Dawn Roberts

Dawn Roberts, a PhD in Textiles, lives in NW England and runs 3 networking groups for Unique Ladies Ltd. 

She is 57 years old, married woman with no children. She also used to be a professional bodybuilder. Dawn has worked in the textile industry as a technologist from towels to glamorous underwear but then started working for herself as a Personal Trainer and diet coach before joining Unique ladies as a member before she took on the 3 groups she now runs.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

I started school life at 3 years old when my parents sent me to a private nursery. However, I  was not interested in story time or playing with the toys or even being put down for a nap mid morning. I was more intrigued by what was going on in the classrooms. The teachers relented and let me join in with the pupils aged 5-7. I remember doing “hundreds, tens and units” and yes, being able to write to do the Mathematics!

I had a fond love of reading and almost every weekend my parents or grandparents would treat me to the latest Enid Blyton book. I think it was actually a plot to get me to bed early as my parents would allow me a 30 minute reading time before lights out. At age 5 my reading ability was equivalent to an 11 year old. I joke to this day that I’m still 11 now!

When I joined high school, I mixed with friends who were academically brighter than myself. This really made me feel inadequate. To this day it makes me feel I have to prove myself. My end of school exam results were disappointing to me but I still went on to 6th form with the ambition to qualify for University. Unfortunately I found myself falling behind and I decided it was time to leave but insisted on a job that would still allow me a pathway to study for a degree. I’d had a science teacher Mrs Tagg who I greatly admired and she encouraged students to study science as that is where the future lies. I knew I had to take on something with a science base.

I started working in a laboratory testing floor coverings. One day a week I would go to a local college where I studied for a professional qualification in textile technology. After 6 years, I qualified and was offered the opportunity to study for a PhD.

I’d always wanted to be a Doctor as a child, I suppose I achieved that but not in the medical sense!

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

During my employment in the textile industry, I’d worked in such high pressure environments and found myself becoming rather unhealthy physically and mentally and turning to alcohol. It was one lunchtime when I had decided to go home to just get out of the office and found myself pouring a glass of wine, I realised I needed to change my life. I was in a job where I had to live away from home so the priority was to find a new position closer to home.

Within a matter of a few weeks I found a new job (which I absolutely loved), started at the gym, began to lose the much gained weight and then 10 months later I was made redundant. I never worked for anyone else again!!

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”

I’d always had a love of nutrition and weight training and when I was made redundant I decided to pursue that, not only to benefit my own improving health but to help others also. I had aspirations to open a private training studio which was a total novel idea (and today there are many around). My husband was very supportive and encouraged me all the way. We later converted our garage into a studio which we still have and use to this day.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

Working for yourself is a very lonely and isolating thing to do. Coming from a large open plan office to then suddenly working at my dining table to do the admin work or in the gym with one customer, I realised I had lost all the comradeship of having others around me being excited about their weekends, their holidays etc etc. This is when I started to network. 

I found a local group that was for women in business. I felt like I’d found a new family. Every single lady I met was encouraging and supportive and I looked forward to going along every month. 

For anyone out there working alone I would seriously encourage a networking group. There are many out there and there will be one that suits you. If not, why not start your own!?

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

The pandemic for myself on a personal level did not really have much of a negative impact. I worked from home, I still worked from home. I had decided to retire from my Personal Training in May 2020 so I just retired earlier than planned. We are fortunate to have a nice outdoor space and my garden has never looked as tidy.

The networks continued albeit we went online. As we are an organisation that supports other women in business we appreciated that many of our members were suddenly going to be losing their own incomes so we did the first 6 months free of charge. I know many were thankful that we were still around.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

I’ve already mentioned about getting a PhD. This satisfied me that I could achieve it if I really put my mind to something. 

On a personal note I wanted to win in my chosen field of bodybuilding. I worked many gruelling hours in the gym and kitchen to achieve this with the support of some great coaches. In 2009 I finally won the British title and turned professional. Again, there is a strong mindset required to do this and I can now tick that box.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

This is where I get my impression of “Miss World“. I’d love to see world peace!! I do seriously think that feminine energy is very powerful and if we had more women as leaders particularly in nations where they often appear to be classed as inferior, then we could achieve what we can only currently dream about in many aspects of life.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

Not to worry about things you have no control over. I’ve spent far too long stressing over what might not happen. I’ve spent far too long worrying about what others might be thinking about me (how dare I put thoughts in others’ heads).

I’ve never really had a motto but I supposed if I had to say something it would be “it is what it is“.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

As I said earlier, we definitely need more feminine leadership internationally. I quote “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.” I still think there are huge gaps and they’re not being filled quickly enough.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Don’t take “no” for an answer but also don’t be afraid to say “no“. Believe in yourself. Be kind to others, you never know when your paths will cross again. Smile even when you feel sad. Be positive.