The Home of Secure Lifestyle - Making Security Accessible
UMBRA offers a range of bespoke protective and proactive security solutions for individuals and their families.
How did it all begin?
It all started when I left University and became a PA to high profile and wealthy individuals. After 15 years in the sector I noticed that there was a need for clients to become more aware of their sense of security, and find the best people and services to help them and their families. The lightbulb moment came when I underwent my Close Protection (Bodyguard) Training and suddenly realised that Secure Lifestyle, as we now call it, starts with the sort of blendable and discrete approach that a female operative can provide. This, coupled with the rise of online and digital “invisible” security meant that I had to be very agile in my approach to protecting clients in a 360 degree way, and there UMBRA was born.
What sets your business apart?
Having undergone the security training myself, and with the UMBRA team coming from private office backgrounds, we understand the clients, their families and their needs on every level. We are a champion for the security industry and that’s how we find the best-suited, trusted people and services for our clients, who we support both here in the UK and internationally, with our network spanning globally.
What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?
We are bringing together the people, services and advice clients need to provide a single Secure Lifestyle solution, and ultimate peace of mind. We do this via an in-depth knowledge of our candidates and service and supplier partners, and the ability to blend the traditional security mindset with a forward thinking tech driven approach.
Where to next/What is your brand vision?
Whilst consolidating our relationships with clients in new key markets internationally and growing the business, we want to make Security and a Secure Lifestyle accessible to everyone, not just our existing clients network. We have an e-learning initiative on the horizon that we hope will have an enormous impact. We have continued to find funding pathways for those entering into security, from backgrounds that would not otherwise have thought of a career in the sector. I’m especially keen to encourage ex professional sports men and women into the industry and believe that we can learn a lot from them as a business, from teamwork to ethics and discipline. I hope that the UMBRA Academy continues to grow in its purpose to help the UMBRA mission to make security accessible.
Founder & CEO of
What do you feel passionate about/what drives you?
Making security accessible, bringing a new approach to the traditional Security Industry, creating opportunities for those who would otherwise not think about a career in security to join the industry, and encouraging young people to think about the Board room as part of their career path. The latter is the only way we will build a truly inclusive pipeline of talent for the future, and bring true diversity of thought to governance, transforming the boardroom of tomorrow.
Share an example of early life that has shaped you?
Growing up with brothers (and a sister) gave me a crash course in ‘protection’ both in terms of being protector and protected for sure! My father and mother both came from very humble beginnings, and seeing the hard work my father put into his business whilst growing up, through the various recessions in the 80s and 90s, and also seeing him being awarded an OBE for his efforts when I was 10 years old was a real inspiration about what happens when you put your mind to working diligently and with purpose.
Highlights of your business journey so far?
Sending the first invoice was a really proud moment (as was making sure it got it paid!), Getting the keys to our first Berkeley Square office (a shoebox!) meant more than a physical location, but another step on the journey of putting UMBRA ‘on the map’, and facing a pandemic head-on have to go down as pretty ‘special’ moments. Recently being appointed to the board of the SIA, the regulatory body for the security industry, and becoming a Freeman of the City of London were personal highlights.
Key lessons you have learned along the way?
SO MANY! Here are the highlights: You are only as good as the team, and network around you. I am blessed to have big brains and specialised experts around me on a daily basis to learn from and to provide clients with the best service possible. Realising that you need to embrace terms like ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘leader’ was an ‘Aha moment’ and making a pledge to invest as much time in my own development as I would advise those around me to. Face problems head on, and learn the art of handling difficult conversations positively by forcing yourself to have them at every opportunity. Eat the big things first, hard parts of the to do list, difficult projects – don’t let them fester, break them down into small parts and ask for help whenever you feel you need it. Professionally and personally.
Best piece of advice you have received?
From my cousin’s husband – ‘turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is reality.’ I am lucky to be surrounded by brilliant mentors who each bring their own authentic life experiences and help me to spot problems and issues as they emerge.
Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?
Go for it. You’ll never be ‘ready’ and there is never a ‘right time’ particularly post pandemic. Leverage your network, get a good lawyer friend and accountant on speed dial! Starting your career, whether it is setting up a business early on or getting into the world of work, is a different place to 2001 when I left university. Use the power of connection through social media and back it up with real life meetings and experiences.
What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?
I took out a bank loan to start the business, which has been paid back, and am always interested in ways we can grow, through strategic partnerships or external investment. A business like UMBRA has been grown the hard way – ‘blood, sweat and no tears yet’ and so the right money at the right time is what I spend time regularly asking for advice on. I think it is important to think about why you need the money, and avoid doing it because it seems like ‘everyone else is’. Only you know what is right for your business and the life that you want to lead within it, and life without it if you plan to sell it. A lot of founders I speak to can’t imagine life without ‘their baby’ so I’d advise others to be careful what you wish for in terms of aggressive growth and scale and sale, or to embrace the brilliant people that have now made access to funding, particularly for female founders, a journey which is more accessible than it was when I started my career.
Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?
Working within a traditional and male dominated industry has been a total pleasure if I’m honest, because bringing difference has enabled me to stand out. Not to say there haven’t been challenges along the way, but ensuring a totally collaborative business model at its core has been a way to build my business community. Not knowing how to start a business was probably, on reflection, a good thing, since the challenges are daily, and if I look back now, and someone told me the pitfalls along the way I may have felt differently. But again, doing things the ‘hard way’ by not having knowledge meant I had to reach out to those who knew more than me, which helped me to understand the power of a supportive network early on.
Why is it important to support women-led business?
It is important to support all businesses – entrepreneurial activity will always be a key driver of the broader economy. Women and other groups who often get overlooked for support and funding need to be able to ‘see it to be it’ – to encourage collaborative conversations within the female founder communities. Movements like The Women’s Chapter are a great start. Women are often lacking the confidence and opportunities to self promote, and have other challenges not faced by their male counterparts in terms of children and caring responsibilities, and therefore it is important that no one is left behind. The drum need to be banged loud and clear to ensure that whatever decision a woman makes, however she starts out, drives and grows her business, family and personal life, that there are others there who they can relate to, talk to and ultimately champion.