What did you want to be when you were young?
I think I really wanted to be a primary school teacher but I grew up in a family with a lot of nurses so that clearly defined my initial career choice.
What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
Qualifying as a registered nurse was my ticket to do some exploring and in the early 90's I headed off to Australia and very nearly stayed there. It was a great lifestyle but just too far away from family and friends.
On returning home it took a while to settle back into life in Scotland – I think I thought the grass was maybe a bit greener on the other side. So a career change was in the pipeline. Still working as a nurse but within a large pharmaceutical company presented me with new challenges and opportunities. Skills I learned while working within the pharma industry have been valuable when setting up Heavenly Hampers.
How did the company come together last summer?
First of all, my co-director Claire and I became friends through our children about eight or nine years ago. We wanted to do something together business-wise that would work around family life. We danced around a few ideas before settling on hampers.
When we started initially, we thought it would be a nice and small venture, so it wouldn’t involve much risk for us. We thought it was going to be family and friends ordering hampers, but actually, as we found, last year at Christmas time was bonkers. We totally underestimated the corporate side of the business. And as a platform this year, everyone that ordered last year, if they can, has come back again this year and ordered again. So that’s been great.
Obviously, 80% of our business will be done during the festive period, but we also do hampers for weddings, new houses, Valentines, for him and her, anniversaries and so on. So because we offer a bespoke service, people can just call up and say, ‘Claire, Ellen, I’ve got a silver anniversary coming up. What do you suggest?’
What’s the key to your successful working partnership?
Claire and I have known each other for a long time and the success of Heavenly Hampers is definitely down to team effort.
As working mums our organisational skills are exceptional, we have a great vibrancy together and our individual skills complement each other in the work place. We also have a lot of laughs.
Is there anything you would do differently?
Looking back over the last 18 months there are always things we could have done differently but as a small client-led company we are flexible and can adapt quickly to meet our client needs.
What do you think looking back at your career path?
I feel a bit like a Now Album. (Laughs). My Now 90 was when I had qualified as a registered nurse, I was travelling, working in Australia. Then my first baby was born in 2000, so 2000 to 2010 was the decade of having a family. And now this decade is about doing something for myself again.
What has motivated you?
The feedback we have had from clients has been extremely motivational. We were delighted with the testimonials clients gave us for our website and comments on our social media sites are always positive. It's good to know you are on the right track.
Your favourite stress-buster?
Being organised allows us to manage our stress levels. Running our own business means Claire and I can work hours to fit around family life – although at Christmas time it's all hands on deck. Alcohol helps.
Handing responsibility over to someone else. We have total control over our hampers – making sure every single one is just as it should be.
What’s your idea of the perfect retirement
We'll need to sell a lot more hampers before I can achieve my perfect retirement dream. It would definitely be somewhere warm, overlooking the beach with a nice cool sundowner every evening. I might even invite the family out.
What’s your best career advice?
Don't be afraid to take that first step, starting a new venture can be daunting but you have to make it work for you. Surround yourself with great people and go for it.