Serial entrepreneur Annabelle Beckwith speaks to Beena Nadeem about the ups and downs of starting your own business and about passing her knowledge on.
When Annabelle Beckwith lost her job 20 years ago, she had two kids under five, a mortgage to pay and a (then) unemployed husband. She had fallen out with her business partner so she decided to set up her own venture helping other budding entrepreneurs and has recently become a best-selling author.
“I think by my age we’ve all been around the block a few times,’ says Annabelle who is now a consultant and trainer, working with entrepreneurs and companies big and small. But it wasn’t always this way.
“I do remember at school and university doing one of those very rudimentary questionnaires that tries to find out the ideal job match for you. In both instances, I got ‘there are no suitable job matches for you,’” she laughs.
“I got a degree in English language and Literature. Wasn’t sure what I could do with that, so I decided I wanted to work in TV. I kept writing to the BBC until they gave me a job. I was ‘hospitality coordinator’ – which essentially means I made the tea. I put myself forward for researching and worked on a programme called Good Morning with Anna and Nick. It was a lot of fun. I had to leave to support my mum – who’s Indian, in a tribunal. She was being bullied and won her case for discrimination.”
She continues: “I then got a job for a company that did marketing communications. It was when the internet was in its absolute infancy. You didn’t have a website address but a string of numbers that no-one could remember. It was advertised for people over 25. I was 23 and nagged them to give it to me. But about the same time, I got married and moved to Scotland. That’s when things started to get interesting,” she says.
“Once we’d moved, I just couldn’t get a job, so I decided to set up my own PR firm. From that I went to working in marketing for the Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. It was fascinating. But there was no clear career plan,” she says. The Academy was looking for additional revenue streams, and that’s when she got involved in the commercialisation of arts training.
When she left, she set up a business doing just that: providing arts training. But it all went wrong when she fell out with her business partner.
Not to be beaten, Annabelle realised that running her own business was what she wanted to do all along and set up what has now become Yara Journeys, passing on her knowledge of how to grow a business to others. But with two young children, an unemployed husband and a mortgage to pay, she had to make it work. Luckily, she did. She was able to learn the skills she’d acquired beforehand in learning and development and presentation and added a dash of drama work to help coach people in the world of work.
“I’ve been so blessed to be presented with opportunities either with my own clients as an associate for other businesses to work with or for global businesses like Shell or Avon Cosmetics or HSBC as well as with entrepreneurs who are scaling up,” she says.
For Annabelle, older people have a lot of knowledge to share, so that’s exactly what she did. “I’ve also written a book called Get your Peas in a Row – it’s an international bestseller, released just last year during the lockdown. “I had to battle with impostor syndrome to write it,” she says. “But as an older person you have knowledge and experience. The things you think are obvious because you’ve lived them are not to young entrepreneurs who are just coming up. Things they’d find useful to know – making sure they don’t make the same mistakes.”
It’s also because of the pandemic that Annabelle is making the move to take her business online. “I’d been wanting to do some online stuff anyway,” she says. “So, it was a question of doing it now. I’m working with a team in the US, as I’m not internet savvy. I’ve got a reasonable grasp, but when you’re talking about social media marketing, sales funnels, pay per click, I recognise that’s where younger people come in. I’ve learned the most about this from people who are just a couple of years older than my kids,” she says, adding the sensible mantra: “If we don’t evolve, we become extinct.”