I was originally going to run this interview series monthly but there are so many inspirational women doing amazing things that I decided twice monthly would be much better. I love meeting these women and am constantly amazed by 'how on earth they do it' - this week I am interviewing my sister Heidi. I am the oldest of three sisters and Heidi is the middle sister. We are lucky to live quite close to each other and between us we have eight children and all run a small business so life does get pretty full on.
I have written about Heidi on my blog before - I love going on one of her Oxford tours, she really is a fantastic tour guide, she loves history and presents it so well. We have been with our children when they were younger teens and they agreed it really wasn't boring at all! Now there is an accolade, Heidi makes children and teens very welcome so don't be put off - a visit to Oxford and a walking tour of the city would make an excellent summer holiday activity.
I have secured a special offer for my readers and full details can be found at the end of this post (updated September 2020).
Here Heidi tells us more about her life and her business and how she manages to do it all!
Hi Heidi, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
This August I will be 48 and heading ever closer to the big 50! It is hard to contemplate as I always considered that to be very old but times have changed and 50 is not so bad (at least that is what I am telling myself!).
I grew up in Kent with my parents and two sisters – one older and one younger. At 12 we moved to Buckinghamshire and I found that tough at that age but am now so grateful for the move as it got me to where I am today.
I have been married to my husband and best friend for 19 years and we have three wonderful children… and a dog! I now live in Oxfordshire in a small village on The Ridgeway.
And tell us a little bit about your business venture and what inspired you?
At 18 I travelled alone to Vermont in the USA and spent a year as an Au Pair. It was a big step but I had always had 'wunderlust'. It was here that I met one of my closest friends who was also an Au Pair but from Germany. At the end of our year, Stephanie and I travelled coast to coast on Amtrak trains.
This was just the beginning and on returning to the UK, I worked for a travel company based in the UK but that took me to work in The Netherlands where I was a tour guide.
My next adventure was as a holiday representative in Turkey where I completed three summer seasons and met more lifelong friends.
As the years passed, I decided it was time to return to the UK and worked for a travel company who offered bespoke tours to Australia, America and Canada and I would often travel with my job.
After I met my husband Jonathan, and I became pregnant with our first child I returned part-time to the travel company but by my third child, I knew it was time to consider my options. I think it is important for mum’s to be at home as much as possible during the early years of childhood but I needed to work so I looked at what I was good at, what I enjoyed and what was around me and decided I'd love to become a Tour Guide in Oxford.
I wrote to the Tourist Information Centre but was disappointed to learn that they had just run a course and did not have any plans for another one for another 3-4 years. My heart sank when I received that letter ‘we will keep your details on file’ but they did! After those 4 years passed, I received a letter asking me to attend an interview. I had to prepare a 5-minute talk on a subject and present it at The Oxford Town Hall to a group of professional Guides. Although I was used to public speaking and presenting, I had not done it for some time (motherhood can strip away your self-confidence!).
But I was delighted when I received the call to let me know I had been selected for a 9-month training course to become a fully qualified Green Badge Guide. It was a tough and challenging 9-months and on more than one occasion I wondered what I had taken on. At the end, you sit three written exams and two oral. Luckily I passed and started working for the city of Oxford. I then took the leap to start my own business – Walking Tours of Oxford.
What does an average day look like for you?
There is nothing average about my job or my day – each one is unique but the kids help me to form a routine. I'm up by 7 am and then it is the chaos that any mum will know only too well – trying to get them all out the door.
My eldest is now away at University so just the two left but when they were all younger and with three of them, I felt I had done a whole day’s work before 9 am!
I do confess to breathing a sigh of relief when they are all out the door and peace descends... I then have a quiet breakfast, check my emails and reply before taking our dog, Ozzie on a walk along The Ridgeway. That is a great time to think and contemplate the day ahead!
I usually then head into Oxford for one or two tours (I have done four tours in a day and am exhausted by the end!). My clients are from all over the world and the tours I offer are vast and varied – from standard university tours, to Harry Potter, Gargoyles and Grotesques, Morse / Lewis and Endeavour ….
Once my last tour finishes, I will either have to rush towards home and collect the children from various locations or if I am lucky, I might be able to steal an hour at the gym – I love to go swimming!
What has been your biggest challenge?
As far as the business is concerned – SEO and social media! Also trying to not let things get to me too much but that is par for the course with your own business!
What advice would you pass on to someone wishing to change career in midlife?
Make sure it is right for you. Running a business is challenging and stressful and not for everyone. You need a good support network. If you have those in place, then I say go for it. Love what you do and it will shine through!
Do you have a signature style, an everyday look that you love?
When I am out on my tours – and that can be in all weathers, my main objective is comfort all the way! During the winter months it is smart jeans with waterproof boots, waterproof coat and a colourful scarf. I love a smart tailored blazer if the weather permits! – Summer brings much more scope and when the sun shines brightly, you can’t beat a cool summer dress.
How do you balance your business with family life?
Luckily my children are older now and with that comes a little bit of space. My eldest is studying at Oxford University so he is away during term time. The past 6-weeks has been very challenging with my middle child taking GCSE’s and on ‘study leave’ which means that my schedule has been completely thrown into chaos as I have had to take and collect at very erratic times. I just manage it all somehow, because you have to!
What is your biggest achievement to date?
I know it is a cliché, but unquestionably my children. They have all turned out to be well balanced and caring individuals who strive to reach their full potential at school and university. That aside, then it is my business which has not been without it’s up and downs!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
With the children ‘grown up’ I hope that I will have some more ‘us’ time for my husband and myself. We met, had our first child and married within an 18-month time frame so we never really had time to ourselves so that will be special. I want to do more travelling as I love to explore whenever I can. I have done most of the States, Canada, Europe, South East Asia and Australia but India and Africa are definitely on the agenda. I would also love to live overseas again. More than that, I would just like my children to be happy.
How can we get in touch with you and find out more about you or your tours?
Walking Tours of Oxford is Number 1 for tours in Oxford on TripAdvisor – so you can find our listing there. Check out my website – walkingtoursofoxford.com and of course social media – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you so much Heidi, I don't know how you do it but I am glad you do because I love your tours!
You can read a bit more about my visits to Oxford and tours with Heidi on my previous blog posts - a private tour of Oxford here and my more recent visit - a day out in Oxford here.
And below are the details of the special offers Heidi has set up for readers of Fifty & Fab:
From September 2020 to end of March 2021, you can book a bespoke tour of Oxford with a 25% discount - so £75 for 6 people (normal price £100) please the code fiftyandfab at checkout. All tours are socially distanced and covid secure. You can choose what you would like your Oxford tour to focus on - Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, Oxford University, Harry Potter or CSLewis / JRR Tolkien for example.
For any questions please email Heidi at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post and does not contain affiliate links.
Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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Walking Tours of Oxford would like to offer readers of my blog 25% off a bespoke tour for up to 6 people with full social distancing and Covid secure measures. Please book here using code fiftyandfab.