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7 inspirational Dorset business women share their story

PUBLISHED: 10:41 09 March 2015 | UPDATED: 10:41 09 March 2015

Shelley Davies - photo by Jennie Franklin

Shelley Davies - photo by Jennie Franklin

Jennie Franklin

Rebecca Perl meets some inspirational Dorset business women and discovers how they manage their work life balance, and the challenges they have had to overcome

Dr Shelley Davies

Award-winning chiropractor and sports therapist and founder of Davies Chiropractic and Sports Therapy in Christchurch

I’ve been running my Bournemouth-based copywriting business, Messagelab Communications, for three years now and I’m not afraid to admit that my early success was more a result of luck than business know-how. I’m a big advocate of learning from others and some of the inspirational people I’ve met along the way are part of the Women In Business Network (WIBN), a membership organisation I joined in 2012. This snapshot of successful Dorset business women features people I’ve met through WIBN, and others whose careers I have admired from afar.

In the beginning…

I started my career as a manager in the NHS before qualifying as a personal trainer and sports therapist. I ran a small private gym in Sheffield, and then moved to Bournemouth in 2003 to follow my dream of training as a Chiropractor. Initially I worked ridiculously long hours, but starting my own business was the best thing I ever did.

Facing challenges

We face greater challenges than men, especially in the corporate world. When I worked in the NHS, women faced a great deal of chauvinistic behaviour. Though things are easier now, there are still times when I feel I need to prove myself more than a man would. We are, after all, living in a largely male-dominated society. Women are better networkers than men, as they tend to be better communicators. They are more willing to get to know fellow business owners without expectation.

My greatest achievement

Without doubt getting my Master’s degree - I left school at 15 with no qualifications, so to do that level of study was an enormous challenge.

Work life balance

I’m newly married to Roisin, so juggling family life with business can be difficult. I work long hours and my wife works away most of the week, but we try to spend as much quality time together as possible.

davieschiropractic.co.uk

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Dee Clayton

Author Dee Clayton offers training in presentation skills and public speaking through her Bournemouth-based company Simply Amazing Training

In the beginning...

In 2006 I was suffering the after effects of a car accident. I signed up for life coaching which is where I discovered Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) – a fascinating user manual for the brain. Over the next few years, alongside my corporate managerial role, I spent every holiday and weekend learning more about NLP. I subsequently got qualified and even did some coaching in India to gain more experience of this amazing tool. Within two years, I’d launched my presentation skills training business.

What business challenges do you face?

It’s challenging doing so many things myself in the business. At any one time, I might outsource work to ten people, but it still feels like I have to do everything! I do think society is changing its ideas about women in the workplace, and for the better. But it’s wrong to say there are no divides. I mean, it’s only this year that the Church of England consecrated its first female bishop.

Greatest achievement

Winning seven business awards and I’m also very proud of my 70+ LinkedIn recommendations.

Work life balance

I live with my lovely partner Leon. Occasionally when I get too buried in work, I remind myself why I moved here – for more family and seaside time – and reset my priorities.

Wise words

This quote by Arianna Huffington is something I try to remind myself of if things aren’t going so well: “We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

SimplyAmazingTraining.co.uk and DeeClayton.com

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Liz Willingham

Managing Director Liz Lean PR in Sandbanks

In the beginning…

I started Liz Lean PR in June 1998. In the early years, I’d take my daughter Leila with me to meetings and rock her with my foot under the clients’ desks. I would run from meeting to meeting with breast feeds in between, and work late every night after the children went to bed. It was hard work, but I liked the challenge.

Women’s role in business

I think men and women are equally skilled at the many facets which make a business successful. But women are natural communicators, have great intuition and pay attention to detail. There is nothing quite like being in business with a driven and dynamic female – we are a real force to be reckoned with!

Greatest achievement

I am enormously proud of what my team at Liz Lean PR have achieved over the years, especially surviving a harsh recession. Shaking off the ‘local agency’ perception and attracting national work as well as maintaining our valued local customers is testament to the team’s skill and talent. I am also really proud of the work ethic my children have acquired. My daughter is keen to enter the PR industry and is very ambitious.

Work life balance

My husband Gary has his own family business (as well as helping with mine) and we have two children; Leila, 15 and Jack, 11. The business is our third child! To be a good parent as well as a successful businesswoman, you have to learn to accept that sacrifice is the norm.

Wise words

Running your own business is quite a journey; once you’re on the treadmill it can get pretty fast and you can’t just hop off! You have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. Whilst the highs are wonderful, you have to teach yourself to stay sane through the lows.

lizleanpr.co.uk

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Claire Burnet

Co-founder of Purbeck’s award-winning fine chocolate company Chococo

In the beginning...

I started the company in 2002 with my husband Andy. We had a toddler at the time. It was a career change and a life change – deeply scary and exhilarating at the same time. It was a vertical learning curve, and we’re still learning today, 12 years on!

Our business challenges

Managing people and having to stay on top of all the changing legislation is quite tiring. Andy’s biggest challenge is the fact that he’s a one-man IT department, looking after failing computers, printers, etc! You don’t think about all the back office issues when setting up a business to make fine fresh chocolates!

Greatest achievement

Building a great team who want the business to grow is something I’m very proud of, along with sticking to our ethos of only making truly fresh chocolates with local seasonal ingredients where possible. Winning 45 fine food awards would also be up there, along with publishing our cookbook back in 2011.

Work life balance

You have to be uber-organised to combine business and family life. I have to work very hard to ensure that magical times of the year like Christmas and Easter are special for the children. I don’t want them to associate them with their parents working too hard to enjoy the build-up.

The kids are now 14 and 9 so although childcare is easier, their demands on my time as parental taxi service and homework supporter, is increasing. One of my regular commitments, to help reassure me that I’m a good mum, is taking my daughter swimming every Monday and Wednesday before school.

Wise words

It’s a marathon not a sprint – so pace yourself!

chococo.co.uk

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Rebecca Hansford

Owner of Furleigh Estate, 85 acre vineyard near Bridport, which makes award-winning still and sparkling wine

In the beginning...

My partner Ian and I sold our actuaries business in 2002 and Ian went back to university to do a degree in wine studies. At the time I was pregnant with our first child and wanted them to grow up in the wonderful Dorset countryside as I had done. It all came together on Christmas Eve 2004 when we exchanged contracts on my old family farm at Salway Ash. The following April we planted our first vines and in 2009 we made our first wine. We now make some of the best still and sparkling wines in the country.

Greatest achievement

Buying the family farm back was a tremendous achievement, but turning it into a viable farming business is something I am immensely proud of.

The challenges women have to overcome in the workplace For some reason, women with children are often seen as less committed in the workplace – even if the father is around and doing his share. It just seems to be assumed that if the children are ill, the mother will be the one to deal with it, and that makes her less valuable in the workplace.

Work life balance

In my previous career, I studied for my professional qualification and worked extremely long hours to get to the level of partner. I don’t think I could have done that with children. I was lucky that I was still able to have children when I was older and they are now aged 7, 8 and 10. As our family is Ian’s second, he is determined to spend more time with the children so he does a lot of the driving around, attending rugby and netball matches and dealing with school stuff.

Wise words

I believe in being the best role model you can be for your daughter (or someone else’s daughter), but remember that you can probably learn a thing or two from them.

furleighestate.co.uk

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Alison Shelton 50

Chief Executive of the safety education charity SafeWise, in Bournemouth and Weymouth

In the beginning ...

I was appointed Manager in 1998, and brought the LV=Streetwise Safety Centre to life. Last year, the Weymouth Community Safety Centre joined us under the SafeWise umbrella, and plans are underway for a third and perhaps even a fourth safety centre in Wiltshire. The transition from Manager to CEO has had its challenges, as I can’t always be as hands-on as I was before.

Women’s role in business

It’s really encouraging to see a number of successful female business role models demonstrating that, regardless of sex, we each have our own strengths and weaknesses that can carry us as far as we want to go.

Greatest achievement

I’m really proud of how LV=Streetwise and its interactive learning has become embedded in the hearts and minds of the thousands of children that have visited over the years – and consequently, the number of accidents and deaths we have prevented.

I received the British Empire Medal in the 2012 Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours list for ‘services to policing and the community.’ I call it ‘our’ medal as a tribute to the many supporters and volunteers who have made the charity such a success.

Work life balance

I married my second husband, David, seven years ago. Our children are 17 and 19 and I do my best to juggle family life with business, but I never seem to keep all the plates spinning. That said, it’s recently become much easier as David has taken early retirement – he has become my ‘Domestic God’ and is pack leader to our beautiful but bonkers 13 month-old Weimaraner, Bella.

Wise words

My advice for other women – well, for everyone really – is that there is always a silver lining, even in the darkest of times. Look for it, learn from it and believe in it.

streetwise.org.uk and safewise.org

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Katharine Jones

Partner at Humphries Kirk Solicitors in Dorchester

In the beginning...

When I first started at Humphries Kirk, Felicity Hedger was our senior partner. She combined being a good lawyer with being genuinely interested in the lives of those around her. I hope that I have come some way to following in her footsteps. Felicity was the first female President of the Dorset Law Society and, over 20 years later, I am the second. Let’s hope that we have paved the way for many more.

The challenges women face in business

We face greater challenges than men, particularly in the sector I work in. Men still seem to be taken more seriously, and women have to break through the male network to be accepted. However, I think this is getting easier. Hopefully, in time, everyone will be judged on their merits rather than their gender.

Work life balance

When my children were younger I worked part-time. I wanted to be a supportive mum but I was also determined not to lose out on my career. Juggling home life and work has become more difficult, but I have a very supportive husband and my parents and in-laws also help out.

Wise words

My advice to other business women would be: Don’t give up, however hard it might sometimes seem, and always make sure you have a spare pair of tights in your drawer!

hklaw.eu

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