Inspiring small businesses: Debbiedooodah

In our ‘Inspiring small businesses’ series, we share and celebrate great stories from fellow small business owners who started and run their own business. By bringing you closer to these inspiring businesses we hope that you find motivation, tips and ideas for building yours.

Next up, we talked to Debbie Clarke , the founder Debbiedoodah, helping female entrepreneurs to build their businesses.

What is it that you do?

After running my own business for over 6 years now, I’ve realised that I wear many hats! Which is something I find lots of entrepreneurs do! Although all the work I do centres around supporting women to create amazing independent businesses.

I love spending most of my time working 121 with female entrepreneurs supporting them to build amazing businesses that give them financial freedom. You can find me at I love it, I get to work with lots of smart creative women and am a little part of their journey towards financial independence and a thriving business.  Alongside working with women 121 I also run the Indie Freedom Seekers, an online learning and group coaching community of amazing inspiring women.

For 5 years now I also co-run a business network called the Blue Stockings society. It’s a free networking group for female entrepreneurs. I started it after starting to feel just a little lonely and isolated after starting my business and wanted to find other women like me. I’d attended other networking events and found them really stuffy and corporate, the exact opposite of what I was looking for. We have over 1,000 members now and meet monthly in my home town of Nottingham. I love that fact that it’s inspired other women to set up their own networking groups in different parts of the country.  

I also lecture part-time in the business school at both Nottingham and Nottingham Trent Universities teaching digital marketing. I probably only have about 40 teaching hours a year, which fits in perfectly with my business, as I just swoop into to deliver specific modules. It’s something I’ve been doing for 4 years and it’s really wonderful to keep in touch with the students and see what they get up to when they graduate.

I’m really keen to inspire women to take the leap into starting their own business and create their own financial freedom, so I get involved in lots of other projects. I co-host the Women Who Create podcast with Amy Phipps and we find inspiring stories from other women in business to share with our audience, plus have a few episodes where we just chat. We’ve been told listening feels like you’re just sat around the coffee table with us, which is exactly what we wanted!

I also recently co-authored a free toolkit for female entrepreneurs with Nottingham University called My Business My Way: a toolkit for female entrepreneurs to shape their success. You can grab hold of your free copy here. It’s really beautiful and created to support women to think about the stories behind their brand, what makes them unique, the people they need around them to grow and how to craft their own definition of success. We recently won some funding to run a whole series of workshops with women who are just starting to think about the possibility of starting their own business, which is really exciting!

What’s the story behind your business?

I started my business in my early 30’s as a single mum not long after winning a fight with cancer. After having cancer you cannot lose sight of the fact that life is precious and you have to make the most of it. You need to grab every opportunity and there is no ‘right time’ to do things. Bravery comes from just doing things.

I’ve always been a little bit of a maverick and perhaps a little unmanageable! In the jobs I’ve had, I’ve constantly questioned the status quo and got bored very easily. I also have a very defined sense of what is right and wrong, which has got me in trouble a few times. I once got sacked for throwing a stapler at my boss after becoming so frustrated at his sexist bullying management style. He wasn’t a very nice man!  So when I got the opportunity to start my own business I grabbed it.

I knew that as a single mum finding work to fit around childcare would be a little bit of a nightmare and I wanted to create something that gave me the flexibility and freedom to create my own life.
After not working for 5 years, looking after my daughter and fighting and then getting over cancer I put a post on Facebook asking for a job in a coffee shop or something like that. Although fate intervened. I’d just told my boyfriend that I’d love a job running events with old people, so what should pop up? A job just like that.

An old colleague got in touch with me and told me she’d just been giving quarter of a million from Nottingham city council to start a new social enterprise working with over 50’s running events. So I jumped in the deep end and worked alongside her for 2 years creating a brand new business. It was a steep learning curve, but I loved it. Then when an opportunity to go freelance and help set up the exact same social enterprise in Camden came up I jumped at the chance and it was there my business started.
I spent the first couple of years working with charities, social enterprises and Nottingham City Council with their social media marketing and when people started asking me to show them how to do it, I realised I much prefered teaching and from there debbiedooodah was born!

What inspired you to start your own business?

Having cancer and being a single mum is a great catalyst for change. I wanted to create a different way of living. One that I was in control of and that could give me the flexibility to choose where, when and with who I worked. I love that fact that my daughter is growing up seeing me as a strong independent woman. She recently had to write a biography at school and she choose me as the subject. It made me really proud.

What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?

There are lots of things I could focus on here. I struggled with my own self-esteem and confidence a lot when I started, particularly around pricing! I think most entrepreneurs would agree with that. Putting yourself out there and saying choose me above all the competition can be tough. Which is why I love working with women. I love to support women in business to really create stand out unique brands, that speak to their ideal customers, so in essence, there is no competition as there is never anyone just like you, who does things just like you do them.

Time and overwhelm is another biggie! There are literally so many things we could be doing to run our businesses, so creating a strategy and focusing on one thing at a time has helped enormously. My diary is generally chock full about 6 weeks out, so I’ve got to be really precious with my time and make sure I’m spending my time at work on things that will help to move my business forward.

What is the best thing about running your own business?

Having choice and freedom! There are 13 weeks of school holidays a year, so having the flexibility to have time off is a godsend! I cannot imagine having to ask someone if I can take a week off. I can just block time out in my diary and fit my business around it.

I also love the opportunities that come with it. I’ve met so many amazing people, and get to be a small part in the success of so many businesses.
This year I was named one of the 100 top female entrepreneurs of 2019, one of the top 50 twitter influencers for gender diversity, named a Nottingham legend and won £10,000 in the Nottingham University Ingenuity competition to take the My Business My Way toolkit to women who might not ordinarily think about starting a business, women like me years ago, single mums living on benefits. It’s so amazing to get the opportunity to pay it forward.

What could be better than this?

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