As a newly self-employed business woman, I decided to surround myself with positive, motivational and inspiring people. So I started a monthly networking group called 'Wonderful Women: Minding Our Own Business'. As part of this, I try and interview inspiration business women, and so far I have picked the brains of Angelique Houtkamp, Michelle Ward and Maureen Jann.
Hayley Southwood owns Vintage Scoops, the most gloriously vintage ice cream van hire buiness. You can hire 'Betty' to arrive at your event (weddings, parties etc) and Hayley will serve locally produced ice cream from Beechdean Dairies. She can also provide things like champagne sorbet, retro sweets and Pimms. Hayley will don her best floral frock to serve you from Betty (who is also dressed up in her best bunting).
ReeRee Rockette: When did you decide to start Vintage Scoops? Was it a massive change from your work life before?
Hayley Southwood: My Mum died in February 2009 from horrific lung cancer, and I had been thinking of a career change for a while. I gave up work to look after my Mum while she was ill. She was only 53, so it was pretty horrific. I am the eldest child of four, my youngest brother was only 23. So basically, out of the worst misery came the realisation that life is too short not to go out there and do something fun!!!
I had been a Nursery Nurse since I left college in '94'. I had opened up my own nursery with my best friend and loved it until my own children got older, and I just wanted to do something less stressful.
ReeRee: Has anything surprised you about running Vintage Scoops?
Hayley: The biggest surprise I had was winning 'Country Homes Business of the Year Award'. I had filled out the entry form, putting forward my business idea thinking that they would probably think I was crazy. But I got the phonecall to say we had WON!!! I won £6000 worth of PR and marketing help. Which as you could imagine really gave me the kick start I needed!!
ReeRee: Do you have any advice for other women starting their own businesses?
Hayley: My advice to other women wanting to set-up is to do lots of research! Believe in yourself, follow your heart!
Get as much help and advice as you can, join networking groups - there are usually some in your local area.
Do one thing and do it well!!
I created a mood board at the very beginning of my journey of all my ideas, of all the feelings I wanted my business to evoke. I used it a lot when I felt I may of been straying off my original plan! I am a visual person so that worked for me!
I used all the low cost marketing opportunities I could find. I entered competitions, used Facebook and Twitter, got free press etc. Business Smith, the company that offered me the advice through the competition were amazing! They understood just what I wanted to create and gave me basic, straight talking advice and tips.
Do something you really believe in, I feel I am letting people into my world everytime I take Betty out. I think that is the same with all businesses, you have to really love the concept you want others to love or invest in.
ReeRee: How do you spend an average working day?
Hayley: My average working day........ cleaning and preparing 'Betty' is my first duty of the day. Then I get the whole family involved in loading her up - we must look very funny!!
Then I put on my best floral frock, pop a flower in my hair and away I go.
I am always always nervous as I leave the house - excitement and nerves rolled into one! As soon as I arrive at the venue the nerves disappear! Then I am just really happy to be there. It is the nicest job, everyone is usually happy to see us. Whether they are interested in the actual van (Bedford cf '74) or the way she is decorated, dripping in bunting and vintage kitchen memorabilia or if they just want the yummiest ice cream, or a lolly that reminds them of their childhood. People are usually happy to come and say hello.
ReeRee: What have you been most proud of so far?
Hayley: My most proud moment happens everytime I take Betty out and someone says how much they love her! I just wish my Mum could see what I am up to! She would not be surprised but it would make her laugh.
ReeRee: What is your dream for Vintage Scoops?
Hayley: To own a whole fleet of Bettys!
Betty, Hayley's ice cream van looks beautiful and I have no problem imagining it at amazing weddings, summer cocktails and out-of-this-world children's parties. Betty is so happy to pose for cameras she is also available for photo shoots and music videos!
After hearing Hayley's story I get the overwhelming reminder that life really is too short and precious to waste it doing something that doesn't excite you. That it is ok to follow your heart, and find a career that you love. Think outside of the box, and take the leap. As Hayley says, ''Life is so short....... be brave........... have fun!''
If you are interested in my Wonderful Woimen networking meetings you can read about our Christmas Cocktails, and from there, read about all of our meetings to date.