LIFE has been a journey full of incident for Hilary Robinson.
She's worked for a bookmaker, a famous toy shop and a top-rated design agency in her time – meeting interesting people along the way.
But London-born Hilary is embarking on perhaps the most exciting phase of her business career so far with the launch of a unique website which draws on her love of making others smile and feel good for its inspiration.
For Hilary is setting out on her own journey with My Ruby Slipper, a website which enables participants to build up a profile of themselves, their likes and interests with the sole purpose of helping family and friends get to know each other better – and get a “steer” on their perfect present.
The site enables shoppers to pinpoint exactly what their loved ones are into – and enable them to avoid the dreaded last-minute “shop” which usually results in buying vouchers or just handing over cash.
Hilary argues that we don’t always know our relatives as well as we think we do. Mum’s favourite flowers? Sister’s shoe size? Brother’s tastes in music?
She says: “We all love opening a present that speaks to us about who we are. Knowing that the individual who has given you the gift has really thought about who you are and what you like and love makes everyone feel warm inside.”
Hilary has plenty of experience with helping people pick out presents!
“I have worked at Hamleys, the famous toy shop,” she says. “I’ve met Prince Harry and TV personalities and I got a position within a concession for Steiff, a manufacturer of teddy bears.
“It was the most exciting job for any little girl, cuddling teddy bears! Christmas lasted for three months and has never been the same since!”
Hilary’s first job was at betting chain William Hill. “I got a Saturday job at the firm’s call centre in Blackfriars, collecting and clocking the bets,” she recalls.
Despite being born in London, most of her family hail from Scissett, where she lived during some of her childhood years and where she eventually returned after living and working at various times in Brighton and Northampton.
Hilary says she has always been positive in her outlook, saying: “My mother brought up me and my sister almost single handedly without a single complaint and that has really inspired me. I get my strength from her. Only when you are older do you appreciate what your parents have sacrificed for you.”
On her return to Yorkshire Hilary worked at Waddington Business Forms for two years before joining design agency ATTIK in 1997 as an accounts assistant. Working for ATTIK founders James Sommerville and Simon Needham was a “massive positive experience” she says.
“They are wonderful guys – not your average bosses. They would make the tea just like everyone else and never made you feel small. Without knowing it, they encouraged employees to believe in themselves and their abilities which in turn helped them grow as individuals”.
“I can honestly say I had an exciting life for 12 years and I never once woke up and thought: ‘Oh my God – work!’
Sadly, in April, 2010, Hilary was made redundant. Far from feeling sorry for herself, she decided to set up her own business.
“I have never seen anything that has happened to me as negative,” says Hilary. “I can make a positive out of everything. I got made redundant and thought: ‘What am I going to do?’ I took time out and slept for about two weeks and spent the days doing what I wanted. It was very liberating.
“My mind was clear of thoughts about meetings and schedules – and I guess having space to think is what brought this idea to the forefront of my mind.”