Hearing a British Olympic star talk about being a winner was the inspiration entrepreneur Victoria Beale needed to launch her own business.
At a conference she heard Olympic silver medallist and British record-holder Kriss Akabusi give a motivational talk about achieving goals.
Afew years later, Victoria has her own fledgling company helping other businesses fulfil their potential.
And today sees her stage her most ambitious initiative yet – a major international business exhibition in Milton Keynes, with 100 exhibitors and a projected 5,000 visitors. It’s the first of a series of similar events she’s rolling out across the UK.
Victoria, a mother of three who lives in Newport Pagnell, said: “I’m not sure I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for Kriss Akabusi.
“I went to see an event he was speaking at in 2008. At the time I didn’t know much about his career as an athlete – he was giving a motivational talk on business.
“I was so impressed and inspired by what he had to say that I went over to talk to him.
“Afterwards I cheekily gave him my business card.
“To my amazement Kriss called me and said he was interested in helping me get my idea off the ground.”
Following their meeting at the conference, Kriss and Victoria joined forces to stage the first Make It Happen event in 2009, a seminar for business people with a focus on finding solutions to the economic downturn.
More than £15,000 has been raised for charity, and four similar events with different themes have all been a huge hit – though Victoria has long since moved on to concentrate on her own business interests.
“Kriss and I are still great friends,” said Victoria. “But four years ago I decided to go it alone as a new business development consultant. It led to me setting up my own company, Rapid Sales Solutions.
“We’re a comprehensive business development consultancy, offering planning to full campaign management from start to finish.
“We also stage business exhibitions, bringing business people together, and we run other networking events.”
Remarkably, Victoria left school at 17 with just a handful of GCSEs.
She says she ‘just fell into’ a career in recruitment.
At just 19 she was working as a headhunter, part of her job being to help highly paid executives put together their CVs.
But the pressure of executive life, combined with the break down in a personal relationship and the responsibility of bringing up her young daughter, Chloe, saw Victoria throw it all in.
She decided to retrain as a hairdresser in 2004 – qualifying from her part-time course in 2007.
Again, things weren’t going exactly according to plan for Victoria. Two more children came along – Liam, who’s now seven, and Katie, six.
Then in early 2009 Victoria was offered a job working for Milton Keynes recruitment firm Aaron Wallis.
“I was there for nine months before I had the encounter with Kriss Akabusi that changed my life.”
After co-founding the Make It Happen event, Victoria created Milton Keynes corporate networking company Business Live in 2009, then came Rapid Sales Solutions, followed in August 2012 by her latest venture, the international business-to-business company Business Expo 3.0.
In year one, from nothing, Rapid Sales Solutions turned over £89,000 and is free of loans and outside investment. This year, from its offices on the Interchange Business Centre in Newport Pagnell, it is expected to turn over £150,000.
Victoria now has a team of six working from her base in Milton Keynes.
Today’s Business Expo 3.0, takes place at DoubleTree by Hilton.
She says: “Milton Keynes is a fantastic place for the event. It has a brilliant mix of companies and people – and the city itself is so accessible for people from all over the country.
“We’re looking forward to what’s going to be a great event to promote sustainable businesses in Milton Keynes at home and on a global scale.
“These days there’s so much you can do at your computer screen – but I look upon it as bringing the online world together with the offline world.”
> Business Expo 3.0 runs from 9am to 5.30pm in the Ballroom at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Milton Keynes.
Entry is £5 on the day.