Aisha Haq on swapping law for landscaping, maintenance and more...
By Libby Marks
It might sound like something from Santa’s grotto but Aisha Haq’s business card describes her as ‘Chief Helper’.
Formerly a private prosecutor, Aisha has swapped power suits for steel-capped boots, starting her own maintenance business and turning gender stereotypes on their head.
She is the brain – and brawn – behind Handy Helpers, a ‘one-call-does-it-all’ maintenance company offering high-quality care for homes, gardens, offices and grounds.
We caught up with her to find out more…
From high flying legal career to becoming a handywoman and now running your own business. Not the most typical career path. How did you get here?
When they see me now, in my steel-toed capped boots, getting grubby in their gardens, a lot of my clients can’t believe I used to be a prosecutor.
I followed a fairly traditional route through life up until my thirties. I graduated with a Law degree from Newcastle University and pursued what was then was my dream career, as a private prosecutor with G4S.
It was there I met my soon-to-be husband and we started our family. But by the time my son was born, he was my soon-to-be-ex-husband and I found myself a single mother, trying to juggle parenthood with a demanding career.
With my little lion cub at home, long hours just weren’t possible anymore. Despite the fact I always expected to be one of those women that has it all – the career, the husband, the child, the perfect home – it didn’t work out that way.
So, I downed tools and moved back home to my native North East. It wasn’t easy. I missed the old ‘career’ me and sometimes I struggled to know what to do next. But I knew that I wanted to be a strong positive role model for my son and I started to think about businesses I could run.
And that’s when Handy Helpers was born.
So what’s the concept behind Handy Helpers?
Through personal experience, I know how hard it is to work, parent and keep on top of a home. So I decided to start a business to help busy people do just that. Not just offering one service but offering everything people need to have the beautiful home and garden they dream of.
We’re a one-call-does-it-all business, where clients just need to remember one name and get everything done: from cleaning and gardening to decorating and DIY.
You seem very passionate about breaking down gender stereotypes and showing women are just as capable as men when it comes to maintenance. Where has that come from?
I’ve always been handy. My dad taught me that you have to be self-reliant and I learnt my DIY skills from him. That really came in handy when I became a single mum.
Also, I know some female customers are uncomfortable having men come into their homes and they’d prefer a female tradesperson, so I feel that I’ve filled a gap in the market there too.
I’d love more women to come and flex their biceps and work with me, showing that we’re just as capable with a power tool as men!
What do you love most about your life now you’ve shaken off the corporate world and embraced self-employment?
I love running my own business. I love meeting clients and developing a rapport with them, understanding their needs and seeing how relieved they are to have found someone who can help.
The feedback I get after we’ve done a good job is such a buzz. People love coming home to a clean house or a smart garden or a newly decorated front room. I’m surrounded by happy people who love what I do for them. It is a great feeling.
It can’t be easy though, juggling a business with parenthood. What are the biggest challenges?
It is extremely challenging and I can’t say that it has delivered the work-life balance I was hoping for yet. I’m often decorating, gardening and DIYing for clients all day, then working on my laptop in the evening to provide quotes, market the business, invoice clients.
But I can see the progress and growth in the business every month and I know that the future is very bright for Handy Helpers. There is such a huge demand for our services and I think the sky’s the limit. I just need more hours in the day! Or more handy helpers to come and work with me.
Have you got any advice for HLN readers?
Starting a business, I’d say it’s important who you surround yourself with. There are people who’ll tell you you can’t do something and there are people who’ll tell you you can. It is the latter group that you want to be around.
They’re the ones who’ll lift you up and help you find the answers if you’re struggling. And they’re the best people to celebrate your successes with too because they’re genuinely happy you’re doing well, not secretly annoyed that you’ve proved them wrong.
And use vinegar to clean your bathroom taps. It’ll bring them up sparkling…
To find out more about Handy Helpers, follow them on Facebook.
About the author
Libby Marks is a freelance content writer, copywriter and marketing consultant based in Newcastle. Libby works with busy marketers and business owners, helping them attract and engage customers with high-quality written content. She specialises in writing search-optimised blog posts, articles, ebooks and guides, helping websites gain visibility and visitors: www.writeontyne.com