Claire Empson – Property company owner

Owner/ Director of Daisy lets & sales and founder of Think BIG

Claire's absulutely head shotClaire started Daisylets after thirteen years as graphic designer for publishers. She actually started out in hairdressing, leaving school at 16 determined to do a three year course on hairdressing and beauty therapy. Inspired by her personal tutor at college, who spotted her grade A GCSE art skills, she enrolled on an A Level Art evening class, successfully applying to art college to do a Foundation Course in Art & Design. Specialising in Photography, she went on to study a BTEC HND in Swansea for two years and freelanced as a photographer for six months. When work was not that forthcoming, being in Wales, she got a job with the local newspaper typing/styling adverts in the back of the newspaper (after a crash course by her old college computer boffin on desktop publishing before the interview!). Moving back to London she got her next job with the Times Supplements doing the same and from there went to a design studio in Croydon as a Junior Designer, eventually becoming a freelance Graphic Designer for a few years.

ElmGreen Event LR © Helen Jermyn 2016 (0995) 69

Pictured with Elmgreen’s ‘Wall of Inspiration’

When moving in with her partner and deciding to rent out her house rather than sell it, she fell into becoming a landlord. A very bad experience of letting agents and the start of the recession made her determined she could do a better job than the other agents, so she self studied for the NFOPP cert in Property Management, put herself in for the exam and the rest is history. Claire now employs other people and has two offices.

Claire utilised all her previous skills in setting up Daisylets in 2007 by designing the branding, building the original website and taking photographs of the properties for the advertising.

Why you are involved in this project?

I’ve got two boys myself, so wanted to be a role model for girls too! I want my boys, when they are your age and beyond, to have respect for women and for me to know that they are going to be going out with confident and proud girls. Proud to be girls for the right reasons, being strong, confident, courageous and independent.

It’s time that women claimed the word entrepreneur for themselves with a straight face!

The only time you really hear the word entrepreneur being used in relation to women, is after the phrase “mumpreneur” started to be used.. this actually devalues what we do. Yes I’m now a mum, but just because I started my most recent business after having children shouldn’t devalue it any way. If a man starts a business after having children he’s not called a “Dadpreneur” it’s normal. As women we tend to shy away from the label of entrepreneur as we are too modest – men have no trouble referring to themselves as that – it’s time we felt comfortable doing this too, and I think by showing young women now what it really means, we can change that perception early on.

Entrepreneurship is not just about having a unique or different idea – an invention to sell – it’s about seeing opportunities in life and taking them and creating your own work out of nothing. In a society where there is a great deal of unemployment, I believe that more young people – especially young women – need to be exposed to the kind of relatable businesses you will see involved in this project.

We are not huge companies, most of us started working on our own and created our own work. I hope that in reading all about us and hearing us talk in your schools, you will come away knowing that there is a lot of opportunity out there in the world. You don’t have to aspire to make millions (although aiming high and having ambition is also good obviously!!) – to me this project is about getting the message across that you can support yourself as a women in society, not rely on anyone else for money and you can do just as well as the boys and men in society at creating your own work.

Jobs are not for life any more, your career path will be varied and change as years go on, what you choose to do now when you leave school or study further, may not be what you end up doing later in life. You may find out what inspires you much later on by chance and you’ll be passionate enough to make your work relate to it.

If you did any training after leaving school, how was it relevant to what you’re doing now?

I did hairdressing when I left school at college, as part of this course I had to work in a hairdressers for one day a week and we did hair for the general public once a week too (mostly older ladies). Having to talk to people, put them at their ease and generally be outgoing was helpful to my business how, as I spend a lot of time meeting people as part of my job, the years spent as a designer were quite the opposite, spending hours on my own in front of a computer screen!

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

  • Willingness to be adaptable and listen to others feedback and advice – but know when to ignore it and follow your own gut!
  • Single mindedness and a determination to succeed
  • Imagination to visualize where you want to be and what you want your business to look like

If you could go back and tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Aim higher and don’t daydream out the window when you are supposed to be revising!

What was the most useful thing you learned at school for the life you live now?

That even if you don’t agree with authority and think you know better, that it is no good trying to battle. Learn when to pick your battles and the times when you just have to get on and do something that has to be done or agree to compromise – and move on, life is too short to get annoyed by people.

What are the best and worst aspects about running your own business?

The best is not having to answer to anyone else – having the freedom to choose whether to deal with certain people or not. Being in control of when you work is a plus, but it turns into the opposite when your business gets busy – as you can’t turn work down for fear of never getting any more – so you end up working all the time.

Later on though it comes back full circle as you can start delegating or have regular loyal clients that will adapt to when you want to work. Not having money coming in when you go on holiday is once of the downsides of working for yourself when you have no staff to carry on the work when you are not there, so freelancers tend to not go away very much, even when they have the freedom to go as much as they want in theory! The fear of coming back to find you have been replaced is always there as a freelancer.

In my business now where I have staff, the business runs when I am not there so it is different. I can now be more flexible with my time once again, meaning I can make parents meetings etc and be there when my boys come home from school if I need to, as I can work from home.

What was your career path? 

Mine has been very varied and I have done quite a few different things that all now help my business now as my biog above reveals!

How did the idea for your business come about?

I rented out my house when I bought another house with my partner. It was this that led me to buy more property with him to rent out, and we looked after them ourselves, so I was already a landlord. I was inspired by a family run lettings agents I used in Wales as a student 20 years ago and had become quite friendly with them as I had done some photographs for another business they had. I was impressed by the way they ran their business and how they cared about their tenants, and back then I remember thinking property was a great business to be in.

I had had a really bad experience with a letting agent when letting my own properties and I saw a gap in the market for an independent agent (not part of a big chain) who was honest and cheaper than the rest in our area. The recession was about to hit and my work as a designer was slowing down. My neighbours and other friends had asked if I would manage their properties in the past when they left London, knowing I had experience as a landlord and I started to realize I was missing a business right under my nose.

Why are more women needed in business?

The gender balance is still all wrong, we need to show men we can do it too, that it is normal for women to run businesses and for it not to be unusual. We also bring a different perspective to things as we think more creatively and patiently, having to juggle everything in life makes us this way, therefore we are able to often see many solutions to problems, not just one.

How important have good employees been to your success?

Very important! Finding the right people, who share the same values and ethos is very important, they are representing you and so they have to be right. It took me a long time before I was able to employ someone I didn’t already know because of that fear of employing the unknown. My long term employees, those who were with me in the first few years were instrumental in helping me build up the good reputation my agency has.

What was the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?

I’m not sure about that – but recently this poem was sent to me on social media and it really resonated with me as summing up how we all should think a bit more about ourselves and each other, look around us and cherish the moment a bit more – put away those smart phones when out walking around and open your eyes to the beauty of the world, spot those opportunities under your nose and value life – as it is short!

“Dust If You Must” – Author unknown

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

 

 

 

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