To kick of this years inspiring entrepreneur interviews I’m proud to share the story of racing car driver Rebecca Jackson of RJ Prestige Cars. As well as being an ITV4 presenter and racing driver, Rebecca runs her own prestige car sales business RJ Bespoke. Rebecca shares her passion for racing car driving, building a successful business and why we should become our own hero…
How did you first get into racing car driving?
I’ve always been surrounded by cars and motorsport and have fond memories of being a young girl watching my Dad tinkering away in the garage rebuilding car engines and maintaining his classic cars. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I had my first experience on track. I did a few laps in a single-seater race car and I was hooked! Later, while I was at university in Bath, I decided to compete in some track days, this time in cars rather than single-seaters. In 2011, having set up my company four years previously, I’d raised enough money to buy my very first race car, a Porsche 924. It was time for me to start racing properly! In only my second season I achieved five podiums including a race win and that’s when I knew it was time to start taking my racing career more seriously. At the beginning of 2013 I made it my mission to compete at Le Mans; arguably the most prestigious endurance race in the world. I set myself a four-year plan to achieve this and each year leading up to the 2016 race involved a step up in terms of racing, driver development, budget and media profile. Last year I achieved my “Project Le Mans” and I can’t describe how amazing the whole experience was! Racing is something that’s in my blood!
What is your favourite thing about racing cars?
The thing I love most about racing is the feeling of pure concentration, where nothing enters your mind other than the race. Not much else demands such razor-sharp focus. It’s amazing how the mind can focus so strongly on one thing. Driving the car almost becomes second nature and I absolutely love the thrill of driving a car on the edge of traction. I have a very competitive nature so winning races and beating my opponents gives me such a buzz! You can’t compete in racing without a certain degree of competitiveness but it always amazes me how well all the drivers get on with each other off the circuit, while on track we’re battling each other wheel-to-wheel. Quite literally sometimes!
You’ve managed to turn your passion into a career, can you tell us about your business RJ Bespoke?
I always knew that I’d work with cars and in 2007 I set up my car sales business, RJ Prestige Cars. In the Autumn of 2016 I expanded the business and launched RJ Bespoke which is an arm of the business focused on the design and build of tastefully modified Land Rover Defenders. At RJ Bespoke we offer exquisitely designed and meticulously cared-for upgrades to create special vehicles that make a real statement, both aesthetically and mechanically. The company ethos is, “Every customer deserves to feel special” and this is a sentiment we live by. There’s no better way to run your business than to repeatedly put yourself in your customer’s shoes and to ensure high standards and customer focus are always at the forefront of everything you do.
As an independent business woman what’s the biggest struggle you’ve faced?
Back in 2008 I had a fairly severe car crash and it took three years to fully recover. Throughout those three years I had 18 months of downtime and underwent three operations to fix myself properly. I was living alone at the time and was running my business completely single-handedly so I had no other option but to dig deep and keep going! It was a very testing time for me but I stuck to my guns and got through the worst of it. You never know what’s around the corner but you need to stay strong, plan for eventualities as best you can and be your own hero! I knew I couldn’t allow the business to fail so I dusted myself off and grabbed as many opportunities as I could with both hands.
What tips or pearl of wisdom could you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?
For any aspiring entrepreneur, I think it’s vitally important to keep in mind that everyone you come across is important to the success of your business. From the people you employ, to the suppliers who provide your materials, to the customers you liaise with; every single interaction has the potential to improve your business, or the opposite should things not go so well. With the powerful influence of social media, a company’s reputation can be damaged in the blink of an eye should a negative experience be shared online. As well as treating your customers well, it’s also important to take pride and accountability in all other areas and interactions of your business.
I’m also a firm believer that people shouldn’t be too afraid to make a few mistakes along the way. Nothing will ever go to plan 100% of the time but the key is to make sure you learn a lesson from the mistakes you do make. With any mistake, there’s always a lesson on how not to repeat the same thing again. Be brave but be humble enough to always keep learning.
Motivation is key for any aspiring entrepreneur and you need to identify that motivation and use it to keep you on track. Self-discipline and elasticity of mind will help keep an entrepreneur focused. If you have staff working for you it’s important to remember that a little praise goes a long way, so don’t be shy in recognising your staff’s achievements too.
Finally, I’d advise anyone who’s starting out in business to listen to constructive criticism and not to take it personally. In order to be successful, you need to believe in yourself and know you can do it. And you CAN do it, so go and give it your best shot!
Special thank you to Rebecca for sharing her story.