‘It is amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.’ Wise words indeed from Rebecca Newenham, founder and owner of Get Ahead VA, which provides virtual assistance services to businesses across the UK.
At The Business Magazine’s recent Women in Business Awards, Newenham was Highly Commended in the category for Enlightened Employer – supporting women in the workplace; and also achieved a coveted finalist spot for Woman Business Owner of the Year.
As a mother of three who wanted to balance work and family life, Newenham has built her business with flexibility at its heart.
Today, Get Ahead VA offers a full range of marketing services, including website design, social media management and email marketing, as well as nationwide administration, database management, accountancy and business development services.
And while women make up the majority of her freelance workforce, she is keen to stress there are “jobs for the boys” as well.
“I see the business as giving people the opportunity to get the work-life balance they crave and may find difficult to achieve themselves,” says Newenham. “It is important to have women role models, but I never wanted this to be a hugely female business. We also have guys involved and for me, it’s about all of us playing to our strengths.
“We are demonstrating that work can be interesting, that parents can still do the school run as well as work which is stimulating, and they can thrive on it. Some of the team work during the day, others in the evenings, it’s about recognising it doesn’t have to be a traditional way of working.”
Newenham admits that eight years ago, when she came up with the idea of supplying a virtual assistant service, the first question she was often asked was “a what?”. Now however, she says many more people appreciate the benefits outsourcing can deliver.
Based in Guildford, she grew up in a household full of entrepreneurial spirit. Her mother ran her own business and, after gaining a business studies degree and working for corporate giants including Superdrug and Sainsbury’s, Newenham decided to look for an alternative career path.
While taking a career break on maternity leave, she spotted the opportunity to provide companies with virtual assistance services and, after going on a one day course, was ready to start her business.
“I just needed an office, a laptop and time to research the services that would appeal most to start-ups and small businesses. I drew on my corporate experience, business development and networking strengths and I also had business coaching in years two and three, which was invaluable in helping me achieve my goals.
“My mandate was to be super professional right from the start, making sure all the touchpoints were consistent and the business had the same look and feel, no matter where our clients saw it. That has continued as the business has grown, when we attend events we dress the same, it’s all about perception – we operate as a team.”
Bringing the right people on board has never, she says, been a problem and in turn Get Ahead VA offers a range of benefits, including training, quarterly workshops, monthly franchise calls and its own Facebook group.
By year five, Newenham could see an opportunity to scale-up the business through regional directors. This led to the launch of a successful Bristol office – proving that she didn’t always have to be present to win clients – and she is now rolling out a franchise operation across the UK. Her target is to open one per quarter throughout 2019.
Alongside Get Ahead’s success, clients have grown too and she says one of the most satisfying and exciting elements is watching a small start-up gather pace and expand.
Always keen to share the lessons she has learned, Newenham gives talks about flexible working and is now mentoring another small business owner.
“I love it; you suddenly realise what a wealth of knowledge you have, and the difference that sharing that knowledge can make to other people and their businesses” she concludes.
And for anyone that’s wondering, yes, she does use her own virtual assistance service – making sure she gains the hands-on benefits of the business she created.
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