Jan shares her inspiring story of being a single mom who took her small sales business from nothing to a million-pound business. She describes how she did it, the pitfalls she went through even after her business was a success, and what helped her get through. Along the way, she was able to pursue her childhood dream of being a writer. She reminds us that even if things are tough at first it’s always worth it to pursue your dreams and build the life you want.
Ari: Welcome to his prison bricks. My name is Avi showing I’m your host I have with me today Jan Cavell very, very interesting woman. As a teenager, Jan Cavell went to a very posh UK boarding school, which groomed young ladies for marriage. Well failing to be groomed. Jan progressed to London and became a suitable secretary, which lasted about a week. With a keen desire to be independent. Jan started working her way through a succession of jobs finding secretarial work a nightmare and sales easy. She hated being employed and at the mercy of the decisions and expectations of others. So initiate a series of hustles from selling to catering. She travelled around Europe and had a miserable job as a cook, but also found some excitement and taken an old ferry boat for a test sale to see if she was see whether she wasn’t. A marriage left Jen with two small kids to support and very little experience to do so. Refusing to go out to work and leave them she started a small business telephone selling bits and pieces to interior designers operating from a shelf under the stairs of a tiny cottage. After a lot of mistakes and crazy Gamble’s it succeeded and became a multi million pound business. The designers wanted furniture but as Jan was no furniture designer, she put her sales hat on, looked what sold and developed her current ranges earning herself the honorable title of quote unquote designer. Despite awards and exciting experiences, Jen still struggle with insecurity and imposter syndrome. Once her son had left for Australia, she struggled to scale the business not having the same motivation she had with small kids to support and after several years and progressively worse health, decided to break it up and sell the only bit worth having, which was the brand. It took Jan quite a little while to crawl back out of our hole after that, but she decided she wasn’t beaten. She had always wanted to write since she was small. Jan’s first book scale for success, expert insights into growing your business is due to be released this year after winning a contract with Bloomsbury publishing. So it’s full circle, Jan’s childhood dream out of the ashes. Please help me welcome Jan Cavell. My pleasure, thank you, Jan, how are you?
Jan: I’m good. Thank you very much. Yes. Glad winter.
Ari: Coping with winter. Yes, I hear you. You’re in the UK Correct?
Jan: I am. Yes. And we’ve suddenly got very cold and stormy and horrible.
Ari: I remember. I was in I was in the UK. I was on a speaking tour in the UK and I was on my way back to New York. I get to Heathrow Airport, and it started to snow. Okay. And it snowed probably a half an inch. The entire airport shut down. No flights going, no flights coming in. I couldn’t believe this. All right, I come from New York. You know, we get three feet of snow. Two hours later, the airport’s open, you know, and here they had a half an inch of snow in the entire airport. But then, in the meantime, I didn’t have a hotel anymore. All right. I literally slept in the airport, waiting for the next morning. British Airways was not flying. So I actually ran over the other day had paper tickets back then. I ran to I had to go to another terminal. I ran to American Airlines terminal, showed my ticket and ask if I can get back to New York. And they said sure, we’ll honor it. And they put me back on a plane to New York. Unbelievable. Quite
Jan: right. I mean, it’s not all of UK In fairness, Scotland copes with snow perfectly well. But you know, for UK it’s it is you say one flake and everything sharp. Yeah.
Ari: Wow. Yes. Okay, so enough about me. Now, as you know, the name of this podcast is whispers in bricks, the whispers of those voices telling us what the right thing to do is and they represent the good in life. And the bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. Now, there are several reasons why I asked you to be my guest on the show. After our initial conversation, I knew that there were people in my audience will go through some of the same things that you had gone through. They been hit with brick after brick much like you and they needed to hear and to know that they could get through the trials and tribulations the same way that you did. They need to know that there were whispers out there that could save them. Now your life is not typical by any stretch of the imagination. You’ve had many bricks thrown at you, as we heard from your bio posh boarding school didn’t work out for you, you got a job as a secretary, less than a week, amongst many other things that you went through. But I would say that the first major break that you have been hit with was marrying the wrong person and getting divorced while caring for two small children. Can you take us back to that time? And tell us what that what was going on then?
Jan: Sure. I mean, I think it was a lot to do with the conditioning from a post boarding school because of course, all my contemporaries married terribly well groomed, Mr. rights. And because I haven’t really finished in all three, well, I, you know, I didn’t really know many of them or anything else. So I didn’t marry somebody who, you know, was able to provide or anything useful in the first place. And we struggled. Actually, we lost our first child, which is a hard thing, I think, for any marriage to get through, as well, which I don’t actually normally talk about. So. So it’s an extra one. But, you know, that made things hard. We went on to have two more children. But it was tough. And I think we’ve got my two young as well. I mean, he was only slightly younger than me, I think I was 23. And he was just 21. So you know, again, that’s a lot of traps, so many people young love fall into, and it’s all going to be wonderful and of course doesn’t change.
Right? I hear you. Okay, so now you’re at the point where you have two small kids, you have to support yourself, you have to support your kids. How did you manage? What what did you do?
Jan: Well, first thing I did, which I was very lucky about, because they were much more flexible in those days. But as I went along to the income support people, what people have income support over here. So Social Security, income support, okay? Yeah, it’s a branch for Social Security’s social social support life. Okay. Government support anyway. And I went, look, you know, that’s my bank balances, it’s not a pretty picture. You know, I’ve got these two kids, and I could stay here, you know, on on your books to be supported forever. You know, but alternatively, I don’t want to do that, that’s not good for you. How about giving me a bit of support while I get a business together and get myself going? And so on whether they’d be allowed to know, but I was lucky, I hit somebody with a bit of nice. And they said, Yes, okay, we’ll go along with that theory. You know, we’ll give it a try and see how it goes. So I got a bit of support a tiny bit of support every week, from the government. And that was enough to get some better food and keep going. And also, it bought me I was determined, as you say, to start selling things. And so every Friday, when I cashed this charge, I would buy a trade directory or a yellow pages, phone directory, and get leads, and then I would jump on the phone and sell it sell to my new lot of people in North London, or whichever book I got.
Ari: What What year was this?
Jan: That’s a good question. I would have been, that would have been in sort of middle of the 80’s.
Middle, the 80s. Okay, now I’m trying to I’m trying to, you know, place it so that we, we understand, you know, what, you know, we can better understand what you were going through, like in other words, you didn’t have Google and you didn’t have
I didn’t have a computer, it was actually it was would have been painful. Very entropy agents can manage my children. But now I literally had a fax phone and account index box and the slowly growing pile of trade directories.
Ari: Right. Okay. Go on.
Jan: So yeah, I mean, it was all about telephone selling, which is your right to sell had had sales experience, because sales is always one of those jobs that if you’re prepared to work on commission, or just turn the hand for a few weeks, you can usually get experience. So I had managed to choke up quite a lot of sales experience. And I was very, very determined. I didn’t want to go out to work. I didn’t want to put children in the hands of somebody else, you know, child post or split up never very happy children. And, you know, it was desperately important for me if I stayed at home and could spend time with them. They were only three and eight, maybe three or three and so, so very young still. You know, so so it’s really important. I was around to me, and that meant making this thing work, but it was a touch and go for a long time. It really was.
Ari: How did your kids fare in school? Were they okay? The good students?
Jan: They got they got College to some extent, you know, when I was living out in the country, it was very archaic, really in its views, and I remember going to see one of the head mistresses and saying, you know, look, this is really on, you know, I don’t I’m not very happy about this. But she suggests she said, you know, well, I’ve spoken to feel the muscles and said, you know, for sure, a single mother, and you’ve got to understand we’ve never had one of those before.
Ari: Like, like, they just dropped you out of Mars or something? We Yeah.
Wow. I know. So, you know, I don’t think that’s necessarily helped for children very much.
But the kids managed, okay.
Jan: They’ve grown up smashing. You know, they’ve had a few difficult years, to put it mildly, both in different ways. But yeah, Jane, great. Banks got their own lives and you know, doing incredibly well, that those marriage and happy everything one would want once. Well, that’s great.
Ari: I’m just curious, you said, obviously, you’ve you’ve gone through some serious situations here. And you said, you managed to build this business to a multi million pound business. I mean, that is very, very impressive. But it’s like, what, what was the business? Was it just selling odds and ends? Was it? Was it? I mean, I don’t know I can.
Jan: I don’t blame you? I didn’t know much either. Yeah, it started it really. I thought, you know, my background in sales told me that repeat orders for kind of be a good idea. So some sort of service to on a PHP basis was going to be the way forward. I lived living in the country, we had a lot of costume. So you know, I thought, right, okay, be a middleman between people who make things and designers and famous want stuff made. And you know, I’ll want people to make it. Which was was fine. For a while, it took a little bit of packaging, because of course, when you’re doing sales, it’s one thing to sell this fantastic product, which has so many benefits. But do you want anything? It’s a far harder concept to to package. But But gradually, yeah, got going. And so much so that it’s very, very, very slowly because of limited funds and limited ability. I built it so that the actual manufacturing side came in as well. We started finishing bits and pieces ourselves in a tiny farm building. And then a few years later, when an opportunity arose, because the guy who in the business that I was buying most furniture from at that stage decided to shut up shop overnight. I struck a deal to buy him out, which was I have to say more out of panic. I had thank you so much. It was something I’d like to do one day, but it was really you know what I mean? I’m not going to have any furniture Monday morning. I can’t, I can’t I couldn’t have furniture Monday morning. So so we struck a deal within an hour. You know, off I went. And so I had these two tiny farm buildings with small amounts of people working in them. And quotes from that, because you know, all of a sudden, you were responsible for people and had to do that side of things seriously, as well as your own children.
Ari: Wow. Wow, that’s amazing. Let me ask you this. Did you ever get to a point so low in your life, when you said to this, you know, I can’t do this anymore? It’s too hard. I’m just gonna give up on my dreams. You know, I’m done. Right? Did you ever get to that point? And if you did, how did you overcome? How did you come out of that?
Jan: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I think it’s the very entrepreneurial thing that when things are tough, we are perhaps so stop. Wage put it, but so determined, we keep going. And then when you get to a goal or a pinnacle, you lose it because you haven’t got that challenge. You haven’t got the adrenaline to keep going and it becomes what am I doing? Who am I you know, what’s going on here? So it’s always I find it harder. You know, once the kids were okay, and the business was up and running, then suddenly I thought, you know, what am I doing? And it’s partly exhaustion. I think too, you just get so burnt out by that sort of pressure. It doesn’t feel like it at the time. But you do it takes its toll. So we’re a couple of times I think in the middle when I just needed a rest you know, I do bring up two kids on their own is is fairly challenging and growing a business to whatever we had about 40 people at the time. It’s not a challenge. So I was I was born and then later on again when I lost my way as as you were describing when the kids left home, that was tough. You wondered what the point was, you know, everything I’d done every motivation I’d had was was focused on keeping going for them. And you know, so they’ve gone now what is it worth keeping going for? Yeah, tough.
Ari: Huh? Wow. Well, so what helped you turn it around? Like what? Let me ask you this. What are you doing now?
Jan: Watching? Oh, yeah, I mean, I think that that was one of the things that kept me going. I’d started to write articles during the last few years when I was in business and loved it, as you rightly said, I wanted to do a child. And it became my stress reliever to write articles for this magazine. And when I stopped and retardance pull the covers over my head, thought, you know, I’ve had an awful fall with it took me about a week and I thought, What am I writing? You know, so I wrote to my editor, and I said, I’m going to do this anymore. I can’t write, he wrote back, and he said, Why exactly, it looks bright. So I thought, oh, maybe it’s got a point, I really didn’t see it. I just thought, you know, my usefulness is over. But but with his encouragement, he got me writing more articles, and then becomes a thing, actually, you know, I’ve got 20 odd years of experience lots of mistakes, but you know, also work some things along the way, I learned a lot from other people, maybe actually, I can be of some use. And I got involved with a lot of campaigns along the way to encourage entrepreneurship. I was very honored to be picked as one of the first 50 women to represent the UK Government in me, you when we were in the EU, of course, that you know, to promote entrepreneurship, which was amazing, and to liaise with other countries to score as business groups in, etc, etc. And I’d become this big champion of entrepreneurship, because I’m a real believer in it. And so, you know, again, I thought that’s actually, you know, put that passion together with my writing, I could still be a useful individual.
Ari: It’s it first of all, it sounds very exciting, you know, to be one of 50, you know, to represent the UK that said, to me, sounds, you know, dealing with, you know, other countries other people’s I mean, that must have been very, very exciting. It must have been, it must have been, must have been, like, invigorating.
Jan: It was, it was an extraordinary experience, you know, I got to go to the European Parliament is solid, you just wouldn’t get to go to otherwise. And, you know, this was me from, you know, my cell phone to the stairs. You know, it was bizarre. Oh, my. But on our end, and yeah, and I learned some, you know, there were a few businesses that got set up later on, while from another campaign, we ran locally, and, you know, yeah, okay. This is something good and productive.
Ari: If let me ask you this. Who would you say? What person in your life would you say had the most influence on your life? And why?
Jan: You know, I have tried to come up with the sort of answer that you might expect on this question. And the honest truth is for early American western southmost influence on my life, I was my father was passionate by Western sun. I’m a big fan of John Wayne. Gary’s Jimmy Stewart. Gary Cooper is what I’m trying to say. And all that loss and the whole principle as a child, very influential, very easily influenced as we are as kids, this whole concept of standing up for the little man and standing up for what’s right, you know, and going against the grain, you know, again, going back to me being stubborn, I think, it just really appealed. And, and it’s sort of set in habits of, you know, I want to try and do the right thing and I want to do my own thing in life, you know, so I got addicted to the Oregon Trail and all of that.
Ari: The Oregon Trail. That was that was a game wasn’t I was a computer game.
Jan: I probably was in the end, this was going back to your original book and then story,
but I remember it because when when I was when I was, you know, when I had little kids when my kids were little. So there was this game. It was a computer game. One of the early computing is called the Oregon trails. And it was you had to it took you from the East Coast to the West Coast. And you know, you had to survive and you know, you have to kill your own meat. Do you know Berra it’s just very exciting. And it was an interesting game of you know, was teaching survival, you know? You know how to survive in the, in the West and it was just it was it was an interesting game. That’s. So that’s what so that’s what had the influence on you. That’s great. Okay, you know, we’ll have to write to John Wayne’s heirs and tell him that, you know, you know what your father did?
Well, yeah, I think there’s more to films than him in person. But But yeah, that whole concept of the pioneers, you know, it’s such an amazing victory of for mankind that they could push forward and win against the odds. It’s, it’s incredibly It’s brave.
Ari: Absolutely. Absolutely. So let me ask you this. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with my audience? Before we go words of advice or words of wisdom?
Jan: I think given what you know, we’ve been talking about, I would say, two things really, that you’ve always got choices, if you want something badly enough, you know, I mean, don’t go crazy and chalk up your day job. But I can’t think what I’m talking about there. But, you know, keep on your day job while you can. But follow your dream, too. You can give up a day job. create the life you want. And only you can do that. And you know, if it means bit of a fight, it’s worth doing. You know, life’s too short. Do what you love. Wow.
Ari: That’s true. Very, very, very, very, very true words of wisdom, for sure. For sure. Now, if people want to get a hold of you, how can they do that? If you’re looking for you know, do you have a website? Do you have an email address? Yeah, what’s what’s the best way to contact you social media?
All of those things I’m prolifically on social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, but they can email me directly on Charmat chan comm failed or co.uk. And the same goes for website, which is also junk. files.co.uk. And I’ve heard it from anybody listening.
Jan: Okay, great. So let’s just go over that again. Jan Cavalli BJNCAVE double LP right.co.uk www.Jancavell.com.ukThat’s, that’s great. And you’re on social media. Jan Cavell. That’s wonderful.
Ari: Okay. Jan, listen. Thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. I’m sure you’ve touched the hearts of many people, my audience are plenty of people going through or or you know, going through what you have already gone through, and they needed to hear that they can get out of it the same way that you get out of it. Good luck going forward. Good luck with your writing. We hope to hear some great things coming from you. And thanks so much you be listening to us. on Brexit. I’m your host Gary Schoenberg. Remember, if you feel like you’re stuck in the mud, like you’re spinning your wheels, wasting time, your career, your business your life. If you know you’re not enjoying all the success, satisfaction and significance that you desire, then it’s time for you to book a call with me at call with ari.com and check out my whispers and bricks Academy. Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.