“They’re 18, 7 & 1”. That’s my answer to the routinely asked question: “how old are your children?” And then I wait for the response. The confused expression, the look of someone trying to subtract 18 from the age they’d assumed I was. For some, that’s as far as it goes, but more often than not the next response will be along the lines of “you don’t look old enough to have an 18 year old”. I’ll make a flippant remark about being older than I look, or maybe that I use a very good moisturiser. Sometimes I’ll feel mischievous and explain that I was 12 when I had her. But very rarely will I be honest and say “I had her when I was 18. It was tough”.
Whilst Stephenson Law as a tangible business is a similar age to my youngest child, the reality is that it’s the same age as my daughter; 18. Having her is when I started to develop the strength and self-belief that I can do anything I set my mind to.
I was told having a baby at 18 would ruin my life, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t let that happen. I took my daughter (who was just 1 at the time) to university and worked hard to juggle my studies, being a mum and working 20 hours a week. It meant living on the outskirts of student life, but that wasn’t my priority.
The last 18 years have had their fair share of challenges and set-backs. I’ve experienced crippling financial difficulty, extreme exhaustion and rejection. But through it all I’ve thanked my lucky stars that I had Lydia, and later on my husband and young boys, by my side and, last year, found the strength to start my own law firm.
Building Stephenson Law is one of the hardest things I’ve done, which is saying something! In just over a year I’ve experienced countless ups and downs, days when I’ve felt on top of the world and days where I haven’t wanted to leave my bed. But in a very short space of time I’ve managed to build a profitable business with an incredible team and fantastic clients.
Whilst I’ve got a very long way to go and in no way profess to be expert, my advice to anyone thinking of starting a business is as follows:
Just do it. Stop waiting for the right time, it’s never going to arrive. Today is the right time.
- Accept that you’re going to be out of your comfort zone for a very long time.
- Look after yourself. Sleep, eat well, drink less (ideally nothing) and exercise. Your body won’t stand up to the pressure if you don’t.
- Make decisions and act on them. Don’t hesitate – trust your instincts. If you make a mistake, which you will, deal with it and move on.
- Find a support network. Look at accelerator programs and co-working offices. Don’t shut yourself away; it can get lonely.
- Stay true to your values. It can be tempting to make decisions that conflict with your values but don’t do it.
- Believe in yourself and constantly remind yourself WHY you’re doing this. Are you trying to build a better life for your family, or make the world a better place? Whatever it is, keep it in your sights.
I constantly tell my children that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up and I want every child to be told the same. We only fail when we stop trying and if we stop trying, we stop living.