Expensive childcare turned Cheryl Luzet into a CEO

“We have come so far with promoting the world of work to women, but I feel like there is still much more to do.” Cheryl Luzet (Electronic Publishing, 2005) was recently named one of UK’s 100 most inspirational female entrepreneurs by Small Business Britain’s f:Entrepreneur for her business acumen and work in the local community. Sherly Luzet sits at table at a large event and smiles at the person next to her.

When childcare for two young children became too expensive for Cheryl Luzet and her partner, Cheryl turned to entrepreneurship.
 “I started the business 10 years ago after having my second child and adding up the cost of childcare and realising that I couldn’t afford to pay for 2 children in childcare, plus a train fare to London”, she says. “My take-home pay would have been £5 a day for working full-time! However, I needed to work as my husband does not earn enough to pay the mortgage on his own, so I set up the business as a solution to allow me to work locally and earn money whilst being around for my children.”

Cheryl’s company, a digital marketing agency called Wagada, took off faster than expected and she credits it to the company’s proactive, transparent, and friendly approach. As the CEO, Cheryl now has a team of 15 digital experts with a head office in St Albans and a new office in Cheltenham.
 “Be human and be approachable, relationships are the key to success, and you don’t have to be super confident to develop strong relationships with other business people,” is Cheryl’s advice to those who want to succeed. “Be authentic and people will love you for who you are.”

Cheryl isn’t just interested in her business though, which is one of the reasons she was named one of UK’s 100 most inspirational female entrepreneurs by Small Business Britain’s f:Entrepreneur. To her, it’s highly important to support the local community. “I built the business through networking and making strategic connections locally, so I recognise the importance that the community plays in supporting individuals to achieve their dreams, she says.
 “We work with many local charities to help them raise much-needed funds, taking part in sponsored runs and arranging events.”

Promoting entrepreneurship also means a lot to Cheryl, and she especially wants to encourage girls and young women to consider owning their own businesses in the future.
 “It wasn’t really an option when I was young (or one I was conscious of). I go into schools where I speak of my business journey and encourage them to consider a career running their own businesses and in digital marketing”, Cheryl says. “We have come far in promoting the world of work to women, but I feel like there is still so much more to do. Women are still earning less than men, which means that they end up being the partner that sacrifices their career when they have children, and the lack of affordable childcare solutions means that they are often not able to return to the workplace and never reach their professional goals.”

Cheryl is proud of the recognition, as the f:Entrepreneur campaign recognises the challenges particularly women face, juggling several elements of their lives and still being successful. But she’s also critical of how care responsibilities are still unequally divided, something that has been highlighted by Covid-19.
  “Whilst men are doing more than ever around the home, they still don’t carry the full weight of responsibility that women do for caring for others,” she says.
“This has become all the more obvious during lockdown, when so many men retreated to the home office, leaving the women to deal with the home schooling. During the time I have had my business, I have juggled school pick-ups and swimming lessons with managing staff and clients, working long into the evenings and at weekends in order to keep on top of the work, whilst making sure that I was available for my children.”

So what does Cheryl say to inspire young female entrepreneurs?
  “I would recommend that they don’t try to conform, that they find their own niche and their own way of working. Many people feel they need to copy the big corporates when they set up a business and I would urge anyone setting up a business to think about how they can make themselves stand out and seem different to the crowd.”
  A woman who’s been an inspiration to Cheryl herself is Mary Portas.
   “I really admire Mary Portas as she succeeded in a very male world, where there were very real glass ceilings, but she didn’t let that stop her. In her business, she has put her staff above profit and created a very positive working environment where every individual is valued.”

Embarking on her postgraduate degree in Electronic publishing at City in 2004, Cheryl Luzet knew it was going to be a financial challenge, but she also felt it was an investment in her future.
  “I was in a different position to many of the students as I was married and had a mortgage to pay, but I felt the sacrifice would be worth it as the skills I’d gain would allow me to move into a career I enjoy,” she says. “I loved the opportunity to study a topic I was passionate about and it set me on a lifelong love of learning in the digital industry – things are changing so rapidly that you never really stop learning.”

Thank you to Cheryl for sharing her story with us!