Karen Flannery, Co-Owner of Foundations

Retailing in luxurious and specialist lingerie and swimwear 

As a teacher, you’re always told you can do better. My outcomes were outstanding, but I was constantly asked to give more. I’d wanted to do the job forever and, initially, found it fun working with primary schoolchildren. It’s just all the other stuff that goes with it…

My dad died in 2012, followed by mum two years later. It put things into perspective: I was killing myself for a job that felt thankless. Newly married, I wanted children, but I couldn’t see how I’d juggle motherhood with teaching.

My best friend Kate also taught at my school, as well as offering messy play sessions for kids part time. I quit teaching, came on board and did that with her for a while; then, in December 2014, Kate said: “Do you want to sell bras?” An underwear shop had come up for sale in Nantwich, so she handed in her notice and we bought it!

I was eight months pregnant when it became fully ours in April 2015. In the early days, I took my son with me to work in a sling. Kate had two young ones as well, which was part of the joy of it. The shop fitted in with what we needed at the time.

I was pregnant again when another underwear shop came up for sale in Congleton. My husband joked: “Don’t look at it or you’ll buy it!” He was right – and we did!

Kate and I are a great partnership. We run the shop floor and buy together, but we also have other designated roles. She looks after social media, merchandising and dressing the windows, and I do the paperwork and books.

People ask me: “How do you do it all?” The answer is: “I don’t know any different!” I say yes to crazy things – from buying shops when I’m pregnant to competing in triathlons. I’d rather learn how to do the accounts than watch telly!

After constantly being told I could do better as a teacher, I’m learning that I’m good at many things. Losing my parents taught me that life is too short not to go for it – otherwise you can talk yourself out of anything.

Foundations