Nicolle: Travel product manager to business consultancy director

The first step back into the world of work is the hardest. I knew I looked the part because the guy running the networking event scrambled around trying to find a different type of name badge for me, so I didn’t have to put a pin through my new suit; inside I was a bag of nerves: wobbly knees, shaky hands, dry mouth. But I got through my first elevator pitch and chatted to most of the people in the room. Every time I went to a networking event after that it got easier and easier as my self-confidence grew back.

I realised that even though I hadn’t been paid to work for eight years – I had been networking with parents in the school playground, negotiating with a two year old (is there anything harder than that? Well, we’ve yet to hit the teenage years, so we’ll see), refereeing all kinds of fights and learning a new kind of patience that I definitely didn’t have in my 20s.

And actually, as Julianne said when she spoke at The Really Helpful Club’s Women Back in Business event, no one cares about your career break. They care about what you’ve done and what you can do. They take you as you are now. How you package it is up to you.

Before motherhood, I was a product manager in the travel industry. The fun part was travelling across the Mediterranean to islands such as Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily to visit the hotels, villas and beaches in our brochures. Back in head office, the business part involved pricing, forecasting, yield management, copywriting, brand management, research and development, and competitor analysis. So when my friend, Delia, strode into my house in March 2014, eyes alight, talking at a million words a minute about a brilliant idea she’d had where she could use her skills and experience from her previous career (co-founding and running a tech consultancy) to help small businesses grow, I knew I wanted to be right there with her because all of my above skills are transferable. Delia quickly saw that my passion for her business model matched her own and she invited me to be her co-director to head up what is now our marketing and business development team.

We knew that there were former professionals who were experts in their fields hidden within the jeans and Converse clad mums in our respective primary school playgrounds. The conversations changed from the run of the mill stuff about our kids and the school to “What did you do before?” and “Would you like to do it again, in a smaller way, without the big commute and the long day?” We offered them part-time, flexible work which allowed them to still be hands-on parents and built a team of specialists offering small businesses help with strategy, planning, HR, marketing, IT, web design and finance. Our business model of helping talented people back to work and growing small businesses in our local community had lift off!

We’re almost two years down the line now and we have established ourselves as a respected small business consultancy operating across three London boroughs with a team of 12, soon to be 14 (see the Work With Us page at www.businessclan.com for info on current roles available). We have worked with over 50 small businesses all of whom have come to us through networking and referrals.

I loved being a full-time Mum – luckily Delia’s entrepreneurial idea came along at the right time for me and I saw both my children off to school before Business Clan became what it is now. But I know that being a working mum who still does the school run is great for my family too. I am content, energised and enjoying what I do and that rubs off on them. I have interesting stories to tell my children about the people and businesses I meet, and I know it will give them the confidence to act on their ideas and take opportunities when they come their way.