As a self-employed business woman, I choose to surround myself with positive, motivated and inspiring people. So I started a networking group called 'Wonderful Women: Minding Our Own Business'.
I also interview inspirational and creative business women, and I have picked the brains of Lisa Freemont Street, Bernie Dexter, Sam from Pixiwoo, Angelique Houtkamp, Katie Halford (What Katie Did) , Tara Scott (Tara Starlet), Kat Williams (Rock N Roll Bride) and many more! They remind us that great things can happen!
I am squealing slightly with excitement that I now have Jacqueline Gold (Chief Executive of Ann Summers and general supporter of women in business with her #WOW twitter campaign) as my next interviewee for my Inspirational Women series!
ReeRee Rockette: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be the Chief Executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox? Is it true you started working for Ann Summers as a member of staff?
Jacqueline Gold: I joined Ann Summers on work experience 30 years ago with no intention of staying for any length of time, 30 years later and I’m still here! The Ann Summers we all know today is very different to the business I took work experience in. Thirty years ago it was very male dominated and catered more for the raincoat brigade than women! After spending some time in the business I spotted a real opportunity to create something completely unique, a business by women for women. The idea for party plan came after I attended a Tupperware party at a friend’s house. Whilst chatting to the women a couple of them mentioned that it would be good if there were parties like this for the products Ann Summers sold. I knew instantly that there was real opportunity in this and set about preparing a proposal to take to the board to launch Ann Summers at home parties. I presented my idea to the board and after some deliberation and one board member telling me that the idea wouldn’t work because women didn’t even like sex (!) they eventually agreed to my idea. Once I had the go ahead I went about recruiting women to hold the parties, buying new product that would appeal to a female audience and drumming up interest in the parties. Party Plan became successful very quickly and soon women everywhere were having Ann Summers parties!
ReeRee: You launched the idea of Ann Summer parties - did you know this was going to be the success it turned out to be? How do you make business decisions?
Jacqueline: I knew from the beginning that the Ann Summers parties would be successful, however I didn’t think they would be as instantly successful as they were. The biggest challenge I faced after presenting to the board was standing up in front of a room full of women who wanted to be party planners and sharing with them my idea and vision. I was so nervous but knew I had to do it to make the business work.
ReeRee: Now that you are so busy, how do you manage your time? Do you have an average day?
Jacqueline: The great thing about Ann Summers is that no day is ever the same. My role is so varied and the nature of our business means that there is always something to surprise me or make me smile. I’m an incredibly organized person and I think that’s so key for anyone running a business, it’s even more important since I had my daughter Scarlett as well. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic team around me who help me to keep my work and home life as organized as possible so that I can ensure I get everything done.
ReeRee: What has been your most proud moment?
Jacqueline: On a personal level my daughter Scarlett makes me proud every day, she is an absolute joy and my husband and I feel blessed to have her. My proudest moment has to be being invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace with a number of other business women. The lunch had been arranged to recognize the success of women in business and was an incredibly proud day for me.
ReeRee: Have you made any mistakes along the way that you can share?
Jacqueline: The biggest obstacles I faced were to the brand and what it stood for. I have come across a lot of men throughout my career who just didn’t like the idea of Ann Summers and the confidence and empowerment it gave women. This resistance encouraged me to push even harder to make things happen and change these views, I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believed in. I remember when I first started out I was very aware of being a woman and I wanted to try and disguise this. I thought that to be taken seriously I needed to look less feminine and so I would tie my hair back, wear glasses and power suits! One day someone told me that I looked like a politician and it suddenly dawned on me that I should be true to myself and proud of being a woman. From that day on I have always dressed for me and I can guarantee that the shoulder pads have stayed at the back of the wardrobe!
ReeRee: Do you have top tips for women starting their own business?
- If you are looking to set up your own business, research your potential customer base and make sure there is a demand for your business idea.
- Whether you are running your own business or working for someone else, never stop listening to your customer. They will give you the best insight in to your business and will help you to deliver growth.
- Don’t doubt yourself. So many women don’t realise just how powerful they are. Make time for the things that are important to you. If you are strict with your diary and time then you can make it all work.
ReeRee: You now run #WOW, a twitter campaign to support women who run their own businesses - do you think that men and women now enjoy a level playing field, or do we have a way to go?
Jacqueline: Unfortunately I haven’t seen as many changes as I would have wanted. Yes there are now more women in business, however there still aren’t enough and I don’t think we have moved on to where we should be. We all had high hopes for the future yet the glass ceiling still exists. I started the WOW campaign for this very reason, I wanted to offer support and share my passion for women in business. WOW has created a great network for business women and I’m thrilled that so many female business owners have benefited. I hope the campaign continues to grow and I have some other exciting projects in the pipeline which I hope will offer even more support to women in business.
ReeRee: You have worked very hard to re-brand Ann Summers, do you have any goals you haven't yet reached with the brand?
Jacqueline: My next goal is to launch Ann Summers internationally. I would love to achieve this in the next few years and am excited about the challenge and opportunity this will bring.