Jackie Tomes, alumna, BA (Hons) Art Management
Performing arts career
I’d always wanted a career in the performing arts. Singing and dancing on the West End stage was my dream!
It turned out that working random jobs in order to pay the bills whilst going to auditions and not spending time on stage wasn’t fulfilling. I started to picture myself as a Theatre Manager running a big West End Theatre, and was thrilled to discover that a business degree aimed at working in the arts existed at LSBU! Being able to study for a degree in Arts Management at a university in Central London was ideal for me.
Life while studying at LSBU was very hectic! When I wasn’t in lectures I was working one of 3 jobs; either as a Student Ambassador for LSBU; as a dance teacher; or as a Market Researcher. In some ways, this was very challenging, but in other ways, it was great because it taught me to be really disciplined with my time. There were a few members of staff who helped me while I studied. Pauline Muir was a fantastic course director, and Louise Andronicou and Alice Salmon always championed me when I was a student ambassador and for that I’m grateful.
Own business idea
I’d always liked the idea of having my own business but I’d never had any good ideas.
You watch programmes like The Apprentice and Dragons Den, and you see really inventive people with amazing ideas, and that made me feel like I didn’t have what it took to start my own business.
The idea to start Tomes Homes started very small. At first, I just thought I’d save money for a buy-to-let property, and then over time, I’d buy a couple more. I hoped to get to a point where I had a bit of extra money coming in so I’d have the flexibility to be able to work part-time.
There were many challenges to getting started…
- I cut back on all but ESSENTIAL costs – everything remotely nice or fun went out the window! I said goodbye to new clothes, going out, holidays, etc.
- I did some extra work on the side around my job in order to help to bulk up my savings, which meant life was really hectic!
- I got laughed at IN THE FACE by mortgage brokers and banks who thought I was ridiculous for being 24 and trying to get a buy-to-let mortgage! It took a lot of perseverance to finally get a mortgage agreed!
There was a lot of rejection and knock backs, and a lot of late nights spent working, but it paid off.
For me, career satisfaction means having the freedom and flexibility to live life on my own terms. I’ve been able to build a business that I’m proud of, but also enjoy time off too. I’ve designed the whole business to enable us to go on holiday every 6 weeks! Having the ability to travel is really important to me, and I think it’s important that your business enables you to have a great life. So many entrepreneurs work hard for far too long and don’t stop to actually enjoy the fruits of their labour.
My vision keeps me motivated
I have a really clear idea in my mind (and on my business plan) for both my business and life. When things get tough, I step back, reconnect with my vision, and remind myself why I’m doing it.
My husband and business partner, Dave is my number one. He helps me keep perspective when things are tough! I have a tendency to be a perfectionist, which can be really debilitating. Dave can pull me out of my ‘perfectionist pit’ and bring me back to reality like no-one else can. We are an amazing team, and whilst my drive and motivation would have taken me so far, having him as my partner (in everything!) mean I have achieved (and can continue to achieve) so much more.
Stress has never held me back, but it has affected me
Most of my stress links back to the (delusional!) belief that things need to be ‘perfect’. I put a lot of pressure on myself when I don’t think things are going ‘perfectly’. Recently, I’ve really been working on managing my perfectionism. To move on from here (and to be happy day to day) this is probably my biggest barrier. I’ve taken huge leaps forward in redefining perfectionism in my own mind, and have found the support of a psychotherapist invaluable in this process.
When pursuing my dream to sing and dance on the West End stage, I attended drama school auditions along with all my best friends who shared the same goal. We put in years and years of training, classes, and practice. All of my friends got in… and I didn’t. I was devastated. I felt inadequate, and like I was being left behind. Looking back, I think I was trying too hard to please everyone – my teachers, the panel of judges.
I was trying to do what everyone was telling me to do, and I lost my uniqueness and individuality.
I’ve been able to move forward by learning not to care so much what other people think, and allowing myself to be, well, me! I’ve found this annoyingly hard. Funnily enough, the less you care about what other people think, the more successful you become! I feel so much lighter, happier and more confident now.
Giving back is something I am proactive about.
Sharing knowledge and information about the challenges we’ve had building our property business will help others to build theirs. We are now getting the businesses to a point that we have the resources to give back in other ways. Dave and I are putting plans in place to launch a charitable arm to our business that will aim to help with homelessness. I’d also really like to give back by helping to improve financial capability in our society. Money management skills are not taught well, and it causes a lot of problems for society, particularly with debt. I need to figure out the best way to be able to help in this area – watch this space.
LSBU gave me grounding in business skills that I needed to get on the path to where I am today.
My advice to current students is to be clear on your vision for what success looks like for you. Imagine yourself in 10 years’ time - what does your life look like? Be really specific. Knowing exactly what you are aiming for helps you to make much better decisions to ensure you are moving in the right direction for your future. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Actually, sometimes the opportunities you say no to because they don’t serve your plan are the best decisions. And have fun! We only get one life. We need to make sure we enjoy it!
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