I survived domestic abuse, now I mentor celebs and have turned £300 into £80k in less than a year
AS a confident and hardworking mum-of-two who runs her own hugely successful coaching business, Dani Wallace looks like she's got it all figured out.
But 10 years ago, the mum-of-two was stuck in an abusive relationship and couldn't see any way out.
In the autumn of 2010, Dani had to take out a non-molestation order against her abusive partner, Jason* – the father of her second child Daisy – after enduring two years of coercive control and violent behaviour.
After a difficult period sofa-surfing at friends’ houses, Dani still wouldn't give up on her dream of making a better life for her and her daughters – and a moment of inspiration while watching The Bee Movie set her on the path to success.
With just £300 saved up, Dani launched her coaching business I Am Queen Bee – and now counts celebrities like former Atomic Kitten star Natasha Hamilton among her clientele and is set to turn over £100K this year.
Dani spoke exclusively to Fabulous Digital for our #BOSSINGIT series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses.
“A decade ago, I’d never have believed I’d be where I am today,” Dani said. “When I met Jason, I was a lonely and vulnerable single mum who was desperate for love.
"My fiancé Dean*, father of my first daughter Poppy, had left me two weeks after we sent the wedding invitations out, in May 2008.
“My childhood was difficult. My father Danny drank and home life growing up on a council estate in Preston was chaotic.
"I was determined to try to set anchor and create the perfect family for myself, with the husband, the mortgage and two children. But Dean wasn’t ready.
"We’d been together four years, and it was earth-shattering. I was alone with a tiny baby and a mortgage, and was very vulnerable.”
Jason worked at the same call centre as Dani, and began to charm her.
“He love-bombed me. He’d pour me a bath and put rose petals in it, or let me sleep while he looked after Poppy. By May 2009, just five months after we started dating, I was pregnant.”
Soon, however, the relationship turned violent. Jason would be absent for days and the pair would split up and then get back together.
“He was even texting other women when I was in labour,” said Dani. “On one occasion my parents had to call the police when he went mad and smashed up a laptop and threw an ironing board at me. I was screaming and crying on the floor.”
“Another time, he put his hands around my throat after a friend’s wedding.”
Dani felt isolated and alone as her self-esteem and confidence evaporated.
“Jason would say, ‘You’ll never get with anyone else because you’re too fat.’ When I questioned him about affairs he’d make out I was a controlling crackpot.”
Eventually, in autumn 2010, Dani took out a non-molestation order, after Jason phoned from a friend’s house threatening to come round and beat her up.
“I began the long journey of piecing my life back together,” Dani said. “After two years of supporting him, my finances were floored.
"Although I had a good job in HR training senior managers, all my money went on paying for my girls’ nursery fees. I couldn’t afford the mortgage and lost the house, so ended up sofa-surfing for a while, and even relying on food banks.”
Dani hit rock bottom, until one night after tucking her girls up in bed, she went to sit in her car. “
"I was incredibly low, thinking all these decisions had led me to this place. But at that moment of despair, I said to myself, ‘Am I going to let life keep happening to me in such a way that I can’t cope or am I going to choose better for myself and my kids?’’
With the help of now-husband Mark, 34, Dani started to rebuild her life, finding a new home and getting her finances in order.
“Mark encouraged me to sing again, and I got gigs at weekends. Then I started to think about how I could use the skills I’d developed while working in HR throughout my twenties.”
“The real lightbulb moment for I Am the Queen Bee came when I was watching the Bee Movie with my girls, Poppy, now 12, Daisy, now 10, and Ivy, four, my daughter with Mark.
"There’s a scene where the fat little bee is told he can’t get off the ground because his wings are too little, but he chooses to fly anyway. I thought, that’s it! I’ll help people to fly anyway, whatever their limitations.”
Dani started live-streaming on Facebook about five years ago.
“I’d be putting my make up on before gigs in my car, and just started talking about my week," she said. "After being homeless, personal development became a huge thing for me. I’d read and listen to audio books and then tell people what I’d learned, and they started to tell me I was inspirational.”
The Facebook group became a thriving safe space where women could support each other, and Dani’s live streams eventually became a regular weekday morning 8am event called the Show Up, Wise Up and Rise Up Show.
Around two years ago, Dani began to organise I Am The Queen Bee workshops where she could share business advice.
“I’d spent years in the corporate world and had learned from the bottom up.
"I soon realised teaching presentation skills was where I could have the most impact. I knew what it was like not to be able to talk about yourself with confidence."
Dani's top tips for aspiring businesswomen
Love what you do
Most people in business want to help someone or provide a service to help someone. If you talk to your audience about wanting to help them, they’re more likely to engage with you. The money will come when they smell the joy, when it’s clear you love what you do.
Have a plan
If you’re self-employed, it’s easy to tread water and get from one thing you are selling to the next. If you have a longer-term plan it’s easier to manage what you’ve got coming in than if you are looking at the end of your nose. Ask yourself what do I want financially at the end of 12 months? How much time do you want back for yourself? How are you going to look after yourself? Get your business strategy and your self-care strategy working together.
I didn’t have any funding for my business, it was all started off my own back. I had £300 in the bank, and I worked out what assets I needed for myself, like a showreel, photography and a website and how I could pay for them in kind. Through networking, skill-swapping and sharing my vision in those foundational stages, I managed to create those assets and began building from there.
Engage your audience
My follower numbers aren’t huge, but they are very engaged. It’s more important to have 2000 followers who buy than 1million who don’t. A small engaged audience is much more important than a large audience which ticks vanity metrics but just follows.
“I formulated plans and packages where people could learn to speak about themselves and their businesses and make them more compelling to a bigger audience.”
Dani initially ran I Am The Queen Bee events under the same umbrella as her singing business.
But initially, she found she lacked the confidence to set prices and sell herself.
She recalled: “I remember doing a launch event and at the end I shared the prices for my workshops. I remember the prices sticking in my throat as I was struggling to believe that people would pay to have me teach them.
“Then a friend said to me, ‘What you have to give is so special, people will pay money to come and hear you and learn from you. Trust your prices.”
Dani went back to the drawing board, realising her pricing had to reflect the amount of of work she was putting in, the amount of knowledge she had, and the return on the investment for her clients.
She set up a multi-tier range of courses including her signature eight-week Bee Heard – So You Wanna Be A Speaker course.
Prices range from around £1000 to £5000 depending on course length and content and Dani also offers VIP intensive two to three-day one-to-one courses.
“My prices are higher than they were initially but there is a wait-list to work with me.
"Initially I was charging £25 an hour for a “Power Hour” with me and that was hard to sell, but as soon as we got the price right there’s a wait list.
"We have so many great successes with people we work with, and people go on to secure Ted Talks and speaking gigs.
“The first two tiers are online, and I teach the cohort different concepts each week which they then go away and implement.
"Then there is a higher tier, where we offer real-life event experience, and clients can create all the assets needed to be a speaker – they’ll speak at one of my Bee Inspired events, and we’ll create a showreel and a speaker sheet.”
Last year, Dani realised that most of her income was now coming from I Am The Queen Bee events rather than her singing gigs, and the business started trading in September in its own right.
She has turned over £80K and expects to reach six figures by the end of the year.
Her husband Mark came into the business full-time to work on the branding, the website design and merchandise. She also has an accountant and operations manager.
“Outsourcing was the scariest thing for me, to go from being a one-woman band to having a team around me. But once I made the leap, it opened up so many more opportunities for me.
“It was really important to have the accountant with us from the start and to do things right, right from the beginning. I’d never dealt with this amount of money before so it was important know know what I was able to do or not able to do. I wanted a team to guide me so I know what I can spend.”
Now the business is going well, Dani has decided to set up a charitable arm called the Fly Anyway Foundation, to help survivors of domestic abuse.
“We’ll create a fund on the side of the business and survivors of domestic abuse will be able to apply for grants to work with experts on how to set up a new business," she said.
Horrified during lockdown by the rise in calls to the National Domestic Violence helpline, Dani set up a one-day online charitable event called The Big Festoon, with celebrity guests, such as Natasha Hamilton and Jess Cunningham. It raised over £16000 for Galop and Women’s Aid.
“Given what I’ve been through, I feel it’s the right time to give something back and help other women get back on their feet too,” Dani told us. “It’s been a hell of a ride for me, but I’m lucky now to be in a position where I can help. I can’t sit back and do nothing while other women are suffering.”
For more inspiring Bossing It stories, we spoke to Cherish Reardon who founded Popsy Clothing when her anxiety made it impossible for her to apply for jobs – now it's set to make £1m and Ladbaby Mum's a fan.
And Victoria Eagle was battling post-natal depression when she set up her stationery business on eBay and now it's made £500k.
Plus Amanda Jenner created the world's first leak-proof potty company – despite only leaving school with two GCSEs.
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