We thought we were supposed to be the inspiring ones? Well wait until you meet Sarah Williams from Tough Girl Challenges, 100 miles per hour, full of energy and passion for life, she might just be one of the most motivational and inspiring women The Women’s Organisation has ever interviewed! Now that’s a lot to live up to…
The story starts off pretty grey though! Sarah used to live and work down in London and spent eight years working in banking which she describes as something that began to frustrate her; ‘It was all about waking up in the morning at 5:45am, getting on the tube, commuting to Canary Wharf, and staying in the office all day. And I just wasn’t very fulfilled in what I was doing.’ Although on the surface of things, Sarah was doing fantastically, she was being promoted, getting pay-rise’s and bonuses, but she knew deep down that it wasn’t what she wanted.
Initially she combated this feeling though running; she completed the London Marathon five times (YES! Five times!), but still wasn’t feeling the sense of satisfaction inside. And here is where the story gets really interesting. Sarah begins to make change after change in her life. Doing more charity work, working with UN Women and Women for Women International, and it was here she finally found what she was looking for, that personal enjoyment that she was after. It came from motivating, and inspiring others, especially women and girls, in tough situations. Sarah says; ‘It all sort of came to a head about then, I knew I had wanted a change for a while. So when I was 31 I quit my job and decided to go travelling for a year.’ Sarah headed off to Australia, South America, did a Ski Season for 6 months in Switzerland, and…Wait for it…Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!
At this point Sarah realised that she could return home and would be in the position of explaining to future employers what she had spent the year doing and how it would impact would the future could hold. ‘I couldn’t turn round to employers and say; “I’ve had an amazing twelve months travelling the world” I needed to have done something productive. So I ended up writing a book about climbing Kilimanjaro’ after writing this book, she went on to write another one about her time spent as a Chalet Host. ‘So many people were asking me what it was like, so I wanted to share my experiences.’
And what was it like? For anyone who has ever done Chalet Hosting, knows as well as Sarah does, that it is one tough job! ‘It’s possibly one of the most physically demanding jobs I’ve ever done. You’re up at 7am and you go up to the chalet and cook breakfast for 10 people before tidying the whole chalet and then cook afternoon tea. At that point you are free between 12 and 6, and it’s a choice between sleeping and skiing. Of course, I generally choose skiing! Then you come back and would cook a four course meal. It’s very demanding.’
So when Sarah returned home, what was the next step for her? For the woman who has so much under her belt, loves adventures and is passionate about motivating and inspiring, her own business seemed the best option. ‘I’d been thinking for a while that I wanted to start my own company, well I thought let’s start Tough Girl Challenges, which is basically all of my passions and all of my loves combined. I love adventure, I love travel, I love pushing myself both physically and mentally, so that’s where Tough Girl Challenges came from.’
Tough Girl Challenges is a multi-layered business and is ever expanding as Sarah finds more opportunities to get involved with. There’s the blogging, the fitness, the book-writing and so much more.
One aspect of the business is Sarah going to visit schools, specifically girl’s schools to speak to them and give motivational talks about challenging yourself, pushing yourself and stepping out of your comfort zones. And if there is anymore more apt to speak on this topics, then we’d struggle to think of them! Sarah has run marathons, travelled the world, bungee jumped, sky dived, climbed a live volcano and cycled down the world’s most dangerous road.
‘Talking to the girls is really interesting, because some of them might tell me that they want to be a pastry chef in France, which is great and really interesting! But then you might have a few from the other end of the spectrum who will say that they want to be a reality TV star, or the wife of a footballer. And it’s almost as if it’s down to the lack of belief that they can do so much better with their lives. And sometimes all it takes is for someone to come in, and something might click in their heads and they can understand how much more they can do.’
A lot of Sarah’s success comes down to the way she prioritises her time, and for her, one thing that works really well, is to set herself goals. When Tough Girl Challenges website launched in December she wanted to become more connected with her local community and set herself the challenge of doing 100 motivational talks in schools. To help her on her way, she knew she needed to start networking more, and that’s how she found out about The Women’s Organisation and began to attending our networking events. From there she met with Senior Business Adviser, John Jones, who she works with to focus on the business aspects of the business.
The best thing about working with John, for Sarah, is that it gives her another goal, using her meetings with him as targets to get things done by. ‘Working for myself, that’s one of the things that I struggled with, because when something comes up, it’s too easy to push another thing back and reallocate. Having a Business Adviser meant I had accountability, and having a meeting meant I had a firm deadline to get things done by.’
So what does the future hold for Tough Girl Challenges? Most recently Sarah has been storming the internet with her Tough Girl Podcasts which she started this summer. These podcasts came from a frustration that she found at opening the sports pages and continually seeing no women there.
Whereas on Twitter she could see incredible women doing incredible things, that nobody really knew about. ‘I know of a woman cycling across Australia, there’s a 92 year old woman who has just run a marathon, a woman who is skating across Amsterdam. There are all of these women doing fantastic challenges and they never get the publicity’
So Tough Girl Tuesday’s is born! Sarah will be interviewing some of these great women facing great challenges, and she hopes to expand these into bi-weekly podcasts too. The Tough Girl Podcast got to the Number 1 Slot in iTunes for New & Noteworthy for Sports & Hobbies, and Personal Journals.
As well as this Sarah spoke on Bay TV’s show; 52% with another speaker from the This Girl Can campaign, on motivation and inspiration and says; ‘Even if just one person watched that and thought, do you know what, I’m going to go for a walk today, or I’m going to turn off the TV and read a book, then I’ll be really pleased!’ You can watch Sarah speak on 52% here, and she is now a regular panelist on the show!
All in all, Sarah Williams is one tough cookie, and it’s great to see her inspiring women and girls to face their challenges and step outside their comfort zones. We can tell you that even after interviewing her, we felt that little bit more powered up to go out there and do something great!