Rebecca, Founder of Get Ahead VA tells how she got her first client through networking at the school gates…
Tell me a little about you & your family, what your business is, and what the inspiration was behind getting started?
My name is Rebecca Newenham and I live in Guildford, Surrey with my husband and our three teenage daughters.
I am the founder of the virtual agency Get Ahead VA. My award-winning team of nearly 40 virtual assistants and 5 regional directors deliver marketing and business support services to over 100 clients across the UK. We take on the tasks our clients don’t have time to do, don’t have the skills to do, or simply don’t want to do. We enable them to get back to what they do best – growing their business.
After a corporate career in buying for Superdrug and Sainsburys, I was looking for a flexible work solution that could fit around my three daughters. Having grown up with a successfully self-employed mother, I knew it was possible to contribute financially to the family and to do school drop off and pick-ups too. My mum was a great example and I grew up knowing that one day I wanted to run my own business just like she did. Once my youngest started school in 2010 I looked at various business ideas and the way the employment landscape was shaping up for the future. I felt a virtual assistance business offered me the best solution. I have always loved networking, which is such a big part of my role now.
How did you make the leap from idea on paper to reality with your business idea?
My husband helped me source a good quality second-hand laptop and looked after the girls whilst I attended a VA training course. Then I was ready to get started. One of the attractions of a VA business was that the start-up costs were low, so I didn’t have to invest significant funds up front. I was also lucky to know a fabulous graphic designer who created a logo for me. I always knew I wanted to offer work to other people – especially other mothers who might be looking for flexible work just like I was. I needed a brand – not just ‘Rebecca Newenham’. I spent time researching various name options and settled on Get Ahead VA. Through my corporate background, I knew getting my branding right from the start would give me a significant advantage.
How did you get your first sale or client?
My first client came through referral! A fellow mum at school knew that I was setting up a virtual business. She totally understood the concept and immediately linked me up with a networking business that was looking for support. This connection worked out incredibly well and I went on to set up and run a local networking group for this client too! I am forever indebted to my friend for the introduction and she continues to be a huge supporter of the business 8 years later.
What ‘lucky breaks’ or helping hands have you had along the way that have really boosted your progress?
Winning Flexible Business of the Year at the Mum and Working awards in 2014 was a massive achievement. It was real external recognition of my commitment to flexible working – not just for myself but for my whole team of virtual assistants – and our clients too. It was a real boost and enabled me to say with pride I run an award-winning business.
My business coach has also been a huge helping hand along the way. Working with a coach helps me to stay focussed on my big goals, and not get side-tracked by day-to-day events. It gives me the time and space to think around challenges and develop opportunities to grow the business further in a way that works for me.
What do you LOVE about your business and working for yourself?
I love the flexibility of being able to make my own decisions about when I work, where I work, and who I work with. I can be there for my girls’ netball matches, or rowing practices, without having to ask permission. I also love the people I work with. I am lucky to meet so many people in my job and get to cherry pick the very best to be regional directors and virtual assistants in my business. Every time I receive a positive testimonial from a client, I know I have matched the right VA to the right client, and we have made a real difference to their business.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve had to do since setting up on your own?
I think the scariest thing so far has been when I signed the contract to appoint our first regional director. For the first time, I was really letting go of part of my business, by appointing someone to run their own region under my Get Ahead VA brand. It was such an exciting time too though, marking the first step of our regional expansion and the culmination of over a year’s work to get our regional director offering just right. It worked out so well and I have gone on to recruit 4 further regional directors. Each of them brings their own unique set of skills to their business and I love watching them enjoy the flexibility of running their own business, just like I do.
Who is your support network that you simply couldn’t manage without?
Without sounding cringey my support network is definitely my husband and my girls. They have always been my biggest supporters. Especially when I have attended awards nights or been featured on the radio or in the press, they love to listen and see the pictures. I know they are all very proud of me and the business I have built up.
What exciting plans do you have for your business over the next 6-12 months that you’d like to share?
I am continuing to recruit new regional directors across the UK which is very exciting. I have 5 regional directors already in place in Bristol, Hampshire, Surrey, Leeds & Newcastle. I find it so rewarding helping people to set up and run their own businesses, recruiting their own teams to work for them and sourcing their own clients. I describe it as going into business for yourself, but not by yourself as all of our regional directors are supported by me and our wider team of virtual assistants. Although we are a remote working team, we all share a common passion for flexible working. We try and get together whenever possible to celebrate our successes, support each other and have fun.
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