Published in The Career Stylist in November 2011
Duda Jadrijevic is the Owner of ‘duda does’ a Personal life organiser/Private PA business in central London. Below she reveals how she’s managed to create a successful biz despite the most horrible personal circumstances; using her grief as fuel to ‘re-invent’ herself +style a whole new career + business. I was going to cut down the below to make it a more concentrated read+ follow the blog “rule book” but then I stopped myself. TheCareerStylist.com gets to the heart of what drives us + holds us back as savvy women that want to love + thrive in what we do- what makes Duda’s story so powerful is the striking honesty with which it’s told. So I’ve left it just as it is, raw + true
What was your career path before launching your business?
Since an early age I was drawn to music and dance. I have had a fulfilling music career as a professional singer soloist and dancer whilst finishing my grammar school education. At age of 20 I decided to study and have so gained an MA degree in sociology and Croatian Culture. I moved to London in 2006 and decided it was my new beginning. I had to find myself as my passion for music was difficult to replace. I gained experience and progressed fairly quickly from various events, media and recruitment roles in central London. Naturally a performer and networker, I enjoyed organising business network events and business development through marketing has been a fulfilling challenge. Yet I didn’t quite feel my truest contribution to the society has found its place. At the time when I intuitively started to feel that I would like to organise people’s private time, I completed a lot of projects for free and purely out of passion, aside my long hour working days as a marketing manager. There was no support around but I observed my target market and started to do research without telling anyone.
Was there a big moment of inspiration?
A big moment of inspiration was one of the most horrible experiences one can imagine. When I moved to London it was mainly for my partner who was a born and bred Londoner. We lived together and planned our future surrounded by his loving family that included me as one of their own. Even his friends became good friends of mine. I got my business idea whilst living in our Victorian house in West Hampstead, London. I loved organising private family functions, Christmas shopping projects and managing the house and home admin, including hiring and firing staff and connecting people.
Without any sign or explanation, I was left by my partner after New Year’s day in 2009. I wasn’t allowed to ask why and up until today I never received any explanation. Except for one person, no one ever contacted me again. My complete network, nephews I loved, cousins that were calling me their cousin, sister in law who presented me as hers – all vanished in one day. Completely devastated, in a complete emotional, existential and mental shock I lost a stone and a half, started to suffer from insomnia and fear of emotional survival. I moved out to a new area with only two friends I had built strong friendships with independently. I was in a high position within an organisation were I was constantly bullied by a sales manager and never had a day off.
Trying to understand and stay sane, I invested my grief into reinventing myself. I will never forget looking at myself in the mirror not knowing who I was, what I have achieved and where to go next. All my family and friends were back in Croatia or in New York. Everyone was holding their breaths and asking me to go back home to Croatia but I refused. I spent days learning what life is a about and step by step, my intuition that I had as a child and an artist came back. When I finally got out of the grieving process and was ready to relax and get my energy back, I was made redundant from one day to the next with no compensation pack – the recession hit my marketing role. It was late August 2009.
I will never forget that week.
I cried for half a day and started to apply for different roles yet I would wake up with my ‘duda does’ idea. I spoke to one person who felt to be perfect as a test client. He was at that time a great business mentor to me and hugely supported my idea. I had £2000 in my account and no job. Again, I jumped from the cliff knowing that I will need to swim in new waters. No going back.
A new friend offered me her couch for few months. I spent £1900 on my website, brand design and basic start up sleeping on my friend’s couch. In the meantime I persistently applied for any jobs to survive. I had no financial support and no desire to take on a loan I would regret one day soon. By February 2010 I got 3 clients and moved out to a house-share. I put my lifestyle completely on the back burner + invested everything I had into marketing.
Today I have 2 contract based assistants, a marketing manager, a web designer, a steadily growing set of clients and a phone that is ringing with more requests.
I finally found strength to get out and meet new people. I am also a leader of few entrepreneurial groups in Hampstead women’s club and MTLTS Mayfair group. My ‘Little Pink book’ is full of handpicked services and I am surrounded by quality people. I’m single yet have found new friends for life.
What were the biggest challenges in getting it off the ground?
For me it has definitely been loss of a social network as in my industry word of mouth plays a crucial role. Also no financial support in terms of living on my own, no partner to share my finances with. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the emotional loneliness and fear of an enormous responsibility. There were days I had no food for a week as the payments were slow and no one to ask. I think of those days with a certain fondness as I know my fears are worse than the reality.
What do you love most about what you do?
As a Personal Life organiser I enjoy seeing my clients relieved after they realise what I can bring to them. It is most visible in de-clutter sessions as clutter is a psychologically difficult project. It is difficult to let go and most of clutter in people’s house shows procrastinating or simply not being able to look at it and face what’s behind things. My clients always end up giving me a hug and feel like a huge burden has been lifted from their shoulders. I also enjoy getting things sorted, in particular getting things on time or dealing with a service my clients find difficult to find an inclination to deal with. Getting my clients back in control over home related matters and taking away the stress that makes them feel guilty is my biggest reward.
As an entrepreneur I am grateful for all my life and business obstacles as being a true entrepreneur means being willing to learn about oneself and invest in personal growth. It goes hand in hand with spirituality that is an important part of doing what one wants to do. Running business is making good money as we learn to value ourselves, but it is never ABOUT making money. I love my every day life lessons which allow me to always come up with another creative solution. It can be daunting, tiring and demotivating but if we forget about self pity and just listen to what life is trying to tell us – the bigger the obstacle, the greater the idea! Uniqueness is powerful and reassuring – at least for someone like me who never wanted to blend in or conform.
What top tips would you give other women who dream about setting up their own business?
Start with a dream and fly 90% of your first few weeks. Each day hit the bottom hard and spend those 10% on a most objective ‘reality check’.Test your ideas and ask for opinions when you already feel your own- never when you feel indecisive.
Believe you can do it and imagine there is no other option than to succeed.
Look after yourself in the same way you look after your clients. Do not allow yourself to burn out. You will make mistakes, lose clients and become unhealthy.
Cry when you are sad, smile when you want to make a difference, laugh whenever you want to.
Be prepared to make mistakes, learn about others and grow as a person.
Be confident with a healthy self esteem, yet humble.
See a 12 hours working day as a norm, not as a dreadful reality. In your free time, switch off your phone for an hour. The world will still be revolving..
Never, never, never give up! W.Churchill
How do you keep yourself motivated?
My self awareness- the moment when I feel I can’t do any better I will stop. But up until then, I am naturally motivated by my potential that results in hard work, great creativeness and willingness to serve the community with my business know how and an honest and highly professional service. I have also recently started coaching sessions with Beth at The Career Stylist which have been amazing at helping me keep focussed + drive towards my goals- she really helps me laser in on what’s important + gets me stepping into my own power + talents. I really believe in doing everything you can to invest in your on development + having a coach is a big part of this, for me at least.
Just for fun..
Then New York.
What was the last book you read?
The power of now – Eckhart Tolle
Yummy food indulgence?
Avocado with balsamic vinegar and olive oil / Lebanese humous
Italian ice cream / Chocolate
Duda Does is Founder + Owner of duda does, a Personal life organiser/Private PA business in central London which looks after overly busy people in London.