As Britain’s best-known midwife, Zita West has advised stars including Kate Winslet. Her London clinic specialises in fertility and IVF treatment and books include Zita West’s Guide to Fertility and Assisted Conception
‘I struggled with dyslexia at school and dropped out of college at 17 without my A-levels. I was deliriously happy working at the local Co-op but luckily my mum had other ideas.
‘She was a midwife and encouraged me to apply for a job in nursing. I got an interview and for the first time thought I could be good at something. Without her guidance and belief in me I would probably still be behind the supermarket check-out.
’Instead, 20 years later I was setting up Zita West Affiliate and support was just as important, but in the financial sense. With my background in midwifery, I had no idea what was required to start a business. I found it hard to get local business information or find funding.
‘I had two young children and some days I was working until midnight in the garden shed, which I’d turned into my office. There were so many times I just wanted to give up.
‘But then my friend introduced me to a guy called Brian Astley, co-director at Millets, and he liked my ideas and became an investor. He also helped me organise the accounts. crunch numbers and look over contracts.
‘With 10,000 things to do on a daily basis, I started to realise two heads were better than one and Brian became my business partner in 2002.
Having his support means I can get on with running the clinic, seeing clients and using my creative side to manage the press and PR, while he runs the day-to-day responsibilities such as the cash flow and finances.
‘Being an entrepreneur is a juggling act so having a business partner takes the pressure off and provides support when things aren’t going so well – much like a marriage! Knowing I have Brian’s expertise helps me sleep through the night.’
Every week a businesswoman or professional from Marie Claire’s Inspire & Mentor campaign posts their favourite piece of career advice.