Updated: Mar 15
In this weekly blog series we aim to highlight fantastic creative people mainly from SE London who we either work with or admire. This week it’s Karen Eyre-White. Karen is the founder of Go Do, a time management business which helps busy, ambitious small business owners in London to get more done. Through hands-on organising help with their inbox, workspace and projects, and productivity coaching to put them back in control of their time, Go Do helps brilliant small business owners find a way of working that works for them.
What led you to start your business?
My ‘first career’ was as a Civil Servant. I helped to plan transport for the London Olympics, managed immigration casework teams and regulated the Premier League!
My last job was as Chief Exec of a safety regulator. I loved all the autonomy of running an organisation, but I realised that I wasn’t passionate about the subject matter. I just enjoyed getting things done.
When I thought about what it was that I loved to do, I looked over at my bookcase and realised it was full of books about time management and productivity. I had a yearning to start my own business and thought that would be a good place to start.
What were the biggest obstacles to starting up?
I took the big decision to leave my job while I was on maternity leave with my daughter. So, rather ironically, my biggest obstacle was having the time to do it.
I started slowly, juggling clients with looking after her and making the most of evenings and weekends when I could.
I used a local creche for a couple of hours each morning, and became an expert in using her nap to get things done.
Eventually we put her in nursery for two days a week, which gave me the time I needed to start building the business.
What do you love about your business?
I’m fascinated by how we choose to spend our time and what we can achieve if we’re intentional about it.
I love getting things done, and it’s so rewarding to help my clients move closer to where they want to be.
Sometimes they have other commitments as well – non-exec positions, voluntary roles,caring responsibilities – and I love the challenge of helping them to make it all fit together and still have some time left for themselves.
It’s not about doing more, more, more but about doing the right things to move yourself forward at a pace that works for you.
It’s a huge privilege to have small business owners share some of their biggest dreams and most significant challenges with me. I have huge respect for people who can share themselves at their most overwhelmed in order to get the help they need.
Who would be your dream client?
I love working with small business owners who are ambitious and brilliant at what they do, but need help with getting organised and getting things done. Often they are overwhelmed and over committed.
I love a bit of passion – a sense that their business is their life’s work, not just a way to pay the bills.
And I like working with people who are kind and friendly, and want to learn.
And finally, I have to admit to loving sorting a mess out, so I genuinely love it when clients come to me and say ‘My office is a mess. My inbox is a disaster zone. I can’t see the wood for the trees. HELP!’
Where would you like to take your business ultimately?
The sky’s the limit!
I’d love to expand into having a team, and to find ways to share my expertise with a wider audience perhaps online or through a book or podcast.
I’d also like to do more charity projects. Next year I’m running Go Give, where I’ll be taking donated Christmas cards and turning them in to gift tags to sell locally, with all profits going to charity (if you’d like to donate your cards, get in touch!).
Where have you received the most support along your journey?
When I first thought about starting a business, I didn’t know anyone else who had done it. I started going to business start-up courses at the British Library (which are great), went to some Enterprise Nation events (also great) and started to surround myself with people who thought it was a perfectly normal thing to do.
This was the game-changer for me. It turned it from whacky idea to something I could actually do.
I’ve also always known the things I can’t do myself and have prioritised getting that support.
Whether its brand design or headshots, I’ve reached out to other small business owners (thank you Gemma and Sara!) for their expertise and have felt very supported through that process.
Would you consider going back to employment for someone else now?
Never say never, but I love the autonomy of running my own business and getting to focus on whatever it is that excites me. I’m not sure I’ll ever get that from a ‘normal’ job.
What do you consider the key skills a small business person must have?
I think being a self-starter is essential, and having a positive, can-do attitude. You have to be able to do a little bit of everything in your business, especially when you start out, and that requires learning lots of new things.
One thing that small business owners often struggle with is motivation and getting things done without a ‘boss’ or large organisation to help them along and define what success looks like. There are ways of providing this structure for yourself, but sometimes it has to be learned.
Have you been influenced by any business books or blogs recently?
I am always the one to say ‘So I read this book and…’
I took myself off on a DIY 2020 planning retreat recently and took the book Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesca Miralles with me.
The book goes off at a bit of a tangent but the concept of Ikigai – finding your reason for living – really chimed with me. If you google Ikigai you’ll find a very pretty diagram telling you pretty much all you need to know.
I’m currently reading ‘Drop the Ball’ by Tiffany Dufu which is all about expecting less from yourself and giving yourself a break so you can prioritise the things that really matter. This is a theme which comes up consistently in my work with clients.
What would be your top tips for someone starting their own business?
My top three tips would be:
1. Get yourself out there. My first clients were the result of getting involved with the national association in my sector (yes, there is a national association of organisers! www.apdo.co.uk ) and being on some project groups. Meet people, tell them what you do, and be confident.
2. Work out the financials – how will your household function financially? I started by working out what changes we’d have to make and doing a trial period of actually making them to see if we could do it.
3. Get the support you need. We can’t all be good at everything and using someone else’s skills so we can focus on the things we love and are good at is money well spent.
Ultimately, the decision to start a business is often an emotional one rather than a rational one. Once you’ve done your research you’ll know in your heart what the right thing to do it. Then it’s just a matter of getting yourself over the line.
Do you think networking is important for your business?
Yes! I’ve been to a couple of local networking groups, including the fantastic monthly Self Employed Club at Space at 61, and they’ve been invaluable. Not only do they get you out there meeting new people but they bring you in to contact with other people running their own business, and give you ideas and inspiration for collaborations and projects.
‘Networking’ is a big word and lots of people are scared of it, but I like to think of it like just having a chat with someone over a cup of tea.
I’d love to hear from you.
Don't forget you can catch up on any interviews you may have missed here starting with interview 22 with Sarah Claxton
Interviews so far Interview 22 - Sarah Claxton
Interview 19 - Emete Friddle
Interview 18- Maddy Carrick
Interview 17 Anja David
Interview 16 -Bridget Daley
Interview 15 -Karen Arthur
Interview 14 -Rebecca Trowbridge
Interview 13 -Angélina Jandolo
Interview 12 -Kelly Harris
Interview 11 -Sara Dalrymple
Interview 10 -Ciarán O'Fathaigh
Interview 9 -Elizabeth Knights Trench
Interview 8 -Aba Edwards-Idun
Interview 7 -Roxsanne Slatford
Interview 6 -Lara Pearce
Interview 5 -Ashanti Jason
Interview 4- Shannon Reed
Interview 3 -Claire Connor
Interview 2 -Becca Teers
Interview 1 -Cat Bateman
Singing for my Supper
If you enjoyed reading this article and maybe others I've written, found a tip that worked for you or learned something new, it would be great if you'd consider sending me the price of a cup of coffee :) https://www.paypal.me/thanksforreading/2.50
Space at 61 is a venue for hire in Nunhead near Peckham. Often used for childrens parties, workshops, classes, talks, filming and popups you can hire us from £20per hour. The 'Have you Met?' Blog interview concept was created by by Shona Chambers owner of Space at 61 and Shona Chambers Marketing. To read more like this visit www.shonachambersmarketing.co.uk