When I was at school, I wanted to be an actress. I did Stagecoach at weekends for many years, so I thought I was destined for the stage. Then as soon as I hit 15, I changed my mind, gave up stage school and wanted to be a holiday rep instead.
I left school with next-to-no GCSEs. I got a B in drama and that’s about it. Ironically, I didn’t have enough GCSEs to get into a holiday rep course, so instead I did a much-better Leisure and Tourism course at college.
I floated between jobs whilst at college and straight after (travel agent, checking-in at Gatwick airport) and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I found check-in boring and felt like a robot. The salary for a travel agent was so low.
Aged 18, I backpacked Australia for a year and upon returning, I started to train to be a mortgage advisor. Although it was good money for my age, I found it incredibly boring and uninspiring.
Getting into journalism and publishing
I had always loved reading newspapers and magazines so pondered the idea of being a journalist, but I was dyslexic and had no English GCSE.
I decided to take a leap of faith. I quit my corporate mortgage job, moved from Sussex to the big city of Manchester where I knew only one person (an ex-boyfriend), and spent six months teaching myself how to be a journalist and basic grammar from a string of books and a self-study course. I then contacted universities across the country and offered to write articles. This allowed me to build a portfolio of clippings. From this portfolio I started getting small non-paid-for jobs for free publications and undertook a variety of assignments, such as writing a feature about attending a poker school for a gambling magazine or reviewing gigs for music magazines.
After six months, armed with my portfolio and book knowledge, I applied to be an Editorial Assistant for a publisher in the city and got the job.
After a year I interviewed to be a journalist at a competitor publisher. The editor (and owner of the business) said he’d never employed anyone without a degree before, but that he liked my work ethic and how hard I’d worked to get to where I was, so he offered me the job.
An unexpected turn of events
I started working and studied an NCTJ on the side. After a year in that position, I unexpectantly fell pregnant. Despite us living together my partner was not interested in the pregnancy, so I made the difficult decision and left Manchester and moved back in with my parents. I couldn’t get another job because I was pregnant, I was homeless, and I had to start my life from scratch.
When my daughter Summer was 10 months old, I stood proudly inside a Waterstones bookstore as I launched my first book, My Summer Bump. It was my diary throughout my pregnancy, and I turned it into a book to help anyone else that was going through a pregnancy alone.
After the launch of that book, I got to work promoting it, and landed BBC radio interviews, as well as national and local press articles. I was then offered a column in a regional Sussex newspaper and lifestyle magazine in Manchester, titled, ‘Diary of a slightly mad single mum’.
Over the 18 months that I wrote the weekly columns, I worked as a freelance journalist, writing restaurant reviews, some national parenting pieces, I even covered the election for ITV, most assignments with my daughter in-tow.
Moving into PR
I really missed an office environment, so I decided to give the columns and journalism up and moved into communications.
Over the 10 years that followed I worked my way up and found myself in leadership roles overseeing the press teams of a fire service and one of the country’s biggest hospitals.
Filming television was a big part of my role at the hospital. I was involved in many exciting projects, from a week of live filming for This Morning, where I was the main chaperone for Peter Andre and many TV doctors such as Dr Hilary, Dr Chris. To documentaries, daytime TV shows and filming live operations such as kidney transplants. The role was incredibly busy with a lot of crisis communications work also required.
When I worked for the fire service, I would find myself on-call a lot, attending incidents in the middle of the night for example. During this role I also took up a leadership position to plan and attend a four-week inquest where sadly two firefighters had lost their lives.
During this time, I took six weeks out of work to backpack Asia with my then five-year-old daughter.
After that trip I wrote my second book, My Asian Summer, which was a memoir about backpacking Asia with a five-year-old. I then began promoting that book and featured on numerous radio stations and again had local and national press features.
I moved into the tourism industry in 2019 and now manage all press and communications activity for a major UK tourist attraction. The role can be very exciting, with lots of filming opportunities. Highlights include filming the band Glass Animals performing at 450ft for the TV show, Good Morning America, to filming the weather 550ft in the air for Good Morning Britain.
Over the pandemic, I set up my own PR Consultancy. I gained a client straight away and spent a year working with an Olympic athlete who was raffling off his beach house.
As well as this I worked on a celebrity book launch and undertook many influencer marketing assignments for various companies. A year later and in 2021 I launched a second business, a holiday let in the Witterings, and have since been learning how to manage and promote a holiday home as well.
Setting up a business
For the PR consultancy, it was scary at first as I was unsure if I had the confidence or knowledge to succeed. Imposter syndrome was always there. But I have always been a risk-taker, so I decided that I had nothing to lose, and I just needed to bite the bullet. For the holiday let, this was slightly unnerving as I had no experience in this sector but google was my friend and helped tremendously.
Challenges I’ve overcome
Imposter syndrome is a big one. I wrote a list of all the things that I was good at, and all the things I didn’t understand or that were a weakness. I then made it my mission to try and overcome these things. Over the first year of the pandemic, I signed up to around 10 courses and completed most of the areas that were on my weakness list. I then undertook a two-day PRCA course in how to run your own media agency.
I have an extremely unconventional career path, but what my story shows is that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
I was dyslexic but went on to work as a successful journalist for numerous well-known publications and wrote two books! I left school with little qualifications, yet I managed to land myself in corporate leadership positions.
You just need to be determined, driven, willing to take a risk and possible pay cut. Most importantly, you need to be willing to work hard, possibly for free – at all hours – to achieve it. You can achieve anything if you want it hard enough. I could have stayed in the financial sector and if I had, I’d probably be earing double the salary now, but I wasn’t happy, and it didn’t excite me. You have to love what you do as you spend more time at work than anywhere else.
Advice I’d give my younger self
Pay attention at school and work hard. I have done incredibly well despite not having any school qualifications, but it has been a challenge and I have had to go out of my way to catch up with my peers.