Sam Willoughby, founder of Whatson4 and the Children’s Activities Association gave us her insight and story about being an entrepreneur.
Sam, congratulations on winning “Pitman Entrepreneur of the Year” Tell us why you think you won and what does the award mean to you?
All awards are about PR, for the organisers and the winners! I wanted to highlight the work I’ve done on the formation of the Children’s Activities Association. But when I heard I was a finalist and then a winner, I was extremely excited and the ‘pat on the back’ was very welcome.
Tell us how it all began…how and why did you become an entrepreneur and decide to start a business (which has turned into businesses!)? Did you have to learn any new skills?
I didn’t go back to my job before I had my daughter because my employer wasn’t interested in any more flexible way for me to work. It was a very difficult time as I felt discarded and worthless. After a short time wallowing in self-pity, I picked myself up and decided to prove them wrong and find a way to work flexibly myself. I had the idea for www.whatson4littleones.co.uk when I found it difficult to find what was on to share with my baby alongside some previous experience of online directories.
What is toughest part of your role? And the best?
The best part of my role working alongside our team. This is becoming more and more the case as my business journey progresses. It’s the people around you that will make you a success.
The toughest part is when people let you down, we’ve had it happen many times. It’s hard not to be affected but the trick is not dwelling on it, it’s their problem and not yours. Pick yourself up and keep doing what you do.
How do you keep yourself, and others, motivated daily?
Our team is stronger than ever and we support each other. We share the good, the bad and the ugly – helping each other to keep motivated.
What is the most important bit of advice you have received?
There is no one bit of advice that comes to mind.
What advice you would give to others in a similar situation looking to set up on their own?
Deciding to go it alone in business often takes a big life change, for many it is having a family. You do need to have a huge amount of determination so there has to be a massive driving force and passion behind what you decide to do.
As an advocate of flexible working, why do you think it is so important in business to embrace this? What is stopping companies do this and what advice would you give them to change.
People highly value flexible working alongside salary and other benefits. Flexible working makes for a happier team and that makes for happier customers and therefore a flourishing business.
Many more companies are realising this and there is change with more ways to work flexibly but the opportunities are thin on the ground. For it to work company values have to be aligned with flexible working so that employees are recognised for what they do in the hours not the hours they do. This can be a big shift, especially in larger companies.
What lies ahead for you? What are your next challenges?
There are some things I have in my plan, and there are a lot of things I don’t. I have learned that opportunities will find you if you are open to them – and that’s so exciting!
What’s on 4 has 34 websites in 5 countries across the world. They help families all over the world with their multi-award winning online guides and events. Millions of people use the websites and over 20,000 people have attended their live events www.whatson4.co.uk
The Children’s Activities Association is a community interest company founded by experts who want to help parents and all children’s activities providers by raising the standard of children’s activities as well as give more families access to these excellent activities. Parents no longer have to ask dozens of questions when choosing an activity. They can just ask one: “Are you a member of the CAA?” And already over 200,000 parents across the UK attend a CAA member activity every week www.childrensactivitiesassociation.org