Going from criminal defence law to selling baby goods may seem quite a big leap but it’s exactly what Paula Guest has done to find a happier working life after relocating to Cornwall.
“I had been working in Bedford a s a criminal defence lawyer but was fast becoming burnt out from a long career. It was my sister who inspired me to make such a big change.
She’d already started Just for Babies when, due to family circumstances she was unable to continue with it, and I jumped at the chance to be my own boss,” she said.
So Paula left her law career and became the owner of Just for Babies, an online-only nursery retailer.
Finding ongoing support in business was very important to her when she move to the county, with her membership of Cornwall Enterprising Women proving a real boost in her new career.
“Even as relatively new member I am already benefiting from CEW’s support. I have a mentor, Suzanne Letting of Spectrum Recruitment Limited, based in Bedford who I found through the Enterprising Women mentoring scheme. She’s only been my mentor for a few weeks but we’ve agreed to meet up every 3 months and keep in touch between times through email, Skype and phone. She’s amazing and helped me so much already with ideas to develop my business. In fact I’m so inspired I’m thinking of becoming a CEW mentor myself in future.”
Paula added that since she became in involved with CEW she has also grown in confidence.
“Sometimes I felt a bit out there on my own but through CEW I’ve now met new people in the same situation, benefited from contacts in terms of new business and learnt skills I didn’t know I needed. Its networking sessions have been so useful with the speed-networking event just brilliant. It gave me the opportunity to refine my elevator pitch in a relaxed environment and that boosted my confidence to deliver my pitch to prospective clients. The HR event helped me learn more about taking on employees too and opened my eyes to some of the myths surrounding the topic.”
Paula said her friends have described her as “independent and stubborn” but she prefers “headstrong”, a word she believes fits the attitude needed to succeed in business.
With this determined mindset Paula is already expanding the Just for Babies brand, which aims to stock everything a mother needs for a little one aged 0 – 18 months, with the launch on October 24, 2011, of Just for Toddlers, to be followed by Just for Mummies a year later while also and supplying stock for nurseries.
Paula is thriving in her new role saying the independence it has given her is fantastic and being her own boss is very special.
“I genuinely love what I do. I work 10 hours a day, sometimes six days a week but I have never had that feeling of “oh, here we go again” when the alarm goes off at 6am as I did when I was in law.”
She isn’t unrealistic about the hard work and dedication being self-employed requires though, describing the cons as the lack of “me” time and holidays.
“I’ve not had a holiday since I started the business that’s lasted longer than three days and not having a guaranteed income can be quite stressful at times as well but the pros of total independence and a complete sense of “I did that” when you get it right outweigh the negatives. I had a customer review recently saying we were the best company they’d dealt with and that made my week.”
Paula believes Just for Babies outdoes its competitors because of its strong customer service focus, with all customers getting an email after any order placed and 99% of the stock delivered within 48 hours.
She said: “If we show it as in stock, it’s in stock. We get a lot of calls from customers cancelling orders with competitors and coming to us because they have to wait two weeks for a crib having only been informed of this after they’d paid for it. We also only work with suppliers we know and can trust to provide great quality.”
Happy to give something back from her new found self-employed experience Paula said: “Go for it. Provided you know what you want to do, have researched it and are passionate you can do it. If the market is saturated with what you want to do, make a niche for yourself. What aren’t your competitors doing very well? Be prepared to work very hard for a least a year before you see results though, it’s not instant.”
And when she’s not working Paula can be found enjoying water sports and the beach, which is 5 minutes from her house. “On rare days off in the summer you’ll find me on the beach with a good book or in a kayak paddling around the Cornish coastline, or if the weather isn’t so great perhaps you find me indulging in my other passion for shoes, shopping and handbags,” she laughed.
Visit www.justforbabies.co.uk for more details.