Meet the founder of Bowes-Lyon Partnership
Hi Hayley, thank you so much for joining me. Tell me a little bit about yourself and Bowes-Lyon Partnership
I am the founder and director of Bowes-Lyon Partnership, an elite personal matchmaking agency for the busy professional, with offices in London and Surrey. My background is in VIP customer service, which I learned over in America in the hospitality industry. America leads the way in customer service, especially for the luxury end of the market. In my twenties I moved into events and became a wedding planner. This was my first move into the romance industry and I helped couples, including a few celebrities, to plan their special day.
Who or what inspired you to get started?
Like many entrepreneurs I was inspired to solve a problem that I had myself. I got divorced in my later twenties and suddenly found, not only that my wedding planner role didn’t resonate with me anymore, but also, I suddenly found myself on the dating scene and I couldn’t see how busy professionals could meet each other. Other than the internet, which can seem a demoralising and time-consuming place to be. I wanted something more. It didn’t seem to exist for people in my age-group, so I created it.
What do you think sets your business apart?
Two words - Customer Service. My experience of other agencies has been that communication occurs only when there is something to say, a date or feedback, for example. The difference at Bowes-Lyon is that we ensure there is frequent contact with the members, whatever is going on. This way members never feel left in limbo, nor do they feel alone on the dating journey. We take customer service beyond the everyday level, into customer care. At Bowes-Lyon we are involved in member’s lives, full-time, not just when there is an introduction to be made.
How did you fund the launch of your business and what creative strategies did you use to execute a minimal cash flow?
I kept the costs low by working out of my kitchen and by doing as much as I could myself. I wore every hat and worked long hours to ensure I could build the business. The biggest upfront investment was my time and energy, rather than money.
How do you handle those moments doubt?
Necessity! Doubt will always creep in, we all have those negative voices. The more risks you take the more this voice shows up. But the necessity of having to make it work pushes me through. I have a responsibility to my members, and my employees, and it is a huge driving factor for me.
I have also been a part of a Mastermind Group for the last three years, working alongside other small businesses. Hearing their stories, successes and struggles helps me to understand that I am not the first person to tread this path, and I can learn from others who have already been there and done it. It helps to give me some outside perspective to moments of doubt.
Who is your ideal customer?
Our target audience is professional, educated people who are single and committed to finding a long-term relationship. People who often have demanding careers and lifestyles, and a lack of time to focus on their personal lives.
Not surprisingly, our membership portfolio includes many entrepreneurs who run their own businesses!
What first in the mornings; phone, book, laptop or me time?
I wish! First thing in the morning, it’s time to get my children up and ready for school and nursery. I imagine it’s a similar story for most mumpreneurs. Luckily modern technology does give me the flexibility to check emails on the go, or have a skype meeting with my team in the office.
What plans do you have for Bowes-Lyon Partnership over the coming 12 months?
The company has grown so much, that we had to open our second office in Surrey, three years ago. With the projected growth in 2018 I will need to recruit some more employees to maintain our exceptional levels of customer service to all our members.
I get many enquiries about franchising the business in other countries, and I have always put these ideas aside, but it feels like the time is right to explore these options more this year.
What’s do you think entrepreneurs should be asking themselves?
Are they passionate about their business or idea? Because without passion, they will fall at the first hurdle. We all know the statistics about how many businesses fold in the first year or two. Entrepreneurs need to be dedicated and prepared to work extra hard until their company takes off. Without passion, this level of commitment will be hard to maintain.
What habits do you think helped you to become successful?
The biggest obstacle for me has been the ability to ‘let go’ and delegate. As entrepreneurs we know our business inside out, and often feel we are best equipped to deal with everything, but it is physically impossible to do everything and grow a business. I have had to train myself to let go and give responsibility and autonomy to my employees, and make that a daily habit.
What are your thoughts on failure as an entrepreneur?
It is essential. All of my failures, and mistakes in business, are etched on my brain, but I have learnt valuable lessons and improved with each and every one of them.
If we are afraid to fail we won’t try anything new, innovative or bold. We must take risks and accept that, if we fail, we will recover, learn from it and then get back up stronger. Its cliché but it’s true. Fear will hold you back, always.