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Franchisee of the year 2022: Laura Barley of Alchemy VA

Franchisee of the year 2022: Laura Barley of Alchemy VA

A former police officer, Laura Barley, overcame great personal hardship and loss to launch Alchemy VA in Scotland

Name: Laura Barley (42)
Organisation: Alchemy VA Glasgow
Years trading: 15 months

Laura Barley was a police officer and a mother to a one-year-old son when her husband unexpectedly passed away from meningitis.

“I knew I couldn’t continue being a police officer because I just couldn’t dedicate myself to it the way that you have to,” she explains. “I looked for suitable alternatives so I could be there for my son.”

A new path

Driven by the desire to create a flexible and fulfilling career to secure both her and her son’s futures, Laura embarked on a new path by choosing to launch an Alchemy VA franchise from her home on the outskirts of Glasgow in the summer of 2021.

“To me, it made business sense. The way things shifted because of the pandemic to remote working; I could see how much value a virtual assistant could bring,” she continues.

A perfect match

With people being accustomed to remote working, COVID seemed to affect Laura’s business positively. Founder, Suzy Sanders, set her up with her first client and through referrals, Laura had a full roster in no time and shortly needed to hire an associate.

She had consistent growth in her first 12 months, even recouping her initial investment and turned over her previous annual salary in just five months. “Alchemy’s values align with mine,” says Laura. “I am an organised person and do well under pressure and that has worked well for me so far.”

A cause close to the heart

Amongst being a doting mother, a strategic partner to her clients and continuing to invest in her development, Laura also found the time to fundraise for a cause close to her. This October, she put her organisation skills to good use for an event that generated over £2,000 for Meningitis Now in memory of her late husband for their 10th wedding anniversary.

“Raising awareness of meningitis, particularly in adults, is just as important to me as raising funds. It’s not in many people’s awareness that meningitis can affect adults. Meningitis Now carries out vital research, campaigning and support work all contributing to its vision of a future where no one in the UK loses their life to it,” she explains.

So far Laura has raised close to £25,000 for the charity and although looking at taking a hiatus from fundraising, she can’t be kept away. Laura says: “I love the whole arranging aspect and bringing everybody together and keeping my husband’s memory alive.

“My son is eight now, so he can get involved and he appreciates it a bit more. It was nice for him to see his dad’s friends there and know that his dad was loved.”

To the future

Laura has already taken the Alchemy VA brand to Scotland and continues to contribute to its evolution and expansion. Although gaining clients has never been an issue, given the virtual nature of the business, she does point out that the brand is not particularly well known in the country.

“I am looking to address this through networking and one of my goals for next year is to promote the brand a bit more in Scotland. I am hoping to bring on someone soon to free me up to do this,” she explains.

Get to know

My idea of success is… happiness.

My proudest business achievement… is starting this business on my own but with support (from the franchisor).

My motto is… know your worth.

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