Overcoming failure - How bankrupcy made me a success

Show me someone who is professionally successful, show me your career inspiration, show me your most admired mentor - and I will show you someone who has failed.

It is impossible to achieve greatness, in any area of life, without failing.

But the question many of my professional peers and clients are tackling is how do you bounce back when you've experienced a fall?

I wish I could say I take on every opportunity without the fear of failure. I'm nearly there but failure, in its many forms, is a bitter pill to swallow.

Yet, like anything, you're never great at it first time. You need to build resilience, trust in yourself that you can learn from your failures and come back stronger.

Easier said than done...

Failure teaches you a lot about yourself. Think back to your moments of failure and how you responded. If you retreated to the comfort of your sofa, a large packet of biscuits and wept into an even larger bottle of wine then that's ok, we all need to lick our wounds.

But did it stop your momentum? Did you pick yourself back up and learn from it? Did you find the opportunity in your failure?

I'm writing this blog post today because I speak from experience. I too have experienced what it feels like to be a big, fat, failure.

In 2008 I was a director of an extremely successful corporate events company. Everything was going from strength to strength and then the recession hit. Our clients stopped investing in events and the business took a tumble. Regrettably, myself and the other directors decided to close the business we had worked so hard to build.

The days following were some of the worst in my life. Not only had I lost my job and source of income but I had re-mortgaged my home to invest into what I had thought was prosperous and growing business. Now suddenly, I was at risk of losing my home and unable to pay my bills.

I thought I was at rock bottom.

Then my son came home from school reporting on the playground gossip swirling around the parents who had caught wind of my failure. As a single mother determined to never let him down you can imagine how this felt.

I thought I was at rock bottom.

The next day, I assessed my financial state and there was no other option but to file for bankruptcy. Speaking to my mum on the phone to tell her what had just happened she said four words that will stay with me forever. "Well" she said "that is good news".

After picking myself up of the floor I asked what on earth she meant. Her response? "You've hit rock bottom. The only way is up now".

How right she was. Over the coming weeks I decided that I would NOT be losing mine and my son's home. Crucially, I decided I would work for myself so that any decision making would be done by me - I would be fully responsible for my future.

The idea for Simply Bows and Chair Covers came to me after I had experienced poor service at my brother's wedding and I knew it was something I could do well.

If I was to say the business just flourished from there, I would be lying. Imagine trying to trade when you have no bank account and no credit history? Walking from bank to bank blagging for a foot in the door was another 'bad day' I will chalk up to the experience of failure. Eventually my determination paid off and I was able to start my business which went on to turn over £79,000 in its first year.

When I look back on this failure I remember the dark days but I also view bankruptcy, my rock bottom, as the biggest freedom that has ever been afforded to me. It reignited my drive, made me focus and made me, dare I say it, proud of myself.

This and many other experiences of failure have driven me to launch my own consultancy business where I mentor those at a crossroads in their lives. Whether they are CEOs, start-ups or individuals, I now use my personal experience and learnings to help guide others who find themselves experiencing the cross roads of failure.

"Sarah Pittendrigh was a fantastic addition to our speaking roster at our small business initiative event, #SBS Small Business Sunday 2019. Sharing her journey on building up her business, as well as how to franchise a business, her session proved invaluable for our small business attendees and the feedback has been excellent! Thank you Sarah."

Jess Littlewood - #SBS Small Business Sunday, Theo Paphitis Retail Group

"Sarah is everything a successful entrepreneur should be, creative, tenacious with a clear vision on how to develop her business. She never ceases to impress me with her energy, attention to detail and most importantly, is always comfortable leading from the front with her hands on management style..."

Nick Holmes - Former MD at Rockliffe Hall, Non Executive Director positions at Gisborough Hall, Swinton Estate and Ramside Hall

"Having set up my business when I was 23, Sarah's advice and experiences in the wedding industry were a vital part in the success of my Simply Bows and Chair Covers franchise. As a franchisor, Sarah has always been on the other end of the phone to help me with my dilemmas and pass on her experience and business advice..."

Joanne Smith - Simply Bows and Chair Covers Lancashire

"Sarah was asked to support the wedding product here. Right from the first meeting she was professional, personable and down to earth. She found out as much information as possible, including attending events to get a feel for our product first hand and give her the best insight..."

Ruairidh Taylor - Hotel Manager, Gisborough Hall Hotel

"I hope our paths cross again before too long because I think you’re a brilliant example to budding doubters like me and a flipping great individual too! Thanks again for the inspiration you are and always be aware that folks like me, who’ve had the good fortune to meet you, are better for it..."

Alan Green - Corporate Photographer

"Sarah is an extremely good listener and will look at projects from all angles and give help and advice from her perspective.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Sarah as a mentor and indeed will be back in touch with her soon with regards to my next business venture..."

Katie Lindsay-Brown

"I was so inspired by Sarah’s story, where she had been, what she had endured and the phenomenal success she made Simply Bows and Chair Covers I just knew I had to be a part of this great business model.
I have now been running my franchise for the last 4 years and I love it. Sarah is very supportive, knowledgeable and I know if I need advice she will always be there..."

Adele - Simply Bows & Chair Covers, South Wales