Getting to know … Ali Beaven

TLL chats to the gift list founder and panellist at the Women’s Business Network Surrey panel discussion on International Women’s Day, March 8th, to find out her recipes for business success.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I really enjoyed sewing at senior school and dreamt of being a fashion designer. Although this didn’t materialise, I was able to continue my passion for sewing by running my own interiors business from home while the children were young, and I loved the practical side of making all the soft furnishings.

What makes work?

Our amazing team of 50 at our Prezola head office in Bath and our delivery centre in Westbury, Wiltshire. Without these great people and their exceptional customer service we couldn’t make Prezola work in this niche market.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I am a real believer in acting on your gut feel. This is particularly true when it comes to employing people.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Prezola turning over its first million in revenue was big. Our business is very predictable, and we’d forecast that moment down to a one-hour window. We were in the pub with our best friends (and angel investors) when it happened, and we watched the payment gateway tick over the million mark while drinking champagne. I think that was the point I truly realised ‘wow’ this is actually happening!

Another huge moment was Prezola winning ‘Best Gift List’ at The British Wedding Awards a year after we launched. We’ve since won it five times! Winning these awards and being voted for by the public andthe wedding industry really endorses our brand.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

There are so many; I admire lots of people every day. Prezola partners with some great brands run by inspirational women: Chrissie Rucker at The White Company, Kelly Hoppen, Sophie Conran. All of these women have a great passion for how they run their businesses, as well as for what they create.

I am also inspired by my children who are growing up fast and are very lucky to know what they want to do career-wise. They are both working hard to achieve their dreams, which inspires me every day.

What is your greatest fear?

With Prezola, my greatest fear is probably that couples will stop getting married or having gift lists. Luckily it doesn’t look like this will happen anytime soon. But we must keep evolving and adapting our service to suit the needs of these couples.

On a personal level, I worry about the health of myself and my family so do everything I can to keep fit, sleep well and eat healthily.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

Patience, passion and determination – in abundance!

What is your recipe for success in business?

I think it depends on what you deem a success. There are so many stages to setting up and running your own business that will hopefully lead to lots of ‘successes’ along the way. For example, launching a website, your first ad campaign, employing your first employee, right up to a successful funding round and even a sale. Everyone has different goals.

How do you wind down at the end of the day?

I am very lucky to have a stunning walk home from work, which helps to clear my mind. It can be quite hard for me to relax at home as I work with my husband, but we try not to ‘talk shop’ too much! Relaxation for me is a glass of wine, cooking dinner, catching up on some TV or reading.

What is your most treasured possession?

My children – now 19 and 17 – both made bookmarks in primary school which I still use in any book I am reading. They think it’s hilarious and still argue over whose was the best! Photos taken before mobile phone cameras are very precious to me, too.

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