My Week: Michelle Dewberry of Chiconomise

The Apprentice winner on early starts, business partners and sailing challenges...

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Usually, I wake up fairly late. In fact, I am absolutely not an early starter. I would much rather get up at 10 o'clock than at six. I'm totally incomprehensible until I've had my first coffee - you wouldn't be able to understand a word I'm saying.
 
This week, though, I relaunched my website, Chiconomise, which means I've been getting up at six and working until two in the morning. It's been incredibly hard work. Things always go wrong with a website - there have been glitches, it's gone down in the middle of the night, we've even had problems at one in the morning. It doesn't help that my business partner is away on holiday and one of the admin girls is off sick, so a lot of the work has been down to me. Even on launch day, it was stressful: we were about to celebrate with a glass of champagne when we realised there was a huge glitch in the website, so we all had to put our champagne glasses down and work on the site. It's been a really, really challenging week.
 
Now it's up, though, I keep getting distracted by it: you can see people signing up, people talking about it and people sharing it. I keep checking to see who's signing up, then checking again. It's not very good when I'm supposed to be doing work but all I'm doing it pressing 'refresh', but it's so exciting.
 
For the relaunch, I brought my business partner, Vicky, onboard. She started working with me in April. Originally, I had been looking at doing a partnership with a publishing agency, but I came to a decision that actually I wanted to have control over the business. I knew I needed a business partner, though: I need someone to interact with and bounce off. The funny thing is, I was looking for ages before I realised she was right in front of my nose: I had put messages on Twitter and LinkedIn and I had been asking friends – but I've known Vicky since we were 18. One day I told her about my ideas. She called a few says later and said, 'are you serious about this?' I said, 'yep' and she went 'right, ok - in that case, I've just quit my job'.
 
There's a lot at stake, though. We're not teenagers any more. We've both got mortgages, she has children - we've got to succeed. That's the difference between running a business now and running a business when you're 19 and you live at your mum's and you don't have any outgoings. Plus, I've got a consultancy background, so for me, there's always that devil on my shoulder whispering 'hey - there's a six-figure salary up for grabs'. When I'm sitting there working until four in the morning, sometimes it's tempting...
 
After I've had my coffee and checked the Daily Chic (our daily deal section) is working, I try to get out of the house, either by going on the bike or going for a walk. Even if it's just around the block, it's good to get some fresh air and wake up for a bit. After that, I catch up with Vicky. We try to get together and do some work every day. She lives in Thames Ditton and I live in Clapham, so we generally work where our meetings are. We used to have an office, but we turned up one day and there was a sign on the door saying the landlord had gone bust and we couldn't get in. Since then, we've been working from home – but we've realised recently that we need a permanent office space, so it's something we're looking into at the moment.
 
I'm looking forward to the weekend, when I'll finally get to take a break. I'm taking part in the Round the Island challenge, a big yachting competition in Cowes. I'm on a yacht with Ben Ainslee, the three times Olympic gold medallist. I'm a complete novice - definitely no sailor - but it's going to be great distraction from the pressure of the relaunch. I love crazy challenges like that: earlier this month, I did the Moonwalk Marathon, and I've done the London Marathon a few times. I just like to do that kind of stuff.
 
As for the website, I'm massively excited. We've got so many plans and ideas for the future. When you start a business, you've got to know what you're good at and what makes you tick. It's taken me a long time to be honest with myself and realise I need a business partner. Now that I've got Vicky, and I've got my team, the first building blocks are in place. I've never had that before. I feel like now I'm ready to take on the world.

Michelle Dewberry is the founder of Chiconomise.com, a deals portal for women.

This diary piece is taken from our weekly Enterprise Bulletin, which is sent out every Friday morning and features a mix of news, profiles and advice for entrepreneurs, owner-managers, and those working in small businesses. It's completely free, and you can sign up via this link.

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