A leading Coventry business figure who was awarded an MBE for Services to Women in Business, has published a book celebrating the inspirational stories of more than 30 of her peers.
I Am A Woman Who marks the latest chapter of entrepreneur Sandra Garlick’s new vision – one dedicated to empowering women in business.
And the book is just one of a series of passion projects for the solicitor-turned business coach and mentor whose success has been inspired by her own journey of overcoming huge personal and professional challenges.
Among those stories featured is that of fellow Coventry entrepreneur Sharon Luca-Chatha, who launched a new eco-friendly clothing line LK Eco Style. She is also the founder of The Luca Foundation, a charity established following the stillbirth of her son Luca. Through this she has raised thousands of pounds for the purchase and repair of refrigerated ‘cuddle cots’ which allow grieving parents precious extra time with their ‘angel babies.’
Sharon has also written two books during lockdowns. Angel Warrior, being released in June, is a touching and personal account of the past eight years of her life, while Why Did Grandad Die? is an illustrated children’s book geared at helping three to nine-year-olds understand bereavement.
One hundred per cent of the proceeds will go to the Foundation.
News of her MBE, awarded for Services to Women In Business in the West Midlands, marked a proud milestone for Sandra Garlick, who is now also an ambassador for The Luca Foundation as well as a non-executive director of Warwickshire-based Career Mums – a Community Interest Company that helps businesses achieve a better gender balance in the workplace.
But it was far from a smooth path to success after struggling for several years as a single mother of two young sons following the collapse of her marriage.
She explains: “Things were extremely tough. I was exhausted. I was a single parent with no money, no income, and no direction.
“I will always remember the day I went to sign on for Income Support. I had nothing. I stood in the queue and said to myself ‘This is the last time I am coming here. I need to make a change and get a profession to give my boys the opportunity to be who they want to be.’ “
It was after spells working in a variety of other roles, including typist, cashier, PA, and sales rep that she went on to qualify as a solicitor and establish her own law practice in Coventry. This was later to merge resulting in Sandra leaving the company and, finding herself once again, in a position of financial uncertainty.
However, after suffering a serious fall in 2016, she was forced to re-evaluate her life and her business.
“I slipped in the snow! An operation, pins, steel plates, and six months on crutches wasn’t in the plan!
It was a wake-up call for Sandra who soon realised her true ambitions – and the now hugely successful Woman Who brand was born.
“Breaking my ankle was one of the best things to ever happen to me. It gave me the chance to stop and reflect and really take a hard look at what I was doing. And that’s how it came about. I call the ‘Woman Who’ brand my accidental business. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t broken my ankle!
“I looked around for that support network. I found those women in business who knew exactly how I was feeling. They were there for me and helped me to get back on my feet. The mantra and determination kicked in and despite being on crutches, I brushed myself down and got on with it.”
Since then Sandra has also gone on to launch the Woman Who Achieves Academy as well as host awards celebrating female achievers across the UK.
“Now I teach the women I mentor to find their passion and find that sweet spot. If you enjoy doing something, you’re more driven and more productive and more successful.”
The academy, which marks its first anniversary on May 1st, has adapted and grown despite a series of Covid-19 lockdowns, and is now supporting business owners ‘virtually’ across the world. Sandra is hopeful of a return to face-to-face mentoring and networking from the summer.
One of the entrepreneur’s proudest achievements is sharing the news of her British Empire medal with her terminally ill father, who died the day before she was due to attend the ceremony at Buckingham Palace in March last year.
She said: “I’m extremely proud of it because it’s the one award you can’t nominate yourself for. It felt like the ultimate achievement.
“But I had to decline the invitation by the Palace because of my dad and it’s a good job I did because Prince Charles was presenting it and it turned out he had Covid at that time. He went down with it just a few days afterwards!”
The best advice she has for other women in business?
“The lightbulb moment for me was years ago when I realised that women in business did have a voice. The biggest thing to overcome is imposter syndrome because you’ve always got that little monkey on your shoulder that says ‘you can’t do this’ and who am I to think I can?”
“For me it’s about instilling in women that they shouldn’t be embarrassed to be confident, it’s a good thing to have confidence and to have goals and strive for those goals and work towards them.”
She added: “I very quickly realised that Woman Who was about a journey of transformation and that I facilitated that transformation through my network events, awards and speaking opportunities. It became a journey of discovery for me, and for every woman. The successes were real. I could see this in each woman throughout her journey.
“As for the future, I would like to grow the academy side and create more women in business role models.
“More than 90 women have shared their stories in my books so far so I would love to get to that magic 100 next year and create more local role models.”
I Am A Woman Who is available for £15 from https://www.womanwho.co.uk/
TO READ SHARON LUCA-CHATHA’S STORY CLICK HERE