To celebrate International Women’s Day 2015 we interviewed Elaine Fairfax of Amesbury based insurance company Animal Friends. Here we find out more about Elaine and her drive to #makeithappen.
Elaine Fairfax left school at 15, without any qualifications. But what she lacked in certificates she more than made up for in ambition.
“I have loved animals all my life, and I always felt very strongly that my life’s work should be with animals. I even met my husband at a riding stables.”
Chris Fairfax, then a lawyer, is also an animal enthusiast and the couple went on to start a law firm offering advice to animal charities. But Elaine wanted to do more.
“I didn’t want to start an animal charity because there are so many doing amazing work. I wanted a way of guaranteeing an income for these charities. I happened upon the idea of a pet insurance company because nobody likes paying out for insurance, but it’s crucial for owners to have that safety net. I thought providing funds for animal charities would appeal to consumers while helping us achieve our goals.”
It wasn’t always plain sailing and Elaine had to re-mortgage her home twice to get the business on its feet.
“We both had to go back to work to keep as much money as possible going back into the business, but I believed so strongly in what we were doing that I just didn’t entertain the idea of failure.”
Elaine was right, the business has flourished. Since 2008, turnover has increased from £3 million to £52 million, and the company operates from its own buildings with an on-site gym, subsidised canteen and over 100 members of staff.
“Seeing my dream coming to fruition has been wonderful. We care deeply about the progress of our staff and do what we can to encourage career development; roles here are more than ‘just a job’. Most of our staff are animal lovers themselves so we know that they care as much as we do.”
The company is now one of the top-three pet insurance companies in the UK, has won a host of awards including Best Claims Service at the 2015 Consumer Moneyfacts awards and were voted Best Pet Insurance Provider of the Year by Moneynet. It was also ranked 77th in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, making them one of the top 100 companies in the UK for growth in 2014. Business is going well, and their days of re-mortgaging to pay the bills are a thing of the past.
“I wake up with a purpose in life. I’ve had offers to buy the business but I’m not ready to retire. I’ve got so much more that I want to achieve and it’s such a rewarding job. You see articles asking whether women can ‘have it all’ and I honestly believe that, with some calculated risks and a lot of hard work, we can.”
Elaine risked everything to #makeithappen and her story is an inspiration. For more about Elaine, Animal Friends and their work with global animal charities visit www.animalfriends.org.uk
Pictured above: Elaine Fairfax of Animal Friends Insurance