Facing the Fear

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As you’ll have noticed from the slight dip in regular posts, apologies – November has been an extremely busy month!

In April this year, I took probably the biggest gamble of my life so far.   I saw a gap in an industry, and decided I would try to fill it.

I’m talking about the UK Dating Awards – a project which dominated the last six months of my life, and which saw me living off 4 hours sleep most nights in October and November.

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I’m not an events planner. I’ve never been an entrepreneur. I’ve never worked in marketing, or PR.

Until June of this year, I worked in finance.

But back in April I had an idea. One which I believed could work. One which I believed could change online dating dramatically in the UK. Something which could affect the way single Brits date, and seek out dating advice and matches, for years to come. I believed in my idea, and so I took a gamble.

If you’d asked me even three years ago about setting up my own company, I would have laughed. It’s funny … I’ve never lacked confidence in my own abilities. You can’t get into Cambridge, and get through a Cambridge law degree without self-conviction. And yet, there have always been certain things which I accepted as out of my reach. Too scary to approach. And one of those things was the world of the entrepreneur.

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I’ve always seen myself as a creative. I believed my future was as an author. I love to tell stories.

And yet, when I look back on the past four years, throughout my three years in banking, I ran my own business. I owned a limited company, and managed my own accounts. Of course, I was on fixed-term contracts, and so my company provided an established service, rather than offering a whole new concept … but the building blocks of entrepreneurship were there. It was simply a matter of having the courage to leap.

When I look back to the start of the year – to when I first had the idea of starting the UK Dating Awards, and to the role models around me who helped convince me to take a leap of faith, it was the female entrepreneurs who I know and love, who inadvertently convinced me I could turn a dream into a reality.

I looked around at some of my most capable, successful friends – women who had left the accepted conveyor belt of graduate recruitment jobs, to pursue careers such as setting up their own catering companies, baking schools, events companies and personal training careers, and I realised that they were just like me. Normal women, who started with an idea, and saw it through to fruition.

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I’m not going to lie, the last six months have been exhausting. I can’t count how many times I saw 4.30am before I got to bed, and how many hours I spent on Twitter, trying to convince the dating industry to trust and support my Awards.

And to be honest, there was no immediate moment of success. No point where it hit me that everything was worth it. On the Awards night itself, I spent the day stressed and panicked, hoping nothing might go wrong.

The night went as well, if not better than I had hoped. I had a great night, particularly at the after party … once I could finally relax. But that night when I went home, the gravity of what I had done in five short months, almost entirely alone, hit me. I was exhausted! Shattered. So tired, I wondered if I could do it all again next year. Was it worth the effort?

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A few months ago I booked my flights to Sydney. I’d been saying for years that I need to head back down under. I’ve made a whole host of friends in Oz and NZ on my travels, and it’s been far too long since I saw any of them. And so, knowing I would be exhausted after UKDA2014, no matter how badly or well they went, I booked a holiday. I left myself a week to recoup before I left the country. Turns out I know myself well. I needed that week. The exhaustion hasn’t gone all together, but I needed a week to take stock. To realized why I didn’t have that epiphany moment, where I stood back and really patted myself on the back.

This week I’ve realised why. It’s because I haven’t achieved my aim yet. Yes, it’s great that I had a great first year. That so many big companies have already got behind the UK Dating Awards, and embraced it as a genuine Industry organisation and celebration. But I didn’t set the Dating Awards up for one night, and one party. I set it up, so that eventually the UKDA mark will become something which singletons in Britain see and understand as a mark of quality. A trusted mark pointing them in the direction of good value for money, and the very best advice.

And so I still have an awful long way to go.

But do you know what … I’m up for taking that leap of faith! And that’s how I know the world of the entrepreneur is for me. Bring on many more years of challenges!

Charly (Miss Twenty-Nine) xxx

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