Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Curvy and Sucessful: - Behind the scenes at the PA Life Shoot and Interview with Dawn Lane

Dawn is one of our great British entrepreneurs, she runs two business "Your office online" and "Virtual Business in a box". 

If you remember last week I mentioned that Dawn was participating in our AW13 Dea London photo shoot for a feature in the September edition of PA Life.  

So as well as getting to read a personal interview with Dawn.  
I thought as we had so much fun on the day that I'd show you some preview pictures from the shoot, :0) .

Jane Britton - Tell us about yourself and what your business does?
DL - "I run two businesses – Your Office Online and Virtual Business in a Box. My main business is Your Office Online and it provides remote secretarial services, typically PA and bookkeeping services, to a number of Small and Medium Sized businesses (SMEs), sole traders and business start-ups. Virtual Business in a Box is a bi-product of Your Office Online and provides support to budding entrepreneurs and business start-ups  with products that enable them to start their own businesses within 30 days through web site design and hosting, logo and branding, copywriting and by providing guides, business templates and mentoring."

JB - What exactly does a Virtual Assistant do?

DL -" A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a highly-skilled professional who provides administrative, bookkeeping and other services including technical and / or creative business support to SMEs, sole traders and business start-ups. As most VAs also run their own business, they are well aware of type of challenges their clients are going through trying to run the administration side of their business and a VA is there to ensure the back office systems are in place to allow their clients to work on their businesses not in their business."

JB - Have you always wanted to run your own business?

DL - "No. When at school, I was going to become a nurse but decided (on a whim) to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service."

JB - When was the business founded?

DL - "I founded Your Office Online in 2006 and worked part time until April 2007 when I jumped into working full time in the business – with only 2 small clients! One of those clients is still with me today and I now work with 7 ‘full time’ clients and have another 3 or 4 that I do ad hoc work with every few months."

JB - Is it just yourself running the business or do you have people working for you

DL - "It is primarily just me but I also work with a number of Associate VAs – some I help out and some help me out in busy times."

JB - What were you doing before starting up?

DL - "On leaving the Royal Navy in 1999, I worked for Devon and Cornwall Constabulary as a civilian communications officer for a while but after a year or so reassessed my transferable skills and decided that I was actually very good at organising other people and their administration and decided to become a PA."

JB - Where did the idea for your business come from?

DL - "It was whilst working at the SHA that I spotted a gap in the market and decided to set up my own company. My boss was my inspiration – she was always travelling and I was sat in the office working with her remotely.  After some research I discovered that there was a thriving industry in Australia and the USA for freelance secretaries who called themselves Virtual Assistants." 
JB - What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

DL - "My advice to budding entrepreneurs would be to make sure they research their industry sector, be passionate about what they want to do and make sure they build the foundations of their business strongly before starting out. Many businesses fail because they think they can turn their current role / trade into a self-employed business but don’t think about the ‘business’ bit of it – the rules, legislation, their business plan etc – these are so important to get right and it they aren’t strong the business could very easily fail. In the Navy we had 7 Ps: Proper Prior Planning Prevents P**s Poor Performance – ie if you don’t plan properly you’ll fail."

JB - Where do you want to be in five years' time?

DL - "Retired! No, I would be bored.  I’m hoping to be able to set up workshops and a training package for budding Virtual Assistants and continue providing my clients with the high standard of support I currently give them.I’m also hoping to be able to promote Virtual Business in a Box more and help budding start-ups to set up and successfully run their own business."

JB - I read on your site that you used to be in the Royal Navy? 
DL - "Yes, for 22 years. I had only intended to do a four year contract but loved it so much I stayed."

JB - Do you think the disciplines in the Navy helped you in your career?

DA  -" Very much so. The military instilled self-confidence and self-discipline into me and left me with a ‘can do’ attitude, which is certainly needed when running your own business – particularly if you are a solopreneur. 

 When working on your own you have to wear many hats – IT manager, communications and PR, marketing, administrator etc and my military service help me develop the necessary skills to be able to think on my feet, be practical about working on my own and to know when to seek help (and not be afraid to ask for it) when needed."

JB - What awards have you won for the secretarial and PA services that you provide?

DL - "In 2009 I was the first VA in the UK to be VAcertified. This is a worldwide benchmark for Virtual Assistants who have demonstrated to an elite peer group from around the globe that they possess a unique combination of professional work experience, education and training, and demonstrated contributions to the VA industry.

In 2010 I was runner up in the Freelance section of the Remote Workers Award."

JB - Tell us one thing about yourself that nobody else knows?

DL - "Whilst in the Royal Navy I was an instructor at the New Recruit School, HMS Raleigh and was the first female to instruct the SA80 rifle. I was also known as ‘the Rottweiler with lipstick!’"

JB - What’s your philosophy in life?

DL - "Just do it! Life is too short to pontificate so grab everything that you can whilst you can as you never know what’s going to happen. I also say ‘don’t regret what you’ve done, but what you’ve not done’."
Also see the article about Dea London featuring Dawn in the August edition of PA Life. 


Written by Janie Britton  - Copyright 29/04/2013 -

Dea London - see the SS13 collection on line now.
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