I did something appalling and unforgivable – I got pregnant

My story begins as an extremely hard-working Mum of two boys, working within two successful, small and profitable companies I had conceived, started and grown, unexpectedly and from the dire embers of a redundancy. That was with no money nor prior experience (as a so-called entrepreneur). Alas, I built a brilliant business that brought with it a flexible diary, apple-pie motherhood and a good “lifestyle”.

Precisely ten years later, I was recommended to three (shall we say) “Dragons” … who, having enjoyed an “exit” that year, wanted to get into a new industry. They wanted to get into “my” industry but needed someone with proven capacity, capability, expertise and experience and I, from what I gather, was highly recommended to them as the best in the business – and rightly so.

Whilst they were intent on investing in my established business, as that would have made more sense, they were greedy and sought to start up a NewCo so as to secure SEIS (tax) relief on the modest sum of money they put in. At that point, convinced by their rapidly scaled and exited pitch, I felt no option but to run with it. After all, I could now see me having the majority shareholding (percentage) of something HUGE rather than 100% of something small. What a fool I was…

Fast forward a year or so – things were running smoothly (for a start-up) in that we were winning business – we had cash in the bank, cash due in, new employees and thankfully, my drive and ability to generate revenue enabled us to survive a fairly dodgy, incredibly expensive and time consuming staffing model as insisted upon by one of the Dragons. That was for me to babysit – ahem, sorry, I mean “coach and motivate” inexpensive and inexperienced graduates who were (and I quote) of a very narrow and specific age bracket within their early 20’s and at “pre-family stage of their career” … I kid you not. The chairman of a recruitment company, overtly discriminating against people on the basis of their age and family status.

Then, when everything was going well and we had every opportunity for us to realise our £10 million turnover, 100 staff exit within 3 – 5 years – I did something appalling and unforgivable after 7 years of wanting. I got pregnant.

Cue the gradual withdrawal of my three male Dragons, directors and investors. Cue their lack of contact and their failure to attend a meeting and an event for the first time. Cue their withdraw of support and contact. Cue, out of the blue, one of them emailing for us to catch up over a coffee one Friday .. to arrive at my office and tell me with a puppy in hand things “weren’t working out”.

Funny that, as I had noticed a definite change since the announcement of my pregnancy at the last board meeting. Which, ironically, was the last board meeting we had ever held. Up until which point, everything was positive and progressive and happy and complimentary.

And, after that Friday afternoon bombshell of a U-turn, as I sat with my gorgeous 3/4 month swollen belly and my world had crashed around me … he called me the following Monday morning to give me two options. The business was to close immediately and I could keep 25% of a very modest bank balance (we were a start up after all) or I could keep my 25% and they wished me the best of luck. In short, I was pregnant and out of a job immediately or within a matter of weeks. Either way, I was pregnant and then shafted. And I have been fighting to protect my job and my income and my livelihood ever since.

At 7-months pregnant, they called an EGM and tried to force the winding up of a solvent company, in order to “trump” maternity pay (as evidenced within internal meetings). I was able to block their attempt being majority shareholder and so two of them resigned as directors, landing me further in deep water and now responsible for finance, accountancy, bookkeeping, wages, sales, marketing and everything else on top of trying to survive the breakdown of my marriage and the loss of everything I had ever worked for and owned.

Today, I have survived a preliminary hearing and am scheduled for another next week. The Dragons are doing everything that they possibly can to intimidate me into submission. I have been threatened with their costs, in addition to my own – which are now considerable and have driven me into debt. They have again called another PH where they are going to try to “strike out” my claim on the basis that I was majority shareholder. Which, is true, but does not account for the fact that those there Dragons ran the show. I couldn’t take time off or spend more than £500 without their authority.

As I type, I am considering withdrawing my claim on the basis that I can no longer afford to defend it. They do, after all, have much deeper pockets than I. They are three very successful and wealthy businessmen who eat the little women for breakfast. That will leave me with nothing. No business, no income and no livelihood – when I gave up everything I had ever worked, for the promise of their scale and exited vision and one they had proven their ability to achieve that same year.

What a fool I have been.


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