I don’t often get frantic text messages from Jo, so when my phone beeped on a sunny August morning with a text that just said 'CALL ME, I have something INCREDIBLE to tell you!!' I put down my bacon sandwich and took it pretty seriously.
Minutes later I was hopping round my kitchen, screaming and shouting with Jo on the phone, with her telling me she had been chosen for the eBay Business Awards ‘Be Your Own Boss’ award in 2021.
That might not mean much to most of you immediately but knowing it’s come from eBay, that international marketplace powerhouse, you’d think it was a big deal and you’d be right.
Over 2,000 small businesses entered and my friend, founder of Brown and Ginger, wonder woman of all things sales and small business, only went and bloody won the thing!
She entered without telling anyone; keeping it to herself because she didn’t think she stood a chance and didn’t want to have to tell people she hadn’t been successful when she wasn’t chosen, because 1,999 other people had a better chance than her, in her opinion.
I’d like to share a passage from her entry that I think sums up why our own brilliant Jo was chosen, and in fact should never doubt herself again:
'Prior to founding Brown and Ginger I worked in a variety of industries, never quite finding my 'fit', not helped by poor mental health. I found it frustrating working for companies that weren't prepared to make changes to the business to make it run more efficiently.
'Online retailing has been my saviour as I find it a struggle to provide face-to-face customer service when things haven’t quite gone to plan, it almost always ended with me in tears and so having that distance to take a breath, write and then re-write email replies has ensured I always remain professional and no tears are seen by the customer (though there have still been a few, I can tell you!).
'My plan for the business has always been to bring others up with me, I’m a person who wants to share whatever I have, be that money, success or opportunity. I strongly believe in hiring for personality and training for skills and I look forward to the day where I have a team full of happy and motivated workers who feel truly valued in their positions.'
That phrase ‘bring others up with me’ rings loudly in my ears. I’ve known Jo all my life, we grew up on the same street and have seen each other through life's challenges and celebrations, so when my own small business suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic she stepped up and offered me a job; no questions asked, just blind faith in me and her passion to help.
From day one of working together she has always talked about expanding Brown and Ginger, taking on a team and giving others opportunities to learn and grow, as she gave me.
It’s daunting letting people into your business, into your own world, I know that only too well with my own business, but she is determined to make this happen and I have absolutely no doubt that she will be able to add this to her list of successes too.
I could tell you about the practicalities and logistics of running Brown and Ginger that she faces, on her own, every day. I could tell you that she packs every single parcel herself, that she replies to every customer email, sources each individual item and unloads and checks every enormous stock delivery that turns up, often without any warning from the couriers.
I could tell you that she takes and edits most of the product photos in a photo studio that she and her partner Dave built within the warehouse (and then rebuilt because it wasn't quite right!), that she manages all the social media accounts, that she has a savant level knowledge of where each product is in her 1,600sq foot warehouse, whilst keeping me in check too.
Oh, and she built and runs the website like she was born knowing how to code.
But I don’t think they are the most important things to know about her and they aren’t the reasons she won the eBay Business Award.
She won this award because she recognised the obstacles and pushed them aside, because she took a risk on herself and it’s paying off. Because she takes chances on people who just need a break, and she works her little socks off each and every day, even the tough ones.
Not only all that but she then went up on stage with Gok Wan on Thursday and gave an acceptance speech to an audience of hundreds that was livestreamed to over 5,000 people... and she didn't even miss a beat (even if her heart did, so she tells me!).
I have never been prouder to know you and work for you, Jo. You are truly an inspiration and I cannot wait to see where you will take Brown and Ginger, and I am simply grateful to be along for the ride.
Chin chin my dear, chin chin.