Work like a woman - Meeting Mary Portas

Jun 1, 2019

Work like a woman

It was rare date night in the La Di Da household last night. With months of logistical planning and preparation as usual was a mad rush around to get home from the shop, toddler collected from nursery, fed supper, bathed and babysitter instructed, changed from shop clothes to vaguely grown up/sophisticated outfit (more about that later), make-up applied over the top of todays (am I the only one to do this?) and hair scrapped back into a ponytail in an effort to look something like presentable.  We power walked to the station (ok, reality was I had forgotten to book one and hadn’t factored in the lack of taxi’s in Andover) and took the train to Salisbury. Once on the train we relaxed with a gin in a tin and we were off to see one of my long term idols, Mary Portas.

The Salisbury Playhouse is a short walk from the station and we arrived to see “A conversation with Mary Portas”. Her tour of the UK is more than purely promoting her latest book “Work Like a Woman, A manifesto for Change” it’s talking about life, business, kindness and living.

Work Like a Woman Book cover

I’ve been a fan of Mary’s for a long time, I’ve watched Mary Queen of Shops, Mary’s Bottom Line (do you remember Kinky Knickers?) and Secret Shopper. “What Britain Buys” is essential annual viewing in our household as shop keepers. The reality of seeing her live didn’t disappoint, she was her usual savvy, confidence giving and no-nonsense self. As independent bricks and mortar shop owners it was a delight to hear what we’re doing right and clarify our plans for the future as well as giving us a few areas to focus on. We could have listened all night, the hour flew by. Stu being only one of a few men in the audience was the only man to ask a question, which was delightfully received and perfectly answered.

We dashed to the foyer to queue for the book signing, as the bar was empty I went for liquid refreshments whilst Stu held our spot. Mary was far too efficient (what else did I expect?) and by the time our prosecco was poured, Stu was funnelled through the queue and I had missed my moment. Gutted.

Stu had got both of our books signed and somehow managed to invited Mary & her partner Mel for dinner, to which her reply was “as long as you’re cooking”. I had bought Mary a drink at the bar and still wanted to say thank you so quietly slipped behind the desk and gave it to her between signings. She appeared surprised (may she doesn’t drink Prosecco?!) but delightfully polite.

 Mary Portas & Steph Briggs

With hindsight she may have thought I was an overly thoughtful member of the Playhouse – unfortunate wardrobe planning meant that I was wearing all black, just like the bar staff. In my star struck “I want to ask you a million questions and I don’t know where to start or how to speak” I mumbled thank you and dashed off again like some strange Prosecco wielding ninja.

So Mary, if you or any of your team get to read this please know that ;

  • I spent years in the tough, aggressive corporate world and was inspired by you to become a shop keeper
  • We spent our date night with you and had the best time, you created great debate and discussion
  • The invite for dinner still stands although I wouldn’t want you to experience Stu’s cooking, (unless you like BBQ?) he does make a fabulous cocktail though.
  • I will find a way to collaborate with you
  • I can actually string a sentence together
  • You rock, thank you for sharing your manifesto


It’s time to #WorkLikeaWoman




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