Credit where credit’s due: Gemma Collins becoming a millionaire is impressive.
The reality TV star-turned-media personality and entrepreneur left school at 16 with a U in GCSE maths, later dropping out of college. Collins worked various jobs – including as a shop assistant, waitress and in a care home – before becoming a car salesperson and landing her big break on TOWIE in 2011. Now at 41, she’s reportedly a millionaire with a thriving career.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Her Brentwood boutique clothing business went bust before the pandemic, with Collins reportedly left owing £76,000. In 2020, she handed the finances over to her dad, calling it quits. She’s frequently faced criticism in the public eye too.
So, what can the rest of us learn from the GC’s incredible journey?
Focus on your own strengths
Society has long been about ‘norms’, following certain paths, and having to fit a mould to succeed in certain fields. Is Collins an example of embracing your own route?
“Gemma Collins has always stood out from the TOWIE crowd, both in her role in the show and as a businesswoman. I feel there is a lot we can learn from her,” says coach and Freelance Feels founder and podcaster, Jenny Stallard (freelancefeels.com). “She is, for me, a strong example of using the skills you do have, and the unique things about you, to build a business and a brand that grows despite external comment, or perhaps not fitting in with the ‘norm’.
“Business isn’t about fitting in – it’s about being unique. Her unapologetic ability to be ‘the GC’ has become a brand in itself. We find ourselves buying into the world of Gemma Collins, as much as any product she might endorse or sell. There’s a strong lesson in business here – being yourself DOES pay off! I see this in the current growth of reels/video on Instagram, for example.”
Dealing with criticism
Coach and therapist Danielle Baron (daniellebaron.co.uk) says: “One thing that stands out with Gemma Collins is her unsurpassable determination. During her career, she has faced a barrage of criticism, which she has always overcome and rejected with her self-belief.”
Of course, constructive criticism can be very helpful. But when people are just being negative, unsupportive or mean, how can we handle that? “There needs to be that voice in your head that is defiant and will continue no matter what people say. You listen to people’s opinions, but at the end of the day, you trust your judgement to make the final decision,” says Baron.
Find trusting yourself in this way hard? Baron has a tip for developing intuition: “Tap into times when you have previously achieved success, and ask what you were feeling at the time, where you were feeling it in your body, what colour, shape was it? Was it moving or stationary? Heavy or light feeling? It helps you tap into your intuition and become familiar with it. It’s also important to question unhelpful limiting beliefs head on, and look at the origin and logic of them, to realise that actually, you have the power to achieve pretty much anything you put your mind to.
“There is also a lot to be said about believing something will happen and having the intention, because it puts your unconscious to work, to help you make this happen,” she adds. “You may look crazy in the process, but who cares? Look crazy and have the final laugh!”
An unstoppable work ethic
Another thing Baron admires about Collins is her “immense work ethic”. This doesn’t just mean working yourself to the bone, though. In fact, boundaries and balance can be key in keeping your energy and motivation up long term – especially with burnout rates so high.
Baron believes “work ethic is connected to our beliefs and passions” and following “a career route that is in line with your values and beliefs” is important. So, spend time getting clear on what your core values and goals really are.
“Work ethic doesn’t necessarily mean working around the clock – but it means being constantly in tune with where you want to go,” Baron adds. “It’s also important to have times of rest, based on your energy levels and lull times that you experience in the day, to recharge you to work more effectively.”
Learning from failure
From school maths exams to seeing her clothing business crumble, Collins has faced failures. But rather than spelling the end of the road, as Stallard says: “Gemma Collins flies the flag for learning from your mistakes. She has not always succeeded – I remember when she quit the jungle on I’m A Celeb… for example [she lasted just three days, back in 2014].
“This was another example of her being herself, and I think many people would have stuck it out. But for her, it was stick or twist, and that can be a good way to be in business. Refusing to keep working with a client that isn’t good for our mental health, for example.”
This comes back to working out your goals and values too, believes Stallard. “Having a list of the things you want to achieve, both short and long term, is essential. Values are the ‘dealbreaker’ feelings and benchmarks for your business life. Knowing your goals and values helps you stay focused.” And no matter how bumpy the road to get there, let those guiding lights stay bright.