Leave a Comment

GUYS, it's been a while... 

This is in no way a reflection on my Rebel Girls. Life has been hectic (as if often the case at this time of year!) But, who better to kick off the festive season with than the multi-talented and inspirational - Laura O'Donnell. 

Laura sent me a lovely email a few weeks back. Her story is so interesting and I feel super privileged to have the opportunity to feature someone who has experienced so much and has so much to offer me and The Rebel Girls Club.

Laura is Writer, PR consultant, columnist for Hull Daily Mail and Britmums, Blogger, Mother and Founder of the Standout Set

What I really admire about Laura, is that she wants to give women in HULL a voice and support them to progress by using her own knowledge and experiences. Read all about how she's going about doing this below... 

Laura, thank you so much for getting in touch with The Rebel Girls Club. I’ve loved hearing your story, past and present. Can you tell us all a little bit about your life before and after moving back to HULL?

Hello! Thanks for having me! So, I’m from Hull originally - I moved away to go to uni, and then moved back for a couple of years before moving to London in my mid-20s, and then Sydney, Australia after that. 

I studied Communications Studies at Leeds Uni. I always loved writing and had vague ambitions of being a journalist but I also thought it was unlikely that I could actually BE a journalist – I went to a crap school and you’d only ever hear from careers advisors and teachers etc that it was a very difficult industry to get into.

So I went to Uni and enjoyed it but had no real clue about what I would do afterwards. My first proper job was PR assistant at Dixon Motors in Thorne, near Doncaster, even though I didn’t even know what Public Relations was. 

I can laugh now about how clueless I was – but I would never advise people to go to uni now unless they really know what they want to get out of it. 

I stayed in that job for three years and then moved to London, where I worked for a big PR agency in Soho, with clients including McDonald’s, LEGO, B&Q, John Lewis and tons more. 

It was brilliant – I learned loads and made some amazing friends and we had a free office bar and had our Christmas parties in places like Barcelona and Prague. Check us out! Yet I worked very long days and was often very stressed and I don’t think that lifestyle is necessarily very sustainable. I had a bit of a pre-turning-30 crisis and quit my job and decided to go to Australia for six months. 

Anyway, before this turns into War and Peace….I ended up staying in Australia for almost three years. I got a job and met some fantastic people and had a flat a couple of minutes from Bondi Beach. And then I decided to move back home to Hull – and was asked ‘why the heck did you move back?’ approximately 34277 times a day for months.

A big reason I moved back was work – I had an inkling I wanted to work for myself, but couldn’t do that over there unless I stayed and got residency and citizenship, which takes years – but also, mainly, because Sydney was never ‘home’. 

I didn’t have a plan when I moved back to Hull; I wasn’t 100% sure I’d stay in the city, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much it had changed since I’d moved away. I set up my own consultancy and secured my initial contracts, including the PR contract for Freedom Festival and some work for the City of Culture bid. Then Hull won the bid and there was a massive sense of excitement here and it didn’t cross my mind again to move away. So here I am! 

I also met a chap and we bought a house and had a baby, so there’s all of that keeping me here too I guess… :)

We have talked before about the challenges women from Hull can face and the
expectations we put on ourselves in our thirties! What has your experience of moving
back to Hull and working in the city been like?

I set up my own business, which was originally called Autumn Comms, almost six years ago now and I’ve been really successful – before I took maternity leave I earned more than I did when I worked in a senior role at a big agency in Sydney, which I’m really pleased with. Particularly because, while I worked my bum off, I could do it on my own terms, rather than being dictated to by someone else’s idea of work ‘norms’. 

(It’s a big bugbear of mine that most companies require employees to be at a desk for set hours every day. Yes, you need interaction with colleagues but I think there should be much more flexibility over when and where we work and less emphasis on ‘presenteeism’ – i.e just because you’re in the office doesn’t mean you’re necessarily being productive.)

I absolutely love working for myself, yet setting up on my own has been tough at times, especially in the beginning.
Hindsight is very good for making you realise what a twit you’ve been. When I moved back to Hull, I had tons of amazing experience under my belt yet would let myself feel awed or intimidated by other people – usually men in suits – and would second guess myself, which is bloomin’ ridiculous. 

If anything, I should have been going into meetings telling myself ‘this is small fry’ (although I would never think that about my clients!), compared to some of the massive, mega-bucks projects I’d worked on in London and Sydney, yet I was often struck down with self-doubt and ‘imposter syndrome’. I’d put so much pressure on myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I felt when I was starting out in business, and have just set up The Standout Set, which aims to provide practical business support to female entrepreneurs and creatives, and help women in business to grow fearlessly and on their own terms. It’s an online community and I’ll be hosting some events in early 2019, with plans to introduce coaching and co-working and much more.

I could wax lyrical for days about the topic of women recognising their worth and shouting about their achievements – which is why I love what The Rebel Girls Club is doing too.

I think it is so hard for women to set up on their own and to not feel self-doubt, which can hinder their progress. It’s ingrained in us: certainly when I was growing up, ‘quiet’ equalled ‘good’, and the school system didn’t teach us to promote our achievements – it was just about putting your head down and doing the work. And if you did ‘big yourself up’ you would get called a ‘show-off’ or ‘fussy’. Being ‘too confident’ as a woman is viewed as a negative trait. Is there any wonder we struggle to overcome all of this as adults?

In my opinion, it’s an even bigger issue here in Hull because as a city we - both women and men - are so good at being humble and self-deprecating. Talking yourself up is just not the done thing. And so if you’re a woman from Hull, you have the self-deprecating Hullness thing to deal with, as well as being at a disadvantage because girls are usually praised for being quiet and criticised if they’re over-confident – and it can be really bloody hard to get over all of that!

Female entrepreneurs who are confident are seen as ‘bitches’ and as climbing over others to ‘get to the top’ – it seems that there are few representations of women who are happily running their own businesses, while perhaps juggling families or interests outside of work; women who are confident and doing things on their own terms.

The Standout Set is so-called because ‘standout’ means ‘quality’, and also because we shouldn’t be afraid of standing out. There are tons of amazing businesses here being run by amazing women - we shouldn’t put our heads down and talk ourselves down.

Tell us about your blogs – I know you set up your parenting blog, Only Teethin’, at the start of the year, and are also writing about setting up in business on your ‘work’ website. What do you want your readers to take away from your articles?

I started Only Teethin’ after having my son, Ted, in 2017. As I’ve said, I love writing – and starting OT was a way of helping me get my head around parenthood (although there’s a lot to get your head around and I’m nowhere near there yet!). 

I recently started writing more about setting up in business and about making the leap into self-employment, for anyone who is hoping to do the same, and have recently moved those posts onto my business website,

On both sites, I hope that my writing and my experiences connect with people – I feel like I don’t have tons of time to dedicate to writing and so it’s probably a bad idea to be running two blogs on top of all my other commitments and looking after Ted as well – but let’s see how it goes!

I love how open and honest you are about the expectations some people have of female entrepreneurs… That we all have to be badass bitches and step on other people to make it on our own. Do you have any tips for women who want to quit the 9-5 or set up their own business?

As I’ve said, I find the whole issue of women in business and women being confident vs being ‘badass bitches’ such a minefield and I’m sure I’ll be banging on about it more soon! 

My tips? Be kind to yourself, and remind yourself of how awesome you are. Don’t work yourself into the ground because no good will come of it. Don’t sit and worry about things by yourself either; I always find that if there’s something I’m stewing over, or if I can’t find a solution for something, then it’s always better to get out of the house and have a chat with someone else. Oh and the biggest tip is to join The Standout Set and get to know some other awesome local women who can help and inspire you – and to read my blog posts about starting out on your own! 

And finally, setting up The Rebel Girls Club has introduced me to an amazing community of creative and inspirational women and meeting someone who shares that ideal has been lovely. What are your goals (personal/professional or both) for the future?

I want to really establish The Standout Set as a go-to community for female entrepreneurs and creatives in the city – whether you’ve got your own business or ‘side-hustle’ or are thinking about starting one, I hope that women in the city will join the group and realise how community and collaboration and having the support of like-minds can really help. 

I love what The Rebel Girls Club is doing and I see The Standout Set as being similar in ethos while providing practical help and support for women in business. 

I also want to encourage and continue conversations about how women are discouraged from being ‘overly confident’ – longer term, I would love to consult with others to look at how we teach girls in schools and if we can try and shift the collective city mindset from ‘self-deprecating’ to being more vocal about just how ‘standout’ we really are.

On top of that, I want to carry on working with some brilliant people, to write more, both on my blogs and in publications, and move house and take Ted to Australia to see my old Sydney haunts. So just a short to-do list for the next few years…

Join The Standout Set: The Standout Set Facebook Group
Read Laura’s blogs:

Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment