Like much of my career I feel like I just kind of ended up where I am in business. But that’s not really true. I got there because I know I don’t want to stay put, I want to keep progressing, I take opportunities when they arise and follow my gut on decisions. And it’s worked out pretty well!
When I was at school I was convinced I would be a PE teacher. I loved PE. I seemed to be doing well at GCSE PE and I was confident I would get my best grade in PE. I didn’t. I got one A at GCSE, the A was in German. I had no desire to pursue German and so I still went off to college to do Sports Studies, Performing Arts and a couple of other A Levels because I had to do more than two.
At college my passion changed. I loved Performing Arts. I was good at it. I was chosen to take part in additional out of college performances and to support the year above with their performances. This was it. I was going to be an actress or a stage manager.
Just in case that didn’t work out the college still made me do a careers assessment to help me see other potential avenues to explore. From that they told me the career that had come out top as the one that suited me the most was undertaker. 17 year old me was not excited by that idea!
So, A Level results day came. I opened the envelope. My grades were A, B, C, D (imagine if I’d done 26 A levels 😀) and the A was in…. Sports Studies! Never mind, I was off to university to do Drama.
I lasted six months at university. It wasn’t for me.
In the college holidays I had worked for a couple of different holiday clubs, running activities for children. About a week after I got back from university the manager of youth york for the area, who had managed one of the holiday clubs, saw me and asked why I was back. He said they had a job going if I wanted it. It was only nine hours a week but it was something I enjoyed doing and I took it. I also worked at a leisure centre supervising the soft play area and did a couple of shifts a week in the local pub.
I wanted to be busy. I’ve always liked working hard and I kept this up for a while. Then I was offered more hours a week in the youth work job and so I dropped the leisure centre job as it was quite a long way away. Then I got more youth work hours a week and I dropped the pub work.
Over the next 10 years I did various roles within the local authority in youth work and Children’s Services. During this time I became a qualified Youth Worker and got a degree in Education and Training. I worked my way up to be a Professional Development Officer for Children’s Services and gained experience managing people, projects and budgets and I had a lot of different qualifications and experiences under my belt.
I was in that role when I got pregnant with my first child.
At this time my husband, Chris was Studio Manager for a digital design company who worked with some very big name clients. He spent a lot of time travelling to London and working long hours. My hours were also long some days and involved some weekend working. We decided that neither of our working patterns fitted with the family life we wanted. We wanted to actually see our baby. And so, we set up our own company, 2nd Floor Designs Ltd with us both as directors and 50/50 share
2nd Floor would be a web design company using Chris’ experience and contacts to get it going. Many people felt that it was a silly time for Chris to leave a very stable job with a very nice income when we were expecting our first child but we just knew it was the right thing to do. I supported Chris in making decisions in the business but the work was all down to him at this point as I was still leading up to going on maternity leave.
When our son arrived it was hard but Chris managed to juggle working at home and being a Dad well. When the time came for me to discuss going back to work I wasn’t able to negotiate going back as part time as I wanted but it actually didn’t matter. The business was already doing well and if I came on board in a more hands on capacity and took over all the admin and finance tasks then Chris would have more billable time. So that’s what we did. We had a baby under one year old, a new business and all our eggs were in that basket!!
But we had so much freedom to be the family we wanted to be that it was amazing.
That was 12 years ago. In that time I’ve learnt a lot about websites, our business has gone from doing project work with billable hours, to selling WordPress themes which brought in passive income alongside the project work, to launching Ready Steady Websites® our website and membership site template service which is a recurring income model and as we have tried new things our business has gone from strength to strength. We now also deliver a lot of training around websites and online presence and so I feel like I’m utilising all my skills.
There were hard times. Just before the WordPress themes took off we experienced a lot of financial peaks and troughs. We got to the point where we only had enough money to last us one more month, which was a bit scary and I almost went and got a job. But then we sold £7000 worth of WordPress themes that month and we were back on track.
This year I realised we had achieved our business goal.
Our recurring income is at a level that we could take the whole summer off with the children (we now have two boys) and not worry. Our website was still bringing in new leads, new email signups and sales over this time. I didn’t even know that that was possible when we started the business because the web world has changed a lot in the last 12 years but we have rolled with it and I’m glad we did!
So, if you’re thinking of starting a business and aren’t sure you’ve got what it takes then I’m pretty sure you have. We managed to do this while having two children, with me coping with post natal depression and I have been diagnosed with a whole host of chronic autoimmune conditions over the last few years. Not only have we managed to run a business, we’ve grown that business and continue to do so.
Just take the plunge and give it a go!
Jude Wharton is one of the co-founders of Ready Steady Websites®, an off the shelf website and membership site template service. Jude and her business partner and husband, Chris launched Ready Steady Websites® in 2019 and they have been running a successful digital design company, 2nd Floor Designs Ltd since 2010.
You can check out their website here
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