- Posted by ABFiftyone
Gillian has worked in communications for over 17 years, after graduating from Robert Gordon University in Publishing Studies, and beginning a career in the world of journalism. She worked as a sub-editor for 6 years, during which time she studied and graduated with a Masters in Marketing (Distinction), and changed her career focus to be marketing, events and communications, and has never looked back.
Laterally heading up a global marketing communications role for Schlumberger, Gillian has considerable experience in B2B and B2C marketing, while also remaining committed to continual learning, which saw her awarded with her Chartered status from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Gillian’s career has been a successful one to date, and this is particularly impressive given the personal journey she has been on since 2008, where she broke her back in a horse-riding accident, and has had numerous surgeries during the following 7 years. Further surgeries in 2014 saw significant and positive changes, which in turn saw Gillian finally return to the mountains, something she had no managed post-accident. Determination and belief has seen Gillian overcome hurdles, adapt to her limitations and defy what was deemed to be the life ahead. As such, Gillian set up BackStrong Adventures to encourage people to get outdoors, build confidence, make friends and achieve amazing feats.
BackStrong Adventures has had a successful first year in business, reaching out to all ages, as well as being finalists for awards.
Was setting up your own company something you always wanted to do?
I’ve always had that drive, though I have thoroughly enjoyed my career path, especially my time at a major oil & service company. I am very proud at what’s been achieved with BackStrong Adventures.
What is the most rewarding aspect about what you do?
BackStrong Adventures is a very different type of business, in that it’s also an emotive one, and has such a positive impact on people’s lives. I love the emotional journey you travel with clients – to first talk to a client and understand what their reasons are for doing the activity or adventure, create a plan, support them every step and see their complete joy at completing something so personal and challenging is just fantastic, and it’s a huge privilege to share this.
What challenges have you overcome to get to where you are now?
I have had my own health challenges following the accident, and still having to deal with many limitations and chronic pain. But I have found ways that work for me that allow me to enjoy incredible adventures and activities, and find my own way around obstacles. I also am very lucky to have such great family and friends, giving true support and by my side through the ups and downs. In terms of business challenges, it’s always difficult to launch a new brand especially when you don’t have the funding you desire from the outset. Building brand trust and delivering on service is key, and without doubt we do this, and have received such lovely feedback from our clients.
What does a typical day involve for you?
Every day is different! Last week involved heading out to a forest, my colleague and I setting up orienteering routes, and preparing the camp for girlguides! It’s been a super week, and seeing skills being learnt, smiles on all the faces, and the sheer delight as we munch into marshmallows and smores over the campfire at the end!! This week is preparing for weekend treks with clients. But the days don’t end at 5pm. That never happens! I have to prepare for overseas adventures, reply to clients, focus on our various campaigns, and plan the next activities – as well as do the not-so-exciting admin part!!
What does the future hold for BackStrong Adventures?
BackStrong Adventures has already adapted to market requests – we firstly focused on the overseas trips, but launched the Scottish activities early 2016, and now also work with children, whether as school groups or Girlguides and so on. We have always made it clear our trips and activities are for everyone – whether you love the adrenaline rush of the great outdoors, wish to fundraise for charity or overcoming something personal that’s knocked your confidence. Working with children has been a great addition, as we are opening up their minds and hearts to how fantastic the countryside is, while also teaching them key safety skills. We will continue to develop these relationships and outings that meet all requirements.
What support do you have?
I have a super team around me, from medical staff to my amazing guides. I also have a very special partnership with Cairngorm Treks which sees owner Simon Greaves and his team delivering their amazing walks for us, and also assist us on our own BackStrong activities.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
BackStrong Adventures will continue to grow, and have more of a UK presence for activities. I see the business offering something special, and continuing to work very closely with all groups.
Upcoming events & adventures – contact us to find out more:
· CLAN Go Purple – trek and fundraise for CLAN
· UK treks – several dates
· Nepal trek – October 2016
· Trek the Accursed Mountain, Albania, for charity Inspire – July 2017 (open evening 25th August at 6pm at Inspire, Aberdeen)