Sunday 8th March is International Women’s Day, and we thought what a great time it would be to tell our story of how Flame UK began. In February 2015 our Managing Director, Pam Knight set up the company. But before we jump right to it, let’s rewind and start with a bit about Pam:
The story of Pam Knight
Pam was born into a hard-working background, growing up on her parents family farm in Long Bennington, Pam saw her parents work very hard from a young age. She recalls “My brothers, sister and I all helped. I was driving a tractor from the age of 8, doing all the ironing and cooking the family breakfast at 10 and potato picking at 12. I was brought up to appreciate hard work and the rewards from a young age.”
At the age of 13, Pam got her first job in Curry’s. “I was selling on the shop floor and signing up credit agreements – things were different back in the day! I left school at 16 and took an apprenticeship with a High Street Bank. I worked my way up to Bank Manager, and when I started my family, I took a career break. I then returned as the first job share Manager within Yorkshire Bank.”
“During my career break, I set up a property development business from the bank so that I could work around my children while they were young. Property has always been a passion of mine.”
So how did Pam get into the world of waste and energy? “When my boys were little on a cold winters morning I was watching my eldest son play football. I got talking to one of the football Dads who was looking for some admin help in his waste business…the rest is history!”
“I set up the energy department for the business and started my career in Energy and Waste. This started as a part-time position, however within a month it became full time as we were so busy, and there were only 3 people in the company at the time! I worked my way up to a directorship position and helped grow the company to 55 staff by the time the business was sold.
Very much like farming you sow your seeds and have to nurture them and wait a long time for them to grown, I feel a business is very similar, and when I set up Flame UK I knew it wouldn’t be for instant rewards
So, in February 2015 I set up Flame UK, and it was probably one of the biggest decisions of my life. I live on my own with 3 boys to support, so everything always relied on me whether it was work or providing for the family. I’m pretty sure my friends and family thought I was crazy when I sold the small property portfolio I had, which I used to live off, but they supported my vision. I didn’t pay myself a wage for the first couple of years as I started on my new business venture.”
The early days of Flame UK
“I started off in a small two-man office in the Bridgford Business Centre, I didn’t trade for my first six months of business as I needed to ensure I had the supplier infrastructure in place before trying to obtain business.
I moved from a two-man office into a six-man office and then moved again into an eight-man office in the first couple of years, before moving into our own premises on Churchill Business Park.
As a Director of a previous Waste and Energy business, I was involved at all levels of business, however, when you are on your own it really is a very different story. You have to know and do everything yourself and keep yourself motivated even on really tough days, so the amazing title of Managing Director is Sales, Marketing, HR, Finance, Account Manager, Cleaner all rolled into one!
The last 5 years have been the biggest journey of my life so far, and I have learnt from the numerous mistakes I made in the early days. My first website was shocking when I look back at it now, but at the time I thought I was doing the right thing by going with a cheap company and doing a lot of work myself. I am now on my third website, which I am immensely proud of, but it has taken me 5 years to get there. Now it’s constantly being updated with the support of our in-house marketing department.”
The highs and lows
“I invested a lot of money into the staff to help me grow the business with me, but as supportive as some of them were they will never have the same drive and passion that you do. Staffing will always be a challenge for any business, and sometimes there are very difficult decisions that have to be made. Sadly this is the reality of running a business and maybe as a woman, you become more compassionate with induvial circumstances, but at the end of the day business is business and you have to make those difficult decisions.
Just as I started to turn the corner with the business I was faced with probably the most difficult situation I have ever had to deal with. Embezzlement of money from the company by someone I had trusted to help me grow the business and appointed as a director. It took me through some very dark times whilst still putting on that brave face to my family who relied totally on me.
I decided at that time to involve someone that I had previously worked with, along with his business partner and dilute my shares to grow the business. It was probably one of the hardest yet best decisions I have made to date in the business. Having fellow like-minded positive people around me who shared my vision, the business started to go from strength to strength.
Setting up a business is not easy, and I probably work the longest hours I have ever worked in my life. Being in the office at 6am and working through until the job is done, I see staff leave at 5pm and know I have at least another couple of hours work to do. However, I can honestly say it has been the most rewarding years of my life at the same time and my vision of 5 years ago has become a reality.
There are different decisions reflecting over the last 5 years that would have been made, however, you only know what you know at the time, and at the time they all felt like the right decisions.
I am looking forward to where I can take the business in the next 5 years with the dedicated and loyal team that now all support the same Flame vision.
Everyone has their own challenges in business and it is great to see so many women “just doing it” so well-done to everyone, and keep up the amazing work.”