Halebury’s Female Founders blog series celebrating International Women’s Day: Christine Armstrong, Founder of villas4kids
In honour of International Women’s Day, Chairwoman and Founder of Halebury Janvi Patel interviews female entrepreneurs she has met and been inspired by in her journey as a successful female entrepreneur. In this piece, Janvi interviews Christine Armstrong. Christine has founded family friendly holiday business villas4kids and is also co-founder of Jericho Chambers. She also writes for Management Today and International Business Times.
When did you launch villas4kids?
My husband and I had owned holiday villas in Cyprus for years. When we visited with our first daughter – then aged six weeks – we couldn’t believe how much stuff we needed to take or how stressful it was. So we made our houses completely family friendly and were utterly overwhelmed with bookings. We started encouraging our neighbours to do the same and it grew. We’ve just opened in Italy and are planning new markets for 2016.
What does villas4kids do?
Just what it says on the tin. Family friendly holidays where you have to worry about nothing.
How has the business grown? Has this been in line with expectations?
Beyond any expectations. It’s gone from being a small investment that runs parallel to our lives to a (more than) full-time job for my husband, supported by a team of seven people based from Puglia to St Petersburg.
What does your ‘standard’ working day consist of (if there is such a thing!)?
It is hugely varied – which I love. In addition to villas4kids, I write for Management Today magazine and International Business Times and I am co-founder of Jericho Chambers which is a community of experts. So I work long hours but I am really lucky to be in control of my time: I can start late and do the school and nursery run and then work later – or vice versa. Feeling in control makes it work for me. We also have a live-in au pair who is utterly brilliant – who smoothes out any scheduling crises.
What, or who, has been your biggest inspiration?
I steal inspiration from wherever I find it, so it’s hard to answer. That said, my former boss, William Eccleshare (now CEO of ClearChannel International) is extremely important. He taught me to have faith in myself and to enjoy business enough to laugh every day.
What role does technology play in your life? What couldn’t you be without?
Since my kids cracked my password I’ve learned I can live without my iPad. My iPhone is like my third hand, despite being permanently cracked by my clumsiness, but I’m getting better and better at turning it off and always sleep with it in a different room.
If you could go back in time and tell your former self lessons you have since learned that could save time/angst/money in your entrepreneurial career, what would the first lesson be?
Stop assuming everyone is cleverer than you: use the power of your energy to make things happen.
What was the biggest challenge when you started vilas4kids?
Sleep. I ‘joke’ I haven’t slept through the night since 2009 as we have three kids (aged five, three and one). But the truth is that I don’t think I have.
What change/support would you like to see introduced to support/encourage female entrepreneurs?
The simplification of the tax system – not just for women though obviously. The bureaucracy and complexity infuriates me. The system has been set up by people who have NEVER started or run a business and have no idea of the headaches it creates. If it was up to me, I’d scrap the whole damn thing and start over.