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Why I Quit Designing Ballroom Dance & Wedding Dresses

Mar 19, 2017 | Vee's blog | 1 comment

Last time…

I told you about my early childhood and how I was creative and resourceful. You can read that post here.

Making clothes for my dolls led me to making my own clothes, led me to making ballroom dance dresses for my mum.

Next I found myself making ballroom dance dresses and wedding dresses as a sideline business.

I left you wondering what happened to the dress design business.

Inventor Dad

At the same time as running the dress design business I was also working for my dad who is an inventor and businessman.

My inventor dad is a design engineer and professional inventor. In his early life he worked in the design teams at companies like Hoovers, Westland Helicopters (the skid undercarriage of the Lynx helicopter is his invention) and Blythe B Power Station.

He was about to crack the jackpot and was in discussions with an American company, United Technology, who owned Pratt & Witney who make jet engines, who were going to buy a licence to develop and produce engines for the US Army’s airfleet. It was a deal that was potentially worth multi-millions and could set the entire family up for life and beyond.

Home business

My dad (and mum) operated his business from home, so when I left school I worked for him. He was a serial entrepreneur and inventor. Because it can take a long time (many years) to see an invention make money (if it ever does), he ran a very lucrative emergency plumbing and building business on the side. We advertised in the Yellow Pages (a printed directory that was made up of yellow pages) and that’s how we got all work.

In those pre-computer and pre-internet days, if you weren’t in the Yellow Pages, you didn’t exist!

The work was sub-contracted out to a team of plumbers and builders who were experts in their trades, but rubbish at business and marketing themselves, so it worked really well as we took care of the paperwork and marketing and they got on with the work.

Early computer days

In the mid-1980s computers were only just coming into the workplace. We certainly didn’t have them at school.

However it was normal to learn to touch type on a manual typewriter and that’s what I did.

All paperwork in my dad’s businesses was done by electric and then electronic typewriters.

By the mid-late 80’s we had our first computer with Word and Excel programmes.

The computer was bought for developing an idea my dad had for an invention idea he was selling to another organisation. It involved using Word to alter the text automatically and simply to turn a publically available form of words into a unique set of words that could be protected by copyright and therefore could be sold.

Going computerised

I would sneak on the new computer when I didn’t have much to do and when my dad wasn’t using it and explore Word and all the functionality. I remember thinking what a great tool this was and soon realised that I could create invoice templates that would save us a huge amount of time when creating invoices for the emergency plumbing work.

So I transferred all our invoicing to the computer.

We also used to do our accounts manually with pencil and accountancy books and spent hours adding up columns of figures, double checking them and cross-checking them again. If there was a mistake it would take even more hours trying to locate the error. I had been doing my dad’s book-keeping since the age of 14 in exchange for a bit of pocket money.

While I was exploring Excel on the new computer, I realised that if we transferred our paper accounts to Excel that would also save a huge amount of time and it would be so much easier reconciling the totals and locating errors, so I transferred them to computer too.

I set up spreadsheets for each of the businesses’ accounts (there were 8 businesses).

So back to why I quit my dress design business…

As I said my dad had made a deal with United Technologies to help them evaluate his new internal combustion engine invention with the idea that it would be taken on by their subsidiary, Pratt & Witney to make faster jet planes for the US Army.

So my dad needed my full-time help with all the drafting of patents and agreements and just ‘working that computer’. United Technologies paid my dad a huge sum to help him with the evaluation. It was enough to quit the emergency plumbing and building businesses so he could focus 100% on his engine invention.

He upped my pay. I quit the dress design business so I could help him full-time.

Things were looking like they were going to take off in a really big way. United Technologies were paying for my dad’s trips to the States and my dad was in his element, being paid for inventing and developing his ‘baby’ and I was getting good at typing up legal documents and using Word and Excel.

However, things didn’t turn out as expected.

I’ll share that in the next post….



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1 Comment

  1. Patrick Burke

    Things never do work out as expected, thats life.

    Looking forward to the next episode.

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