Ex-lawyer a curator of lovely things to do in the UK
Hannah Wiltshire took voluntary redundancy from CMS Cameron McKenna in order to set up a beautiful website and e-newsletter service called This is Your Kingdom (TiYK). It’s an insiders’ guide to lovely local things to see and do all around the UK and it aims to raise awareness of small local businesses and enterprises. We spoke to her about why she did it and how it’s going.
mtl: Please can you tell us about your legal career?
Hannah: I did law at Cardiff and found it interesting rather than being passionate about it. After law school in London I did PR for eight months which was fun but not what I wanted to do. I joined CMS Cameron McKenna in 2005 where I completed my training contract and upon qualification joined the commercial property team.
I had a brilliant year there, however come November 2008 it was clear that the property market had been significantly affected by the downturn and, after considering my career options carefully, I was lucky enough to be offered an internal transfer to the corporate department. A year on and despite working on some fantastic deals with great people, I felt that something was missing. The option for voluntary redundancy came up again and I knew it was an option I had to seriously consider.
I’d always had an urge to do something on my own and had had the idea for the site at the back of my mind for a while. Law had never felt like it was going to be my lifelong career and working in a large corporate forever didn’t appeal, maybe because I’ve seen my parents run their own business. I hadn’t had a large amount of work for a while and, as my career in law didn’t feel like it was progressing, I thought this would be a perfect time and opportunity to embark on a whole new challenge and learning curve by setting up TiYK.
The redundancy option gave me a push to get on and do it while also being able to justify my decision to those around me. I was 29 and had no responsibilities other than a mortgage which I knew I could pay. I had the chance to take a risk, so I went for it.
mtl: How did you go about setting up the site, what does it do and how’s it going?
Hannah: After a couple of months off I started on the business plan in September 2009 (with my fiancé, Jim’s help!). It was then a case of finding the right people to build and illustrate the site, which took longer than I expected. I carried out all the preliminary research on my own, with Jim dealing with the financial stuff. I now work with a good friend from school who helps with the editing side of the site.
We launched in June 2010, initially as an insider’s guide to lovely things to see and do in Hampshire and it went really well. We quickly added London and have been adding new content and Counties ever since, with a view to trying to cover the whole country very soon - 102 regions in total!
The emphasis is on raising awareness of small local businesses and enterprises e.g. artisan bakeries, independent shops, craft workshops – all the brilliant people ‘making, baking and creating’ across the UK. I’ve always been passionate about supporting small independent shops and prior to setting up TiYK, would always endeavor to seek out lovely places to visit that offered something special. Apart from Alistair Sawday’s ‘Special Places to Stay’ (lovely B&B’s and cottages), I was unable to find a trusted source for finding out about lovely local things to see and do – hence the idea for TiYK was born.
To ensure we share only the very best ‘insider information’ we ask trusted local folk and business owners who are 'in-the-know' to divulge details of their favourite local place to 'eat, drink, walk, think, potter, ponder, snuggle, shop or sleep.' Once edited these are published on both the site and in our regional e-newsletters with a full accreditation to the author and a link to their business. It’s a brilliant way for similar minded people to raise awareness of their local area and, in return get a mention for their brilliant business/blogs.
Through our work here at TiYK, we hope to provide a portal for sharing this insider information, increasing local awareness and encouraging people to fly the flag for their County by supporting homegrown business and talent.
I get up early when Jim goes to work in order to start the day with some structure. I might go for a run on Clapham Common if I am feeling spritely, otherwise my day starts by checking emails and making sure that the site is looking lovely and up to scratch! Much of my days are spent on my computer at home getting in touch with recommended businesses and keeping up to date with all those we work with already. I do suffer from cabin fever if I spend too long inside and make sure at least one day a week is spent out and about on my bicycle meeting up with other small business owners or visiting new businesses that have been recommended. That is definitely my favourite part of my work for TiYK!
Our readership has really taken off in the last few months which means we can finally introduce our revenue stream - just as well as there’s only so long a redundancy pay-out and the generosity of a fiancé (and fellow business partner) can last! We have plans for an online directory which will allow each of the small business recommended by our readers to have a much larger presence on the site. The exact details are still under consideration but, with lots of brilliant feedback about this new strategy, this year is proving to be a very exciting one for us.
mtl: Is there anything you miss about law and do you have any advice for our readers?
Hannah: I miss the office banter, the people and working on exciting deals, but not too much… I’m glad I did law, it was invaluable training and taught me a great deal of skills - I would go the same route if I had my time again and go back to it if I needed to. Although I’ve had to massively change my lifestyle, the benefits are that I am much happier and less inclined to be so self-indulgent (though Jim may think otherwise!) I work longer hours than I did in law but I don’t notice them. I’ve had the odd low moment like in November 2010 when it was dark and rainy, I was working day and night, had zero social life and began to doubt my decision. However, this did not last long and now if I have a off day I just go and do something else for a few hours.
When you are at university you don’t really know what it’s going to be like being a lawyer in London. Your path seems so clear cut and before you know it, if you are lucky, you are off to do your training at a big law firm without really knowing what it is you really want. That’s fine for those wholly committed to a career in law – however, I found there was never any encouragement to use your own initiative and think outside the box – graduate jobs are always about working for someone else. However if you do have an idea and it’s well thought out and you don’t have too much to lose then just go for it!
mtl: Thank you and good luck.
Training contract and assistant at
CMS Cameron McKenna
Set up This is Your Kingdom
Launched This is Your Kingdom