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Enterprising Women Case Study - Rachel Hayward

Managing Director of Ask the Chameleon, Burton-on-Trent

Case Study

What does your company do and what is your role within it?

My company is a procurement and business awards specialist consultancy, supporting small businesses and charities to gain exposure and growth through contracts, tenders, grant opportunities and business awards.

A total of £38m has been secured to date, and several prominent local, regional and national awards including Queen’s Awards, GSK and Chamber Business Awards. A multi-award-winning consultancy in its own right, Ask the Chameleon was chosen as the British Business Awards Micro Business of the Year in 2022.

I am the founder and MD – and the sole consultant working in the business.

How long have you been engaged with Enterprising Women and how has the network supported you?

I have been a Chamber member since 2018, and joined the Enterprising Women network the year after. The network has been vital for creating conversations with other businesswomen and shining a light on their achievements, offering support and inspirational talks from other business leaders, as well as learning new skills and refreshing current ones.

I have supported several fellow female business owners and their teams by writing their nominations for the Enterprising Women Awards and was proud to be chosen as the 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year.

I was also proud to be the speaker for their event last year, talking about my resilience journey and my experiences of the pandemic as a solo business owner.

What challenges have you faced during your career and how did you overcome them to achieve your success?

Running a business is a challenge for any individual – male or female, solo or with others, with a team of people or just by yourself. I have faced a pandemic where my business was ineligible for Government support, and I grew that business by 74% in 12 months.

I have since increased turnover by 50% in 2021/22, and 12.5% in 2022/23 – a total of 192% when compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic year).

I secured the support of fellow business owners – and the Chamber – to create and run The Swap Shop network, a free-to-use B2B skills swapping site for small businesses and charities. This was one of the most rewarding periods of my business life to date, and demonstrated the willingness of the small business community to always support each other.

I am HR by trade and worked for a considerable part of my employed career in the charity and social enterprise sector. The challenges I faced here – the constant search for funding, working with some of the most disadvantaged communities and individuals in Derby and Birmingham – prepared me extremely well for self-employment. You need the resilience and determination of a rhino, and the bouncebackability of a rubber ball. You need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and willing to ask for – and give – help.

And finally, to remember, there is always something to learn; never give up.

How did it feel to win an Enterprising Women Award, and how has it impacted your career so far?

I was unbelievably proud and honoured to have won – I had applied twice previously and been shortlisted (I think this is important to know – not everyone wins first time).

To be judged by your peers is incredibly rewarding and humbling. I wanted to show that business size is not an issue, and the award helped me to do just that. I hope I’ve encouraged other micro business owners to always seize the opportunities – and if you can’t find them, make them.

The award propelled my business into the spotlight, and I have secured new customers as a result. It also gave me a confidence boost, especially as I work alone and I met so many amazing women – and men – through the network.

What do you think is the main importance of networks, like Enterprising Women, for women in business?

Impactful and value driven connections support our business life. While business is competitive, we do not know it all (nor do we need to), and to have the support of other businesspeople and their own connections around us makes all the difference.

You go into business to do the thing you enjoy most, but need to tackle the jobs that you don’t enjoy or find difficult. A network can offer you the solution to those business problems, while lifting you up and helping you to grow.