Alison Darby, Owner of Alpha Mortgages
A fully advised, mortgage, protection and insurance service with a combined team experience of more than 70 years
I was a building society manager by the age of 27. Around having a family, I worked as a mortgage adviser for three High Street banks. It was the part of financial services I really loved, but the culture at work was toxic. I walked out one day because my best just wasn’t good enough. (I’m so glad I did!)
I then worked for a mortgage broker for 15 months on a self-employed basis. Inspired by other female mortgage brokerage owners, I thought: ‘Why can’t I do this for me?’
In September 2016, I started my own company in my front room (the name Alpha giving a gentle hint to my faith). With time, I took on staff; moved into offices; and my husband came on board. We grew quickly through word-of-mouth recommendations.
I have a heart for people and whether I am helping someone going through a divorce to find stability with a new home, or finding finance for a landlord with multiple properties, it all gives me great job satisfaction. As a business owner however, I’ve had to learn to wear many hats. One of my biggest tips is to identify areas you can outsource so you can get on with the part you really love.
It’s a constant juggle – training staff, giving mortgage advice and pushing the business forward – but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I didn’t do particularly well at school, but I’m not defined by that.
In the early days, I put the groundwork in so that systems and infrastructure were in place to handle more business. I also made sure there was a contingency fund to pay staff salaries and office rent for at least six months. We’ve never borrowed a penny.
One thing I’ve had to tell myself is that ‘profit’ isn’t a word to be embarrassed about. It’s the key to being able to offer sustainability and security for your staff! Being self-employed also means I get to choose my colleagues.
Three years on, I still often feel like an accidental businesswoman. I have an incredibly supportive husband and a fantastic team. It’s sometimes scary, but if we look after our customers, they’ll look after us.