For the women who need us most

For the women who need us most

I’m Werking On My…

I’m Werking On My…

How to pioneer entrepreneurship: A letter to you
By Lucy Hainsworth
Image: Adeline Vining

A business woman’s journey from struggle to success.

By Amy Goddard

Dear ‘Werk’ reader,

My name is Adeline Vining: business owner, coffee connoisseur, wife, and mother of two and all the rest.  Throughout 37 years of life, and almost twenty years in business, I’d like to believe I’ve gained enough wisdom to help you. This is the same woman that came from no money, a tumultuous family and absolutely no networks to assist me in this saturated business realm. I’ll walk you through from the beginning with no filter, no bullshit. Let me help you discover the secrets I wish I knew on how to become that boss-businesswoman I know you aspire to be.

I was born in France, 1985, and by 1992 my parents’ divorce papers came through. As they came in the door, my mum swiftly went out. It was always bound to be this way, whilst only young, it was apparent to me that mum would be off to work and set up a new life of independence, whilst dad stayed at home to look after me and my brother. I don’t have many fond memories from before their divorce, the only memory that sticks with me was our Ski holiday. Mum was always a heavy drinker, and dad just couldn’t tolerate it. I remember she took the drinking too far. The night resulted in echoes of shouting and dad locking mum out to sleep in the hallway. Past their divorce, my parents individually dealt with financial pressures and following that, I became emotionally neglected. We struggled for years, dad was constantly switching out of ‘professions’ which meant an unstable income and an absent mother. Watching my dad sit around infuriated me, I knew there was more to life than this.

South Kensington was where my mother moved in with her boyfriend, leading me being moved from French school and into English education. With French being my first language, I was surprised when I turned out to be quite the academic. Whilst I was in an advanced position academically, I took up a part-time job to cure the boredom of being sat inside all day. I worked at a wedding dress shop, my first paycheck bought me a new bed to replace the dingy mattress that slumped on my bedroom floor, which is telling of how poor we were. After AS-levels I received several University offers, which I declined before my results even came in. Logically, growing up financially destitute and witnessing the family breakdown it caused, I naturally felt like earning was the safest route – I became money motivated.

At 17 I had already jumped jobs from Millets to Whittard to M&S. Despite not staying long, both jobs navigated me towards my passion, coffee production/retail. My 9-5 jobs highlighted the repetitive mundanity of day-to-day life. The lack of autonomy over my roles and hours pained me, being sat behind a laptop all day wasn’t idyllic either. I began working weekends on a coffee market with my boyfriend’s neighbour, Ian. 

At 20 I quit M&S and asked Ian to buy the business from him. I used my savings to start my own coffee company ‘Weanie Beans’. From Pimlico to Victoria, it was me, two wallpaper pasting tables and the coffee machine I’d bought off Ian. Over time I saved to expand the franchise, I sold my own beans through sourcing quality suppliers. People raved about the coffee. However, I had absolutely no business plan. The first tip I’d give to ‘Werk’ readers is that you don’t need a plan if you just say yes to every opportunity presented. Once a customer asked me to cater a conference in Paris, had I ever packed up my stuff and worked abroad before? No. You must commit to your customers and figure out the logistics after, that is the key to learning and growing around your business. From just saying yes- in a confident and convincing tone I must add- I’ve been to catering events and Netflix film studios working a coffee stand. 

I worked the markets throughout pregnancy with my first-born, straight after birth I returned. People always ask me how I balance motherhood and self-employment, it’s important to know you can do both. Another essential guideline I carry in my work relationship is to never forget to find balance with your social/home life too. Adjustments can be made to make both co-exist, I promise you ‘Werk’ reader, I’ve learnt that there is always a way. My largest adjustment would be when I was pregnant with my second child we had just moved to Buckinghamshire. I was still working the film studio markets but found that I was craving four walls, a door, and some permanence. I gave up the coffee stand and opened a cafe next to our house. It’s been nine years and we still run the cafe. I miss the markets and the variety of different customers, but this works for me, and my family and I advise you to never sacrifice yourself to make your business work. A happy businesswoman is one that finds balance.

Being self-employed I became easily fond of the freedom that I had, showing up at any time, eating whenever and always keeping myself busy with new projects. One key lesson is you must never be afraid to ask for help. I know this sounds cliché, but like I’ve said – I came from no money or connections- so for me to survive in self-employment I’ve had to conquer asking for help. I admit the business began to decline at the beginning of the cost-of-living crisis. I sought out financial help from banks to pick this up again, but also asked my customers what else I could offer to improve business. The worst response you can get is ‘No’, and if they do, you’re no worse off than when you asked. If you admit to yourself that something is failing, you’ll find that natural solutions will find you.

Delegation. This is my final tip that you must instil into your work ethic. Delegate responsibilities to your partner/colleagues/employees to sustain a healthy workload. My husband covers the children and the admin, and I cover the coffee and the management. If you delegate, you will enjoy the freedom of your job. I wish this was told to me when I first started, back when I took on too much and burdened myself. In my next chapter when we move and close the cafe, I will face new obstacles. It’s important to be excited for these new challenges instead of living in fear of failing. Isn’t freedom the reason we chose self-employment? 

‘Werk’ reader, I hope my advice makes your journey into self-employment run a lot smoother and I hope you fall in love with being your own boss as much as I have. It’s not easy, especially if you are building everything up from scratch. But I promise you that the risk is worth the reward. If I can survive not knowing any of this 20 years ago, then I have all faith that you can do it too. Now, go show the world what you have to offer!

From yours truly,

Adeline Vining.