A Business Woman
Visual impairment : Retinitis Pigmentosa since childhood
Born: May 11 1973
Elizabeth Jackson was born on the Isle of Sheppey, in Southern England. As a child, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a severe eye disorder. Doctors told her family that she would be blind by the age of five.
However, she retained some vision throughout her schooldays. Once she left school, Elizabeth was offered a job as an office junior at B.C.M.S., a telemarketing company. She was gradually promoted to become sales manager and given an opportunity to independently set-up a call centre in Kingsclere, a village in North Hampshire England. She even travelled to Chicago in the U.S. to set up a call centre there.
Elizabeth is one of those people who make you realise that nothing is impossible. In 1998, with the support of a small grant and loan from the Prince's Trust (an organisation which encourages and supports young business minds to start and set up their own business), she started her own telemarketing business, “Great Guns Marketing”. Within three months she moved from her front room to a converted garage.
She admits that when she set up her business, losing her sight was the last thing she expected. In her own words, “So when it did, it was like a bit of a shock but I'd got so much to do. And to be getting on with that, I didn't have the choice to sit around and mope. So I had to just employ someone to help me pretty quickly and get on with life.”
She says she started off by hiring an accountant first, who would report to her. Her first employee was her mother so she had someone that she could trust in the organisation. This was really important.
Today headquartered at the Beresford Centre in Chineham, Elizabeth employs nearly 100 people at nine branches across U.K. and Ireland. Her “Great Guns Marketing” has a solid client base of 500 companies, including British Telecom, Wella and Johnson & Johnson and annual revenues of nearly two million pounds. By the age of 30, Elizabeth became a truly inspiring business visionary. It is remarkable, that within five years she set up her business empire without any advanced education coupled with the anxieties of failing eyesight.
Her success earned recognition, when she won the “U.K. Women Mean Business Award” in 2003. The award is designed to recognise the growing importance of independent businesswomen to both the economy and the community. Prince Charles, in his congratulatory message to Liz said, "Elizabeth has overcome the most extraordinary difficulties to make Great Guns Marketing the success that it is. She is an inspiration to young businesswomen everywhere and I do send her my warmest congratulations."
The following year, she won the “Customer Focus Award” in the National Business Awards. Now in line for a further accolade, having been nominated for “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the Southeast.
Liz Jackson has an extraordinary story to tell. A story that she tells in her book Start Up!. The book is a practical, personal guide to starting a successful business from absolutely nothing. She wrote it in just six months with her father and fellow Great Guns director, Mick Spain. More than 2,500 copies were pre-ordered even before the book hit the stands.
For Elizabeth, loss of sight did not mean loss of vision. She never allowed her blindness to dim her ambition or get in the way of achieving her personal goals. She is now sending a wake-up-call to her rivals –a promise that one day, Great Guns will be Britain’s number one telemarketing company, with centres in every major city.
Elizabeth has been running her company for eight years now. Within this period, Great Guns Marketing has grown by leaps and bounds. Her hard work and a desire to succeed truly is an inspiration to all.