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Barbara’s Story: HR Director to Entrepreneur


Barbara: HR Director to Founder & CEO of The Doubleknot Company Ltd

During 25 years in work, I had already changed career twice, moving from secretary to Board Director in advertising in my 20s and early 30s and then via an MBA, moving into HR, where I worked as an HR Director in small and large businesses. Latterly, as an independent consultant, I tried to create a balance between career and raising 2 children. Gradually I realized my heart wasn’t in either HR or consultancy any more.  My children were 7 and 9 when I decided on a 5-year career break, though one that quickly filled up with 2 busy volunteer roles and part-time study.

5 years became 6.  I didn’t want to return to anything resembling my old working life.  Flexibility was still important so I didn’t want the old commute, I didn’t want the old industry – there were a lot of ‘didn’t wants’ when I asked Julianne Miles from Women Returners for help!  I had occasionally wondered about setting up a business but in what?  I was absolutely bereft of ideas.  My brief to Julianne was to help me find a focus.

It turned out that I had been so busy looking back at what I used to do that I’d forgotten to look forward.  Julianne’s approach was to get me thinking widely, while working to understand what I DID enjoy. Very quickly, we developed a shortlist of possible business ideas, which I committed to researching. Julianne challenged me to evaluate thoroughly but she also encouraged me to be instinctive.  After only a few sessions, I had my direction.

The Doubleknot Company ( was born just before Christmas 2013, selling made to order double layer throws with a distinctive hand knotted edge. Initially, my daughter and I made the throws as gifts for family, friends and neighbours – their feedback was so encouraging. Orders started coming in by word of mouth. I created the Doubleknot studio at home, sourced production tools, scoured Europe and beyond for fabric suppliers, refined the production process, developed all the packaging and pulled together the various elements of an e-commerce website.  I set about finding an expert support team – lawyer, accountant, web developer and a terrific photographer. So far, the business has been funded entirely from savings. Keeping a tight grip on the numbers was – and is – absolutely critical (though my favourite number is the 35% of customers who have ordered 3 or more throws).

Of course, there have been hiccups and challenges.  I had to part company with the first website developer after a wasted few months; I hadn’t thought through where to keep the packaging and had to hire expensive storage space; and it has been very time-consuming getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of an e-commerce website operation.

From the start I have loved the creativity and the freedom, the variety and how much there is to learn. The best part, though, is when customers come back again and again, and the wonderful feedback they give.

I can’t imagine I’ll ever want a 4th career!