It was a series of strands that pulled coach and founder of Lighting Fires Julie Williams onto the Digital Gum small business course. ‘I’d been aware of what Louize is doing for a while and [Digital Gum presenter] Antonia Taylor and I go back a long way,’ she explains. ‘I’ve used Grow a couple of times and have worked with Iain Guppy whose apprentice had been on the course.’ And if that wasn’t enough, a series of Facebook ads appearing in her stream sealed the deal. ‘I’ve invested a lot in my coaching training over the past few years but I thought it was time to invest in my business,’ she relates.
Julie’s background is a corporate one. She spent ten years with Thames Water, moving around and up the business from customer service to operations, finally settling into PR and marketing. At 29 she was appointed head of marketing of a global business across 42 countries. ‘Then I decided to try my hand at consulting,’ she adds, spending a further five years with Accenture and leading teams from companies including Microsoft throughout western Europe. ‘It was a quick trajectory,’ she continues, ‘and I was very senior at a young age.’ So much so that Campaign magazine published an article about her when she left Thames Water.
After having her first baby, Julie returned to Accenture but found juggling a senior role and motherhood quite challenging. A second baby made it even more difficult and so she decided to embark on a MSc in coaching and behavioural change at Henley Business School. ‘I realised the thing I loved most of all was working with people.’ She completed the three- year course two years ago and has been building Lighting Fires ever since.
Once her second child started school a year ago, Julie was able to dedicate more time and energy to Lighting Fires. ‘I launched my logo and website last summer, and have really focussed on finding clients and building the business.’ She now divides her time between coaching individuals and teams, and working with small businesses to help them grow and strengthen. She is also on the coaching roster for three big corporate and does pro bono work with local homelessness charity, Launchpad.
It was while auditing her own skills that Julie found a gap: ‘I thought doing Digital Gum would be perfect,’ she smiles. She appreciated the structure of meeting once a week with fellow small business owners. ‘It was very relaxed, informal and welcoming. There was a really great atmosphere,’ she recalls.
‘It really made me think hard about who I want to work with going forward. I got to think about my customers – who do I enjoy working with and who would I like to focus on going forward?’ She continues: ‘It got me really thinking about what do I want to be seen as.’
There were lots of practical elements too. ‘I learnt more about Twitter and LinkedIn, and about lots of useful tools to help with social media,’ she explains. ‘Pixabay was new to me too and I’ve used that loads since for Power Point slides. The course forced me to try out video too,’ she recalls. ‘I found it excruciating but it’s taken the feat out of it for me and I now feel I have the confidence and knowledge to do it.’
Digital Gum has provided Julie not just with a set of new skills to help her grow her business but it has given her plenty of food for thought too. ‘The course helped me to think about what my next steps might be. I may take on an associate to do some of my work or I may build up more online content. I haven’t made any decisions yet but it’s helped me to think things through and really helped me to work out what scaling up looks like.’