Maureen Brown

Recruitment Business Owner, Otterburn

Sector: Recruitment

Maureen Brown has achieved her aim in life. She has the family and business she always wanted and can now do all the things “she watched others doing” when she was growing up.

Where do you call home? 

I come from a town called Widnes, near Liverpool and now live in Otterburn in Northumberland.

Tell us about your role?  

I own a recruitment business called Sullivan Brown Resourcing Partners and launch my second business this year.

How did you get to where you are today? 

I was the first person in my family to go to university. I had planned to join the police on the graduate programme but failed the physical (I can’t do press ups). I had no plan B so spent two and a half years working in a call centre after graduating. I entered the world of recruitment by accident after being contacted by Hays as I had temped for them when I was a student. I stayed with Hays for 14 years, progressing to director. I hadn’t ever planned to progress that way; I was lucky to have a leader who recognised something in me and championed me. Hays restructured in 2010 while I was on maternity leave with my second child, and I decided to leave and join a smaller recruitment agency in the North East. I stayed in this role for just over two years but found it to be a very difficult experience that left me with low confidence and anxiety.

I decided that the only way to be truly happy doing the job I loved was to set up my own business and build a work culture that matched my values and ethics. I opened Sullivan Brown Resourcing Partners in 2013 and wish I’d done it years earlier!

What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way? 

I had a strange upbringing. My mum died when I was seven and I lived with my auntie and uncle during the week and my dad at weekends. I have a brother, but he was adopted to another family. My family didn’t have much money and we didn’t have the things my friends and their families had. From the age of 14 I had part time jobs to earn extra money. I always felt like an outsider or charity case, I was bullied at school, and this followed me into adult life. I always believed other people knew better than me and didn’t trust in my own ability even though I knew deep down I had lots to offer.

I had some very difficult leaders who took advantage of my nature and knocked my confidence. It was only when this became unbearable that I took the leap to set up my own business. Setting up the business was fun, but a constant learning experience and I’ve made lots of mistakes as well as getting things right!

Getting started meant taking a financial risk and cutting our spending significantly. Covid also presented a huge challenge. We’re a small business and I wasn’t sure what the economy would do to us. It’s these challenges that have taught me to trust my own judgement and built confidence in my own ability. When I look back now, I can’t believe I let anyone affect my confidence that way, the more I have pushed and tested myself, the more confident I have become and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and the difference I’ve made to my own life.

Describe the moment you first got a feel for success? 

When I hired my first colleague and saw our logo on the job websites it gave me a real sense of achievement. After four years of having the business, I was able to take a dividend and take my children to Florida, it was a real light bulb moment. Since then, we’ve grown further, and we are regularly recommended to clients by people who have been impressed with our service. Every time that happens, I feel successful. All those managers who told me that my way of doing business wouldn’t work were wrong and I get a huge sense of achievement from proving myself (to myself!) after all those years.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?

If you believe you can do it – you can…and if you don’t believe it – you still can! Know your WHY. If you have a sense of purpose, or something you are aiming for you will find a path to it even if you take wrong turns along the way. 

My true aim in life was to be part of a normal family and have the holidays and Christmases I didn’t have as a child. Along the way I found I could do other things and now I have the family and a business which means I can do all the things I watched other people do when I was growing up. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?  

Firstly, I would say thank you. That young girl was bullied and an outsider. She did the hard work, and never gave up through some horrible times. She did the hard work, kept smiling and believing even when things seemed at the worst. I would say, well done, look at us now, we’ve never been happier and some of the hardest times were lessons learned that brought us here.

I would also say believe in yourself – the positive feedback was there all along, you just weren’t able to hear it.

What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?  

Remember your why.

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