Sylvia Singleton.

“I was only at the gym as a fitness thing, although I’ve been involved in some contact sport – kick-boxing and karate – since I was young. But when Sylvia asked me, I went along, and it just steamrollered from there. Before I knew it, I was eight bouts, eight knockouts, and I quickly got chosen for the England team.”

 

What do you see as your greatest achievement?

“I think there are two special nights that stand out and one of them being the Olympic qualification. I’ve always loved sport and I remember watching the 1988 Olympic Games on television when I was four and saying to my mum, “I’m going to be there someday”. Of course, I was only four so my mum was like ‘yeah whatever’ and I said, ‘no, I’m going to be there.’

So, fast forward 24 years, I’ve just qualified for the Olympics but I didn’t know this story. I’d done the interviews about what a moment this was for me, feeling emotional but I hadn’t cried. I’d landed back in the UK, headed through the airport and saw my mum at arrivals, she was crying, bawling her eyes out, and I was like, mum what’s up?!’ She said, ‘I remember you as a little girl telling me, “I’m going to be there” and it’s taken you all this time… 105 different sports but you’ve got here in the end and you worked hard, tried your best, didn’t give up and you’ve got your reward.” So that moment for me and my mum was truly special.

The second moment was the fight with Namus on the Amir Khan vs Kell Brook undercard. Boxing in Liverpool was brilliant and boxing at home is where I want to be, but that was a big, big card. It was probably my last chance at a world title shot. So, the pressure was on, the opponent was good and I had to go out and perform before the highly anticipated Amir Khan vs Kell Brook fight. When it worked out for me I was made up for myself, my family, and my little girl. But I was also so happy for Joe [Gallagher] as well because he goes through absolutely everything that I go through.”

 

You’ve said in interviews before that you thought falling pregnant meant the end of your boxing career. Can you tell us about this time in your life?

I was an amateur then. In the 2014 Commonwealth Games, I snapped a ligament in my toe and that injury meant that I’d missed the qualifiers for Rio and I didn’t have any intentions of staying amateur until 2020 for Tokyo. So when I said goodbye to the amateurs, I was effectively saying goodbye to boxing because there wasn’t a pro scene for us here in the UK. I decided within that time to have a baby because, in my opinion, you do have to stop one for the other.

It’s not like the lads where you just have a week off to be with your baby and then you go off back to work or training. As a woman, a mother who’s just given birth, your body changes, you feel the societal pressure to be there for your child and more than that, you do want to be there for your baby every step of the way. I went away and had my little girl but switching that focus from boxing to her prompted a mix of emotions.

I was so glad that I had her. Boxing is such a big void to fill when you’re finished and I think many people struggle with that. The sport takes up so much of your life and when it’s not there it’s so incredibly hard to find something positive to put your energy into. But I was okay because I had my baby to put my all into but it’s a completely different kind of challenge. You’re trying to be that perfect mum for this new human that you’re now responsible for. You’re trying to take on all the advice and do everything that you’re told correctly and be perfect. This consumed all my energy. But gradually she got into her own little routine, became more self-sufficient and was evolving into her own person. So, there was again this void. Then the opportunity came about to go pro with Joe Gallagher.

The first two people I called were my mum and my cousin. This was because they see all the dark sides of boxing that people don’t see; like the time when I cried for two days after the Olympics when I got beaten by Katie Taylor. They go through all the camps with me and they assured me to not ever worry about my baby as she will always be looked after. They said that as long as I can do it, they were always behind me, supporting me. That was all I needed to hear, I contacted Joe and the rest was history.”

 

How difficult was it juggling being a mother and a boxer to begin with?

To be honest, my job might be different, but my experience of being a working mother isn’t. There are stereotypes of what a boxer is, but I’m lucky that all my mates have got kids around the same age. When I would say “I’m struggling a bit” with this or that, I had a support network and my family to be able to go back to. I’d like to think that this was no different really from any other working mum. It was just that the routine of my job was a bit different. I’d get her ready for school, I’d take her to school, I’d come to Bolton or I’d go to Liverpool to train if I needed, I’d do my two sessions and then I’d go home and pick her up from after school.

It was good during the lockdown, especially during the Terri Harper camp because she was able to come with me and get involved. She’s always known that mum’s a boxer and mum goes to the gym but she never actually knew what happened in the gym. And when she came along she was like, ‘Oh this is what happens!” She was counting all the lad’s reps and she was Joe’s number two! She loved giving me water in-between rounds of sparring. It was brilliant that she had that experience and when she is at home now, she knows what mum does at the gym. She’s so lucky in the sense that, it’s not only myself that she has to look up to, but she’s got a Nikita in women’s football.

Natasha Jonas Training
NATASHA JONAS TRAINING. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE

[Nikita is Tash’s younger sister who plays football for Manchester United and the England “Lionesses” National team]

She has no interest in doing anything that I enjoy, but when it’s Nikita, she’s her hero and she’s like ‘I want to be like Auntie Kita!'”

What would you do if your daughter wanted to go into boxing?

“For everything that boxing has done for me. I could never grumble or complain. It’s not just about the skill of being able to box, I am determined, I’m hungry, I’m motivated by myself in the ring or as part of a team in the gym. I’m committed. I’d like to say I’m on time, but Joe might say different!

If you ask that employer what you want your employee to be like, they’d say all these things. They’re life skills that can propel you to be in sport or business. I’ve got a job at Sky now doing commentary and I’m on a Parliamentary group for boxing, the APPG Boxing Group. That would never have been possible, I was just a snotty nose kid from Toxteth. I didn’t think I’d be discussing acts with Parliament and the pathways for young female and male boxers. It’s opened those doors, so why wouldn’t I let my daughter do it? There are lots of skills there that boxing encourages.”

 

Do you think she’d be more likely to follow in Nikita’s footsteps?

“I’ll just be happy if she does a sport that I like to watch! She’s into dancing, gymnastics and karate so far. But, every Jonas I think since the eighties has done karate! I just encourage her to be active. I think it’s important. I think it’s positive for the mind, body and soul. “

 

The family will have been celebrating your sister, Nikita’s Euros win with England, what’s that been like?

Yeah, she’s my little girl’s hero, every time she’s on TV she’s like ‘That’s my auntie!’ It’s great and visibility has always been key to any sport. We always knew how good female boxing was. We just needed a platform to have it on. And we got that. And I think football’s got that at the minute. The whole sport and women’s sport is right on the crest of a wave and while we’ve got them eyes on us positively, we need to keep hold of that and go with it. Whether that’s a bit of tokenism, whether that’s whatever we’ve got it. So use it positively and inspire a generation, which was what the Olympics was about. And I know in boxing we’ve seen like a 50, 60% increase of the girls ready to box and football will be the same. It’s got to be from the grassroots up and young girls are going to be thinking ‘I want to be like ‘Nikita Paris’.

Any final advice for other working mums…

Yes, when you become a mum, do not give up on your dreams. A mum is what you are, not who you are. You’re still entitled to follow your dreams as well as be a mum. You don’t have to stop one for another.

I’m a bit more spiritual than I used to be, and someone said once: name three things that you love. So, I said, the baby, my mum, my dad. They said name three more. So, I said, brother, sister, nan. I kept going with others as they kept asking, the dog, work… I got to about number 20 and she said, “you haven’t said ‘you’ once.”

 

It’s made me realise it’s OK to put you first. If you’re not loving yourself and happy, how are you supposed to be that for another person. It’s important to consider, “who are you?” and not lose your identity and become, ‘just a mother’. I’m determined, I’m loving, I’m family oriented. I’m more than that.

 

 

Natasha Jonas has made a significant impact on women’s boxing in this country and has achieved huge things for her sport, her city, and her country. However, it is the way she was able to return to work and turn pro after having her child, that I found incredibly interesting and particularly relevant to some of the conversations I have every day.

Throughout our discussion, Tash affirmed that there doesn’t have to be a binary between being a parent and having a career. But, curating a family life where parents, particularly mothers, feel able to pursue an ambition outside of parenthood can, for some, feel unachievable. I hear from many colleagues and my wider network that returning to the workplace, whether that’s post-maternity leave or after a longer career break, can feel daunting bringing conflicting feelings of guilt, fear and insecurity.

Tash cited her close support network many times throughout our interview as playing a vital role in her ability to return to the ring after having her daughter, Mela. It’s often said it takes a village to raise a family and I can personally advocate for the power of having a trusted support network. Traditional connections in the form of family, friends and neighbours or more unconventional groups such as colleagues, teachers, gym buddies and community members can all provide a key anchor for working parents. Research indicates that when parents have a sense of connection with people who care about them, it provides a sense of security and confidence. As well as enabling practical benefits such as time and space having these kinds of connections allows them to share the joy and relieve the guilt, and uncertainties that come with the parenting role.

Indeed, as well as her drive and talent, it is the people around her who enable Tash to be high-performing sportsperson and high-performing mum. For many parents, nothing will assuage natural feelings of uncertainty, but with a trusted network and an open, empathetic employer you can create the bandwidth needed to pursue your personal and professional dreams.

Natasha Jonas will return to her home city of Liverpool for a world title unification fight against Patricia Berghult on September 3, live on Sky Sports.

Morson Group
MORSON GROUP INTERVIEW IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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STEVE OLIVER, MUSIC MAGPIE CO-FOUNDER & CEO

STEVE OLIVER, MUSIC MAGPIE CO-FOUNDER & CEO

Inspirational Dad of three Steve Oliver co-founded the globally renowned business musicMagpie in 2007, following the collapse of Music Zone (the business he was Managing Director of at the time). musicMagpie is a leader in the re-commerce of consumer technology (including smartphones, tablets, consoles and wearables), disc media (including CDs, DVDs and games) and books, with sustainability running to the very heart of its operations.

After losing Music Zone, and consequently the value of half their family home, Steve took a huge risk and invested the other half of the family home into starting musicMagpie, a new business venture that he started from his garage in Stockport with his co-founder, Walter Gleeson. Despite the risk and the company’s humble beginnings, musicMagpie had sales of over £145m in 2021 and, in the same year, floated on the London Stock Exchange at a value of £208million.

You don’t have to spend long in Steve’s company to realise that, whilst he is an incredibly successful businessperson, he is first and foremost a family man, and his beloved wife Cath and their three daughters are everything to him. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve to listen to how he managed to build such a lucrative business and become such a well-respected CEO, all whilst being such a devoted husband and father.

“Life runs in parallel and not in series, and it would be so much easier if you could do these things in series. For example, if there was a stage in your life where you could say ‘Right, I’m going to focus on having children now for 10-15 years, and then you could say, ‘right, now I’m going to grow my career for 10 -15 years’ and you could have had that time to only focus on your business, then things would be much easier but it rarely works out like that and you very often end up doing it all at the same time!”

How did having children impact your career and your career choices, and vice versa – how did building a business affect your family life?

“Well, I’ve got three girls, all of whom mean the absolute world to me and, alongside my wife Cath, are by far and away the most precious things to me. I have always tried everything I can to make a better life for us as a family. The desire to provide all my family with long term welfare and security has always been my greatest motivation, but equally I was always determined not to compromise my relationship with any of them in striving to achieve that – it’s been incredibly difficult at times, but I hope they would agree that I have nearly always got it about right!’” He laughs

“The thing is I’m blessed in every way possible with Cath – I knew within two weeks of meeting her that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and we’re still blissfully happy now! Cath is everything to me, we’re the best of friends and barely ever have a crossed word. We’ve been lucky that one of the many ways it has worked for us as a family is that Cath was always very happy to take the lead with our girls and she therefore adopted the primary caring role, which in turn allowed me – and she completely supported me – to work really hard. Because I was working so hard on building the business, it did mean that I wasn’t at the tea table every night, but I was always there for all the big things, all the parents’ evenings, school plays, sports days, birthdays and assemblies. I was also always at the breakfast table every morning, although that’s because I’ve never been an early riser!” He laughs. “Alongside taking the lead with our girls, Cath had her own teaching career and then she went onto job share and reduced her hours slightly; that worked really well for us as a family unit, but I owe everything to her for allowing me, and supporting me endlessly, to build the business with the musicMagpie team.”

How did you find balancing your priorities as the girls were growing up? As it can be really hard to juggle the demands of building a business and raising a family.

“My life is really simple – firstly family and friends, secondly the business, and then thirdly sports – mainly football, a bit of cricket, a lot of watching Man City, and playing as much sport as I can still. Those three things – always in that order – are my life – I’m a simple soul really! Family and friends have always come first, despite how important the business has been to me, and I think it’s very important that it’s that way around for anyone who is raising a family whilst growing a business. I do think it sad sometimes when I see people get those two things blurred and the family side of things does inevitably suffer.”

Have you always been able to maintain those priorities? Is that something that you did quite naturally or was it something that you had to work on to achieve the right balance?

“I have always found it came quite naturally to me; I have always known where the line is. Of course, I had the sacrifices of not being at the tea table every evening, but both Cath and I could reconcile that, because if they ever needed me, I would literally drop everything for them. If there was something the girls wanted me to attend, I would be there. I may have been the parent always flying into the school foyer with 30 seconds to go – I was actually infamous for it – but no matter what I would be there one way or the other! I think another thing was that, if Cathy rang me, regardless of where I was or who I was with, I would answer it, and if she or the girls needed me – bang I would be there”

What have been some of the toughest times that you have endured in business and how did that affect your family life?

“When I came out of Music Zone I had essentially lost half the house financially and was both professionally and personally heartbroken at the pain. I couldn’t have got through that and gone onto do what I have done in business without Cath; she has been my practical support and crutch, and my emotional support and crutch. As I joke with her it’s a bit like my forty-odd years of watching City – they came good eventually – just like I did!” We all laugh. “Despite what we had lost, she backed me and supported me into using the money from the other half of our house to put into the start of musicMagpie and start again. That kind of support is invaluable in every way! In fact, my father-in-law was 80 last month, and I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever handwrite to anyone anymore, but I wrote him a card with quite a lengthy message in. Cath gets all her caring and supportive qualities from both her mum and dad; and second to my dad, he’s the person I would always turn to in life to because he’s so wise and kind, and he didn’t ever judge me throughout the ups and downs of my career. He always backed me, and he always believed in me too. It would have been very easy for him as the father of his little girl to say, ‘Steve, go and get a job and show some responsibility.’ He’d have been perfectly entitled to, but not once did he ever do that and so, I wanted to write this note to him to say thank you. In the same way that I’m so grateful to Cath for supporting me, both he and my mother-in-law, like my own parents, were incredibly supportive of me as well. And they all did help us financially at times, but more importantly than that they supported us emotionally with their unconditional love.”

 

You can tell how strong your family values are, not just with yourself, but it seems to run through your whole family, you’ve mentioned how invaluable that support is, do you think that has played an integral role to your success?

“Yes, without a doubt! Cath and I actually celebrated our silver wedding anniversary during the pandemic – when you could only get together outside – and I’ve got a lovely picture where Cath and I are sitting in the garden, where we had both of our parents on either side of us and my dear sister and brother-in-law were there too. We’re all extremely close and my sister’s kids are like our fourth and fifth children. And when Cath and I looked at the picture, we realised that both our parents had each been married for over 55 years, my sister and her husband had been married for 30 years, and we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. So yes, I think for us and our children, we’ve been very lucky to grow up in that environment and it has provided a great deal of emotional security. That is no disrespect to anyone else at all because obviously there are so many single parents out there doing a brilliant job. My brother-in-law, who is like a brother to me, grew up with a single parent and he was brought up with a lot of emotional security because his mother did the job of both parents wonderfully and she was an amazing lady. I guess my point is that for me there is a definite correlation between the emotional security from family support and success in business. I remember saying in my wedding speech to our parents, ‘All we can promise is to raise our children with the same love, support, respect, and security that you have given to us.’ It all sounds a bit cheesy and sentimental but it’s true, and we’ve certainly tried to pass that on to them, and hopefully we have. I think it’s particularly hard for children more so than ever with all the pressures on them these days, so you just hope to give them a stable base to grow and flourish from.”

One of your daughters works for you at musicMagpie, doesn’t she?

“Yes, she does and what I really admire about Ems (Emily) working here is that she has done it despite me being CEO. She’s had to work even harder to establish herself and her own relationships and professional respect from her colleagues. Everybody knows she is the ‘boss’s daughter’ – but nobody cares because she’s never used it, and we’ve never used it to her advantage or anything like that. I always say to my peers on the Board that I want her to be ‘Emily Smith’ to everyone in the business, so she neither gets any over treatment nor under treatment that she would do otherwise. The single biggest thing that I admire in her is the emotional intelligence that she has shown to make that work, because that’s really difficult for a 21-year-old (which is how old she was when she joined). She came out of university with a first in biomedical science, but to have the emotional intelligence to form her own trust and respect with all her peers, and my colleagues on the Board, took a lot of maturity and strength. She’s been promoted three times now by her various line managers, and in a completely unbiased way she’s thoroughly deserved it each time! She won an award recently, and obviously I was really proud of her as both her father and her CEO, but equally I was conscious not to over play how proud I was, as I don’t want it to come across as disrespectful to other employees or to Ems. But it’s really, really nice to have her in the business as it’s given us an even tighter bond.”

Did you ever have, or still have, a particular staple that you will use to help you maintain that work life balance and ensure that at certain times it’s just family time and work is off limits?

“Well, I always believed in working really hard in the week, even in the evenings, but my weekends are sacred. That goes for now and when I was at the peak of building the business and working really hard, sometimes it may just have been the Saturday that I was able to take off at that time, but I have always tried to protect that quality family time at the weekend. And something else that I do, which I learnt from my mum and dad, is that however hard you work, holidays are the most precious times together. I am guilty of never really switching off from my phone with emails and so on, but I will always make sure that I do that as much as possible whilst I’m on holiday to make sure that I give those chunks of time, to make sure I’m present, and that we’re able to create great family memories together as I did growing up.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s easier said than done and you can never completely switch off when you run a business. I spent the majority of the girls’ childhood building a business, and if something is wrong in that business, then you have the ultimate responsibility and sometimes you can’t leave things. When you have 1,000 people on your payroll and things aren’t going so well, you feel a deep sense of responsibility, so even when you’re with your family and you want to just be with them, you can’t switch off 100% because you need to stay in touch with what’s going on. But I’ve always tried to make it a conscious effort at weekends and on holiday to be as switched off from work as possible. I’m getting better at it, even in the last year I’ve realised that I am getting older, I am getting more tired, and I know that I must have some more down time going forward. I’m definitely not 35 anymore!”

How easy do you think you will find having more downtime when you have work at such an intense pace for so many years?

“I was having a really interesting lunch with a longer standing public CEO about this recently, and it was a real eye-opener and a real epiphany moment for me because what they said is as you get older you can’t continue working at 110%, working 12-13 hours a day. It’s not just the quantity of that work that’s so exhausting but the intensity of the constant stress of it. You can’t continue working at that same intense level forever. But it felt until recently that it was either A – you work full 110% pelt or B – you stop; and to stop just feels a bit scary, because your business does become a bit like your fourth child, and I’m not ready to let it go and just stop working yet as I am incredibly excited about musicMagpie’s future. So, this person was telling me that there is an option C – do it but do it more on your terms. I’ve got great people around me in the business, and Gemma Boyle coming in as my EA (Executive Assistant) recently has changed my life as she’s not just one step behind me organising practicalities, she’s one step ahead of me and organising my meetings, chasing actions, and creating structure in my life. Even reading my emails to say right you need to do this, thinking ahead as to whether something needs booking – it’s all those little things that mentally pile up in your brain and I used to end up doing them in bed at twenty to one the morning on my phone. So, thanks to Gemma and all the other amazing people that I’m so blessed to have around me, both professionally and personally, I am already shifting more into option C and can look forward to the next stage of the musicMagpie journey.

My core belief in working with people and building a business is that to make a success of it you have to trust them, you have to value them, and you have to respect them. And even though I like to be involved in the details, especially the numbers side of things, I do take a step back and think to myself they are in a senior role for a reason, they are excellent at what they do, it’s what they get paid to do, and actually they will get fulfilment and feel good about what they’re doing if I allow them to do their job. So, it’s about adjusting your mindset and actually letting go a little.”

Seen as you’re such a family man yourself is that something that you have instilled within how you operate musicMagpie, and how you can implement things to support your team so that they can fit their roles within their family life too?

“Yes, 100%! And I’m not just saying this, this is my other family, the musicMagpie family! It’s lovely actually, I was moving some stuff around my office the other day and I found a card that someone who is a fairly new addition to the musicMagpie family had sent to me and Gemma after our colleague conference last month and it said ‘I’ve never come across anything quite like the musicMagpie family and the way you look after people so well.’ And that’s a lovely thing for someone who’s only come into the business fairly recently to observe and believe. While I do think that it’s entirely possible that the business will have a technically better CEO in the future, somebody who’s more experienced at public life and might sometimes make better decisions than me, the business will never have another CEO that cares for the people as much as I do and tries to keep the family feel and dynamic instilled at the very heart of it.

The most recent person that’s joined the business in the senior leadership team said to me just last week that it’s the thing that struck them more than anything else since joining us, that we’re only 15 years old as a business and just looking out from my office there is at least six people that have been here for 14 years. I think it’s because I recognise the talent, the care and the passion that so many of our Magpies have and so enjoy working with people who have those qualities.”

What do you think you have implemented into the running of musicMagpie that makes it such a special place to work?

“Two of our core values are ’Care’ and ‘Make a difference.’ It’s what I strongly believe in personally, it’s what everyone else at a senior level believes in and it’s, hopefully, what is instilled throughout the company. We’re not just here to make a successful business and make money, we want to make a difference to our customers, our colleagues, our community and to our planet. They are my core values and if I take that back to my own girls, they are qualities that I have tried to instil in them too. Two of my best friends in the world – one’s a hospital consultant and one’s always worked with less privileged people in mainly the charity sector – both make a difference in life, and we’ve got so much respect for each other as pals because of that, and that’s what I want to instil into both of my families. The world is a fairly horrible places at times, especially at the moment it feels, and it is up to all of us to show social obligation and step up to the plate to look after those less fortunate than ourselves. However big we get I never want us to lose that core ethos of caring.”

What’s your message to a budding entrepreneur?

“It’s really simple, do not underestimate how much hard work it is! It seems like such an obvious statement, but I think too many people don’t realise just how true a statement it is. When I co-founded musicMagpie, I was still doing a full-time job as an MD of a retail business as I had to put salary on the table for the family, because musicMagpie couldn’t pay me a salary. At this point I was doing pretty much every role in musicMagpie too – customer service, writing to Royal Mail in the middle of the night, and so on. Emily was only little at the time, and she would leave notes on my desk saying don’t work too hard daddy because you are looking tired. But being entrepreneurial and setting up a business is tiring, and it is hard work and I’m afraid too many people underestimate that when setting off. But you also have to work smart, and be passionate about what you do, and ALWAYS try and get your work life balance right while being aware that there are times where you will just have to grind it out to get to where you want to be – it is never a straight line or an easy path to the top!”   

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CHEMMY ALCOTT

CHEMMY ALCOTT

CHEMMY ALCOTT © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“I vowed never to lose myself when I became a parent.”

Inspirational Mum of two, and BBC Ski Sunday Presenter, Chemmy Alcott, went down in history as being the first British Ski racer to win a world cup run, and she is widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest ever skiers. Chemmy is no stranger to adversity having broken 49 bones in her life, and still returning to the slopes against all odds, so it’s no wonder that when she was offered her dream job as BBC Ski Sunday feature presenter at the same time that she was due to give birth to her first child that she chose to take on the challenge of both roles; returning to work only two weeks after giving birth!

Alongside her successful career as a BBC sports presenter, Chemmy is an inspirational speaker and also runs her own business – CDC Performance – with her husband, 25 Time British Champion Dougie Crawford, providing world class ski coaching and experiences. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Chemmy at her lovely family home that she shares with Dougie and their two boys, Locki 5 and Cooper 3, to discuss how she does it all, and why maintaining her own identity is so important to her.  

CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

You returned to work very quickly after having both your boys, did you always plan to return to work so quickly and was it important to you that you kept your own identity outside of being a mum?

“I think I was quite lucky as a lot of my friends had kids before me, so I saw them really change through parenthood and lose themselves, and so I vowed to never let that happen to me when I became a parent. But I then went completely the other way, as both my babies were born in the January, and I went back to work skiing only two weeks after, with both babies. In fact, our first labour was really complicated, and they were said ‘Look this isn’t going great…’ with my reply being, ‘Don’t even think about a c-section, because I’ve got to ski in two weeks – I’ve got to work!’ Maybe I felt more pressure being female, but I was about to start my dream job at the BBC doing Ski Sunday, and I remember thinking, ‘I can’t give up this role. I don’t want them to give this job to anyone else, this Is my job! I’m going to make it happen!’ So, when they initially offered me the job my naive plan was, I’m going have the baby, I’m going to go straight back to work, Dougie’s amazing at supporting me so we can do this! Although it was crazy, it was just epic, because people just lose themselves so much and it can be so hard to find yourself again, but I never got chance to stop being me. Actually, in skiing they say that if you’ve skied your whole life and then you become a parent, but then you don’t ski for 5 years then you’ll never ski again! It’s because the fear of being responsible for someone else and the danger of the sport just crushes you so much that you never allow yourself to have that play time again. I hoped that wouldn’t happen to me though, although looking back I think it’s pretty mad that I was skiing only a few weeks after having a baby, but I was really fortunate in how my body held up.

It was also quite empowering returning to work so quickly. I remember when Cooper was born and two weeks later, we were at the World Championships, and I was working, interviewing the guy who had just won the World Champs downhill. It was a great interview, and when we finished the interview, the producer said ‘Woah, that was epic! You’re on a buzz!’ And I replied ‘Yeah, I am, and do you know what?’ and he was like ‘What?’, and I put my hand in my bra and I had one of those silent Elvie pumps on and I had made almost half a litre of milk whilst I was doing this interview! Throughout the whole interview I knew I was doing that, I knew I was smashing new motherhood and it just made me feel amazing, I was firing on all cylinders, and no one knew! You’re throwing yourself in at the deep end, and it’s hard but you just feel this overwhelming sense of achievement. But I remember going back to work that first time and I was so sleep deprived, and as an athlete I had this massive superstition that I needed 9 hours sleep a night but then suddenly you become a parent and that is just completely unrealistic! Then obviously two weeks after having Locki I was given this script, I’d barely slept, and I remember questioning myself ‘I can’t even remember my own name! How am I going to remember this script!’  But somehow, I did it, and I think you’ve got to keep challenging yourself and that’s what helps you to keep being your very best self. I think that’s how we’ve been able to maintain this mental crazy lifestyle because we never stepped away from it.”

You spoke briefly about feeling the pressure about being a female and not wanting to lose your dream job role, but was that the only reason that you felt so determined to maintain, being you? 

“I mean there was definitely the element of proving people wrong, because a lot of people said I couldn’t do it. And all my career when I had multiple injuries – when I broke my leg and neck – people said she won’t be able to come back, and it was always a motivating factor to me. It shouldn’t be but you’ve got to look at it one way or another and it either pushes you down and the pressure is too much, or you go ‘Hey, I’ll show you!’ and it was kind of the same with parenthood.

I just feel like if you can do those first few years of being a parent and not lose your own identity, then you will come out of parenthood incredibly strong and incredibly grateful for your kids. At times you can miss the old life that you used to have prior to having kids, you might have single friends and you see them going out and at times you can resent that, but if you stick to still being you and defining who you are away from being a parent, then in the long run it’s just magnificent!”

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“This is my dream job and I’m going to make it happen!”

Did you experience any parent guilt with returning to work so soon and maintaining your own identity?

“Oh yes, the other side of it is certainly that, I suffer horrendously from parent guilt, I’ve suffered from that since becoming a mum, and I used to not want to admit to having a nanny because even though I was back at work after two weeks I didn’t want to admit to having help. But my mum is no longer around, and my dad is unable to help, and Dougie’s parents live in Scotland, so there was no other option really, but for some reason I wanted people to think that we were doing it alone. I think it had always been drilled into you that you were ridiculously well off if you had a nanny, and you were judged for it. It took me a couple of years of people saying, ‘God it’s amazing what you’re doing’, before I could say, ‘well yes, it is amazing, but I have got help too and that’s why I can do it!’ And I realised I needed to be open about it.”

You’ve obviously been a topflight athlete and you’ve been a mum for over 5 years now, which role would you say is harder? 

“Definitely parenthood! Being a parent can be unbelievably hard! Being an athlete is very easy, it’s very simple, your goal is yourself – it’s me, me, me, me. Whereas being a parent is ever evolving, it’s ever challenging, your child is constantly changing and trying to define who they are, and you have to change with them. I fight the urge to read a lot of books about parenting and how to talk to your kids, because I think ultimately you learn through your mistakes. I feel like I’ve already made mistakes that I felt were a good idea at the time and then as they get older you realise that it maybe wasn’t the best approach. For 8 years during my career as a ski racer, when I had the opportunity to win and I was healthy, I chose to underperform, because I had this horrendous fear of failure and I couldn’t manage everyone else’s expectations of me being this very talented athlete, so I chose to perform at 80% and I kept 20% in my back pocket to self-validate why I wasn’t winning. So, I never took risks, and I was never the best that I could be, and it was good on the world stage, but it was never my best and it was a very unsatisfactory way to live; so, when I became a parent, I was like, ‘Right, I’m going to let them charge! And be 100% and make mistakes.’ So now I’ve created two absolute nutters who don’t have any fear of failure and who don’t have a fear of making mistakes.”

When your second came along, yourself and Dougie were obviously running your business and you were presenting how did you find the shift from one to two children?

“Well, you think one’s hard but then you have two and it’s just another level of hard! I always wanted three but no, we are done at two!” She laughs “Because we’re just about managing! We’re like the swans on the lake they look like they’ve got everything together, but their feet are going like crazy to get upstream! I do think I’m a much better parent second time around though.”

You spoke about having to deal with horrendous Mum guilt, what tips would you give for working through that?

“Yes, mum guilt is really hard, when you’re at work you feel like you should be with your kids, and when you’re with you’re kids you feel like you should be a work! So, what I did, as I’m really good a goal setting, so for the 5 hours I was at work I would set my goals as to what I want to achieve whilst I’m at work and I’m at work properly the, focused and head down. Then when I’m at home that phone goes to the side, and I am present. I find that is the best way, because I see a lot of people trying to do it all at the same time, but if you’re only giving 50% of yourself then everything is going to start suffering. So, you know, you into your work guns blazing – be there, be present make an impact. Then go home and enjoy quality time with your family. Because the kids notice it when you are distracted, because when I fall foul of my own rules, they’ll say ‘Mummy, you’re not here!’”

 

CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
Little People London
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Liz Taylor: business leader, events guru, speaker and author

Liz Taylor: business leader, events guru, speaker and author

Liz Taylor © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

The formidable Liz Taylor is a successful CEO, business leader, events guru, speaker, and author, with an incredible career spanning over 35 years.

“- you can never fail at anything you do; you can only learn from it!”

The formidable Liz Taylor is a successful CEO, business leader, events guru, speaker, and author, with an incredible career spanning over 35 years.  As if Liz’s career resume isn’t impressive enough, once you hear how she built her empire whilst raising two daughters as a single mum, her business journey becomes even more inspiring. Through sheer determination, hard work and making the most of every opportunity, Liz has managed to build a widely respected multi-million-pound company, invest in an impressive property portfolio and educate her two daughters privately and through university. We were lucky enough to sit down with Liz and listen to her share her story with us. It’s hard not to feel inspired and motivated after listening to this powerhouse of a single mother.

At the beginning of the interview we explain to Liz that as working parents we want to know how did she do it?!’ She begins by sharing how that is the very question her own daughters have recently asked her, now that they too are experiencing life as a working mum…

“It’s really interesting because my eldest daughter, who’s almost 38 now, has just started working for me and she did her first event this weekend. It was down in London, and I was staying with her on the Friday night. I babysat and I let her run the event. And when she came home at around midnight, she said to me ‘Mum, I don’t know how you ever did it?!’ And I think that was the realisation, she’s got two children herself now, she’s a working mum and she’s juggling all the balls, just like I did. The difference is that she has a husband, and I didn’t.”

 

So, take us back to the start of your career and life as a young mother. How did you end up stepping into the world of events and running a business, and how did you manage that alongside being a mother?

“Goldie was born in 1984 and Katie followed fourteen months later in 1986. I divorced when they were just 2 and 4 and left with nothing other than a deposit for a home.  

Financial circumstances were challenging and having come from a retail background I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I knew that I had to work.

When Katie was born I had just started to tiptoe into the business of events, as a friend of mine was holding a bar mitzvah and she asked me to help her. Whilst I was helping her, she said, ‘Why don’t you do this for a living? You’re so organised’. At that time there were no event organisers in the Northwest and just a couple of competitors in the South. . Marks and Spencer’s had given me the grounding I needed for events, it was a fantastic education from an organisational perspective, and so after organising this bar mitzvah and I saw an opportunity. I followed my gut which has been my mantra since I started.  My first stop was the Midland Hotel, which had been bought out by the Holiday INN . I had come up with a scheme for a friend of mine who had a fashion business and I cold called the hotel to see if they were interested in it. During the course of conversation the sales director said that they wanted to do a Hollywood night to relaunch the hotel. That was it – someone had opened a door and I jumped right in  I put the launch event together, Ainsley Harriet’s dad was a pianist at a place called Bavadage in Manchester – a cross between Louis Armstrong and Sam Cooke and I persuaded him to perform at the event. I filled the pool with balloons, hired Hollywood lookalike and needless to say it was a massive success. As a result, they gave me two more projects and Liz Taylor Associates was formed. Decision made I was of the view that my USP was me. I loved sales, and I understood early on that these hotels would, initially, be my main source of income. Some months later Granada Studios was being developed as an amusement park and venue. With luck on my side I  meet two guys – Paul Danson and Cameron Milne – who were designing it.  They introduced me to the new sales team and as a result I became their  preferred supplier .So, if a company went in to do a motivational event or a gala dinner they were referred to me  for all the services and that was how I knew how to  grow  the business.”

Liz Taylor
Liz Taylor IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

How did you manage the juggle of starting a new career and business with two young children? That must have been really tough at times?

The children were at private school which was funded by an inheritance they had. Circumstances were such that unbeknown to me that fund was no longer available, but I was determined that they would be my priority and fought tooth and nail to keep them in school. So, I employed a young woman from Scotland, who lived with me for ten years as a nanny and for the first five years of paying her wages I was literally still building the business, so it was very ‘hand-to-mouth’. But I just went for it – I worked all hours. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon I used to be distraught because I knew they were coming home from school, and I wasn’t there to meet them. At weekends I used to go out to work too, I worked Saturday nights and Sunday Nights and then my mum would step in, or the nanny would step in, so it was tough. But in retrospect, when I look back, they’ve got an amazing work ethic. They were covering chairs for me as soon as they could hit their teens. !  Then when they were around 14 years old, I sent them to work in a coffee shop in Hale as a Saturday job, because the work ethic to me was massively important. The girls witnessed me working hard, but we were living in a very, very affluent area and the Jewish community is a small community. Ours was always the smallest house, and I was the only working mother, but I always used to say to my girls ‘a big house is not always a happy house’ and that was always reflected in our relationship borne out of love and respect.  Even now I know the relationship that I have with them is much closer and much more special than it would have been had they been brought up in what I would call a ‘normal’ home. I was confident and determined, and every opportunity that had I used. Every spare penny and any time I took dividends I would buy a house. I started with a little terraced house, and I’ve got 14 of them now. I’ve just been very focused. It’s been a rollercoaster on occasion, but I was determined to set an example to both the girls and me.

So, to any working mother I just think ultimately you come out a much better, a stronger person, if you prioritise – and when I say prioritise, I mean you’ve got to prioritise yourself as well. As long as the children are loved and cared for and looked after, you don’t have to be there 24/7. To me 10 minutes reading with a child is worth more than 5 hours at the supermarket or doing other errands with them. It’s the quality time that matters. I was at every parent evening, I was at every school play, and I would tear myself in 10 to be there. I remember I did my first Asian wedding in Newcastle for 1700 people 35 years ago – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! It was a massive, massive event and I remember driving back at three o’clock in the morning, because I wanted them to wake up with me at home. Those are things that you do as a working mum.”

“…You can put me anywhere, I’ve sat next to Prince Andrew at Buckingham palace; I’ve had dinner with Prince Charles, all of them and I’ve never felt intimidated, and I think that has been my biggest strength.””

Did you have any set rituals and times where you would ‘switch off’ and just spend time as family?

“Yes, as my kids were always my priority. I’m not religious but Friday night the sabbath dinner was always something that was very important to me, so my kids were never allowed out on a Friday night. It’s like Sunday dinner, you sit round the table, you talk about the week and sometimes I used to entertain friends, or we’d get asked out, but I was always very, very hands on, and my girls were always with me on a Friday night. They were the things that provided the stability in our home. So as crazy as my schedule would get, I would always have that Friday night with them and unless it was an extremely big deal, I wouldn’t work on a Friday night. Now both my girls are working parents they do the same, they light the candles on the Friday night, they have the chicken soup and the chicken dinner and that for me is the glue.”

 

Aside from being determined to make it for your girls, what do you think is behind your unbelievable focus and drive?   

“Well, I’ve always had the fire in my belly. I was privately educated. My parents separated when I was 17.. I always wanted to do Law – my father was a judge, but that all changed when he left because I went off the rails. I left school flunking my A levels  and I joined M&S as a management trainee, I had always had a Saturday job and I loved selling. I was a hustler!  I always wanted to work, I always had that work ethic independence was and still is key.  What I especially I loved about the events business was that you could use your imagination and take these events beyond their [the clients] wildest dreams. I love the creativity. The magic and the madness.

 You can put me anywhere, I’ve sat next to Prince Andrew at Buckingham palace; I’ve had dinner with Prince Charles, all of them and I’ve never felt intimidated, and I think that has been my biggest strength.”

 

Looking back is there anything that you would change if you could?

“No, I wouldn’t change anything, because I think that you can never fail at anything you do; you can only learn from it. If  it doesn’t quite work out or it’s not what you want it to be, it’s a learning curve. I think the fact that I was single made me much stronger and more successful, because how could I not be? I think the only thing I would change is that I wouldn’t worry as much, because everything will be ok, it’s never not going to work out right in the end.”

 

What advice would you give to any career parent that struggling to juggle everything?

“I think the advice that I would give to anybody who is juggling all balls, when you can’t see the wood for the trees, is trust your gut instinct – always trust your gut instinct. You might make mistakes, but you won’t fail. Following my gut instinct has always done me well.

And I think the biggest part of the struggle is the guilt – you only struggle if you feel guilty. But you can’t feel guilty, you’ve got to just get on with it.”

 

Do you think the pressures we feel and the judgements we worry about as working parents, come from society or from within ourselves?

“Yes, I think the pressure comes from within, we live in an age where particularly with all the magazines and reality programmes and social media, we are all influenced by what we see, what we read, what we think we should be doing, how we think we should look, do we go for plastic surgery etc, we’re all influenced, but as you get older you realise that the only person that can influence you is yourself and what you choose to do with your life is your prerogative. To me as long as you love your kids, as long as you care, and you give your child that sense of security – that every child needs -then you’ve got to do what you can do in order to give them the best that you can, and you can’t be influenced by anybody else.”

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What do wish you would have known then what you know now?

“I wish I’d have known that I would be successful, independent, and that I’d be ok. I’ve been through two really tough divorces and some really trying times, I had a breakdown after the last marriage and if I knew then that I would be very successful and so very happy it would have helped me through that. And I don’t just mean from a financial perspective, I mean emotionally, my career and being a mother has fulfilled me and ticked all my boxes. I have a great life and I love it!”

    

Written by
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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read more