My name is Gemma Davies; a mum of 3 and the Managing Director of Local Link Magazine. But before Local Link began half a decade ago, I worked as a civil servant since I was 16, for 18 years. As much as I have fond memories of my time there (meeting my husband to name one) I knew I couldn’t work there much longer than I did.
When he was still young, my first born was constantly ill. As a mother I knew that something wasn’t right, but I was always getting told by the doctors ‘It’s your first child’ and ‘you’re just paranoid.’
Just a week short of our first family holiday in the Dominican Republic, Lucas was admitted into Royal Gwent hospital. Emotionally drained and tired, I was convinced by my family that some time in the sun would do him some good. Even when we flew out, my boy was still very ill; everything he ate and drank wasn’t being kept down, and he would sleep all the time because he was so weak. While we were away, one day he collapsed in his Nan’s arms. We were taken hospital, where we stayed there for the remainder of the trip. We even had to get a certificate for him to fly back home. When in hospital, Lucas had his blood taken every four hours until he had enough white blood cells to fight the infection.
And that wasn’t all; my boy was malnourished for months (as the gluten was damaging his intestines, he couldn’t absorb any nutrients), he developed hypothermia , he had difficulty walking as his bones were so brittle, and he lost a lot of hair and weight; until he reached a low of 15lbs. When we arrived home, one biopsy and two weeks in hospital later, Lucas was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. He was still a long way from recovering as he had a lot of abilities to regain, but the diagnosis gave us hope that we could get our boy back.
While adjusting to this, caring for him, I was still working in a tedious job on the daily; dealing with unempathetic managers.
This took a toll on my mental health; I suffered from bouts of depression, while dealing with back-handed comments that I’d laugh off with the knowledge that nobody really knew what was going on. Through years of counselling and medication, things got back on track, but as soon as I got married and had my second child, and as everything began to change again – I started to consider a change of career.
The question was ‘but what would I do?’.
My husband was working 7 days a week; 3 days in Companies House and 4 days plastering. When I started placing adverts for his business in local magazines, I’d get constant calls from his clients. The client would always say ‘Is this Star and Crown Plastering? I saw your advert in the local magazine.
And this is where it hit me.
These magazines were working for local trade, so why couldn’t I? I started researching straightaway; I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and this was a way to start anew. When my husband, Ryan, came home I started waving my notes at him, while he looked completely clueless. After hours of rambling at him, we decided this was something we wanted, heck, needed to do.
Six weeks (and many late nights) later, our first magazine was published.
Lisvane and Thornhill was my target, as this is where Ryan grew up. The magazines continued to grow, and I began to grow, too. I was pregnant with my third child (my first girl – bring on the pink headbands); which made running a business a juggling act. I can’t count the amount of times I was about to make a crucial sale, and my children would start. I’d run in the bedroom with the phone in my hand to make the booking (closing door firmly behind me) to make sure I get all the information down. I took ‘working on the go’ to another level, replying to emails and phone calls from in hospital waiting rooms, to in the playground, to even in my toddler’s play group.
Since starting on my own, I took on my first member of staff, Alice.
I was struggling to keep the business running with raising my three children and needed an extra pair of hands around the office. In just a matter of weeks I realised just how valuable she was and began to think about where we could now take the business together.
Alice and I became the dream team; we clicked immediately,and in the beginning, she even put up with my baby blowing snot bubbles on the window as we were trying to work. Alice was originally with me on a 6-month placement, on a ‘make or break’ basis for the business, and with her help, it was a ‘make’ move. From managing the running of the magazine, to dealing with all the business accounts and expenses to even organising my personal calendar and diary, I don’t know how we could both function without her now, and I couldn’t write my own story without Alice being a part of it!
Over the years, we’ve had several businessmen wanting to invest in the magazine, but for us, it never felt right. Then one day, I had an email from a woman who runs other community magazines, that I have got to know well and occasionally worked with over the years. She wanted to sell her two magazines and asked if I wanted to take them on.
We expanded our magazines overnight.
This was a difficult transition for Local Link, but since expanding, we’ve never looked back. As the magazine continued to grow, and after working from home over the last few years, I wanted to move Alice and me into an office. We now operate in Stow Park Circle, in Newport, with an office that suits me, Alice, and our other members of staff. We now run 4 magazines, our own social media management services and networking events, and 5 years on from starting my first magazine with Ryan in our kitchen, I am proud of what Local Link has become. As for me, with a happy family and successful business, plans for world domination may be under the way sooner than I know it!