Retail Entrepreneur, Director & Board Advisor
Today we meet Tracey Woodward, a mum of 2 who after a challenging start in life is an entrepreneur and successful businesswoman. Tracey talks about her life, career, family, charity work and how she thinks women can succeed.
BoardroomMum Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself?
Tracey Woodward My mum was 18 when I was born so was just a child herself. I was also a premature baby (born at 26 weeks) so was very sickly and absent from school a lot of the time. I could not really read or write at the age of 14 and was still reading Ladybird books. I did however believe that working on a beauty counter as a consultant was a very glamorous job and the women who worked there had the most fabulous shoes. It was this that as a young person first attracted me to considering a career in the beauty industry.
BoardroomMum Can you please provide some information on your career to this point?
I had left school at 15 and was working in a chemist. The chemist told me that I was bright. I was very good at merchandising, moving items around to look more attractive and appealing to the customers. This was the first time that someone had told this and that I needed to push myself forward.
I saw an interview for a job. I wore a coatdress to that interview and a pair of my friend’s shoes, as I did not have any appropriate footwear for the interview. I was successful and so my career started.
Back then, working on a beauty counter was a real experience and the learning curve was steep. I had exposure to, and had to understand, concepts such as gross margin and profitability. I have moved several times during my career, taking on more responsibilities and experiences. I have also created and sourced new opportunities for myself. My career has included working at Lauder, Clinique, Donna Karan, Aveda and MOP. At MOP I was responsible for their UK launch. I then joined Urban Retreat in Harrods. I was there almost 9 years and delivered double-digit growth for the full time I was with them.
I have also worked with my husband in building a deli business. We sold the last one in 2014.
BoardroomMum How many children do you have?
I have 2 children, a son who is 23 and a daughter who is 13. I had Josh at 25 and then Ava at 35.
BoardroomMum How do you combine career with family life?
I had my mum helping me when my son was small. I could not have done it without her, and I also think it was a positive experience for her - it gave her the opportunity to be a mum again. I was jetting backwards and forwards to New York so it was great to have her on hand. When my daughter came along, mum also helped but my husband was also around. He was running a local business so we could be flexible and I was very fortunate in that sense.
BoardroomMum Have you won any awards?
Tracey Woodward Yes I have won several awards over many years. These include Winner of a CEW Achievers Award 2013, and Premium Beauty Retailer at the 2013 Cosmetic Business Innovation Awards.
BoardroomMum What is CEW? What is your involvement?
Tracey Woodward The CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women) is a US organisation which came to the UK about 20 years ago. The cosmetics industry is growing all the time. I mentor and am a board member. I really enjoy mentoring, as I can support, give advice and empower others. I work with a couple of small brands in greater depth including Tom Kosmala, a parfumier and nose who has recently launched into Harrods.
BoardroomMum How did you become involved in Action For Children/Women Taking Action?
Tracey Woodward I was introduced to the charity. I am very keen to make things happen- using my network do what I can and support them. I enjoy my charity work and want to give back. I know what it is like to have no food in the cupboard, no money and no self worth.
BoardroomMum Would you recommend that working with a charity can be a good way for women to develop their skills and experience?
I do not think that you should view charity work just as a networking opportunity. Working with a charity does expose you and your skills to other women. Exposure is good. It is also good for self-confidence, as well as helping others.
I am a member of the Women’s Leadership Group at The Princes Trust and work with the charity Look Good Feel Better. We help approximately 12,000 women per year. Look Good Feel Better is helping women of all ages going through cancer treatment to feel good about themselves teaching them how to define there eyes pencil in eyebrows and reduce redness and puffiness through skilful make-up application.
BoardroomMum What can be done to encourage more girls/women to fulfil their potential?
Tracey Woodward I believe that women should find themselves a good mentor. Someone to have a cup of coffee with, who is discrete but will be honest with their viewpoint.
BoardroomMum Any tips or recommendations for other women out there, who wish to pursue their career ambitions and aspirations?
Tracey Woodward Women are very good at strategizing. We make it work. But we also beat ourselves up a lot and we tend to say that we are lucky instead of how hard we have worked or what talents we have. Also getting recognised for what you do is difficult. You need to talk about what you have done. Be keen to build your own brand, have self-belief and look the part.
BoardroomMum Would you have done anything differently?
Tracey Woodward Not really. I am doing what I love doing and my life is amazing. I feel very blessed and lucky. My feet however are very much on the ground. I still drive through the housing estate I lived with my mum, as a reminder on how grateful I am for everything.
BoardroomMum What are your plans personally and professionally?
Professionally I am currently working with my consultancy and work 2-3 days per week at M&S. I am working with them to develop the beauty offering bringing in amazing brands and developing the consultants. For me this is a very exciting opportunity creating a great place for women to shop beauty.
Personally, I'm just looking for a good standard of living and will take it from there. Personally, I enjoy walking my dog, doing pilates, and having more time for me and the family. I have what I call my cosmic shopping list made up of my personal goals.
BoardroomMum Thank you Tracey for your time and insight. We at www.boardroommum.com wish you every continued success and happiness.