Fay is my Shero. She is many people’s Shero, but until I reached out to her, I didn’t realise the magnitude of her kindness and her willingness to help and inspire.
I am in awe of her story, her honesty and her tenacity, but what I am most in awe of is her ability to be kind and to raise people up selflessly as she did so very easily with me when I asked for help.
Life is like a jigsaw puzzle…
I grew up on a prefab council estate in Bristol, two of my sister’s nieces, mum, and dad; six of us in two tiny rooms. I can recall from the age of about five, I was sent out to play in the morning and wouldn’t be back until teatime; different times that no doubt shaped my independence. Mum and dad won £50 on the pools and with the money they bought a lease on a newsagents shop on the estate which was a seven-day a week thing, what they didn’t realise is the estate was soon to be demolished and before they knew it everyone had moved out, and they had no customers.
Dad took a second job as a janitor and mum kept the shop going. I remember my dad taking a quick nap between shifts exhausted and there’s no doubt his hard work ethic rubbed off on me, but it took its toll on him, as a few years later he came home and told us he had cancer and a few months later he died. My mum had never had to look after the finances but I knew we didn’t have a lot, so I vowed never to be a burden and from the age of 12 worked part-time newspaper rounds, hairdresser, and even flipping burgers at the local Wimpy burger bar. I loved my dad but at that point it had a huge impact on my independence and fire to do something with my life.
I felt a bit ashamed of where we lived and when my mum asked me what I wanted to be I said – I don’t know but I want to be somebody. I put myself through Uni with no help, worked four jobs, bought myself a car, and landed a role at Hilton Hotels as a graduate trainee. My first boss was hard on me and when aged 21, he asked what I wanted to do with my career. I told him I was going to be a millionaire by 30 he laughed. When I hit 30, I actually owed a lot of money. I’d re-mortgaged the house to invest in my business, but when I hit 40 myself and the other owners of Zibrant sold it for £15.9m, of which I owned a third.
We went on to buy it back and sell it again to BCD Meetings and Events. During those years of building the business, I’m not going to lie, there were times I came home to my then-husband and cried with the stress and challenges, having business partners and 200 plus staff demanding clients, cash flow, travelling all the time has its ups and downs and then coming home and juggling a family with two children was a strain.
People who say you can have it all (and maybe I said that once) are wrong. There will always be a piece of the jigsaw that’s missing, having a perfect life is not reality and having that thing to work for or strive for is what makes us human. The relentless hard work meant our marriage broke down. Having said all that, although we’re no longer together, we remain good friends and have two beautiful children, so there is always a silver lining.
The rest of the story is well a work in action. Fast Forward 15 was founded 10 years ago on the idea to help other women and support them, be a role model, but also to push them out of their comfort zone, something I’ve always practised, and it’s served me well. Two things I have noticed over the last 10 years of mentoring and coaching hundreds if not thousands of women. Is that confidence is fragile; it’s like a muscle if you don’t use it doesn’t grow, how do you get confidence? You must work on being resilient, not being afraid to fail and learn from those experiences. Life is not perfect, we are all searching for that final piece of the jigsaw, I believe that piece comes with being happy with yourself first and knowing who you are and what you stand for. It’s not a self-centred thing as in life, what you put out there will come back to you good and bad. The better you can do, the more positivity you can generate, the better you will feel about yourself, and you’ll find the universe will send that right back to you.
Many things have happened in my life which have been hard; both my parents are no longer here, when I now have the time to spend with them, which sometimes makes me sad, but then I think how lucky I was to have them in my life. I was involved in a fatal accident in Sri Lanka where the taxi we were in hit a cyclist, and he died on the side of the road while I tried to help him. At the time, I felt helpless and like I’d failed, but I know I did what I could. These things strengthen you, and you have a choice to let it bring you down or to look for what that’s taught you.
Being grateful underpins my life. We all have those wobbly days, but if you take a deep breath and write down three things you are grateful for, there will always be something. What’s next? Well, wellness is now at the centre of my life: yoga, fitness, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. I also added a strand to my coaching and mentoring, a private programme for Entrepreneurs and Leaders called SheEo’s. I only take on five every six months so I can give full attention and use my 30 years plus experience to help them grow their businesses or roles and be that trusted advisor that has no agenda but to help them be successful. My first group kicked off in January, and frankly, it’s super enjoyable making quick wins but also looking for the end game building strategy. Coaching is a 360 thing. It’s not just work being happy outside of work is key.
Meanwhile, I’m still searching for that piece of the jigsaw when I find it, I’ll let you know 😉 xx