We chat to Gemma Sewell about starting up her business and how easy it is to doubt yourself when doing so! Read on to find out how she overcame her setbacks and the advice that she gives to women now.
Can you tell us a bit about your career?
With a proven track record of over 17 years in marketing and management working for brands such as L’Oreal, Pepsi Co, De Beers, Danone and also SME’s, I continually transformed business performance with my unique blend of marketing and management techniques. I have worked internationally across Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Placing people, which is my biggest passion at the centre of my business model, I drove share growth in some of the toughest markets. I have been on several senior leadership teams and management committees.
I have now taken that experience, along with an unwavering passion to support women in business to set up a coaching and consultancy business. Working with a business to enable cultural and profit growth or helping individuals get clear on their career, I enable people to lead a happier, more focused life.
I specialise in career clarity and business coaching as well as brand strategy consulting.
What is a typical day in your career?
They say variety is the key and I have bucket loads of that! I spend half of my working week partnering with Samantha Clarke, who is the founder of The Growth and Happiness School as the Development Partnerships Director. We are working on some majorly exciting projects which are going to shake up how we look at wellbeing in the workplace. The rest of my week you will find me with my coaching clients, either helping women who are in a career rut or who are on the cusp of their own business breakthrough. I am also often found at events guest speaking, running online and offline workshops as well as being a non-exec board member for One World Women. I also volunteer for Young Women’s Trust as a CV coach.
What made you choose this career?
Above all else, several glaringly obvious signposts throughout my career and life that I have a gift and a passion to support people in their careers and business to enable more joy, meaning and happiness. I was doing it without much thought as a senior leader, and I knew I had to focus 100% on that going forward.
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
Hard to detail the full journey but there were a few significant moments that led to this point. I always had a fascination with the psychology of work. Imagine me as an 8-year-old girl on a boat trip on holiday asking everyone what work they did and why! Yep, that was me! No wonder my first role at uni was in research! Then when I started my corporate career I was obsessed by the impact people had on business results and quickly saw the importance of this relationship.
Knowing the importance of this relationship, I was then faced with several conflicts in my career when businesses/management would not see the importance of this, to the detriment of their team; who would be exhausted, stressed and burnt out. This included myself, and in 2011 I was signed off sick with some very physical symptoms such as crippling stomach pain only to be told it was exhaustion and stress. I couldn’t believe that something mental could have such an impact on me physically. This was my wake up call that things had to change. I then started to work with a coach who helped me turn things around. On my return to work, it became my mission, even more so, to show that things had to change and I was going to lead that change with my own team. As a manager, I then took it upon myself to show that putting people at the centre of the business model, and adapting the brand/way we worked around individuals would lead to a positive impact on the bottom line and have a guess what, it worked! Working on Maybelline NY at the time the brand saw the highest market share in its history and the team working on the brand were enjoying work again and not working 14 hour days!
I then took this method to other brands and would be moved from brand to brand, to turn not only the brand around but the teams as well.
Fast forward to today, and having my two children is what propelled me to start this business. One of my strongest values is freedom, so I have always known that eventually, I would run my own business. When pregnant with our second child, I knew that this was the time to start the business, as I wanted to build it whilst on maternity leave to be able to go full steam ahead after maternity leave. So I worked with a business coach to get the business up and running, working when the baby napped and on evenings. For me, it was the perfect mix as I need to keep the brain ticking when I’m on maternity leave and this did exactly this!
The business is now in full swing and I have to pinch myself somedays that I get to do this as my career. I am working with some of the most talented women in their field and I am also helping them reach their full potential.
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
At the start of the business, I definitely had wobbles…will anyone pay me to do this, how can I run a business with a young family, am I good enough?
What allowed me to continue to take action even on those days was knowing that I had found me why, this was the reason I was put here, that there are so many women out there that I could help transform. The why slowly became bigger than me so I had to simply move out of its way and get on with it. Also, a good old vision board often allows you to keep moving forward!
I have an innate skill and passion, that is 100% natural and not forced, to support women and be a part of the work happiness revolution that is upon us.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
That I get to demonstrate to other women that you can have a dream and that it can come true as long as you are aligned with your why and your mission. I am a normal, everyday mother of two, who has taken the courage and opened myself up to vulnerability to enable this to happen and anybody else can too.
‘You can have a dream and that it can come true as long as you are aligned with your why and your mission.’
What is your biggest achievement in life?
Setting up this business which I dreamed about for years and knowing I will have a positive impact on other women for the rest of my career.
Find your why and don’t resist it, take time to understand it and then take action. The rest will then flow.
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
Live your dreams and not the dreams of others (Mana Motuhake- my husband is part Maori and this phrase comes from his native tribe and I had it tattooed on my ribs when we were living in New Zealand.)
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Be you, even if faced with adversity, be your authentic self.
Be confident in listening to your gut and not ignoring it.
Get comfortable with your strengths and values and ensure your role allows you to live in them.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Understand that you have a worth, that you have a unique blend of talent, skills, strengths, passions that make you the incredible person that you are. That you may not feel like you fit in all the time but to embrace your quirkiness, realise that this is why you are here and all of your quirks need to be seen by the world.
If you enjoyed reading Gemma’s blog, have a read of Sue Benson’s story and why she thinks it’s great being a woman in Marketing.