This week in my Mums in Business series I’m delighted to be featuring Rebecca who set-up her own Virtual Assistant business; Get Ahead VA. Rebecca quit the corporate life to set up her business to work more flexibly around her three daughters, and since then the business has gone from strength to strength, along with picking up some awards along the way. One thing that Rebecca learnt is something her Mother taught her which is to “Keep your eye on the prize” which is something I think we should all follow. Read on to find out more about Rebecca and her inspiring business story.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and Get Ahead VA?
I’m Rebecca Newenham. I am a mum of three daughters and I live in Guildford with my husband. I am also founder and director of virtual agency Get Ahead VA. My award-winning team of nearly 40 virtual assistants deliver marketing and business services for over 100 clients across the UK.
What were your drivers and motivations for setting up Get Ahead VA?
Prior to having my children I worked in London as a corporate buyer for retail giants Superdrug and Sainsburys. I loved my job – the fast pace of it and the thrill of seeing new products I had developed hit the shelves. But for me, the job and the commute from Guildford wasn’t compatible with being there for my three young daughters.
I grew up with a successfully self-employed mother so I had seen first hand that it was possible to work and be around for the family. I researched various options and after coming across the term virtual assistant online I knew it was the right choice for me. I attended a one day course which covered all the basics and Get Ahead VA was launched. I knew the business could offer the flexible working solution I was looking for and that I could employ other mothers so they could benefit as well. Looking at the changing economic landscape, I could see it was an industry about to experience unprecedented growth and a great opportunity.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
As my girls are now at secondary school and more independent, balancing business and family is getting easier. But certainly things were different seven years ago when I started the business. I have always tried to maintain a sense of separation between work and family life, which isn’t always easy when you work from home. However, I work from a separate home office and ensure I shut the door and don’t look at my emails once the family are home. Exercise is also key for me. I complete personal training sessions as well as regular Pilates classes. This gives me the headspace to think through challenges, maintain perspective and the balance of business and family. My husband and girls have always been huge supporters of the business which helps. I know they are all very proud of me and what I have achieved.
I am lucky to work with a fantastic team of virtual assistants so I always delegate to them and ensure I have time off over the holidays to spend with my girls. They are, after all, the reason I started the business all those years ago. The team answer my calls and emails to ensure a seamless transition, highlighting anything important on my return.
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
There have been so many celebrations along the way (as well as challenges of course!) but I think being shortlisted for and winning awards has been the biggest success. It’s external recognition of what we have achieved. We are lucky to have won a variety of awards including Flexible Business of the Year in the Mum and Working Awards and Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday #SBS Award. We have also been shortlisted in awards for Talent Attraction and Networking and been selected as one of the best Home Businesses in the UK.
Welcoming our first frachisee this year was also a major milestone. I am passionate about helping other people start and run their own flexible businesses, as well as watching the overall Get Ahead VA brand grow. Carrie Jones is doing a fantastic job on our Reading franchise so far and I am looking forward to launching more franchisees over the coming months.
What’s your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
To anyone thinking of setting up their own business I say don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Do your research up front and then just get on with it. If things don’t turn out quite as you thought first time don’t panic – just think about how you could do it differently. Keep evolving until you get it right.
My other tip would be ‘Keep your eye on the prize’, as my mother always told me. She gave me a real sense of determination. A belief that you’ll work out a way to get there if you are focussed. You will always find a solution if you don’t give up.
Thank you so much Rebecca for taking part in my series, it was lovely to interview you, and I wish you the best of luck in the future.
If you would like to be part of my Mums in Business then just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in my series: Tartan Blanket Co, Matchstick Monkey, and Cherry Tree Vets.