• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on Debbie Clarke

We put the spotlight on Debbie Clarke, founder of debbiedooodah.

‘Remove the fear, ditch the doubt and create a business you love.’

A background into you and your business?

I’m not sure I always wanted to run my own business, but I was always entrepreneurial! I did a spot of wheeling and dealing in my teenage years and have always wanted to do things my own way. I love finding solutions to problems and helping people. So, when I fell into starting my own business I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Stories can get a bit long and cumbersome, but in essence, I was a single mum and I’d not long had cancer, I was really aware that life is short and that I wanted to be the kind of mum who would be at home at the end of school. Running my own business seemed to be the only way to really create the life I wanted.

So, when I started working freelance with a social enterprise in Camden I knew this was the opportunity I needed. I quickly branded myself as a marketing and social media expert and offered up my services to other charities in Camden, and from there my business started.

Now I work as a coach, supporting other women to build their businesses, so they can create the lives they really want.

I’m a lecturer at Nottingham Trent, I run a podcast, have co-created an award-winning toolkit for female entrepreneurs with Nottingham University, and was named Digital Women of the Year 2020.

What made you choose this career/industry?

I love people, I’m curious about what makes us tick and am the person in a friendship group who is always organising big get-togethers.

Marketing and social media are an extension of that. I did Communication Studies at Uni and my first job was working in the magazine team at Boots.

So, creating a business around helping people market themselves was a good fit.

These days I’m more interested in how people can really create lives they love, how we can build our confidence to really go after what we want. And how we deserve to have joyful fulfilling lives.

For me running a business is a big part of that, so I’m really excited about supporting women to build successful businesses their way.

What has been your biggest challenge or setback during your career?

I’m not sure I see life like that. Everything is part of the whole. Of course, there have been hard times in my life and career, but they all got me to be where I am today.

Getting pregnant, being a single mum and having cancer meant I didn’t work for 5 years, so you could call that a setback, but I learnt so much in that experience.

I think I’ve been sacked about 7 times, but each time has taught me something about myself and taken me on a slightly different path.

I’ve learnt not to give away all your secrets in the first meeting, otherwise, they can go and deliver the project without you.

And to trust your instincts they are 99.99% right.

If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?

Knowing that they aren’t setbacks, they’re just part of the path you’re already on. To take what you can learn from the experience and look for the moments of joy even in the most terrible of circumstances.

What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?

Supporting women to build financially successful businesses! I set up the Blue Stockings Society to support women from feeling isolated working from home. And co-created the My Way Toolkit with Nottingham University as a self-empowerment resource supporting female entrepreneurs. So far we’ve run the project with female entrepreneurs, women on low-incomes thinking about starting a business, and in a corporate environment at Boots.

What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?

I want to be successful. It’s no fun living on income support as a single mum for 5 years. I wanted to be able to say yes when my daughter wanted marshmallows on her hot chocolate. I wanted to live in a nice house, to have holidays, to give my daughter a good start in life. I want to support other women to have this too.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?

That your self-confidence is the number one thing that you need to grow. You’re generally the only one holding yourself back.

What three tips would you give to those starting their careers?

Don’t sweat it! Enjoy the experience, you don’t need to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life at 20. You’ve got almost 40 years of working and there may be many different iterations in that time.

Grab opportunities when they come up, and look for interesting opportunities. Life is short, don’t waste it doing something that’s not lighting you up and exciting you.

Don’t worry about what other people are thinking about you, they’re too busy worrying about what other people think about them to worry about what you’re doing.

What is your advice to people who are wanting to start a business?

Go for it! Life is short! What’s the worst that can happen? If you’ve got an idea or a passion test it out, see what other people are up to, share your ideas. The biggest thing that stands in most people way is their belief that they can do it.

But if there are other people doing it, then why not you?

Plus if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have learnt so much more than not doing it.

And I’ve recently teamed up with Bertie to offer the Happy Startup Academy – come and check it out!

What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given?

You never stop learning – my Great Nan told me that, and it’s enabled me to have a curious outlook, to never feel ashamed if I don’t know something, to ask questions and to always be on the lookout for new things and new ways of doing things.

What advice do you have for people aiming for leadership positions?

Good leadership is a lot about being able to listen, to being able to delegate and have a team around you that you trust.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Well, I’m a terrible micromanager – in my house, they call me The Michael Manager. So in business, I’ve had to learn to trust the people I get to help me.

What’s the best part of your job?

Build relationships with amazing women doing amazing things and being part of their stories!

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

Not being scared of failing, and believing in yourself above all else.

Thank you so much to Debbie for chatting with us, you should go and check out debbiedooodah here!

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