Concept to Launch

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

I moved to Watford from Suffolk in August 2018 and got a job working nights five days a week in a pastry kitchen in September. This was hard because I have a toddler who I was up with during the day so most days I'd get no sleep or two hours sleep. I would tell myself this is temporary and for the greater good. In the background I'd do what I can to research, work through creating my business. I consumed literature, podcasts, blogs and documentaries at an intense rate. I tried not to waste a single moment as it felt like it would slow down progress somehow. My health suffered big time! I had two severe asthma attacks within a week of each other which both resulted in hospital stays. I was deeply unhappy with my whole situation professionall I hated the amount of hours I was working and the way certain staff would talk (shout) at me, personally - I was missing my friends, missing my home and the area I lived previously, relationship wise - there was none there was no support, no understanding, no consideration, no communication literally at breaking point. Lifestyle - I wasn't happy with my inactivity, lack of sleep, poor diet since moving, lack of social life and financial freedom.

November 2018 I made the decision to take the plunge and start my own business! I had always wanted to be my own boss I just wasn't sure in what. I always want to be doing something that benefits and helps others and the past year I had been doing a lot of championing of women and supporting one to one. When I was about 21 maybe even younger I had the idea of running events for single mothers as I was a single mother at the time but took onboard the negative views of others that single mums don't do business and that nobody would take me seriously having a baby out of wedlock and being a single mum. These negative views followed me for the longest time and became my narrative my reason for not achieving the things I wanted which now makes me incredibly sad but there is a reason for everything and trusting the timing of our lives is definitely something I'm all about these days. I'm a more confident, stronger more sure person and parent now and my focus and dedication is too. Building the business now after all I have been through from 21 to 35 years old was what was meant to happen so that I could drawn on my experiences and help others to do what they truly want to do.

For most of 2018 I worked on myself and expanding my skills and mindset. I did a few No bull business school courses run by Sarah Akwisombe, the one I feel had the deepest impact was the money and manifestation course. There is a lot to take in and be real with yourself about otherwise it wont work. Change can be hard especially when it involves being self reflective and honest about the stories we tell ourselves as to why we can't live the life we want to live. To be responsible for our own narratives instead of giving others the power to influence us negatively. Questioning the beliefs held around money, where they came from what emotions are attached and changing habits for more positive ones. I had a couple of 1-2-1 sessions with Sarah and they were great she really just cuts through the fluff gets to the point and tells it how it is. She said to me that what I was doing is unsustainable and that everyone needs sleep in order to be a great entrepreneur I needed to look into childcare options so I can have that dedicated time for both the business and my family. She was completely right but at the time I couldn't entertain the thought of leaving my toddler with strangers but now the more I think about it and the more momentum I get I know what she said is completely correct. I found a local business start up hub called Wenta who help people to start up businesses of their own with free courses and resources. These were priceless because I was so determined to get the boring stuff down like taxes and book keeping so that from the very beginning everything could run as smooth as possible. There was also 121 mentoring available too which was great in coming up with connection ideas that I wouldn't have come up with myself.

There was another crucial influence that took me from concept to launch and that was Nicola Rae-Wickham founder of A life more inspired and her Dream, Flourish and Do mentoring. I had been listening to a lot of audiobooks by people who have businesses, financial abundance and a lifestyle I aspire to have in the near future and each and every one of them said that business mentoring is a must and worth investing in. I totally agree! I honestly had no idea how I was going to achieve what I wanted to achieve I just knew I wanted to do a list of things that would benefit everyone but Nicola helped me to hone in on exactly how I was going to make that happen what stuff I can do now and what stuff will come later on. In four months I had come up with a business model, figured out a name (don't force this it will come) registered a limited company, contacted brands, empowering women who I'd love to speak at my events or be involved in some way, organised and hosted a free connection event and organised and hosted my first supper club. I've learnt a lot and put in a lot of work but feel good about it all as it is all going in the right direction. I may have some top up 1-2-1 sessions with Nicola in the future to check in and make sure things are going in the right direction and not just coasting along.

In February 2019 I lost my job in the kitchen due to the shift changing from a night to a day shift which I could not do due to childcare. This was more of a push to get House of Cleo up and running. I read more, I listened more, I wrote down exactly what I wanted and how I was going to get it. You could say I got a little obsessed it was all I wanted to talk about and all I wanted to do. I applied for many night jobs but there isn't much selection it's either care work, security work or supermarket work. I didn't hear back from anything but on a grocery shop I saw a sign advertising night work so when I got home I was straight on the website applying for the job, the application process was long! but a few days later I was invited in for an event day which was kinda like a group interview. I was honest the whole way through saying how I'm working here until I get my business to a point where I can pay myself, surprisingly this was met with a positive respond. Everyone in that room went on to get jobs there. At first I had all kinds of negative thoughts in my head about working a job that really has no skill to it but then I shook it off and remembered the reasons why I applied in the first place.

1. To earn money while I build my own business

2. To get use to speaking to people from different walks of life

3. To have my financial freedom back

4. To use the time at work as thinking and creating time

5. To allow me the best of both world working and spending time with my family

Isn't strange how we tell ourselves these negative stories about working in certain places but when we sit and think about where these views came from you realise it was passed down by your parents or those you grew up with. It's weird because I don't look at those working there and judge them but decided to judge myself. I'm consciously being kinder to myself as it serves nobody to be so down on yourself, we all make our dreams work for us and what works for me may not work for others and vice versa. I could put the Bubba in full time nursery and go get a kitchen design job which would be great but I know I would be miserable knowing that my son was in full time care so my route of night work and days running around after him is what makes me happy plus I can nap with him during the day. Who doesn't love falling asleep with their Bubba in their arms? and being woken up by said Bubba pouring a bottle of water all over you (true story)? it's these precious moments I treasure.

Precious moments with my Bubba

House of Cleo has a clear vision to inspire women to live life on their own terms because I speak to so many women who say things like "oh I could never do that" or "I'd love to do that but I could never" Why not? there is nothing special about me I just choose to put myself in certain situations because I'd rather regret the things I have done than the things I haven't!

The original plan for the supper club was to host them from my house, cook the food myself, and host. The issue with that plan is my house isn't big enough to accommodate the amount of people I'd need to make it profitable and not a hobby. The logistics of having a tornado toddler, clingy over excited dog, a teenager daughter and a partner that likes to sit around in his pants didn't really work with the dream supper club ambience I was looking to create. I looked into different options and decided on doing it from restaurants but this too had issues as many venues wouldn't accommodate a private ticketed event and being closer to London meant that prices were a lot higher putting the cost of running a supper club from the places I found at an average of £75 person and that is before we add a speaker, travel expenses, profit, marketing and finishing touches. Locally there is a great Italian restaurant in Bushey called Zaza it is stunning inside with a feature indoor tree adorned with lights and cigar brown leather buttoned seating. The staff are on point attentive but no intrusive and the food is delicious. This became the setting for the first supper club. Once I booked it along with the Prosecco reception I took to Canva to make up promotional flyers and social media posts to promote the launch, I just needed to wait for the speakers to confirm before I could release details but once they did I was all about that supper club I wanted everyone to be excited for it because I was ecstatic about my first supper club because I could visualise the night and the conversations and the reactions to the incredible information being shared. To speak at the event I had Sareta Fontaine a multi award winning blogger to talk all things being yourself and money expert, founder of You4Us and published author Paula Perry to talk all things money.

Zaza Bushey

The launch was well received and in that first week I sold five tickets. I then got ill and that took a week to get over then I went away to France where everything came to a head and there were so real moments and decisions that occurred in my personal life. When I got back I was not in a good place, I was mentally exhausted and ready to go it alone again as a single mother but we worked through it made a decision to be present, do more and do it together. We marked the occasion by celebrating the year again as a marker of how we wish to continue and this has been very effective. This was another week that i wasn't working on the business or promoting the launch so in total there were three weeks that I really should have been connecting with people and shouting about the supper club but wasn't. In the end it all worked out! Sometimes we really need to take a step back and get our house in order because it can bleed negatively into every aspect of our lives.

Moving forward with intention

After getting my mindset back on point I went in on the organisation for the supper club I created gift boxes for the guests, contacted many women in business to see if they would like to contribute towards the gift boxes, I attempted to connect with the guests who were attending so that they at least felt comfortable with me which hopefully in turn would make them feel more comfort in turning up to the event on their own. I always want the things I do to come from a place of kindness and empathy.

I decided not to decorate the table or the area and concentrate on the connection to the guests and speakers, ensuring everyone was at ease. I have a tendency to get a little ambitious with the things I do so I really had to reign it in and remind myself that the place that I want to be is a place I will get to in time and that I do not need to do everything all at once.

On the morning of the supper club I had been working the night before my shift finishes at 7am. I got to my car went to start it up and it wouldn't turn over it just kept clicking urgh... why this morning?! I called my partner who came to my rescue with jump leads. This ate into the sleep I was planning on getting before I got the Bubba back at 12pm. I didn't get home until 9am so quickly let the dog out fed her put fresh water in her bowl did a few other bits before trying to get some sleep. The moment my head hit that pillow there was a loud drilling noise, to say I was annoyed was an understatement! as the drilling continued for an hour I jumped up out of bed screamed my head off opened my bedroom window that opens onto the street and shouted out of it "Thank you for messing up my freaking sleep!" this is the censored version of what I actually said haha

The Bubba was then dropped off which meant I now had to put together the gift boxes, make place cards, work out how the macarons were being going to get to to me or if I was going to write them off, make sure that the speakers know where to go, put out posts on instagram so that guests know where to go and all the other little niggles that needed to be done. It was a very stressful afternoon luckily the Bubba had a nap so I was able to create the place cards and put the boxes together without much interruption. I was worried the macarons weren't going to come in time as I needed to leave home by 6.15pm at the latest to get to the station to pick up the speakers luckily they came at 6pm so I had 15 minutes to unpack and repack all the gift boxes and it was tight but I did it.

I drove to the station in my partners car which is an automatic (I've driven it once) which is very sensitive compared to my car which needs to be put to the floor so i stalled it a few times and slammed the brakes on countless times by accident throwing everything from the back to the from which got me so mad, there were tears. What a freaking day! When I got to the station and saw Sareta I calmed a bit and concentrated on getting her to the venue safe!

Sareta at Zaza in Bushey

Once there we took a few pictures and went inside, the staff had set up the table for us and were waiting at the bar to greet us. I put the gift boxes on the table with the place cards then guests started to arrive, I greeted each one with a hug introduced myself and the others guest. It was such a great vibe with all the women talking to each other even though they hadn't met before. Paula and Sareta were just the most inspiring speakers talking through their experiences and giving candid advice on how to move forward in your own way. The food was devine, service attentive and the atmosphere of the night was everything I could have hoped for so much so I kept forgetting that I was hosting. This is something that I need to work on for next time! I am so happy with the way the night went and the feedback that I received from the women around the table and look forward to organising the next one.

I'd like to say a massive thank you to Sareta Fontaine and Paula Perry for being a part of the supper club launch and making the night so special and also all the guests that attended and online supporters who have cheered me on through every step of the journey. This is only the beginning and I look forward to seeing where my company will be in the future.

Paula Perry, Cleo Walters, Sareta Fontaine



Sweet toothed, travel loving, audiobook addict who is also a mum of two. Her passion for inspiring women to find what lights them up, encouraging independence, self awareness and self love through coaching, events and online support have spawned a safe place where women can rediscover who they are this place is House of Cleo.

 Founder and Life Coach 

Cleo Walters

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