Small biz women

Starting a business straight out of university

Funmilaya Aiyenuro graduated from university three months ago, and she’s ready to get started as a young entrepreneur.  She’s literally putting the ingredients of her business together.
She’s be doing consultations and training in making your own natural cosmetics, and providing clients with bespoke natural beauty products.
Currently she’s finalising her recipes, getting her products tested, and building her network of contacts. 

Designing costumes for film and TV

Claire Anderson’s website is a pleasure to surf. She’s designed costumes for all sorts of familiar films, TV series and ads.

Suddenly I realise what an art there must be to dressing someone to look just average, or to fit a certain type of character.

Yet like so many of us, it’s fair to say that Claire more ‘fell’ into her current role, than planned to end up there.

Real estate in Ecuador

Once upon a time Susana Adderley helped Ecuadorians buy property in Miami. Now she’s putting a website together to market property in Ecuador to people all over the world.

She has her eye on demographics. “In the States and Europe there’s a lot of people that are retiring. The circumstances in each country obviously are different. But what people find their pockets, may not reach very far for living.”

Becoming recognized as an expert

While looking after her two small children, Lillian Bridges knew she wanted to finish writing her book.

“I took a class at UCLA on how to write a non-fiction book."

"The teacher said, make yourself an expert in the eyes of the publisher. I said, I don't feel like an expert.”

“He said, well how long have you done faces? I said, well since I was five. He just burst out laughing and said, okay Lillian, if you're not an expert nobody is - go teach a class. I said, what?”

Winding down one business, and starting the next

Rose Grimond has done all sorts of things in her time: “I went from drama school, to acting, to editorial assistant at the Economist, to sub-editing, to working with ex-offenders.”

It’s food though, that’s finally captured her. “I can’t stop thinking about food. I wanted to be around food and talk about food.”

Rose’s first business, Orkney Rose, shipped delicious foodstuffs from Scotland to London restaurants and Borough Market.

The satisfaction of creating art that people want to buy

Ann Ardron sold her first painting when she was in her early twenties, but never really considered it as a career until much more recently.

“I didn’t really think of myself as artistic then, in fact I don’t really think of myself as artistic now, because I think of myself as quite technical. Art was just a hobby for a long period and then it gradually kind of crept back.”

Seduced by the lifestyle of self employment

Julie* has been an insurance broker for fifteen years, and three years ago she decided to work for herself. Since then she’s been gently seduced by the freedoms of working for herself.

“I was very good to begin with, I used to work from my office in the City. I’d go in and do a normal working day and then I thought I can be a little bit flexible with my time."

"Then I got a puppy.”

Making time for family by working for herself

It was when she had her first baby that Mary Madeline Day decided to work for herself.

“It was the US laws of maternity leave. I disagree that six weeks is enough to be home with the baby. When we decided to start a family, I also decided I’m going to be home, so that’s how it all started.”

Back then, Mary Madeline was a graphic artist, and initially she freelanced. “We lived up in Illinois and I actually had a lot of freelance work. It was perfect for me because with the baby I could create my own schedule basically.”

Teaching dance full time

Christine is clearly full of energy, but when I saw her six months ago she looked drained. Life in IT support in the City clearly wasn’t suiting her.

“For six months, I was just going to work, coming home, eating my dinner, and going to bed,” she says.

I saw her again a few weeks ago, and she was glowing. She’s gone full time with teaching dance, Pilates and Zumba. What a nice change to see!

Going freelance

Nicki Defago left her full time job at the BBC in 2004, to work for herself.

She’d been there for twelve years and “I’d worked on programmes that I’d really wanted to work on and I think I just decided that I wanted a change. I wanted to manage my life a bit more.”

Going freelance has given her more variety, with shifts and contracts on BBC programmes, as well as writing magazine articles and running training programmes, and it’s clear that she’s very happy with her new way of work.

Running a small home bakery

When I first look at the website for Katherine Cowtan’s business,, my mouth waters and I have to pop downstairs and start making some lunch before dialling her number.

She started her bakery four years ago, after moving to a tiny Scottish village.

“I was always doing a lot of baking for the school and for events, and some neighbours said, would I be interested in baking for their new deli?”

Balancing baby and business

I tried continuing to run my own business after I had a baby, and it didn't really work out.

That's not to say that it wouldn't for all businesses but mine was at the time a one-woman affair which couldn't really be run by anyone else, probably a little like being freelance.

I wanted to do both: to look after my baby in the early months and to keep the company afloat.

I managed to eek this incompatible way of working for a few months before the baby won and I made the company dormant.

Going freelance as a copywriter and PR consultant

It was becoming a mum that got Josie Fitzhugh started as her own boss: “I was heading up a regional office of a big PR company in the UK and when I went on maternity leave I decided not to go back. I became a freelancer, ticking along.”

But it was a sadder family development in her family that helped to bring her and her business across the world, from the UK to New Zealand.

“My mum died very suddenly about ten years ago and that gave us a jolt. We are not immortal. It got us thinking about what we were going to do.”

Getting innovative with landscape design

Lindsay Rothwell’s background is in arts writing and editing but now her creativity is coming out in a more tangible realm.

Having children, and moving from London to San Francisco’s Bay Area, threw her established working life up in the air.

“I think if only one thing had changed, I don’t know that I would have entirely changed industries from the art world to landscape design."

“My hope at the time was to go fully freelance as an art writer, and had we stayed in London, that is what I would have done."

A family business building cars

Ida Tristram used to be a teacher, but now she makes cars for a living.

Replicas of classic sports cars, to be precise. She can sell you the whole car, or the ingredients you need to build one yourself.

It’s a career change that a makes a little more sense when she tells me that her husband Scott used to do fabrication work on yachts.

“One day a guy who owned a car-making business brought his yacht to Scott, and he was headhunted basically for a job at the company.”


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