Before becoming a Business Adviser at the Growth Hub, Sarah Damani enjoyed a varied and successful career in retail.
“Having completed my degree in marketing, I headed straight into retail management by joining Debenhams,” Sarah explains. “I entered their graduate program, where the goal was to make store manager within five years. This led me to become Sales Manager and gave me the opportunity to work across loads of different departments.”
A switch from shop floor to head office soon followed. “I’d always been interested in data analysis,” says Sarah. “That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to work for Levis, where I became a merchandiser for the buying department and really got involved in number crunching.”
Sarah subsequently decided to start a family, and while on maternity leave was made redundant from Levis. The alternative of a relocation to Brussels wasn’t something Sarah could balance with her young family, so she instead spent two years raising her kids.
“This is something I can really relate to when meeting Growth Hub clients,” says Sarah. “A lot of the people I meet are women who have families but who want to contribute to the household income or simply keep the brain ticking!”
Sarah joined the Growth Hub after maternity leave. “The first year has been a whirlwind, but it’s fantastic,” she said. “I’m more passionate about this job than anything else I’ve done. I love the fact we’re working with inspirational, entrepreneurial people who are taking their dreams and making them a reality.”
Even though she’s only been at the Growth Hub a year, Sarah has already worked with a vast range of businesses from industries such as holistic therapy to coaching, consultancy and architecture. And, despite the diverse nature of her Growth Hub clients, Sarah has learned how to use her wealth of retail experience to their advantage as a business adviser.
“It’s clear that when we strip these businesses back, they’re all very similar,” she explains. “They all need to do a bit of marketing, sales, lead generation and build a brand.
“Although I’ve come from retail, my previous roles have been quite diverse. I’ve done a lot of planning, recruitment, training and customer experience work. I think all of those different skills really help with my work at the Growth Hub. I’ve also found that my corporate background working for some big names gives the people we help confidence I can guide them well; they can use my experience to form a strategy for their own brand.”
At the Growth Hub, we’re lucky enough to meet some very exciting enterprises during their start-up phase, and one in particular has struck a chord with Sarah. “It’s a guy that turned a hobby into a business almost accidentally. He came across some equipment that enabled him to build an arcade games machine in his garage using relatively little resource. The product ended up being very high quality, and after dabbling on eBay, he managed to get an international sale. Things have blown up from there!
“It’s an example of someone working a full time job while feeling his own way through a side project, but his turnover last year saw him hit the VAT threshold already, and he’s still doing this from his garage!”
Sarah’s passion for the work we do at the Growth Hub is infectious, and if you’d like to meet her, she’s rather fond of a networking. “I attend lots of networking events, therefore if anyone reading this would like me to come along and meet with members or even do a presentation, I’d be happy to,” says Sarah. “It’s a great opportunity to tell people about the grant opportunities we have here in the county.”
This is part one of a three-part series. In the next blog, Sarah explains about her work with the Ready2Grow project.