We sat down with Rebecca Newenham, founder of 'Get Ahead VA' to find out all about her success story, what motivates her, and just how she manages to balance her work/motherhood life.
1. How did you get started in your field?
After graduating with a Business Studies degree, my career began in corporate buying for retail chain Superdrug. As a young woman, it was a dream come true, heading off to Paris to select cosmetics for our stores and then seeing them on the shelves back home.
I moved to grocery store chain Sainsbury’s a few years later as a non-food buyer. I ran the first-ever online supplier auction, and it was so exciting. I loved the fast pace of retail and the excellent grounding in branding that it gave me. But once I had my three daughters, I knew I wanted to look for something different.
Inspired by my successfully self-employed mother, I knew it was possible to work and be there for school pick-ups and drop-offs. When my youngest daughter started school, the time felt right to start something new for me. I came across the term virtual assistant when researching business options, and it seemed to make so much sense.
Why recruit staff in-house if you didn’t really need them? Virtual assistants could plug the gap for businesses, providing services when they needed them. It seemed much more efficient and 21st century to me than the traditional recruitment model.
I went on a training course to find out more, and from that
Get Ahead was born. With a book full of contacts and a second-hand laptop, I was ready to go. Right from the start, I knew I wanted to create a business, not just be a VA myself. I wanted to offer work to other people, particularly women like me who wanted to work flexibly around their families.
Since then, it has been an absolute pleasure to watch my team of VAs and franchisees grow. I have been lucky to meet so many fascinating people. Many of the women I meet have decades of experience, yet have struggled to find meaningful part-time or flexible work. Working with Get Ahead
allows them to use their significant skills and work when and how suits them, as well as realise their dreams of running their own business if they become a franchisee.
Rebecca Newenham receiving BFA award for Franchise Balance 2021
2. What is your top tip on balancing work-life and motherhood?
Balancing work-life and motherhood certainly isn’t easy. The massive benefit of working flexibly is that I control my diary and dedicate time to both work and life. I have found that exercise is essential, and I work with a personal trainer and attend regular Pilates classes. These help me process events from the day and recharge physically and emotionally. I am also very strict with my time, including not working evenings.
Family holidays are a special time to switch off, relax and spend quality time with my husband and children. Thankfully, I have an excellent team of virtual assistants to manage things whilst I am away. Ultimately, I have to remember that my girls are why I started my business in the first place. As a leader of a global team of over 70 virtual business experts, it's important that I ‘walk the talk’ on work-life balance and make sure I put my family first. I was very proud when we won the British Franchise Association Franchise Balance Award 2021, in recognition of the freedom my franchisees have to balance work and family life.
3. How do you get motivated?
I work really well with business coaches, and they have been part of my journey for many years. They help me stay focused on the bigger picture of where I am trying to drive the business and not get too bogged down in the company's day-to-day running. Time is precious, and my business coach challenges me to make sure I use it as effectively as possible. I am also a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique, which helps me stay motivated by ensuring I take regular breaks.
National Business Womens Awards evening - Joanne McGowan, Louise Young, Vicky McKenna and Rebecca Newenham of Get Ahead
4. How do you define success?
Enjoying a G&T on a Friday night! Of course, financials are significant, but to me, success is about being proud of what you’ve achieved. I feel at my most successful when I welcome a new franchisee on board and help them realise their dreams of running their own business. Or when I receive a testimonial from a client about the difference one of our virtual assistants has made to their business.
Awards are recognition of success, and I was delighted to be crowned Southern England Business Woman of the Year at the National Business Women’s Awards 2021. It was a privilege to share the awards night with some of my franchisees and a joy to be surrounded by so many outstanding businesswomen.
5. Were there any doors that were harder to open, being a woman in your field? How did you break them down?
Thankfully, I have never really come up against gender issues, though I know many friends and colleagues that have. The concepts of outsourcing and virtual assistants were relatively unknown when I first launched the business, so that was quite a hard door to open. Face-to-face networking was essential to help people understand the expert, flexible and affordable business support we could deliver.
I am delighted that over ten years later, and certainly post covid-19, organisations are much more aware of how outsourcing can help them achieve their objectives and grow.
6. What's your favourite fashion staple? Anything leopard print!
7. What's your favourite mantra? ‘Keep your eyes on the prize’. It’s something my mother said to me and I think it’s the best piece of advice I ever received, particularly when it comes to juggling the work/family balance. My business has grown massively over the past 11 years and it’s been a great journey. But they have been manic times too. I have always tried to remember why I started the business in the first place – to work flexibly around my family and ensure that I take time out when needed to spend time with my girls.
8. Do you have any tips to kickstart a positive morning?
Definitely! Coffee and a walk with my dog Sydney are a must.
9. Who has been your biggest supporter?
My husband has been my biggest supporter right from the start. He has always been ready to step into the practicalities of looking after the girls when I have needed to travel for events or meetings.
On a mental level, he is my first sounding board when making business decisions and discussing ideas. He knows me so well but is also that one step removed from the day-to-day to give an objective perspective. His support, both practically and mentally, has helped me become both the mum and the business owner that I wanted to be.
10. What's next on the radar for you, Rebecca? Is there anything you'd like to achieve next?
I am excited about continuing to grow my franchise network this year. Adding new franchisees, both in the UK and internationally, will help grow the business further. I am focussing on Southampton, Birmingham and Bristol and would love to access Scotland. Internationally, I am targeting other Australian territories beyond our Sydney base. With continued economic uncertainty, we see more and more companies outsourcing to remain agile, leaving virtual businesses such as ourselves and our franchisees perfectly placed to assist.
You can get in touch with Rebecca and Get Ahead at getaheadva.com