These were the words uttered to us as we set off on our journey into the notoriously male-dominated world of specialist finance.
Well - what made us think we could do this was approximately 10 Cobras in an Indian restaurant!
All joking aside, we were two Mums living an unfulfilled professional life. We were always putting everyone else first and making a lot of money for other companies. In truth, we didn’t know we could do it - but those words spurred us on to ensure we would do it or die trying!
Far from a glamourous beginning with an all-singing, all-dancing office complete with Nespresso machine, we became infamously known as the 'Two girls in a shed'.
'The shed' we refer to was a wooden annexe on the side of Sarah’s mum and dad's house. It was complete with 2 desks, a printer and a Calor gas heater, and it didn’t look much to the outside world but we couldn't have been prouder or more excited.
It was a more challenging beginning than we had anticipated. Sadly, we found that allegiances amongst some men in the industry meant that promises that had been made to us regarding setting up partnerships were broken.
We picked ourselves up, got on our trainers and prepared to leap over every hurdle put in our way (of which there were many). Amongst the hurdles, however, there were some fantastic highs: our first ever payout; meeting brokers taking a chance on the 'new girls in town' and building lasting relationships; taking on our first employee; moving into our very own office; our first anniversary. We also loved evolving from a second charge broker into a specialist finance brokerage, after quickly realising we needed to be versatile, and learning and getting a panel together for bridging, first charges and insurances, and ensuring we offered a varied product offering.
This last point absolutely saved us.
...Covid-19, the 10-foot hurdle we didn’t see coming!
Blissfully unaware of what was about to come, we had hired more staff and upgraded again into a bigger office to accommodate our expansion. We were growing and expanding at a nice pace, and everything seemed to be falling into place. Suddenly, we found ourselves in our pyjamas at home, attempting to save our business whilst simultaneously home-schooling our two boys (each!) while our staff were all furloughed, crying over Facetime after being apart for the first time since setting up, and facing the fear of the unknown.
It was hard - there is no other way to describe it - but we had to fight. We couldn’t let this defeat us, because this was never in the disaster recovery plan!
Being versatile in our product offering absolutely saved us at this time. We hustled for every single piece of business we could lay our hands on. We worked day and night and, slowly but surely, we then found ourselves in a strange position that we were able to expand further.
We went back to the office as soon as Boris gave us the first chance - we got new contracts, hired more staff and - dare we say it - we actually thrived, through our sheer tenacity to survive.
We did so even at our lowest points personally. Not to go into too much detail, but that year was the worst of our lives. Nicola’s ex-husband and father to her two children was sadly diagnosed with the late stages of an aggressive bone cancer and contracted Covid which caused him to lose his battle and he died. Meanwhile, Sarah’s family suffered losses of multiple family members in heartbreaking circumstances as we went into lockdown. Needless to say, we had some extremely dark days.
Whilst we don’t want to dwell on the dark times, it's important to remember that these days aren’t what defined us at this time and we got through it. A wise person told us that 'there are wonderful moments in each day' - and this is absolutely true. By staying positive and believing in yourself and the team around you, you can get through anything.
We are seemingly coming back to some kind of normality now - the industry golf days seem to be back (phew! Our pink golf socks are at the ready but our invite does seem to be lost in the post!).
We’ve come a long way. The fight is not yet over and we face new challenges every day, but if you were to ask us, three years down the line, “What makes you think that you can do this?”, we would say - "We are".