A MUM-OF-THREE who fell pregnant aged 15 has revealed how she went from earning £2.50 an hour in a shoe shop to now running a six-figure PR agency.
Brenda Gabriel, 41, who lives in London, was a teenage single mum, who grew up on a council estate to unemployed parents.
She flunked her A Levels at school and ended up working in a shoe shop for just £2.60 an hour – before a near-death experience in 2013 changed her life forever.
Now, Brenda is the proud owner of a PR agency and business growth consultancy firm and turned over a whopping £205,000 – all while getting to hang out with a bunch of celebs.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Brenda explains: "I grew up in Huddersfield, on a large council estate.
"Money was always tight.
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"Both my parents struggled to get work.
"Despite my dad being a qualified electrician who worked for the BBC when he lived in London, he couldn’t get a job in Huddersfield.
"My mum also struggled to secure work."
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The mum-of-three continues: "I was dressed in second hand clothes before it became fashionable.
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"I had free school meals and received clothing vouchers for my uniform.
"Back then, even my school shoes were bought with vouchers. Sometimes we'd run out of food in the house."
Brenda recalls how when she turned 10, her mum moved her and her sister to a council estate in London which she says was "one of the worst estates in the area."
Then aged 15, she fell pregnant.
"I discovered I was pregnant during the summer holidays before entering year 11 at school," Brenda explains.
"I went to the doctors as I'd missed my period and thought I should go to check.
"She did the test and told me it was positive.
Brenda’s top five business tips
- Go for it! Start before you’re ready and your mind can talk you out of it. Even by getting started you are ahead of the game. Starting and running a business teaches life lessons that cannot be gained anywhere else
- Get clear on your personal values before you get started. This will play a huge role in how you run your business and if you adhere to them, you won’t go far wrong. A business that is aligned to your principles is the most fun to run.
- Choose a business based on something you love so much you would do it for no pay. You may have to work for free or low fees whilst you gain experience. If you build a business based solely on how much money you think you’ll make, it will be difficult to keep going when times are tough and money isn’t flowing as you hoped it would – and there will be tough times. Making large sums of money from the start isn’t as common as the social media success stories would have you believe.
- Create a one page business plan outlining how your business will make its first £5000 through selling your product or service. It helps focus your mind on what actions you need to start generating revenue.
- Outsource as soon as you can. One of the first things I did when I could afford it was to hire a cleaner, my next hire was a virtual assistant. Time is the most valuable asset and is better spent in your zone of genius than spending time doing things that others can do better and faster than you.
"I was aware that my life had changed forever in that moment.
"I was told of my options and left the surgery in a daze.
"The future I had planned, going to university to study business and travelling the world seemed like a lost opportunity, but I knew I wanted to keep my baby."
Despite deciding it'd be "silly" to give up the opportunity to become a mum just because it wasn’t planned, Brenda was worried about the possible backlash she might receive.
"I was was worried about being judged by everyone I knew," she admits.
"I hated the idea of being a stereotype – a council estate teen mum.
"There were a few teen mums on my estate who had been judged and I knew it was exactly what my parents had been trying to protect me from by being strict."
But just two weeks after giving birth to her first son in 1998, aged 16, Brenda did her GCSEs and secured an impressive one A*, seven Bs and one C.
I was was worried about being judged by everyone I knew. I hated the idea of being a stereotype – a council estate teen mum
After taking a year out to look after her son, she started college, where she studied business, French and IT.
But despite hoping to be a bilingual international business woman, Brenda broke up with the father of her child in 2000 and went on to flunk her A-Levels, getting just one E in French.
During this time Brenda worked several jobs – including a shop assistant role for a shoe retailer where she was paid just £2.60 an hour, and a Saturday job at TK Maxx.
But the first role she had after college was for a security company in December 2001, where she worked for seven months before swapping to a similar firm.
In 2003, she started working as a civil servant in the Crown Prosecution Service, where she remained for the next 11 years.
However in 2013, a life-changing accident changed everything and inspired Brenda to start another career.
"I was cycling to a circuit training class in summer 2012 and got run over by a van," she recalls.
"My first thought was 'I’m going to be late for boot camp'.
"My next thought was, 'I could've died a civil servant.'
"That was when I realised I needed to leave my job."
"One month later I discovered I was pregnant with my second child and at 8 months pregnant I took voluntary redundancy and left with no clue what I was going to do."
Brenda went on to sell hair extensions and worked in property and social media management, before going on to discover PR.
She started off working for an agency before deciding to set up her own Brenda Gabriel PR, in 2015.
"The main aim of my business to start, was to help small businesses who were great at what they did, become better known by more people," explains Brenda.
However, it wasn't all plain sailing….
"I suffered loads of setbacks," she says.
"It hasn’t been a straight forward journey for me at all.
My daughter was born just two years after my second son which meant I had to take time off to be mum to two little ones whilst guiding my eldest through college…
"I had to borrow money from the children’s savings to hire a sales coach in 2017 as my income wasn’t increasing despite doing everything I was told to do to get clients to buy my high value offer.
I'm living a life I thought I could never have at 16 – when I moved into my flat alone and couldn’t even afford to decorate or buy furniture!
"I’ve made some ill-advised business investments over the years, including coaching and programs.
"Success isn’t a straight line and things don't always go how you expect them to."
Despite the hurdles, the determined mum, who works with a small team of freelancers on an ongoing basis, went from turning over £24,000 in 2017 to turning over £150,000 in 2018.
And last year, her business turned over a very impressive £205,000.
Among her top achievements include being responsible for the PR for inaugural Damilola Taylor Trust memorial lectures and the 20th anniversary Year of Hope campaign that secured the interest of Rio Ferdinand, and Christine Ohuruogu.
She's also mingled with the likes of Heather Small, Gemma Collins, Vanessa Feltz, Lizzie Cundy, Ashley Walters, Alex Murphy from Dancing on ice and most recently, Khadija Kalifa from The Apprentice.
Her work for an international dating coach also resulted in several major features and TV opportunities including invites onto GMB, The Wright Stuff and even an offer for her own reality TV show.
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The successful businesswoman concludes: "I’m now a 6-figure business owner.
"I'm living a life I thought I could never have at 16 – when I moved into my flat alone and couldn’t even afford to decorate or buy furniture!"
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