Alison Rothwell Q and A Interview
Can you share your back story with us, a bit about your childhood?
I grew up in a small village in Lancashire and went to a local comprehensive school. A child of the Seventies, I seem to remember long hot Summers, playing in the fields nearby, blackberry picking and country walks. My Grandma was a polio sufferer so I spent many hours at her house [just across the road], baking, sewing, knitting and crocheting – learning all the things she could teach me from her kitchen table. I wish I was still as crafty!
Growing up I was an active member of St John Ambulance, competing in First Aid competitions [I was later appointed as their Head of PR] so that kept me busy, I did a lot of voluntary work at events etc. I also enjoyed drama and was a regular in school plays – but was fairly rubbish at PE!
I was the first member of my entire family to stay in education after the age of 16, so going to University, where most people had parents who were graduates was an alien experience at times. I did become very politically active though – winning student elections and served on a couple of NUS committees.
After graduating, I took a full-time post in politics for a year and moved to London. I always wanted to be a journalist, but not being able to fund a Journalism course, I did the next best thing in my mind and became an in-house PR. I eventually combined political life with communications and worked for the Government Information and Communication Service for several years in marketing/press roles at Revenue and Customs, the Cabinet Office and the Home Office.
Were you a determined child or has that developed?
I would say that I have always been quite focused. I was always the person who would be planning the next step instead of just letting things happen. Sometimes I wish I could be more laid back, but when life has got tough, I’ve been able to draw on this focus to carry me through.
Can you share something about yourself that is not widely known?
In my early Twenties, I was elected as a Councillor and Opposition Chief Whip in probably the toughest London Borough at the time. I am a former head of PR for the Guides and Brownies and I am a genealogy geek! [I know, those are three things – Maths was always my weak point!]
How and when did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
After I had my youngest child it wasn’t possible for me to return to my previous Government job, so I took the leap then. So I launched an online business, manufacturing luxury organic children’s clothing. But it wasn’t as easy as I expected.
My business won awards, was featured in magazines AND on National TV, but my website didn’t make many sales. When I started to figure out why I realised I had hardly any traffic to my website – I needed SEO – to get me customers fast!
I couldn’t believe that my dream of having an online store, where you could sell to anyone, anyone in the world, was turning sour because nobody seemed to know that my business actually existed!
So, to save my business, I learnt EVERYTHING I could about making sales online. I must have read every book on internet marketing, joined every online discussion forum I could and I even paid to have private access to some of the best online marketing experts in the world. Slowly, I began to figure it all out and started to put into practice what I had learnt on my own website.
Once I reached the #1 Google spot, other businesses asked me to work for them, so in 2011 I closed my online stores and launched my marketing consultancy, specialising in luxury brands, the wedding industry and high profile experts. In 2014 I launched another business to help small business owners who needed reliable tech support.
Tell us about your businesses…
I have two! WP Fiddly Bits, a WordPress development agency, which fixes tech issues, hosts and maintains websites and AlisonRothwell.com – digital marketing consultancy delivering SEO and Social Media, done for you, done with you and helping you to DIY!
What did you give up to get to where you are today? What did you have to sacrifice?
The obvious thing would be my reliable income and the status from employment! I would say that the sacrifice has been my own personal time and being able to switch off. As a full-time entrepreneur and breadwinner, I feel the pressure most of the time. However, the highs compensate for the lows! I love being my own boss and being able to work flexibly and from wherever I choose. And I am crackers about the Internet – so I’m really working in a business I love.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?
Probably public speaking in hostile environments – but although tough at the time, its given me the ability to really enjoy delivering presentations and trainings in my business, as I rarely get nervous as a result now [and there usually aren’t as many hecklers!].
What are your goals for 2016 and beyond?
At the moment I’m niching and rebranding AlisonRothwell.com – so that’s a fairly big goal. I’m also streamlining a lot this year and making sure I’m running my business rather than the other way round – and moving to focus more on creating new systems that help me to run the business and manage staff more easily. I’d love to do a lot more speaking over the next 18 months too.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Do you have any big Goals?
I’d like to be travelling more – I think there’s a lot of the world I haven’t seen yet. I think I’ll still be Geeking about and getting excited over the latest marketing thang!
A big goal for me would be to get some “talking-heads” roles on radio/TV – I just love the brave new online world and would relish an opportunity to put my oar in to the geeky debates of the day!
Can you share 3 #BizTips for Women in Business
Invest in mentoring/coaching/training – I have been a member of various mastermind groups in both the US and the UK and this has grown my business more quickly as a result.
Network – make new friends and connections – it makes business life more fun – and rewarding! Try and go to some kind of business event every month, and if you meet someone great, keep in touch!
Get to love your figures – I use Xero [other accounting packages are available] and I use this to keep an eye on my bottom line with weekly profit/loss reports. I also recommend reading Profit First –profitfirstbook.com
How can people best connect with you online? twitter, website, youtube?
OOOh – most places online – probably Facebook www.facebook.com/alisonrothwell – please PM me and connect with me there – I love connecting with new peeps, so don’t be shy!
I’m also on Instagram and Twitter @alisonrothwell.
#BizRocks readers can grab themselves an amazing 50% discount on my infamous #WebsiteDetox by booking here: http://wpfiddlybits.com/bizrocks-special-offer/
You can read more from Alison Rothwell – The Two Pages On Your Website You Can’t Ignore – And How They Can Make You More Sales inside #BizRocks Magazine Issue 41