In Liz’s own words she was, ‘naff at school’, proof indeed that a straight A education is not essential to entrepreneurship. Liz’s company Great Guns Marketing has an annual turnover of £3m and she employs around 130 people. She is one of Channel 4’s Secret Millionaires, not bad for a girl who was ‘naff at school’!
Liz’s first job was a YTS job placement as an office junior. She says she wasn’t any good at sorting the post or doing pretty minor office tasks but when she got on the phone she excelled. She speaks fondly of her boss at the time who was entrepreneurial and was very supportive when after eight years of employment Liz decided to go it alone.
She was twenty five when she set up her telemarketing business. Great Guns Marketing was born and began trading with a Prince’s Trust grant from her front room. Liz had never had full sight, due to having RP, but had always been independent and her slight sight loss had never been a problem to her.
Shortly after leaving her employment and starting up her own company her RP worsened significantly leaving her blind within a matter of months. For many, deteriorating sight and starting a new business might have seemed like a lot to contend with but this is not how Liz describes it. In many ways it was ‘quite ideal’ she says as her chosen profession was telemarketing and it doesn’t necessitate full sight. She actually says it was ‘ideal’, in that she was in charge of her own destiny and being her own boss meant she could make her own decisions and do things her way.
Great Guns Marketing has been going strong since 1998 and averages a 30% growth year on year. Liz commands business respect when you hear her speak and she clearly takes her business very seriously, yet she laughs frequently while talking and clearly loves what she does and has fun with it.
When I ask her what advice she would give a disabled person starting a business she says it would be the same advice she would give a non-disabled person. She is not keen on the term disability and is clear that it is all about ability. She follows the saying, ‘believe, behave, become’ and this is the same for everyone, regardless of disability. If you want it, believe in it, behave like you want it and you will become it. She has no time for bad days and suggests no business owner does either. Put simply, bad days have a bad impact on your business.
Liz makes it clear you need to truly think about your business idea and really want it. You need to understand the risks and feel sure that your idea is viable.
When asked about her high points in business Liz pauses then goes on to say there have been too many to single a few out. Winning awards and winning new clients are up there but equally so is employing people and seeing them progress and get promoted.
She loved the experience of being a secret millionaire on Channel 4 and unsurprisingly enjoyed the project that integrated disabled and non-disabled people the best. She confesses to not getting the ‘blind thing’ and found it ‘odd’ to want to group together with people because you share the same impairment. For Liz it is all about access and attitude. The latter has undeniably made her the success she is today.