Mel sheehy

Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
Melanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as well as a demanding role as an Executive Assistant for Citation Group – all whilst juggling her energetic 9-year-old twin boys.

“…It was really hard dealing with the mum guilt!”

Melanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as well as a demanding role as an Executive Assistant for Citation Group – all whilst juggling her energetic 9-year-old twin boys, Pearse and Beau.Since founding MPAN in 2011, the network has grown tremendously, providing a fun and supportive platform for hundreds of PAs, EAs, VAs and support professionals throughout the Northwest, and through tireless fundraising events, MPAN has raised an incredible £200,000 for The Christie Hospital. Melanie has an unquestionably strong work ethic, and her determination to succeed both in her career and as a mum is nothing short of inspiring. After enduring a long and emotional journey with IVF, to conceive her beloved boys, Mel didn’t find returning to her career easy at all initially as she found herself plagued with mum guilt. But, after making peace with her decision, she now manages the juggle of three job roles, as well as her all important role as Mum. We sat down with Mel at her home during half term and chatted to her to find out how she does it all – we did so amongst the madness of her boys playing with two of our ‘BROOD kids’ who had accompanied us to the shoot, and Mel’s three dogs who also wanted plenty of attention too!

Mel-Sheehy-MCR PA Network
Mel Sheehy Manchester PA
MELANIE SHEEHY IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

Let’s start at the beginning, how did your career journey begin? 

“Well, I didn’t go to university, I ended up moving to Greece when I was 18 instead – ‘the university of life’ as I call it. Then after five years of working in Greece I returned home, and I was kind of at a loss as to what I wanted to do. Then I saw that AstraZeneca were looking for temps, so I started with them and ended up staying there for ten years! So that’s how I became a PA. Then after ten years with them, they were looking for people to take voluntary redundancies, and at the time myself and Kev had got married, and I already knew we were not going to be able to have children naturally, so decided to take the redundancy so that I could just take a bit of time out and use the opportunity to focus on IVF as there was no way we were giving up.  It was also a time to work out what I wanted to do. We had already been through treatment a few times before at this point and it hadn’t worked. [She looks at her boys] These two happened on our 8th try! (We went through IVF 8 times in 6 years.) When I left AstraZeneca, I had intended on taking 6 months off, but instead I only ended up taking 4 months, I just needed to do something – I needed to find my purpose.

 

That’s when I started working at the co-op bank, and that’s how I came to meet Amanda (Amanda Hargreaves fellow co-founder of the Manchester PA network). The job I was doing was ok, but I was looking for something more challenging, and it was my line manager at the time that suggested I set up some networking to bring all the PA’s in the co-op together, the majority of them had worked there for over twenty years and some might say in a rut. One of the PAs that worked there suggested I meet Amanda, because she was trying to do something similar within her role. So we met for lunch and  chatting about how we felt there was something missing in Manchester. There was a PA network in London, but not Manchester; so, we thought how hard could it be (little did we know) so we decided to give it a go on our own and that’s how the Manchester PA network was born. To start, the most obvious seemed to hold an event and invite all the PAs we knew between us and go from there.  We approached Hayley Harthern at The Radisson to see if they would host this for us and the rest they say is history. Whilst we were setting up MPAN I decided to leave my job at the co-op bank as I saw an opportunity for maternity cover working as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of LateRooms.com. It was a bit of a risk leaving a permanent position to go and do a temporary role, but it was what I wanted to do and what I had always aspired to do professionally.

Following our first event, we ended up in the Manchester Evening News Business Week – I have no idea how! And I remember sitting at my desk on my first day in my new role at LateRooms and I rang Amanda saying ‘Oh my god, we’re in Business week! It’s real now! We’re really going to have to do this!’ I was so proud of how we had achieved this, just us.  At the time I was still regularly going through rounds of IVF, and thankfully on our 8th  try it worked! So, it wasn’t long after the MPAN was born, that my boys were born too!”

Having Twins must have been both amazing and very tiring! Were you able to take Maternity leave and how did you manage the MPAN after the boys were born?

“Yes, I did. I had originally planned not to go back to work as an EA as we had waited so long to have them but during my Maternity leave, my old boss from LateRooms called me to tell me that he had moved to Wilmslow, with a job a Citation Professional Solutions, and he asked me to come back and work for him. I said no initially, because the boys were only 6 months old, and I knew how demanding the job would be. It had taken us 6 years to have the boys and I think I just really wanted to have that time with them, without having to give any of my focus to a full-time job. So, he proposed that come back in the December (when the boys were a year old.) I discussed it with my husband, and I realised that I did want more, even though we had waited so long for our children I couldn’t just stay at home, I needed for my brain to be active.

During my time off with the boys I never stopped at any point with MPAN though, this was important to me, important to us (Amanda and I).  I remember going to my first event after the boys were born when they were only 5 weeks old and I remember thinking how much I had dropped the ball at that event.  It was a good learning on what life was going to be like as a working mum.  Thankfully the team were understanding and we did agree that we didn’t all need to be at every event. 

The network at this point was growing very quickly so we were working hard in the background organsing the events and making sure we could offer what we said we would as well as achieve our goals of building the best network in the the North West. This wasn’t going to be easy not just because we had so much to achieve but also the guilt started to set in that I couldn’t be as present as I had the boys and then because I wasn’t home.

After I started work at Citation, when the boys were one, I took on the YPO Young Presidents Organisations too, so I have three work roles alongside my role as mum.”

What was the hardest thing about returning to a full-time role once you were a mum?

“It was really hard dealing with the mum guilt. That was the hardest thing. I was constantly thinking ‘what am I missing out on?’ We had a nanny, instead of sending the boys to nursery, because for me that felt like at least they would still be in the home environment and still getting something that I would have offered and when they were poorly there was someone caring for them as I just didn’t know how I would juggle work and sick babies. The nanny would take them out places, but then she was doing things that I would have liked to have done, like taking them to baby clubs, the park and things like that, so that was hard. It was also hard because I thought to myself, maybe I’m just not that good at being at home with them all the time. I felt guilty because we had waited so long, but the more time I spent with them, the less I appreciated it. Returning to work meant that I really cherished the time I did have with them again.  And I remember the first time I had a cup of tea at work and thinking it was so nice to just be able to sit down and drink a hot cup of tea – because I hadn’t had a hot drink in the first year that they were around.

I also found having a male boss or working with people who didn’t have children was hard, as they didn’t really understand what I was going through and what I was feeling; like why I wanted to be at home when they were poorly for example. Don’t get me wrong, work are extremely supportive but you have to be realistic! You can’t take a week off work because you’re children are poorly. So even though I was physically at work, at times I felt I would be a bit absent, as my mind was elsewhere. Sometimes you feel like you’ve got to give that bit more to almost prove yourself, because there are times you can’t make things because you don’t have childcare etc.”

You are obviously a great mum and you’re excelling in your career, which are the areas of your life that you feel you must sacrifice to keep your mum and career ‘balls up in the air’

“I would say my personal life. For example, I have a membership for Hale country club which I keep saying that I’m going to cancel, but then I’m like ‘no I’m in my forties I need to go!’ but I just never make it there. My husband Kev works for himself so we’re lucky that he has the flexibility to do the school pick up so they don’t have to go to after school clubs but when I come in from work he then has to work later to juggle the time he has taken off.  It’s very much teamwork as we both can’t be around all the time.  Your work day finishes and then your mum duties start, I can’t remember what it was like to watch something before 9pm.  I have now gone full time so that really helps as I can do two school pick up’s a week and then I can catch up on work after I get home with them.  I don’t see my friends as much as I would like to, I don’t get to the gym – even though I dislike working out passionately, I still want to have time to go because I need to, to look after myself. I also I miss out on watching them play sports sometimes as they are on so many teams I can’t possibly make it to all their games plus so much more so you do sacrifice a lot as a working mum. And hope they remember that mummy was working and not just absent”

How do you help yourself deal with the rough days that come with being a career parent and how do you cope with the ‘mum guilt’ that comes with it?  

“I think I’ve kind of made peace with it [ the mum guilt] and I’ve almost accepted it now. I would say a flaw in my personality is probably trying to do everything for my family, so even when I’m at home I will put the boys and my husband before me, and it takes a lot for me to go ok I’ve had enough – which I did on Sunday – I was like ‘I’ve had enough you just need to go out and do stuff on your own’ and I think I do need to recognise that sooner. I also think it has got easier as they’ve got older, because they are nine now so at weekends when I’m talking to them, trying to find out what has been going on, what have I missed or wanting to do stuff with them, they will sometimes say, ‘Mummy, I just want to watch my iPad because you don’t let us have it in the week.’” She laughs.

“My precious time with them, and the main thing I always maintain with them is at bedtime; I lie with them and have a chat. It’s my time with them and it’s where I get the most out of them, and it gives me the most joy as a parent when they are talking to me in that way. Sharing their worries and talking about things that have gone on at school. That’s my calm time as well, I suppose because I don’t have much just me time.  I guess that’s mum guilt right there but as I said I’ve made peace with that because we tried so hard to become parents, but I’ve chosen to work and I chose to set up the MPAN, I’ve chosen all of things and if I didn’t want to do it all there is an exit point, but I thrive with being busy.”

Tell us a little bit more about the MPAN. You’ve built an incredible network, and raised an amazing amount of money for Christie’s in the process, haven’t you?

“Yes, we’ve raised over £200,000 now, and a lot of that money was raised in the last couple of years (pre-covid) as we did a LOT of fundraising! We did things like jumping out of planes, abseiling down building, lots and lots of crazy things, but it was a lot of fun. We actually decided to retire the MPAN  just before covid hit as we felt we had reached just under ten years, 800 members and such a huge amount for The Christie, as they say,  leave whilst you’re on a high . Early on in Covid Amanda had a discussion and decided it was time to come back out of retirement, we said do you think we should bring it back; do you think people need it. So, we brought it back and I think we’d had about two or three months off! And we were like we’re back!” She laughs.

“Obviously, we enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we did because we couldn’t let it go. We have had moments where we have thought shall we hand over the baton to someone else, but you can’t, because it’s our baby. It’s everything myself and Amanda wanted, and the awards was one of our goals right from the start, and we reached that goal and held the first awards 4 years after we launched the network. We were originally approached by a recruitment agency to do monthly awards and we said no, we either go big or we go home! This is our goal, and we know we can do this. It was daunting especially when the time came to part ways with the agency, although it was our decision, but we knew we could do this on our own. We’re both quite driven like that, we know what we want, and we do it. It will be so nice to bring the awards back again this year as obviously we lost a couple of years of doing it because of covid.”

How was Covid for you, did you have the juggle of work and home-schooling. 

“I was furloughed for 6 weeks and initially that was quite hard, as no one knew what was going to happen and Kev’s work dried up completely, because he’s a head-hunter, but being the kind of person that I am, I was like no come on we’re going to be alright. So, we tried to just embrace it and see it as a luxury to have time together as a family that we wouldn’t have ordinarily had. We were home schooling and the boys said I was the worst teacher ever, I was too shouty they said – even though after two hours of creative writing with them I thought I had been pretty patient!” She laughs. “But after a while I stopped the home schooling, I just thought it’s not doing anyone any good, because it was so stressful. I thought the boys are going to end up hating me when we could be using the time to have a really nice time together. So, we enjoyed lots of family time. Covid in that way was a blessing. I still had to check in with my team and I held twice weekly zooms with them, and they weren’t in a great place with all the uncertainty over their jobs, and we were doing zoom calls for the MPAN too, as we felt it was important that we kept that network of support going for people. It was tough emotionally at times, because I was trying to reassure others that everything would be ok but really, I didn’t have a clue what would happen, and I was also worried about my job and obviously Kev’s work too.”

What strategy’s do you use to keep your mindset strong and stay positive during challenging times like you’ve just described?

“I love music – that is a big DE stressor for me just getting in the car putting on my music and belting out the tunes! I cannot sing I’m completely tone deaf, but I love it and I love listening to classic dance tunes too. Just belting a bit of Adele can make me feel so much better! She laughs. So that is how I destress, but I don’t overthink, and if I do start to over think I’m very strong minded so I will shut that down – I will tell myself no, you know there is no room for that. I’m also extremely positive most of the time. I always say to the boys there is a solution for everything, so there is no point in getting yourself into a hole, because no matter what we’ll find a solution. We can do that together or you’ll do that yourself, but either way we will find one.”

You have such a strong work ethic, both yourself and your husband, is that something you hope will inspire your boys?

“We do drill into the boys you can’t give up; they want to give up on stuff, but we’ll say no you’ve started it, so you have to finish it. For example, they didn’t like doing piano lessons, but we said, ‘Well finish the term and if you still don’t like it, we’ll consider you stopping it, but you can’t just give up halfway through. Because if they did that throughout life then they will never get anywhere – you would just give up on everything. Both Kev and I are very work focused, but equally we are very fun focused too out of work time, but they do see both of us working hard and I think that’s important. I don’t have any shame saying to the boys no you can’t have that because we can’t afford it. I think they need to know that you need to work to save to afford. That’s how I was raised and that’s important to me. My mum was a stay-at-home mum, but when I was 16, she started working and then she worked solidly until she retired in her early 60’s and it was time for her to retire but she had an amazing work ethic which she passed to me`.”

Do you have any tips for other career parents to get as much balance as possible in your life and remain happy whilst juggling it all?

“For me it’s working out your priorities. My priority is having happy children and showing them what life is and showing them as much as we can. It is saying no to things that aren’t within your priorities and making time for the things that are. Like spending time with the kids so I’m happy to sacrifice my social time, gym if it means that I’m doing something that I want to do with them Secondly, I would just say be present when you are doing something, put your phone away and sometimes that can be hard, but it makes a difference. Memories are in your head as well as your phone. We don’t allow phones or iPads when we’re eating together and things like that. Going back to the saying no thing we have started saying no to social events that we used to go to because we felt like we had to as opposed to us wanting to go to them. So that has created a lot more time for us as a family, That was a decision we made around two months ago and it’s quite liberating.”  

Brood Coffee Table Book
Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...

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Michelle Griffith Robinson – Olympian, Speaker & campaigner

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Michelle Griffith Robinson © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Michelle Griffith Robinson – Olympian, speaker and women’s rights ambassador

Don’t watch the person in the next lane, slay in your own lane – because you’re in control of where you’re going!”

Michelle Griffith-Robinson OLY is one of those people who has an incredible presence, and you can literally feel the good vibes radiating from her. She is a strong, independent, and successful woman with a truly motivating story. Michelle is a Life Coach, Ex-Olympian, Personal Trainer, Women’s Aid Ambassador, Diabetes UK Ambassador and Menopause Campaigner – as if that wasn’t enough to juggle, Michelle is also a Mum of three children, Reese, 18, Eden 16, and Elijah 8. We could have listened to Michelle’s inspiring stories and words of wisdom all day. Her thirst for life and desire to succeed are certainly strengths to be admired, but another quality that we took away from our interview with Michelle was her refreshing approach to dealing with the curve balls that life inevitably throws at you, and how she seemingly takes everything in her stride, with her words “they’ll be alright” echoing throughout the interview.

Although Michelle had a successful athletics career, with 15 years at the top of her game, personally she was involved in a couple of toxic relationships before meeting her husband, Matthew, at the Commonwealth Games in 2002, where they were both competing. Just a few months later when they finally got together, Michelle knew Matthew was the man she wanted to have a family with.

Have you always wanted to be a mum?

“I think I’ve always known I wanted children from about the age of 25 but being an athlete, you often think ‘oh is that just a dream, is it pie in the sky’, you know, because you are so dedicated to your craft and your childbearing years in the main are spent competing. I also went through a few difficult relationships in my teenage years and into my early twenties as well, so having children then was not something I even considered. I had made a conscious decision that when I had kids it had to be with the right person. Then I met Matthew, my husband, it was in a dining hall at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and there was around filled a thousand people in the room.  He was representing Wales for Rugby 7’s and I was doing the triple jump for England. I was with my best friend when I spotted him, and I said ‘God that guys good looking. I’ve to go and tell him!’ and my friend said, ‘you can’t go and tell him!’ And said ‘no I’ve got to, I’ve got to go and tell him!’, she laughs. “I said, ‘Hi I’m Michelle’ and he said ‘I know who you are I saw you in newspapers yesterday’ – and I had been re-enacting a series of Gwyneth Paltrow shots, they were quite revealing. And he was a really nice guy. I asked for his number, and he said you’re a lovely girl, but you can’t have my number. But can I have yours as I’m in something [relationship] at the moment.’  So, I thought he was a bit of a cheeky git, but I gave him my number anyway. And that was the July and at the end of October he called me. Three months later! Keeping me on my bloody toes he was! I must say I wasn’t there waiting though don’t worry!” She laughs again, “And as they say the rest is history! We’ve been together for 20 years now, and I often say, ‘God is not sleeping, and God doesn’t give you more than you can bear.’ So, you know it was just about timings, and I’m lucky that I managed to meet my knight in shining armour, and he is you know. I had children very quickly after we got together, it was literally months later that I fell pregnant and we had our first daughter Reese, she was born premature, five weeks early, in September 2003. Having your first child is life changing for anybody, and for me I went from being this athlete that’s sponsored, and where the phone never stopped ringing and always having lots of people around me, to then suddenly after making that transition into parenthood, the phone stopped ringing and I was no longer the nucleus.”

Emma Neville
Michelle Griffith-Robinson © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Emma Neville
Michelle Griffith-Robinson
Michelle Griffith Robinson. IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY for BROOD

So how did you deal with that, both emotionally and financially?

“Fortunately for me I had already set up a PT company in 1999, whilst I was still doing track and field, as I always tell people that in anything you do, most jobs have a shelf life, and you need to make sure that you have something to fall back on. So luckily, I had built a great reputation within that industry too. And I was at an Aids Charity Event in 2001, and I met Mel B (who is now the patron of Women’s Aid and I’m also an ambassador for the charity) and I remember meeting her and in her very Northern Leeds accent she said, ‘I want abs like f**king yours!’ And a couple of weeks later her agent rang and I started to train her, and I did so for two and half years, until she went to America. So obviously aside from the platform I had as an athlete, to train someone that is as high profile as a Spice Girl completely propelled my business and I ended up with a lot of attention in the press. So, it’s about taking those opportunities when they come and doing a good job when you get them. I always say to people ‘Grab your opportunities because those opportunities will only knock once! So, take them and gamble.’”

So, after Reece was born, did you managed to compete again or did becoming a mother mean that part of your career ended?  

“No, after I had Reece, Matt started to train me, along with my coach Frank, and I just missed the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Then I carried on training for another two years and I made it to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. When I look back at that transition of training and competing after becoming a mum, it was hard because I was having to leave Reese to fulfil my dream. And I had to go to Cuba to train – Cubans are excellent triple jumpers. My grandmother was actually Cuban, so it was extra special to get to go and see where my grandmother grew up, but leaving Reese for two weeks felt like 22 years to me! She was only 8 months old at this point, but my husband who is very pragmatic said, ‘if you want to make the Olympic games, why would you not want to go and train with the best in the world? Because if you’re doing it, then DO IT! You’re either in or you’re out.’ And he was right, so I went to Cuba. I left Reese behind, and she didn’t even bat an eyelid when I came back, she just started saying ‘mama, mama’. We all know the juggle is hard, but you’ve got to do it for yourself. Parenting is a struggle, you’re permanently juggling, but it’s been the biggest joy to my life and feel exceptionally blessed to have my three children.”

So now you have three children and various career roles, how do you juggle everything now and how did you adapt over the years?

“I’m a very proud 50-year-old mother of three children. My eldest daughter is 18, our other daughter is 15 and our son, our youngest is 8. And I often look back at times where it’s been a struggle, and I still say it, ‘They’re going to be alright!’ If they stay in your bed until they’re ten, ‘They’re going to be alright!’ If they are still in a nappy by 5, ‘They’re going to be alright!’ Generally, no matter what, they are going to be alright. I think we just put so much pressure on ourselves to ‘Mrs perfect’ or ‘Mr perfect’, but I’ve let that go.

So, when did your athletics career end and your passion for coaching begin?

After I had Reece and I had completed the Commonwealth games in 2006 I retired. I fell pregnant that night in Melbourne. I went onto have Eden and we were living in the middle east at the time, my personal training company was still going strong, and it was around this time that I started mentoring young people, as I had always had a passion for developing the growth of the future. Helping people with their mindset, it’s all very well having all the GCSE and A Levels in the world, but you need to have the skills to manage yourself. At this point joined a company called the Dame Kelly Homes trust, which Kelly founded on the eve of her retiring, and I’m still a mentor for them now, working with 16–25-year-olds. I’ve worked with some really deprived young people, and all some of them really needed was an arm around them and for somebody to say you’re going to be alright, but question them as to why they keep demonstrating the same destructive behaviour time after time? We often forget if we keep doing the same things time after time, why would you expect a different result? You need to switch it up. Change it up. But fear can prevent us from switching things up, people like to stay in their comfort zones.

And it was about 4/5 years after starting that, that I went into Life Coaching. I recognised that through training with PT my clients, I was also coaching them as well. Because when you’re a PT people open up – you here all their shit and then some! So, I enrolled to do a degree in Counselling, Mentoring and Coaching, but then the trust kindly offered to pay for my diplomas in Life coaching, performance coaching and coaching in education, so that’s what I choose to do.”

“I’m big on affirmations. I’ve got things stuck all over the walls, because sometimes you still need those reminders to say I am enough!”

Having had such a successful athletics career, you must have had to develop a very strong mindset yourself, do you think this gave you the perfect foundation to become a Life Coach?  Equally it must help you in your own approach to life and that as a parent too.

“Yes, I always think about the main things that I have learnt through sport and that is you’ve got to have the mindset of a working at a high-performance level every day. You’ve got to know that sometimes you’re going to hit the floor. You’re going to get injured, but what are you going to do? Put the cover over your head and go on a downward spiral or are you going to choose to take the cover off your head, except that you’re injured and find a way to bounce back. And this applies to the curve balls that life throws at you. So, resilience is key. I’ve past that on to my kids and my mother past that onto me. My mum is the most amazing resilient women I know.

Another one I would say is your authentic self. People find out if you’re a fraud, just be you. You can be at peace with yourself when you are your true self. Stop comparing yourself to everybody else. As parents, we do that too much, comparing whose child has done what first – just get rid of all that and focus on what works for you and your circumstances. No one else is in your position or a part of your household. For example, my eldest daughter took the longest to walk in her Montessori group, she was 16 months old before she started walking, and I was begging her to walk because she was the last one, but now she’s forth in the country for triple jump. So, let’s put it into perspective they are going to be alright.

And lastly, I’ve learnt that you need to manage your own expectations – do what works for you. Because the more you keep comparing yourself to others, the more you are going to be unkind to yourself. You’ll end up not feeling good enough – but you are enough – and you need to be able to say I am enough. I can say I’m enough, you know, these 32F saggy boobs are brilliant! They’ve fed my three children! I don’t give a shit about how they compare to other peoples; I’m not interested. But that comes with age.”

You have such a positive outlook; do you do anything to help you maintain that?

“I’m big on affirmations. I’ve got things stuck all over the walls, because sometimes you still need those reminders to say I am enough. I think the best you can do though when you are having ‘one of those days’ is to look at your progression and the trajectory of where you are and where you have come from. Having children, running a business, etc and then when you break it down, you’ll think, bloody hell – I’m proud of me! Just focus on slaying in your lane. Don’t watch the person in the next lane, slay in your lane – because you’re in control of where you’re going!”

 

Are there any standout moments that were particularly challenging in your life, where you have had to implement some life coaching techniques to help you through?

“When I reached 40, I wanted a third baby. I fell pregnant very quickly and unfortunately, I had a miscarriage at about 8/9 weeks. I think that made me more determined, but my husband thought it might have been a sign and seemed reluctant for us to try again. Upon reflection I didn’t really like the responses I was getting from my husband after I miscarried, and I spoke to him at length about it a little while. I didn’t feel he was being very supportive, but when I spoke to him, he explained that he didn’t know how to be supportive, that it was hard to know what to say and he was just so worried about saying then wrong thing. And I took that on board, but I said I still wanted us to try for a third baby. It turned out he was also concerned about me putting myself through that again, especially because I get very sick with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. So, once we had communicated properly it helped us. 5 months later I went to a fertility clinic, because I hadn’t fallen pregnant. And the doctor asked how old I was, and I said I’m forty, that I’d had a miscarriage and I hadn’t fallen pregnant since, and she just said keep trying.  Just keep trying, one day I will bump into you in the supermarket, and you will be pregnant. And believe or not…five months later I bumped into her at the supermarket, and I was pregnant! And September 2013 my son Elijah was born. And I talk about that part of my journey as I know it’s something that can affect a lot of women and it can make you feel like a failure. It can really hard even when you are successful in every way, the one thing you just expect, or assume, that your body will be able to do it’s not doing.

How did bringing a third baby into the family change the dynamics within the family and do you do anything to help to keep the balance in such a hectic household?

“He’s an exceptional gift. He’s thoroughly loved by everyone, and his two sisters just adore him. He fit’s in perfectly. But one thing I noticed with the third baby I was like you know what this boy has got to get on with it. Life is not always ideal and perfect, and on busy days if he has to have a McDonalds, or a sandwich and a bag of crisps in the car – he’ll be alright. So, you need to recognise that, but you also need those moments of calmness where you can put things in place that look and feel magical. So, Wednesdays and Sundays are our days where have our family time. Where we sit down and talk, without phones, without interruptions, just us having fun together and being present with each other. And that’s something that I would recommend to everyone people, to find somewhere within your routine for that quality time with your immediate family. Because before you look around your kids are off to university etc, so you want to hold on to those magical moments and create lasting memories.”

Does that help getting through those fast-paced days where you are busy juggling everything and you might not feel like the best parent in the world?

“Absolutely! And I actually think that it enhances us as a family. People always say you guys are so good as a family and we are. We’ve been very strict with the kids learning and education, we make sure they do sport and music. We’ve given them the opportunities to flourish, and then what path they choose to go down is down to them. But they can’t look back and say well my parents didn’t give me this. Bearing in mind I came from a broken home, my dad was a plumber at Wembley stadium, my mum was a nurse. And I was a latch key kid, I feel bad as my older brother was kind of lumped with me, so when he wanted to go play football, he couldn’t he had to look after me. Whereas when I wanted to go to the track and train, I was able to do that. But those opportunities to train didn’t come from my parents – this is something that I say, you need to call on those around you. You have call on your friends, your neighbours, your teachers etc and don’t be afraid to do so. You need to learn to ask, ‘Can you please take my son to football, and I’ll return the favour.’ Once you create that community feel – because we’re all in this together, we’re all struggling and juggling – then there’s no shame in it. Once you realise you don’t have to try and do it all on your own and that barrier comes down, then you relax.

I’m away now for 3 days and there’s food in the fridge, there’s food in the freezer and I said to my eldest daughter who is now driving I said, ‘Reese if they need anything would you mind popping out.’ And she said ‘of course, but they’ll be fine.’

Do you think it’s important that we all accept that we can’t do it all ‘perfectly’ all the time?

“Yes, you have to think to yourself who needs to be where, at what time, and if someone has to miss swimming, they have to miss swimming – they’re going to be alright! When we relax and let that go and stop trying to be the perfect person, because there are no perfect people. I’m the imperfect perfect mother, I drop the ball plenty of times, but other times I lift the ball and I carry it brilliantly. You’ve got take the rough with the smooth. Sometimes we are very critical on ourselves as parents, and I think as long as we are role modelling the correct behaviour and attitudes towards our children – we’re doing alright. I think it’s more important than ever to teach it to our children, that perfection doesn’t exist, especially with all the extra pressure they have now from social media etc. ‘I can’t that picture because this doesn’t look right or that doesn’t look right’ they say to me, Mummy you can’t go on Insta looking like that, and I say why? Because we need to normalise being real.”

Do you have any tips for other parents that are struggling with ‘the juggle’?

“Vulnerability, Authenticity, and transparency – VAT I call it. Show them those three things and they’ll be alright. Don’t try and be something you’re not and recognise that we are all just doing our best. We are all WIPS – Work in Progress.”

Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Inspirational mum in business and events guru, Laura Wolfe

Inspirational mum in business and events guru, Laura Wolfe

Laura Wolfe © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Inspirational mum in business, and events guru, Laura Wolfe, is unsurprisingly one of the most well-respected women in her industry. Alongside her flourishing career, Laura, is also a doting mum of two boys, aged 11 and 16 – and one very cute cavapoo, Teddy!

“I always say ‘the juggle-struggle is real’ – and it absolutely is!”

With a long-established career in events – particularly renowned within the footballing industry, Laura is also the driving force behind the NWFA (Northwest Football Awards). She took on the prestigious awards over 10 years ago – back when she was just a fan, but this didn’t deter Laura from her vision and desire to carve out a successful career path in a field that she loved. It’s no surprise that Laura is now working with Women in Football, who champion female talent in a bid to bring about change in attitudes to women working in the industry.

Laura’s story is a compelling one filled with incredible highs and devastating lows. Personally, she has gone through the heartbreak of a divorce and the loss of her dad, and it was only just over 5 years ago when Laura lost everything as her business went into insolvency. Consequently hitting rock bottom. Plagued with overwhelming mum guilt and consumed by the excruciating feelings of failure, Laura initially wanted to hide away, bury her ambitions, and get a job working in a supermarket. But then, with the support of her incredible family; her mother, her brother, her sister, and her partner – who have supported her no matter what; Laura courageously coached herself back into a stronger mindset, and she inspirationally jumped back into the world of business! And thank goodness she did, as it was only two years later that she embarked on an 18-month journey, that would become the highlight of her entire career. That career highlight being that Laura was appointed to manage Manchester City’s captain Vincent Kompany’s testimonial season; seeing her work alongside Vincent Kompany himself, and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, to raise over £850,000 for a homeless charity. The fact that Laura is a lifelong City fan meant that this amazing opportunity had added meaning to her.

As a loving mum and daughter (as Laura also helps to look after her mother) and several formidable business ventures, it’s no surprise that Laura’s schedule is jam-packed. So, we asked the question so many people want to ask – how does she do it?

“I literally get to a Friday night, and I don’t understand where the week has gone!” she laughs.

We all know how hard it can be to achieve that ‘work life balance’ when you are running a business and juggling life as a parent, do you allow yourself any ‘me time’ and how do you fit that into your hectic schedule?

“I love going to the gym. The gym for me is my time – my hour. And to fit that in I have to do the 6am/7am class. It’s not always possible, like recently I’ve been too tired to get up and do it. But I do try to incorporate it into my routine as much as possible. Last week for example, I was in London on the Tuesday, my partner Daniel was away on the Wednesday in Newcastle, the kids were at their dad’s and the dog has gone to his doggy hotel – which sounds ridiculous, but because we’re all away and out, we just know he’ll have a lovely time there with all the other dogs and that’s obviously an extra weight off your mind. So, it was just me and I could have slept until 8am, but instead I got up to do my gym class. I could have used that time to catch up on my sleep, but I just know on the days that I do go to the gym; I feel much better than the days I don’t. Without a doubt. And I love it! It’s changed my life – so for me it’s a massive thing. And most of the time it’s doable until it’s half term or other school holidays, or my mum needs something, or my kids need something – then something’s got to give and usually it’s your ‘me time’!

“I always say ’the juggle struggle is real’ – and it absolutely is!”

Laura WOLFE IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD

With such a hectic schedule how do you manage to fit in your ‘mum jobs’ alongside the demands of your business? 

“My children are split between me and their father. They are with me for 8 nights and then with him for 6 nights. It’s not my choice, but it’s what you have to do, because their dad loves them too, there’s no doubt about it. But I’m still their mum whether they are with me or not, and the organisational side of things still falls to me. I’m naturally a control freak and it took me a long time to let that go, but I still need to make sure everything is done and that everything is in place so that they can do what they need to. So, whether they are with me or not they will still ring me, and you still have those ‘mum jobs’ to do. I’m so lucky my partner Daniel is brilliant. He will take my youngest to football on a Saturday and Sunday. He loves that, he played a lot himself when he was younger. So, he’s brilliant, but of course it’s still challengingly. I can be in London at an event, like I was on Tuesday. My eldest calls me and he’s stressing about something – which is fine because I’m his Mum and he needs me – so obviously I have to take that time out to sort things out things like that. The kids always come first. No matter how busy I am, there are moments I don’t want to miss because they are important moments, and they need their mum there.”

Laura Wolfe and MCFC player Vincent Kompany
Laura WOLFE with x-MCFC PLAYER vincent kompany, TAKEN FROM LAURA’S INSTAGRAM account

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You have an extra role to juggle in looking after your mum, how do you manage to fit that into your busy schedule.

“Mum is 84, she’s fantastic, she’s been there supporting me all my life. So now it’s my turn. My father passed away in 2015. My brother lives in America and my sister lives in Israel. We’re a really close family, but geographically we are massively dispersed, so the day-to-day falls to me. So, during Covid again, it was down to me to look after my mum – we live 5 doors down from her – which has brilliant benefits; she’s got an incredible relationship with my children, well all of her grandchildren really, but obviously with us being so close by, she does a lot with my kids and sometimes I couldn’t manage without her support too. But mum can get herself in a bit of mess with things like her phone etc and she needs me to go and help her, which I had to do yesterday and before you know it, it’s two hours out of your working day.

I grew up in a Jewish household with a mum who gave everything to her family – and I mean everything! Before my mum had me, my parents lived in Maidstone, and she was about to be made Mayor of Maidstone. She was a woman in her twenties, with all these men in a room smoking and she was sat there looking glamourous – and this was in the days where women didn’t do that! But then Dad’s job brought them up here and since then she gave her life to family and the community. She’s got an MBE for her services to the community. So, she’s a force. At 84, she’s still a total inspiration and as involved as ever, which is just amazing!”

And you’re also a mum to a gorgeous little cavapoo, Teddy, which is obviously another responsibility that you have to manage. Tell us a bit more about Teddy and how you make that work. 

“Our puppy Teddy is a lockdown down puppy. We love him, he’s like another baby to me. I would have wanted another baby – as I’m one of three and we’re so close – but it just wasn’t to be for me, as my life went in another direction. So, we love our pup, but because he was a lockdown puppy, he’s not good on his own. So, obviously we have to factor him into our schedule too. We’ve organised it really well now, he goes to doggy day care, and he absolutely loves it! It’s like playgroup he’s got a ball pit, slide paddling pool – I mean it sounds ridiculous, but he loves it so we know he’s happy when he’s there.”

Obviously, the events industry was hit incredibly hard through covid, that must have been tough, and you would have obviously had the boys the home-school too. So how did lockdown impact you professionally and as a parent?   

“Lockdown was an absolute nightmare! I mean for all parents it was just so hard. My eldest was 14 at the time and he slept all day and gamed all night. He only really came out of his room to eat and grunt something, but I just went with it because I had to. He couldn’t swim or do any of the things he would normally be doing, so it was awful and it was hard emotionally. My youngest needed home schooling and at the start school didn’t actually give them that much to do and he is so ridiculously conscientious that he would get it all done straight away. And as you said my businesses then was events and football – there were no events and no football. I remember the day they said it was all happening and we had to shut the office, we thought we would all be back in three weeks. We were really busy at the time, we were gearing up to do the PFA Awards etc and obviously none of those events went ahead and lockdown went on much longer than we all anticipated. I was running – a lot – but also eating – a lot! I was baking bread – in fact my youngest will say mum you never bake bread anymore! And I’m like ‘When am I meant to fit baking bread in now?’ (she laughs)

But as time went on and I realised that this wasn’t going away quickly, I set up my concierge business – looking after footballers primarily. Like helping them find a place to live if they’re moving from overseas, or to help them find a school etc. So that was great because that kept me busy setting that up. Then I’m really friendly with Brian Horton, ex-football manager and brilliant guy and he had written a book and I said to him ‘Who is doing the media for you book? I don’t do PR, but do you want me to help you?’ He said yes, will you speak to the publisher. Which I did, and I did the media for the book for him – just because I wanted to – and it went brilliantly, and the publisher asked me how much I charged! I didn’t know what to say as I’d never really done it before. But that was October 2020 and now we’re in May 2022 and I have provided the media relations for all of those books. (Points to an array of books displayed with pride in her office) I generally do the personality led books and so it’s great to work with so many inspiring sports personalities.

Then in February 2021 Women In Football got in touch and asked if I would meet with them as their head of events was really unwell with covid. It went really well and I’m still working for them now and we’re doing some really great and exciting things.

As much as covid was incredibly hard, it gave me was a chance to rethink things and look at things differently, and without that happening I would never have done the media side, or the Women in Football and I love it, and I’m good at it!

And of course, fast forward to now and the events industry is booming again. A lot of people have left the industry too and so there aren’t as many companies or freelancers around, so its crazy busy at the minute. But I’m not complaining as I’ve been on the other side where I lost everything! I’ve made some bad choices, put the wrong people around me, thought I knew how to do it and listened to people I shouldn’t have, and I lost everything!”

That must have been extremely hard. Do you think that’s almost part of the process though, to be successful? To make the mistakes, to endure the struggles and then grow through them.

“Well, I feel I have a lot of catching up to do because my divorce took its toll on me, I lost my dad, and having kids is really difficult. And when things are going well it’s great, but without going into it too much, like all kids, my kids have had their issues, and as a parent you find yourself dealing with those too, both emotionally. And sometimes that has been really hard and heart-breaking. Kids can say things they don’t mean because they’re hurting and you just want to make it all better for them, and sometimes you can’t.

At the end of 2017 when everything went, I was made bankrupt and my business went into insolvency and there were lots of different reasons for that and I remember sitting at Oddfellows in the park in Cheadle, with my brother who over from the US and Daniel, my partner. And I said to them I’m going to go and work in Marks & Spencer, and I was serious and do you know my reason for that was that they give you 20% discount on the food! And Daniel was so angry, to hear me be so defeatist like that, but my brother said just let her go through it. I just thought I can never show my face in Manchester again! No-one will ever want to work with me again! It was just horrible. I was let down by some people, but ultimately, I take responsibility for what happened. And then I ended up starting up another business, but it was completely different to the business I had before in that it was me front and centre, it reflected me and that’s what people wanted and always had, but I had tried to make the other business into something it was never going to be.”

It’s very inspiring that you went back into the world of business despite going through that and it obviously takes a lot of strength, how difficult was it to get back out there and start over again?

“I had a really lucky break in 2019, it was Vincent Kompany’s testimonial season at Manchester City and he came to the NWFA to present an award to Brian Kidd with Gary Neville and I met his business partner and the guy that manages him and I got on really well with them an then after we had had a coffee they gave me the gig to run his testimonial season so I worked with him for 18 months. And as a city fan that is like your ultimate dream, like I can’t even tell you what that meant, it was incredible. And when it was over, I was kind of like what do I do now? And he said good things will come to you, just trust the process.

Then when I started working with him the trolls came out and I remember sitting at my desk and Amy, a colleague and friend who had been with me throughout it all said ‘Laura don’t look at Twitter, don’t look at it!’ and obviously I did and it was just disgusting, the things they were saying about me, about my mum, there was antisemitic stuff, there was stuff about what happened with my old business and there was stuff about my partner and this was all because I was working with Vincent Kompany and Andy Burnham – because we were raising money for the homeless. And it was just horrific and because I wasn’t expecting it, it really knocked me. Honestly?  It made me not want to be here anymore.  It’s tough to admit that, but it’s true.  And I remember Andy Burnham rang me and said I signed up for this, this is part of my job, but you didn’t, the only reason they are doing this is because you are actually doing something positive. I know its horrible but just keep doing what you’re doing. And Vinny’s team were like, we’ve got you, if it carries on, we’ll sort it but for now let’s just ignore it. And when I started working with them, I had told them everything, so they knew everything, you know ‘This has happened to me, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, this is what happened, and it was a part of my life.’ They didn’t care, in fact they already knew about everything anyway, but the fact that I told them without them asking me, I think that showed them that I’m ok, you know. So that was extremely tough, and I blocked my account for ages and was then like sod it! And I got to the point where I though ‘I actually don’t care’ It’s actually something that we’re trying to stop through Women in Football, because unfortunately it’s something that is prevalent for women in football. I just don’t understand why, but it happens.”

Obviously 10 years ago in Football you didn’t see many women involved in football, have you had to fight even harder to carve out your career because of that?

Oh yes! Most men have probably never been asked to explain the offside rule, but I have many, many, times! We were talking about this at an event the other night and we all agreed that you don’t have to know everything, because men don’t know everything either. And I don’t know everything, and I didn’t know everything ten years ago, but I never pretended to know everything. But when you’re going into a room full of men and who already have preconceptions about you, it can be intimidating. Even going back to when I moved to Manchester, and I went to work at the Institute of Directors, I was the youngest and only female regional director they had, and that there had ever been before! I remember thinking to myself we’ve got to change this. I’ve seen some awful stuff over the years and heard some awful stories, I’m fortunate to not have experienced it too myself but it definitely something that happens. We have come a long way, although there is still a lot further to go. I’m a firm believer in women supporting other women to pave the way forward.”

What advice would you give other mums who are also striving to achieve success in their careers?

“I think you always strive for more. You always think that you’re not doing well. You always think that you could have done something better. I have the worst imposter syndrome. But I think firstly, you can’t regret anything – and that’s something I’ve had to really work on – learning not to regret things, because it nearly finished me! Secondly, know that you’re not on your own. The more you can open up and talk about things the better. I used to have this outward facing thing, particularly on social media, that everything is brilliant, everything is fantastic. Always saying, I’m fine to anyone who asked. So, no one ever knew that underneath my world was crumbling and falling apart. That I was losing everything. That I felt like the worst mum in the world, because I just couldn’t be there for my kids in the way that I wanted to be because I wasn’t emotionally strong enough, and I didn’t ask for help. But everybody struggles. Everybody fails. I failed very dramatically and very publicly.  Get yourself a girl gang of cheerleaders too.  Everybody needs their girl gang.  Mine is ace!

And thirdly be kind to yourself, I am not kind to myself – I need to listen to my own advice on this one. I’m always telling myself I should be doing better; I should be doing more. And it’s constant and I’m always on the go until I remind myself that’s not sustainable and I’m a human being, and that something has got to give. Oh, and learn to say no as well – it’s ok to say no. You can’t be the best friend in the world, the best mum in the world, the best partner in the world, the best person in the gym, the best businessperson etc… I can’t do it! Nobody can and you just need to remember that.”

 

Laura Wolfe

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Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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BROOKE VINCENT AND HER SON MEXX. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

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“…you completely forget about yourself and anything else that might be important to you!”

Doting mum of two, Brooke Vincent is best known for her role in one of the UK’s most loved TV programmes, Coronation Street, but in 2018 Brooke boldly ventured into the world of business launching her company Oh So B. After starting the business in her bedroom, whilst juggling her acting career, Brooke’s fabulous stationery brand has gone from strength to strength, and Oh So B has now become one of the go-to brands for practical and stylish planners for busy professionals. We sat down with Brooke to chat about what inspired her to step into the daunting world of business and how different she finds running a business now that she is a mum of two gorgeous boys under two – Mexx and Monroe. It was both inspiring and refreshing to hear Brooke talk with honesty about the daily juggle, how she – like so many of us – sets unrealistic expectations for herself and how she deals with the dreaded mum guilt, when those hectic weeks creep in…

What inspired you to start Oh So B?

“Well, while I was doing Dancing on Ice, I was also doing radio – which I had to be up at five for, then I would finish that and go to do my ice-skating rehearsals, then I would go to Coronation Street, then I would go and do dance and then I would go home. And it was literally the craziest time of my life and when it stopped, I like what now? I remember being sat at home and I was like right, ‘we need to move house, we need to get a dog, I think we should have a baby.’ I felt like something was missing – I was missing the chaos. And it was during that time that I decided to start doing planners.”

Brooke Vincent and son Mexx
BROOKE VINCENT AND HER SON MEXX. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
oh so b

Why planners? Was that something you were passionate about?

“Well, I’ve always loved planners, dairies and any kind of stationery really, and I remember this one year I had spent about £200 on this planner from America. But they would only ship to the US and my friend Sacha was over there filming at the time, and I said to her, ‘I’m going to get this planner delivered to your house and you bring it home when you come back. Please don’t open it, don’t write in in it, don’t write your birthday in it or anything – because I won’t find that funny!’  (We laugh – as a stationery geek myself I totally get this!) When I did get it, it was like a lightbulb, I knew that wanted to create a planner of my own. And that’s how it came about. I always like to push myself and better myself and Oh So B has allowed me to do just that.”

And you didn’t have kids at this point, so how has it changed running the business prior to having kids as opposed to after having children?

“No, gosh, I didn’t have the boys then!” she laughs. “I have a lady, who is also a family friend Amanda who helps me manage the business now, and I’m very lucky as she’s great, she’s so knowledgeable and I feel like she knows all the things that I might not. I decided to bring Amanda on because I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning as I had no experience in business – I’ve gained a huge respect for anyone running a business – and as it’s grown, I’ve managed to build a mini team. I also pulled in a lot of favours at the start, like you do. The major difference now is, well I don’t even think this is just when you’re running your own business; I think any working mum – or dad – feels this way, but when you’re trying to give your children attention, whilst also trying to give your attention to something else that needs your attention, is the hardest thing in the world! Especially when you’ve got more than one!”

How do you fit in running your business now that you have two babies so close together?

“Well, Mexx, didn’t go to nursery until he was 18 months old because of covid, whereas Monroe, started when he was six months old, and as much I found it hard because I felt like he was so young, they don’t go full time and they love it and there’s only so much you can do for them at home. And it’s nice for you to know that you are dropping them off and they are safe, happy, and occupied. So I try and be as productive as possible in the days that they are at nursery so the rest of the time I can just concentrate on them.”

I know a lot of mums, myself included, feel guilty when they are working that they aren’t with their children, and anxious when they are with the kids that they aren’t doing the work that they need to do. Is that something that you can relate to?

“Oh yes, absolutely! It’s a constant battle within yourself! I think one thing I’ve really struggled with since becoming a mum is that you never stop feeling guilty over something! So even if it’s not over your kids or work, it might be over the time you spend with your partner, or your friends; whatever the situation maybe. I know they call it ‘work life balance’ but to me it’s the ‘mum life balance’ as I think you just get so wrapped up in the babies and what they need, that you completely forget about yourself and anything else that might be important to you. I also feel that if you do something to make your life easier, i.e., send the children to nursery, get a cleaner, etc for some reason you feel guilty. Because you question your own capabilities like, ‘Why can’t I run a business, look after the kids, run the house, look the best, feel my best, give the kids everything – why can’t I do that? I’m really hard on myself like that.”

Brooke Vincent

Do you think that is something we all do, that we set high expectations for ourselves and worry that others are judging us when really, it’s us that are judging ourselves?

Yes, I think it’s really hard for a woman to have a career and be a mum without feeling that. I think it’s one of those things that a lot of judgement comes from within us.

Do you think social media plays a part in putting too much pressure on ourselves?

“Yes, because you look at certain people and the homes are immaculate; they look immaculate and the kids look immaculate, and you just think why I can’t be like that. But at the same time, it baffles me because really, we all know that they won’t be like that all the time but scrolling through lots of pictures like that just makes you feel like you’re underachieving somehow. Like for me when I saw people in jeans not long after giving birth, I was like how they are back in their jeans – because I couldn’t fit in mine. And I don’t know whether I felt the pressure more because I’m a ‘younger’ mum or what it was, but I definitely felt a lot of pressure to ‘bounce back’.

I think a lot of new parents – I know I felt it myself – feel like they lose their identity a little bit. Have you felt like that at all?

“When I was pregnant, we’d had a normal summer, I had Mexx in the winter and then it was lockdown, so I think everyone struggle a bit then and he was nine months old, we said shall we have another baby – as we wanted them to be close together and luckily, I got pregnant again really quickly. Everything with the pregnancy went well and he was healthy – which is obviously something that plays on everyone’s minds when they are expecting a baby. And Monroe arrived and it’s only recently that I’ve been able to get back into my old clothes again, but essentially, they are three years old those clothes now and they’re not necessarily in fashion or I have already worn them lots already. Although I have quite a few key pieces in my wardrobe that I can mix, and match and wear again rather than you know wear it once and give it to charity. I feel like I have lost my identity in terms of how I look, at times, as I’d gotten so used to wearing baggy clothes. And now, that I want to look nice, I just don’t have the time to try lots of things on and put an outfit together. The amount of chaos it causes in our house if I try to put a full face of makeup on for example before I leave the house, well, it’s just not worth it, so I just don’t bother – then I’ll get to Nanna’s, and she’ll tell me how tired I look!” she laughs. “Obviously, you do feel different, and it is tiring, but being a mum is also one of the best things in the world!”

What do you have planned in your business over the next few years?

“Well, I feel like a lot of the ideas I had the start that I’ve still not managed to action with as yet, as I started the business in the June and by the January, I found out I was pregnant and then we’ve had all the various lockdowns and obviously I went on to get pregnant with Monroe, etc, so I still don’t feel like I’ve been able to run with it fully the way I wanted too. And as I much as I still have lots of ideas and goals for the business, I feel like it’s ok not to push it as fast as I would have done if I didn’t have the kids, because I can cope with the pressures as it stands now, but because the boys are so young, I don’t really want to push it even more just yet as it will just become too overwhelming, and I want to enjoy the boys being babies too.”

Do you have any advice or tips for fellow working parents?

“If there are any tips out there you need to tell me because my life is just like a circus!” We all laugh and chat about life within our own circus’.  “I think even though it’s something I struggle with myself, I feel like I’m constantly learning, but you should expect too much from yourself and you need to remind yourself just what good job you’re doing. That’s why I’ve included reminders in my planners that ‘you are doing your best’, as I think it’s so important for us remember that.”

“…you completely forget about yourself and anything else that might be important to you.”

Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Culinary genius Simon Wood’s Inspiring Journey and his goal for a Michelin star

Culinary genius Simon Wood’s Inspiring Journey and his goal for a Michelin star

SIMON WOOD OF WOOD MANCHESTER AND WoodKraft Cheltenham. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

“I want to have a Michelin star restaurant and I’ll do it! It might take me ten years, but I will do it!”

Culinary genius, Simon Wood, rose to fame as the winner of MasterChef in 2015. In 2016 his debut cookbook – At Home with Simon Wood was published and in 2018 he realised his dreams when he opened his first restaurant – Wood Restaurant in Manchester. He then opened his second restaurant in the December of 2018 – WoodKraft in Cheltenham. But the road to success was not without hard work, sacrifice, and enduring lots of challenges. Simon became a father at a young age and at the time he was working at McDonalds. By the time he was 22, he and his partner had three young children, life was far from easy and career success was seemingly a world away. So when we had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon at his sophisticated Manchester restaurant, we were bowled over by the father of four’s inspiring and incredible journey, and we are sure it will inspire all of you too!

Simon Wood
SIMON WOOD. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
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As soon as we sat down, Simon was so welcoming and jumped straight into a conversation about how dramatically his life had changed since he first became a father…

Simon – “By the time I was 22 I had three children under 5 years old, so I know what it’s like earning £140 a week and making it stretch. ‘Can I get a beer on a Friday night, or do we need nappies?’ Of course, you always have to choose the nappies. That’s the way it was. Then I ended up being a data scientist and made a successful career out of that. Then MasterChef happened and here we are – I’ve got no money again!” He laughs “I’m a grandad now as well, my middle lad has had his first child, so my granddaughter is one and a half. I’m still not sure I’m ready to be called a grandad yet either!” he laughs.

So, has cooking always been a passion of yours?

“Yes, I’ve always done it. I’ve just always loved cooking. I used to find ways to make ends meet, whilst raising three children. I would regularly cook for friends and family, and host dinner parties. And I would do buffets, weddings, christenings – any private events really, just to earn a bit of extra money on the side at weekends.”

And you mentioned earlier that you first became a data scientist. How did that come about?

“I’d spent a lot of time learning about data, initial basic programming, so I became a data scientist and no one ever wakes up and says ‘I think I’m going to become a data scientist.’ People don’t do that. But looking back, it was great learning curve, and it still helps me now – with percentages, GP calculations, wage calculations, negotiations etc – so there’s lots of aspects from it that I still use today. Back then I also managed quite a big team so again, that helped me gain experience as I obviously manage a large team now too. I also met some great contacts doing that, for example, through one of my contacts as a data scientist I ended up cooking for Billy Ocean and Pink Floyd – which was mental.”

We imagine this industry doesn’t lend itself to family life does it, how did you find that adjustment as a father?     

“I was all set to be chef from an early age and I didn’t do it, because life took me in a different direction and it was family life that changed that – of course in a nice way, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t be where I am now without doing it the way I did. I’d probably be sick of it, pulling my hair out, trying to earn a living somewhere else with two or three failed restaurants behind me. That’s the reality of it, that’s what can happen if you’re not focused. But as it stands, I’ve got a good platform, a good springboard, and a good support network around me (within the Manchester industry in particular.)

People that have supported me and have told people about us, now other people want to come down here, its great! As well as the good food, it’s about being hospitable, it’s called hospitality for a reason, it’s about earning a living but enjoying what you do as well.”

Simon Wood
SIMON WOOD. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Covid notoriously hit this the hospitality industry really hard, how much did this affect you, both as a business and as a family?

“Going back to the family thing, every one of my family has worked in this restaurant. Because being honest, I’ve needed them to. Everyone seemed to quit after covid. Despite the staff being kept on furlough for 18 months or so, everyone came back but did six services then left! We lost around eight staff in total. This was hard. They were people we’d been loyal to. Really loyal, even when we’d struggled to find money for their wages, I couldn’t see them struggle, so had to take it out of our my own pocket before the government paid it back in 6 weeks.

Plus, they’d all accrued holidays while they were all off, so when we re-opened, six services in and our head chef just quit, our sommelier, followed by our assistant manager. The Chef de partie was being offered head chef roles elsewhere, even though the restaurant offering them wasn’t ready, the industry was on its knees, and it was brutal. That was probably the most challenging time. I had my sons on the pots, I had my daughter and her mum polishing cutlery and glasses in the back. I was taking peas home to pod on my day off because I didn’t have enough time to do it there, all kinds of stuff had gone on, but that was a challenging time and I’m lucky I have a great family. They’ve all been really supportive of me. They’ve been through the whole journey, of course, since MasterChef especially, it’s been beneficial for me, there’s no escaping that but it has been for them too, because it’s given us [all] a fantastic quality of life, maybe not fantastic, but it’s certainly a better, more diverse, and interesting one! The people that you see, the people that you meet and that you cook for. Even doing things like this. That’s what makes hospitality worthwhile, it’s a network of enjoyment, I guess. It’s hard, you know. We might do 80 hours in four days, and then I wake up on a Sunday morning to go get Charlotte, my daughter, because it’s her day with me and I can’t get up – literally; so I have to sit for a minute and finally start to wander round like a 90-year-old, then finally by 4 o’clock when you’ve had a glass of wine, you can move around again a bit quicker.”

How do think it has impacted and inspired your children overall?

“Growing up, the lads have had other jobs over the years, that weren’t in the restaurant sector, but when they’ve come in to help out here, done a day on the pots, then suddenly whatever job they’d been doing before, doesn’t seem so bad. They’d do 7 and half hours with an hour’s lunch break at their work place, whereas here, when you’re 7 and a half hours in, it means it’s only half past three, and we haven’t even started service yet! When you’re in at 8am and you don’t leave until 1am – that’s working hard! So, it’s been good for them to see how hard it is, its definitely been grounding for them. They’ve learnt a lot from that, but so have I. You know I came from an office background originally, I used to go in the office early around 6.30am to miss the traffic and get an early start, but I’d always leave early and be home by 6pm. So, it’s not that long of a day looking back – for an office day, it’s probably quite long for an office job now I guess, but in this [restaurant] world it’s not at all.”

You’ve obviously always had a strong work ethic, do you think that has come from you having such a lot of responsibility from being a father at such a young age, or has that come from somewhere else?

“I got that from my parents, you know, I was always told, if you want money, you go out and get a paper round. Whereas I probably made the mistake of saying to mine not to – I felt like it was a bit risky them being out that late, for not a lot of money – I wasn’t sure it was worth it. So I didn’t push them in that direction. Well, at least with my first lad I didn’t, whereas my second lad he wanted to, so he did it regardless. And my third lad works the same hours as me in a Michelin star restaurant – as he’s a chef now too. So, it’s funny how your dynamic changes throughout. But in the end, they have all worked really hard, following their own passions and they really enjoy it. And that’s the key isn’t it, it’s making sure you’re doing something that you enjoy. We all know that if you’re enjoying it, it’s not really work. It might be stressful, it might be difficult, but it’s still enjoyable. If even on your worst day you can think – it’s alright – well, once you’ve thrown a few things that is. He laughs.

The margins are tight, there’s all kinds of things that you have to do but if you love what you do it’s worth it. We’ve even slept in the restaurant to save hotel bills; we’ve done home deliveries to save on fuel – you name it, we’ve done it. It’s definitely not as glamorous as it might seem on the outside sometimes.”

I think that’s something that we feel very passionate about with BROOD, is getting across the reality of what goes on behind the scenes in order to get to that success or achieve your dreams, whilst juggling your kids, as it’s very rare that it happens overnight or without sacrifice.

“Oh yeah, for around 6 years, I worked in a warehouse in the morning at half past six until quarter past three and I would pick the kids up from school, then my missus would go out and work in the same warehouse and do the half past three while 10 o’clock shift – and that’s how we did it back then, because we had to. It was hard. And some weeks you would throw in a bit of overtime on a Saturday to make ends meet, the lads would have football on a Sunday and then your week would start again! Then I started to dabble in IT in the late 90’s, taught myself basic programming and different other bits, and just progressed from there and ended up being quite successful in a more corporate industry, because I needed to do something more than what I had been doing. I couldn’t even afford a computer to practise on, but I was determined to change course no matter what. Once I got into that industry, and I had the tools to progress, I did it quite quickly. In a year I was managing the team, in two years I was managing the department and then I moved into the university side of things – looking at statistics there.”

So, at that point you had obviously carved out a new career for yourself that you were doing really well in, what made you decide to do MasterChef?  

“Well, I’d gone to work one morning, and my boss had really got up my nose! So, I clicked off my emails, got myself a coffee and started to look on Facebook and a little advert popped up at the side and it said, ‘Are you the next champion?’ [of MasterChef] so I just clicked it and that was that. I got on and won it! I had always been that guy at home questioning ‘Why are they cooking that!’. Everyone had always said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ But in reality, I applied in temper. Everything I wrote in that application was very honest, but it probably had a little edge to it!” [We all laugh.]

“After getting through the application process, you do three telephone interviews, then you go to a hotel, take a dish with you – I was shaking, frightened to death at that point. And after that, once you’ve got through all that, you get into the kitchen and that’s it – the rest is history.”

At what point did you think, I could win this?

“I was never over confident to start with, I have to be honest, but there are points that I do remember where, at the end of each show you would walk around and look at what everyone else had done and you get to taste the food, I started to think, ‘Mine’s better than that, it’s better than that, it’s better than that one’ and it was at that point that I’d think, ‘I’m alright here’ and then I’d get through to the next round. Looking back, there was a couple of pivotal moments, like we’d had a shocking round as a team, I didn’t think it was managed properly and I lost my temper. So then I ended up running the team for the episode with the red arrows, and I was like a top gun geek and I was on the runway with red arrows and they’re flying around and I’m running the kitchen and I was just like, ‘this is me, I’m done now, I’m happy’ and I think it was there where a little switch clicked and it made me a little bit into what I am today, tenacious, direct, driven and passionate. I knew 100% from that point that was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”

You have achieved so much already, what other goals do you have and what do you want for the future of your business?

“Well, we’re pushing towards a Michelin star, so my aim is to get a Michelin star, I want to have a Michelin star restaurant and I’ll do it! It might take me ten years, but I will do it! One way or other, because that’s my goal. I’m going keep trying and we’ve got a great team here. It’s really enjoyable despite it’s ups and downs, the kids are a little older now, my youngest Charlotte is taking her exams soon.”

Do you ever switch off? And if so, do you find it easy to switch off?  

“You’ve got to try and find a way to run a business by keeping your stress levels down so that your home life isn’t affected. Like on my Sunday, that’s my day with my family, so if I’m having an off day  I’m stressed, you know, that’s not how I want that day to be but it’s ruthless at times so it can be hard to switch off.

Especially when you’re tired, your body’s broken and you’ve not broke even that week, they’re the weeks you’ve got to try harder than ever to find that balance. But most Sundays, I manage it, and we’ll either watch the football or eat out so I’m not cooking, and when the boys have gone home me, and Charlotte will watch a box set or something together. We’re closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, which highlights how hard the other days are. Although we’re meant to be off on a Tuesday and a lot of us (the chefs) still come in, because we all know what needs to be done. You can’t really switch food off though, because it’s not up here (points to his head) it’s in here (points to his heart).”

And finally, what tips would you give to anyone else starting out into the world of business or looking to achieve their career goals? How does someone find the type of drive and determination that you’ve got?

“I think circumstance can dictate the amount drive that you have, like my dad died when I was 11. I had a paper round then, then I went working at the working mans club, then onto McDonalds at 15. So, I’ve always worked. I think family or personal circumstances change your work ethic. I think I would advise any young people wanted to find that work ethic to come into hospitality because it’s fun, it’s fast, it’s frantic, it’s ferocious – it’s always entertaining and it’s always hard. I think it’s something people can learn from very quickly. Hospitality is just a great steppingstone no matter what you want to do. If you can cook or pour a pint, you’ll never be out of work any where in the world – simple as that!”

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Interviewed by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Interview with Renowned Celebrity Make Up Artist, Cassie Lomas

Interview with Renowned Celebrity Make Up Artist, Cassie Lomas

CASSIE LOMAS, HER HUSBAND CHRIS BELL AND THEIR CHILDREN ELKIE & SPIKE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
“I can’t see obstacles, so if I want something, this is my motto, ‘Just make it happen, let’s just make it happen!”

Renowned Celebrity Make -Up Artist, Cassie Lomas, has built an incredible empire since breaking into the Make Up industry in her early twenties and her impressive portfolio of businesses include one of the UK’s most respected Make Up Academy’s – CLMA, an esteemed line of professional make up brushes, a make-up line within Superdrug and Creatives Make Up Agency – which has helped launch and support the careers for hundreds of upcoming MUA’s; all whilst being a doting mum to her two gorgeous children, Spike and Elkie. We sat down to hear how Cassie carved out her own path within the Make Up industry; how teamwork with her husband, Chris, has most definitely made the dream work, and how the last decade of sheer hard work and determination, has led to now finding the ultimate balance between her career and motherhood. You cannot help but feel in awe of Cassie’s formidable drive and what she has achieved already; but it wasn’t always easy, and her story is sure to motivate us all, to see that we can achieve anything that we want to, despite any obstacles that may get in your way!

Cassie Lomas
CASSIE LOMAS. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Morson Group - Find your next job

What made you decide to become a Make Up Artist and how did you get into the industry in the beginning?

“Well, I went to a girls grammar school – I went to Manchester High School for girls, so I was brought up in a very academic environment, where I was expected to go and become a lawyer, or an accountant or something along those lines and I felt a lot of pressure at the time because I’m fairly bright, but I wouldn’t say I was really academic, you know, I’m not one of those super intelligent people, I’m much more creative. So, for me at that point, there weren’t really any creative options, it wasn’t something that was talked about back then. And I only really knew about make up because I had previously done some modelling so had some experience of being on photoshoots, and I was doing my A Levels and someone came round college with these options for a night course, and I saw Interior Design and thought, ‘oh yeah, I’d love to do that!’ and then I saw Cosmetic Make Up and I thought, ‘Well maybe I’ll do Make Up so I could earn some money on the side while I go to Uni!’ Or you know have a year out and just do Make Up, so that was why I started it. And from there, well I realised it wasn’t quite that easy.” (We all laugh) “But once I’d started, I thought, ‘Well I can’t stop now,’ and I loved it, I was so passionate, and it’s been my hobby since then and I was 17 then.”

Obviously, you went on to create a successful career for yourself, when Make Up wasn’t really seen as a ‘proper’ career choice at that time.

“No, it wasn’t seen as a proper career at the time, and it’s never been intentional, well not that I remember, you know, I never really intended on becoming a Make Up artist. I remember, because I did a business degree at Uni, so all the time that I was finishing my A levels and doing my business degree, I was doing make up on the side and I was building my portfolio and then I remember saying to my mum, ‘I think I want to move to London and give Make Up a go.’ I was adamant about the best, I didn’t just want to do Make Up, I wanted to be the best and what I had found whilst I was starting out was that wherever I went everyone kept saying all the best people train at London College of Fashion and it really stuck with me. So, I thought, ‘Right, well if I’m moving to London, I’m going to go to London College of Fashion.’ So I did, I rang my mum and said, ‘I definitely want to move to London, I think the best way to go is as a student because it’s cheaper’ because at the time you still got funding to go to Uni. So that’s what I did, and I got in, I got a place on their HND Fashion Make Up course and by this point I’d already been doing Make Up for 5 years. So, I was quite far into doing it already, I’d had an agent, I’d been working with celebrities, and I went down to London, and it was obviously all new. I was working in a nightclub at night – a celebrity ‘hotspot’ you know, and I would be at college all day. And then I got a big break, working with an amazing make-up artist assisting her and just progressed from there. Within the space of two to three months I was flying around the world. And it never really stopped, and I got to about 25, and I bought a flat in Chelsea, I bought a brand-new car cash, I was shopping on Sloan Street, Champagne was the drink that I drank on my nights out and this was all in my early twenties and it was lot, when you think back. I was so fortunate and so lucky to be able to experience that, then suddenly it stopped, and I had no money. I couldn’t afford to pay my mortgage, my main client wasn’t working anymore, so I decided at that point I was going to stop working with celebrities and I wanted to become a Fashion Make Up Artist – like high fashion. I wanted to do London Fashion Week and editorials. So, I started saying no to all my money jobs and I changed my agent, and I went down the fashion route. So, then I found myself getting the tube across London, with two suitcases, to do magazine shoot – for no money at all and I get there, and they would say, ‘She doesn’t actually need anything. Maybe just do that with her hair’ (lightly ruffles her hair) and I would just think ‘Wow, I’ve just travelled two hours to get here, I’m not getting paid and now I’m not even allowed to touch the model!’ So I did this for about six months and I really struggled with it because I like putting Make Up on people and the fashion industry is not about putting Make Up on and you have to do so much free work at the beginning, that for me to go from earning a lot of money and flying around the world on jets to getting the tube across London for no money and then your work not even being appreciated as such, it was a real culture shock. And I found myself at this point where I couldn’t afford to pay my mortgage, I had this flat in Chelsea with my best friend, I’d been living the high life and it had just all gone. I’m skint, what do I do? So that was a real moment for me, and I found myself at this point where I had to make a decision because to be in this decision at 25 where I’d had all this success and I now had responsibilities, but no money, I thought what am I going to do? And I thought right I can either now think this hobby is enough, I’ve took it as far as I can and I need to now go get a ‘real job’ because as I said Make Up was never looked upon as a real job, although my parents always supported me so it never came from that, they were always like you should do what you want, it was more from society as a whole. So, I thought do I know start applying for jobs in marketing which was what my degree was in, or I do I go and get a job in pizza express which was my favourite restaurant and I can start trying to earn money again in make up and go back to what I love which is working in music and with celebrities and so that’s what I did. I decided that fashion wasn’t for me, I’d had such a great few years doing what I was doing and so I went back down that route.”

Adrian Adair Morson Group
CASSIE LOMAS AND HER DAUGHTER ELKIE. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

You’re obviously very passionate about helping MUA’s start and maintain their careers and you’ve kind of put choosing to be a Make Up Artist as a career choice on the map, does that stem from what you experienced? Or what made you decide to start the academy? 

“So, the idea of the academy came about because I had struggled so much at the beginning, I felt like it was almost like a secret society and no one wanted to let you in and no one wanted to give you advice and you couldn’t just google the answer to things you wanted to know and I was made to feel a bit stupid on a lot of occasions and I made so many mistakes in my career that if someone would have just said, ‘Oh no, you don’t do that, that’s not the done thing’ then I wouldn’t have done it, but I didn’t know and so I wanted to open a school, not just that taught people, but that really helped them as well. That helped them get those breaks that I found so tricky to get because I thought I can offer so much, so many opportunities – not just the training, but after the training, like getting people into work. What I think every school should be like, you know our slogan had become after 10 years, ‘we don’t just teach make up, we nurture careers’ and that is what we do. It annoys me so much when people come to us to train and they’ve already paid for training elsewhere and they don’t know the most simple, basic things and people are taking their money off them and saying I can do that, I can teach you that and they’ve not even been taught to put moisturiser on the model, or they don’t know what a test shoot is. It just drives me nuts. So, I have always prided myself on teaching people everything they need to know. That’s why we don’t do loads of courses and we don’t do short courses. When I started out, I did do a short course for a week and it was a weeks bridal course and it was rammed, to the point where we had to get a new academy it was so busy. But what happened was someone rang me and said ‘Do you know such a body, they’ve got in touch with me about a job, it’s over in Spain and they’ve said they can do it and that they’ve trained with you’ but I didn’t know the person who they were talking about and then when I looked I realised that they had done the bridal course and it was that, that made me realise that people are going out after one weeks training and saying that they’ve trained with me and trying to get big freelance jobs and that was it I said ‘I’m not doing that course anymore, we need to shut it down’ and I also increased the length of time of the main course. It was a learning curve for me. But lots of people think that they can be a make up artist in two or three days and it doesn’t work like that – if you want to be the best and you want to get good jobs you must learn how to do it properly because it’s a craft. I think though because as women we do makeup everyday on ourselves, people think it’s easy, until they come in the school and they’re like ‘wow I didn’t realise how much there was to learn!’ So, the reason for starting the school was to help people genuinely and to offer opportunities that I wasn’t given. I never really had any expectations for it lasting, even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have look forward to where we are today – we’ve been going for over 10 years.”

So how old were Spike and Elkie when you opened the academy?

“So, Spike was one and Elkie wasn’t born when I started it. I remember taking Elkie in when she was born, and I was teaching and breast feeding at the same time. I thought to myself if I have the luxury of being my own boss then I’m going to take my baby to work, and I loved it! Having that perk and being able to do that was amazing! And, because at the time I spent so much time away in London working, so when I was at home, I wanted my kids with me. I would take Spike in all the time and do-little shoots with him, which is great because they’ve both ended up being little models now, so I think being around that has really helped.”

Obviously when you’re as ambitious as you and as driven as you, it can be hard to continue in the way when children come along so how did you adapt initially when Spike came along?

“Well, that was actually one of the catapults to opening the school. When I was pregnant, I was still flying around the world doing make up – I was on tour with Lady Gaga and we visited 27 countries in two months, I was eight and half months pregnant when I got back. I literally flew home on the last day that I could fly, so spent most of my pregnancy away on my own, in Japan and all-around Europe so I literally experienced that whole journey with Chris on the phone, with the time difference and everything and I was petrified. And when I came back my agent was in London, people still thought I lived in London, I didn’t tell anyone that I had moved to Manchester because I thought they’ll stop booking me and I thought right I’m having a baby now, there’s no getting around this, so that why I decided I needed to set something up in Manchester and that’s when I said it’s the right time for the school. So I had the school, but of course I still went back to work down in London and I used to take Spike with me, I had a flat down there and my mother in law used to come with me. She would sometimes spend a week there with me whilst I worked because I wanted him there when I got home from work. It was great having that support, because if I hadn’t of had Susan (Cassie’s Mother- in-law) I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

That’s amazing, especially for 10 years ago, because even though society is slowly becoming more inclusive of working parents it certainly wasn’t the case 10 years ago, but that’s obviously a testament to your determination and ambition.

“I can’t see obstacles so if I want something, this my motto, ‘Just make it happen, lets just make it happen!’ I say it my students all the time, I can’t see how if you want something you can’t get it? My brain just won’t allow that, because what I’ll do for example, say I want to go to London tomorrow for work and I will work back wards and I will think ‘Right how I do get there?’ So instead of thinking, I want to go to London tomorrow but I’ve got no one to have the kids, but I’ll think about what time I need to be a work, what time I need to leave and I would think who can I pay to come with me and stay in the flat with the kids, I’m just always trying to find a solution and that’s just the way I work. I just don’t know how to work any other way.”

Did you ever experience any judgement about taking your children to work with you?

“Well, I would never have taken them on to a paid job, because I was working with popstars etc and that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, but when it was taking them into the academy, I didn’t even care what people thought. I just thought well its my academy and I feel this is the right thing to do. But actually, I had the opposite, because I remember going to the hairdressers and I was all flustered because I’d had to get a babysitter and I was like, ‘What do people usually do with their kids when they need their hair doing or their eyebrows done?’ and they were just like, ‘Well, everybody just brings their kids in’ and I remember thinking ‘Really?! People bring their kids to a hair salon. I would never have thought of that.’ And from then I realised it was ok to take my children to things, but because my brain was so programmed to be professional, turn up at work without the kids, that thought had never crossed my mind that I could take them to the salon with me!”

We all know what parent guilt is like, and getting that balance can be really hard, is that something you’ve experienced too?

“So, Chris is amazing, he said at the beginning when we said we’d have children, you know I’d moved back up north from London to be with him, I love my job, I didn’t want to stop it and he said, ‘I’ll do it, I’ll look after the kids.’ Not that he would give up work, he would still work, but that my job would be the priority basically over his job so if I needed to go off, I would go off and he has stuck to that ever since, so I’ve never had to think I’ve got a job I need someone to look after the kids in order to be able to do it. Would just pick up the phone and let him know that I need to go to London the next day etc, and I remember there’s been times where he’s rang me and been like, ‘Where are you?’ and I’d be like, ‘I’m on my way to Dubai’ and ‘Oh right, when are you back?’, ‘In 5 Days’, ‘Oh right so you can’t get the kids?’, ‘No’, ‘Oh right, OK.’ (We all laugh) and that’s just the relationship that we have. And we’ve made it work. Chris has always done the school runs, it’s only now the last couple of years that I’m doing it now and roles have kind of reversed. What happened though a few years ago was Elkie said to me, ‘Mummy I don’t want you to go to London’ well, that was it, it was like a sledgehammer to my heart, and I had never considered that my children would have even noticed that I wasn’t there because they were so happy, and Chris is such a good dad. So that was it, I was like, ‘Right, what am I going to do know. I can’t go to London and work anymore, what am I going to do?’ So, I just decided to run my businesses instead, I’ll have to stay home, take a step back from going to London to do make up and run my businesses. Now what I do is I choose the jobs that want to do very carefully, I only work with people who make me happy, and I only go if I’ve got no family commitments and I’ve learned to say no, which was something that I could never ever do before she said that to me. So, I’ve adapted, I’m still getting up everyday and working but I’m not flying around the world. Although I have got a trip coming up but it’s only two day and I will always check with Elkie first if she doesn’t mind me going and if she doesn’t want me to go, I won’t go. Ultimately, these guys are my priority.”

Have you ever worried about other people perceptions of you working ‘too much’?

“I’ve never really cared what people think and all I’ve heard is ‘Oh my god I don’t know how you do it! ‘You’re like wonder woman’ etc so because everyone was so complimentary of my success, I never felt a judgement of anyone, but I do that to myself, I judge myself and have that terrible mum guilt and I think if the children ask me to do anything it’s always a yes. I think because I’m always questioning am I a good mum? Elkie is the worst she has me wrapped around her little finger!” Laughter fills the room once again. We’d got back from camping the other week and she’d decided she’d had enough of the wallpaper in her bedroom and so at 7pm I was at B&Q getting paint, I finished it around 11pm. We got up the next morning about 7am, went to Ikea, got her all bits to finish it off and it was all done within 24 hours and that’s what she does to me! It’s like ‘I wanna be a good mum, I wanna be a good mum!’ And I think that’s because it doesn’t come naturally to me, all I’ve ever known is work. I’m not the kind of mum that sits on the floor pulling out jigsaws and playdoh, I have to work at it. So, what I’ve tried to do is find things to do with the kids that we all enjoy. You just want to do your best.”

Obviously, you will be inspiring your children in so many ways too, though, so do you allow yourself to take stock of that and feel proud at how you’re influencing them as a parent?

“I think one good thing is that is that me and Chris are opposites, he lives day to day, he’s not bothered about success, you know. He’ll work for things he wants like to get the motor home or to do up the house etc, and he really enjoys spending time with the kids. I’m very much career focused, and I struggle to switch off, but he brings me back down to earth and family life which is brilliant. When I grew up my parents taught me so much about building for my future and instilled a great work ethic into me and made me believe I could succeed in anything. It was a different upbring than what Chris had and he’d be off with his family camping and fishing and generally living life to the full. I love having those differences in both sides of our family, where I can show the kids what they can achieve if they work hard, and also how to enjoy life. They go without nothing and that includes my time and my love. I’ve made a rule now that we have every single school holiday off. We go on holiday at Christmas and at Easter, we have every half term off and the full six weeks in the summer off both Chris and I, and that last 10 years has been really hard at times, but it has allowed us the privilege to be able to do that.”

Do you have any advice for fellow mums out there who are looking to start a business or reach the top of their career?

“Firstly, I think whatever you want you can make possible. And secondly you really have to really visualise what you want. Without a goal you can’t make it happen. So, you need to know where you want to be, I do vision boards. I actually had a really bad time when I’d hit 40 because I had achieved everything I wanted, a successful career, a beautiful husband, two gorgeous children, the academy, my make up brushes and a beauty line in Superdrug, Creatives agency, amazing friends and family, big house great holidays etc and I thought what do I do now? But I gave myself a talking to and realised I just need to set new goals and work towards those. So, my advice, is set your long-term goal and work backwards. What’s your 5-year plan? 3-year plan? 12-month plan and what do you need to do in the next 3 months in order to get there? And just tick things off and you will get there. Don’t let anyone tell you no!”

Morson Group - Find your next job
Interviewed by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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