Marie Brown of Beyond the kitchen table talks to Beena Nadeem about her career and how she came to set up her business helping other entrepreneurs to take the plunge.
Marie Brown’s father was working class and her grandfather was a ship welder in Sunderland. There was never any expectation that Marie would go to university, let alone have a high-flying career in finance or set up her own business.
But being in situations where she wasn’t expected to thrive made Marie, ironically, do just that. Completing a finance degree gave her a taste of what it was like being a fish out of water. She completed a finance degree in a very male-dominated environment which was bursting at the seams with public school kids.
She says: “When someone told me I couldn’t do something. I did it. I wanted to show them I was a northerner from a local comprehensive and it didn’t matter.”
She dialled down her northeast accent and got to work. “It wasn’t a deliberate ploy to change my accent, but I realised I had to speak more clearly to be to be understood and to be taken as an equal.”
Those were her first steps towards working in the city. She ended up in corporate finance, in another male-dominated environment, focusing on corporate finance infrastructure in relation to railways, and became the most senior woman in Europe at the firm she was at.
“I was managing director. I was generating revenue, and in some ways punching above my weight,” she says. When she moved to another bank there were issues around not being promoted, largely because she worked part time while bringing up two children.
She says she fell out of love with her job, where she was working on multi-million-pound deals, dealing with senior people in government and the corporate sector. “And I just quit,” she says. “I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mum, so I set up my business, Beyond the kitchen table, and I now deal with the complete opposite. I deal with people who are setting up on their own or are in the early years of their business’ development and instead of millions their budgets are in the thousands.”
Marie, who is 50, has taught herself to build websites. She says: “I used to be the person who was on IT help desk the most before. I couldn’t get anything working. I now build people’s websites. The tech isn’t that difficult. Lots of people in this industry use the jargon. Yes, you could spend 20 years coding one, but you don’t need to,” she says.
“What I realised is that this stuff is not that difficult and I could use my skills from years back, in commerce as well as what I’ve learnt about people to help people set up a business and that would be more effective than someone who’s spent 20 years in a darkened room, coding.”
For those wanting to give something like this a go, she says: “I was in a fortunate position to have a financial cushion as my husband is in the City. But if you’re not in this position, learn what you can over the weekends and evenings and do a side hustle until you’ve got the confidence to go for it.”
She adds: “There’s a lot of information out there – lots of it is free. There are courses too which are not expensive. There’s never been a better time to launch a business.”