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Friday, 23 April 2021
HELENA McBRIDE is the founder of the Space Maker, a professional decluttering business. She lives in Woodcote with her husband Julian and their sons, Adam, 17, and Toby-Joe, 15. She chairs Wallingford Air Cadets and keeps fit by going to the gym every day (in normal times).
Describe your business
I help people reclaim their space, both physical and mental. I do this by providing a calm, logical method for overcoming obstacles and barriers to achieve an organised decluttered environment.
How many people does it employ?
I am a sole trader but can call in help when required.
What did you do before you started the business?
I finished college when I was 18 and my first job was at the Chewton Glen Hotel in the New Forest. I then worked at the Oakley Court Hotel, near Windsor, followed by the Hintlesham Hall Hotel, near Ipswich, which was then owned by Robert Carrier. After four years in the hotel industry, I went into public relations in London and worked on a Microsoft account. I then worked at a clinical research company before going back into IT marketing and working across Europe. As our children grew up, I got involved with the pre-school in Woodcote and then joined the parent-teacher association at the primary school and also became a governor. In 2007 I founded the Woodcote village fete, which is still going strong.
When did you start your business?
Three years ago. I was telling a lady about how I had been helping friends organise their kitchens, utility rooms and offices. She owned a beautiful house in Kidmore End, which she used to rent out and she asked me to manage it for her a couple of days a week. As our working relationship developed, she asked if I would organise her daughter’s wedding, which I did. As a result, she wanted to use the house as a base for weddings and for me to organise them for her. However, I’d started to develop my own ideas for Space Maker.
What was your objective?
To provide a service to others that I enjoyed and knew I had a talent for. It also gives me a focus for when my boys eventually leave home.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
I have several colleagues at the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers who belong to our Facebook group and inspire and motivate me.
What would you do differently if could start again?
I would have become more active in networking and using social media sooner than I did.
What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having?
During the lockdown I’m not allowed to work in people’s houses. I’m doing some work virtually whereby clients use their iPhones and iPads to show me what they need help with. That way I can keep them focused and motivated.
How is your business doing?
Last year was pretty much a write-off.
How do you market your service?
My clients mostly come via word-of-mouth and through networking. But people also find me by Googling things like “decluttering” or “home organisation” and finding my website.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Flexibility. A lot of my clients are elderly and I really enjoy working with them.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Doing the accounts. I now use some software called Free Agent, which makes it much easier.
Where is your business headed?
When the current situation changes, I want to grow my business and start employing people.
Do you set goals for your business?
I’m much more tactical than strategic. I just get on and do it as opposed to thinking about it.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Having patience, especially with people who are indecisive. Also never underestimate the value of wearing a mask when working in dusty garages, cellars and lofts.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Plan carefully, manage your time and run an effective diary. Be prepared for “drown and drought” — things will not always go smoothly but don’t give up.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Tenacity, determination and consistency.
What’s the secret of your success?
I’ll have a go at anything.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Once I broke a jug belonging to a client. Fortunately, it wasn’t valuable and didn’t have any sentimental value, but I felt awful.
How organised are you?
My friends think I have obsessive–compulsive disorder.
How do you dress for work each day?
It depends where I’m working. Sometimes it’s an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt but if I’m in someone’s house where I’m not likely to get dirty I dress informally.
What can’t you do without every day?
My boys and at work my hand-held label printer.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
Normally I don’t stop for lunch.
What do you read?
Nothing but I have more than 300 audio books that I’ve listened to while working over the last three years.
How are you planning for retirement?
Why would I retire? Retirement gives you time to do the things you love and I already love what I’m doing.
25 January 2021
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