Taking calculated risks with business owner Kelly Cookson

Kelly Cookson, founder of Cheer Up Marketing, shares how and why she left her corporate job to become a successful business owner and a busy mum

We all want to spend more time doing the things we enjoy, with the people we love. That’s why Kelly Cookson left her stable job in the corporate world, to enjoy the luxury of working on her own schedule while spending more time with her daughter. We sat down with Kelly to hear her greatest inspirations, her biggest challenges, and why she’s a fan of taking calculated risks.

Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?

My mum is my inspiration because she has always worked hard to learn new skills and she did it whilst raising my two sisters and me. After being a bus driver for many years, she went back to school as a mature student to get her A Levels, then a degree and subsequently a PhD in Organic Chemistry. 

She completed her PhD with a baby in her arms (my youngest sister) which I find just incredible now that I’m a mum. She then changed her career from chemistry to training as an Independent Financial Adviser – she started out on this new career path when she was 40. She has shown me that you can learn anything you put your mind to and do it whilst being a mum and keeping fit. She’s still an avid rock climber now in her 60s – she’s my hero. 

I also see many women in the online business space having incredible success whilst living a lifestyle of freedom and being present parents to their children. This inspires me to keep scaling my business and know that I can have it all.

What influenced you to launch Cheer Up Marketing?

Like many businesses, this one started as a side hustle when an old colleague of mine asked If I would do some marketing work for her on the side. After a few months of this and adding a couple more clients, I realised that I could make a proper go of it if I left my corporate job as a Marketing Manager. 

Ultimately, the biggest reason for starting my own business was to spend more time with my young daughter. I knew I didn’t want to use out-of-school clubs and wraparound childcare when the time came. I wanted to walk my daughter to and from school every day while still earning good money. I had an opportunity to take the side-hustle full time and I leapt at it. I’ve never looked back.

What makes Cheer Up Marketing unique?

Me! Any good marketer knows that people buy from people and I have never tried to be anything other than myself whilst running my own business. It did take some inner work to feel comfortable being me and trusting that I can be incredibly successful by being myself. I’m ambitious but I’m also kind and in my corporate life I saw my kindness and generosity as a kind of weakness. I thought I needed to be more cutthroat to climb that career ladder – more masculine, perhaps. I’m the biggest asset my business has and my ideal clients are drawn to working with me because of that. 

I’m not for every and that’s OK. I’m also told my branding is unique – I’ve fully embraced pastel colours and fun images. My brand photos pop with colour and people often comment on how much they love them. My brand is miles away from the corporate brands I used to work with!

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? 

When I look back on the handful of times I’ve felt challenged and even emotionally upset in my career, all of these instances were related to strong characters who I felt stifled around. My challenge has always been to accept that I can be myself and succeed, rather than acting as someone who is more pushy and demanding in the workplace. 

I’m naturally fun-loving and generous and I used to believe this was a weakness when it came to climbing the career ladder. I’ve been in some very intense work meetings with colleagues speaking over each other to put their ideas forwards and I’m not the type of person to butt in! 

In my own business, I don’t need to be the loudest in the room and I love that I’ve built a business where I collaborate and support my clients. We are a true team. I have the freedom to test my ideas to market and scale my business and I have the support of some amazing entrepreneurs who bring out the best in me.

Likewise, what has been your greatest success? 

In my personal life, it’s the home my husband and I have built with our daughter. It’s such a happy place and I feel really proud of all that we’ve achieved. We were in our early 20s when we met – we’ve come a long way! In my professional life, my greatest success is this business. It blows my mind that I’ve grown my business to a 6-figure annual turnover in just two and a half years. If you’d told me this back when it was a side hustle, I don’t think I would have believed you!

What advice would do you wish you could give to your 15-year-old self?

You are exactly where you are supposed to be so enjoy the moment and everything that’s happening is a learning experience. Also, the things that seem like the end of the world right now, you won’t remember in a month's time!

What would you say has been the secret to your success?

Taking risks. It was risky to leave my secure corporate job to start this business. I’ve invested my own money and used credit cards to get the training and coaching support I needed to scale quickly – that was also a calculated risk. 

I paid all of that back and made my money back and more but at the time, I was sweating about investing! It was risky to niche down into email marketing from offering a full range of digital marketing services. When I niched down, that’s when the magic happened. It was risky to invest in a Positive Psychology Coaching certification and start talking about mindset to my audience but I did it because I love mindset work and I saw a need for this with my clients. It’s all a risk and everything is an opportunity to learn. If you don’t take risks, you won’t move forwards.


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