'Being aggressive isn't essential for business success' - Donna Baker, Here For a Day & Here For a Pound

20 QUESTIONS: The founder of the daily deal website and online pound store talks about becoming a midwife and why she can't work with half-hearted people.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 11 Sep 2014

1. IF YOU HAD DONE SOMETHING ELSE WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN?

I always had a hankering to be a midwife - I do love babies. When I watch programmes on TV I think, ‘I could’ve done that.’

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

I never thought about naming Here For A Pound anything else, as it evolved naturally from Here For A Day. We had a few ideas for that. One of the craziest was Swunday.com - it was a play on ‘for one day’. Fortunately for everyone we came up with Here For A Day.

3. IF YOU COULD BE BASED IN ANOTHER CITY WHERE WOULD IT BE?

A lot of tech talent, networking and funding circles are based in London, so from the point of view of the business that would be the obvious option. But I think we have a lovely team here in Exeter.

4. WHEN YOU STARTED, HOW DID YOU RAISE MONEY?

My husband had sold his funeral directing company, so we had our own funds for Here For A Day. For Here For A Pound, we’d exhausted those. I was in contact with Lizzy James at Santander about their Breakthrough funding programme. We weren’t suitable, so she asked if I was happy to be put in contact with potential investors. We met our investor at a local rugby match, which is where most of Exeter’s business seems to take place, and raised £100,000 to launch Here For A Pound.

5. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DECISION SO FAR?

Looking back over the last year, probably attending that Santander meeting where I met Lizzy James, because she’s been a huge support and inspiration and I find it difficult to imagine the last 12 months without her. Further back, the most important decision is just to do it, because if you don’t make that decision then nothing else happens.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

Sometimes I wish I’d gone into business before I had three children. At the same time the idea didn’t come until the children had arrived. It’s the one area that’s caused me the most guilt.

7. WHAT IDEA DO YOU WISH YOU HAD COME UP WITH?

I’d like it to be something really, really clever like Google. Something that would make me look incredibly intelligent.

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

I’m pretty easygoing generally, so I don’t get stressed too easily. But when it gets the better of me I walk my dogs. I love spending time with my children, but if you’re particularly stressed that can add to it as it adds to the guilt as well.

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

I was an insurance claims handler for Norwich Union. My professional life has always been about saving money in one way or another.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

I had a Saturday job at Littlewoods, which I hated. I didn’t like working weekends; I got all the rubbish jobs while permanent staff manned the checkouts. I resigned in the end when they refused to give me some holiday leave. I like working for myself - the flexibility.

11. WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

What I do now. There’s so much I want to do with my own business that I never tire of it. I enjoyed my job as a loss adjuster [studying complicated insurance claims] - meeting different people every day and helping them out at a time in life that’s sometimes very traumatic. I enjoyed working out on the road. Again, that was part of being my own boss. I set my own appointments, I organised my own working life.

12. IF YOU WERE ON THE APPRENTICE WOULD YOUR TEAM BE NAMED?

Get Me Out Of Here. I could not work with those people. I’ve got no idea where they get them from. If that’s the best that Britain’s got to offer we’re in trouble.

13. WHAT COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

I went to a new place in Exeter over the weekend, called Brody’s Breakfast Bistro. I really loved it. It’s a really innovative idea - simple, well executed, but unique - and I can see it developing into a really successful chain. If they were looking for investment, and I had funds to invest, I’d invest in a heartbeat.

14. APART FROM PROPERTY, WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE BOUGHT?

I’m not particularly extravagant, clothes-wise or jewellary or anything like that. I do enjoy cars - I’ve got a Vauxhall Corsa now, but the most expensive thing was a Range Rover.

15. SUIT OR JEANS?

Suit-ish. I’m a real slob at home. It’s proper dress down, so I do take the opportunity to make some effort for work, but more smart casual rather than suits.

16. FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

Flexible, definitely. We have to work long hours with what we do, but being able to fit that in around other activities like school events means you don’t have to miss out on important times.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE OFFICE?

I think the atmosphere we have here. I’m really proud of our team, everyone’s really passionate. When you’re really focused yourself it’s really hard to work with people who are halfhearted.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

I’m not a big techie - I haven’t got music on my phone or anything. I’ve got a Connect-4 app which is a bit of escapism. If I need 10 minutes out, I just go off and use that.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

Richard Branson - he can adapt his thinking to so many different ventures. So many well known business people come across as being aggressive and condescending and he doesn’t. I admire him for being so successful, but without demonstrating those particular qualities, because I don’t think those are essential for business success.

20. IF YOU WERE PRIME MINSTER FOR THE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

Helping business funding. It’s still very difficult for a new business with a good idea to get funding. It’s very difficult to approach banks at the moment and investors have their own drawbacks.

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