Written by Katie Chan
Property portfolio builder, businesswoman and entrepreneur Sarah Poynton-Ryan transformed her life from financially struggling, to founding and managing multiple property businesses today. Today, Sarah shares her journey, setbacks she encountered along the way as well as her successes as an entrepreneur in the property industry.
You found yourself in a financial ‘mess’ in 2015. When did you realise you had to make a change?
I had known for a long time that I was struggling financially – but just put my head in the sand. Rather than putting in the effort to pay off the debt, I added to it. It started when I went to university, and later on started a job in recruitment. I was great at it, even the top billing consultant in the UK at the time. But still, spending more than I earned.
In 2012, I started a photobooth company. I didn’t realise that you needed to, for instance, keep on top of your book-keeping, or have specialists to handle parts of your business. What contributed to my debt more was I had no idea how to run a company! That company taught me how not to run a business – and worsened my debt. At one point I had 60,000 pounds of debt to clear. After I got married in 2015, I remember talking with my husband about our next chapter – if we should go travelling or buy a house. The conversation kept coming back to the fact that we didn’t have any money, and during that moment I made a decision. I had done a lot of research into it, so I decided to start a new company, give it everything I had and make it work!
Most people thought I was mad, because how can you start a property business with no money? Ultimately, I realised I couldn’t continue being stressed about money and unhappy with my life. I was happy with the people in my life; I’ve got a great family, friends, but I worked very hard and felt like I had nothing to show for it.
As a businesswoman, in what is a mostly still male-dominated landscape; what are some challenges you have faced and how do you address them?
You’re right – the industry is male-dominated still, but I don’t particularly see that as a challenge. I know that a lot of women struggle to work in a male-dominated environment, but I don’t really. In my life, I am surrounded by strong independent women. Having taken in a lot of that energy around me as I was growing up, has helped to make me comfortable in bringing my energy into the world.
Because of this, I don’t think it has necessarily presented me with challenges. That being said, there have been some occasions. For example, I was speaking to a wealthy investor, and he asked to see my boss because he didn’t want to deal with the personal assistant. So, people do make assumptions about me because I am a woman – but because of my personality and confidence, I overcome these obstacles reasonably easily. I know what I’m doing, and I do it well!
As the founder of multiple businesses, what’s a key habit you maintain to manage everything?
This is a hard one for me! I’m not naturally a disciplined person, I like to have multiple projects going on at the same time. This might be a controversial opinion as most people would suggest sticking to focusing on one thing. For me, that’s my worst nightmare!
I operate best in chaos; my friends laugh at me because they think I take on too much. I think the habit I have which allows me to maintain the level of energy I do, is that I am never bored. I always have something going that I am deeply excited about. When something has my attention, it gets my whole heart. And that’s the habit that runs through what I do; I give everything I’ve got to something I know I can make an impact to. There is a big sense of satisfaction to achieve what you set out to achieve; so that is a big driver. The things that I know I can’t, I just don’t do them. I know my strengths and weaknesses and tend to play to my strengths.
What advice you would give to female entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
This is two-fold. If there is something on your mind where you can’t go a day without thinking, ‘what if?’, just do it! Give it a shot, because if you try – it will probably be different to what you expect to happen – this certainly was the case with my business, but if you don’t, it won’t happen. So firstly, be brave, be bold, and ask for help. With my first business, it wouldn’t have ended differently if I had somebody to guide me. If you need help with something – ask!
As an attachment to that, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You are enough! Never think that you couldn’t do it, or that you couldn’t make it a success. If you believe in it and bring your energy into it, people will buy into it, because it’s you! Whether you are young, old, male, female, a mother or not, you can achieve anything. Once you realise this, you can get everything that you want from this world.
What are your plans for the future, professionally and personally?
Professionally, I have a few key goals for the coming year. One is my property business, where I am very much focused on building my own assets. For the past four years, the main focus has been about clearing my debt. Now, I must start creating assets and building wealth for the future that will pay me in cash flow whether I am working or not. The way that I will do this is to continue developing homes for the market.
The second is professional but also personal – public speaking. I would like to do a TEDx Talk. It’s a big thing on this year’s to-do list! Other than that, to contribute as much as I can of my experience to empower other people to be brave and create businesses that they love. Personally, to have fun and spend time with my family and friends. The reason why I work so hard is to create the freedom to be able to spend time with the people that I love.
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