Redefining success: From corporate stability to franchise freedom

With a tag line of ‘Discover your tomorrow’ the BFA’s CEO Pip Wilkins explores the remarkable stories of Gemma, Tasha, and Andy

Redefining success

With a tag line of ‘Discover your tomorrow’ the BFA’s CEO Pip Wilkins explores the remarkable stories of Gemma, Tasha, and Andy, who opted for a midlife career change by becoming franchise owners. Discover the motivations behind their leaps, the challenges they faced, and the unparalleled satisfaction they found in pursuing their true passions through franchise ownership.

It’s fair to say that for most of us our career paths are fairly ordinary, we may take a while to find our path in our youth, but generally, by our mid 30’s we know what we’re doing. Personally, I joined the BFA in 2016 and worked my way up to my current role as CEO so I personify ‘ordinary’!

Facing a seismic change

But what if life throws you a curveball? What if you throw up your hands in middle age and say ­­­­‘Stop, enough, I want something else.’  Is it too late? Can you really change career in middle age and succeed and can buying a franchise be part of that seismic change?

Franchising to the rescue

I’m glad to say that yes, it can and the proof of the pudding is delivered in the form of Gemma, Tasha and Andy. These three gave up their extremely stable jobs in middle age, to buy a franchise and do something they felt passionate about and they all say it was 100% the right decision to make and would recommend it to anyone.

From financial crime to baby and child sleep consultant

There can’t be many more extraordinary leaps than going from investigating financial fraud for a major commercial bank to helping parents get their babies and children to sleep, but it’s a jump Gemma Farrar, the owner of Little Dreams (Bath and Swindon) made in December 2021.

Infertility Journey

Gemma had a long infertility journey involving numerous devastating baby losses before she finally gave birth to her son in September 2018. A few months later she found herself struggling to get him to sleep and a friend recommended Little Dreams Consulting. Gemma admits to being very pessimistic about it, thinking seeking a sleep consultant’s services would be a waste of time and generally dismissed the idea. A few months later, when sleep deprivation was becoming a serious issue, she finally gave in and spoke to Little Dreams. Within two nights of starting the sleep plan her son was sleeping soundly in his own room and Gemma was a convert. When a Little Dreams newsletter dropped into her inbox a year later, at the same time her company was offering her voluntary redundancy, she took it as a sign and purchased the Bath and Swindon territory.

Can we afford it?

She says: “My husband and I sat down and did the figures, seeing if we could afford for me to stop work and start up a new business. Between my savings and his salary, we worked out we could, without having to cut back too much.”

Full time mum and loving her franchise business

Gemma says that although running your own business isn’t easy, she enjoys the challenge and the benefits to her family are huge. “The first year of owning a business is tough; you must learn about your business, your local area and figure out the lay of the land. Ultimately, although I have support from my franchisor, the buck stops with me. It is up to me to make it work. It helps that I am so passionate about the service, helping other mums and dads like me to finally get some sleep. I am now able to be a full-time mum to our son, something that would not have been possible if I’d returned to work in the bank.”

She concludes: “I would absolutely recommend anyone to consider a complete career change, it has been a great experience for me, and regret is not something I would wish on anybody.”

From zoology to oncology the nursing couple who gave it all up for pets

For Tasha and Andy, the owners of We Love Pets Bury St Edmunds, the prompt to change careers was Tasha’s health. Unbelievably, sitting badly during an interview caused a disc to slip which meant four weeks flat out in bed. As soon as she recovered from that she was struck by pneumonia for four months leaving the pair scratching their heads saying, “We can’t possibly be this unhappy; something needs to change.”

Britain’s finest

For back story, Tasha and Andy are the backbone of Britain. Andy was a trauma nurse for 15 years, working in surgical theatre and emergency trauma and Tasha was an oncology and palliative nurse for 22 years. They have both most certainly done their duty to this country, something that was important to them both, and we thank them for it.

“What makes you happy?”

Their stress filled jobs had left them depleted, especially after Covid and with Tasha’s run of bad luck health wise, they knew it was time for a change. “What makes you happy?” Andy asked Tasha during one of their ‘what shall we do next’ conversations. Her was simply: “walking the dog.”

Even more back story, before Tasha became a nurse at 29, she had a full career working in a zoo and being a groom to thoroughbred horses in private stables across Europe. She still looks after a retired police horse but says she is just as happy with a pony today.

A rainbow for luck

With the words ‘Walking the dog’ in mind they researched opportunities to work with animals and came across We Love Pets. A meeting with co-owner Ryan White and a rainbow seen in the sky on their way to their first meeting, and the decision was made.

So, what were the benefits of leaving behind nursing and running their own pet care company?

Tasha said: “As far as possible we can plan our own diary. I can block out a long weekend or an afternoon off (although it is likely to be gazumped by a booking as we bend over backwards to help our clients.) It’s also wonderful working with each other; we are both fiery characters and we’ve had to learn to have not only a personal but also a working relationship which has revealed sides to us that we may never have seen.”

“Life changing, liberating and empowering”.

She continued: “Buying We Love Pets Bury St Edmunds has been life changing, liberating and empowering for us. It’s very hard work, we go out in all weathers, even if we are poorly as we were over Christmas, but it is a lifestyle we are passionate about and we are so glad we made the change. Our advice? Ask yourself why you are doing it, be open to all possibilities and ultimately follow your dreams.”

Your friend in franchising – The BFA

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Pip Wilkins
Pip Wilkins