Making it Work: Estate Agency

Continuing our series about balancing family life and careers, we talk to Gemma Young. Gemma runs her own estate and holiday lettings agency, and is currently pregnant with her second child.

I’ve always wanted to have two children. My own mum worked full-time, and she was a single parent, so I’d also always assumed that I would continue to work when I had children – it was all I’d ever known.

My first job was a paper round, when I was 13. That was how I met Craig, my husband. The paper round was on Hythe Marina, and we were both then offered a job on the lock, where we worked together until we were 16. Craig is very hardworking, and this was definitely a quality that attracted me to him.

My mum set up the estate agency 13 years ago, when I was at college. I worked for her on a part-time basis while I was a student at college, and then at university. Once I’d graduated I was really able to dedicate myself to the profession. I started working full-time the day after I finished my degree. I started at the very bottom, but I really enjoyed the work and I progressed quickly.

When I was younger I wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer. I’ve always loved learning, and I still do – the lettings industry involves a huge amount of legislation, which I always keep abreast of, and I continue my professional development with relevant courses and exams. I’m proud to be one of the most qualified letting agents in the area.

Three years ago mum handed over the reins of the business to me – I had ten years experience by then, and she felt that the time was right.

When I was pregnant with my first baby, Heidi, I visited the nursery and booked her a place there. Heidi arrived three weeks early, and my desk was left exactly as it was the night before I went into labour. I did what I could from my phone in hospital – luckily, I have an amazing team and they rallied round. Once I was out of hospital I was able to dial into my computer from home, and I even took Heidi to the office with me. She was an amazing baby and she slept in between feeds.

Heidi went to nursery from three months, and so will our next baby. She loves nursery, and she’s flourishing there. Craig does a lot too, and both of our parents help out. Craig is an amazing dad and husband. He works away two weeks at a time, driving tug boats, and then has two weeks at home. When he’s at home he does absolutely loads – he’s very hands on with Heidi, and does lots around the house. When he’s at work we miss him terribly – life’s a lot harder without him around.

It can sometimes be a very difficult juggling act. The times when Heidi is ill are the most challenging, and that’s when family and friends play a major part in supporting us. There was one week last year when I was short staffed at work, and the nursery then rang to say that Heidi had chickenpox. It couldn’t have come at a worse time! If I hadn’t had family to help look after Heidi, I don’t know what I would have done. I worked late into the night every night that week, while Heidi was in bed, to make sure that my business didn’t suffer.

I don’t feel that having children has held me back in my career at all – in fact, it’s made me more determined and driven than ever. I want to make my children proud of me, as I am of my own mum, and I also want to provide the absolute best that I can for them. I’d like to be in the fortunate position of being able to hand a successful business over to them one day – if they want it!

I do feel incredibly guilty at times, but I’m a very ambitious person, and I’m incredibly passionate about what I do. I also believe that I’m providing the very best start that I can for my children. I was brought up with a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed in life, and I hope that these values will be passed onto them.

As a parent, there are pros and cons to running my own business. There are times when it encroaches on family life, but equally, if Heidi is ill, or if there’s an event to attend at nursery, I don’t have to ask anyone for the time off. When the children start school, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to pick them up – as a child, I always had to go to a childminder after school, but I’d love it if I could be there at the school gate every day.

I think I’m very fortunate to be in the position that I am at my age, and I know that I have family, friends, and staff at work to thank for that. There are times when it feels as though I’m being pushed to the max, but I can’t imagine my life any other way.

We definitely have fewer holidays since having Heidi, and we don’t drive a posh car anymore, but I wouldn’t change that for the world – being a parent is the most incredible experience, and it has made us realise what is important in life.

Gemma’s tips for making it work:
• A supportive partner, family and friends make all the difference.
• Running your own business is hard work, but can mean more flexibility.
• A strong work ethic, and being driven, will help you to succeed.
• Doing something that you’re passionate about makes it all worthwhile.

✽ Has your career changed since you had children? To share your work story, contact us: