Caroline Bendall –
Unlike Liz, uni wasn’t for me. It didn’t even cross my mind to take up further education after sixth form. I just wanted to go out into the big world and earn my own money, and that’s exactly what I did, starting in insurance. I then worked in a bank and went on to work for the wonderful cosmetic giant Estee Lauder. Then, in 2000, I found myself applying for the role of Trainee Recruitment Consultant with a company based in North Bristol. The interview involved tests and quite an interrogation – many questions that, legally, couldn’t be asked today (“Do you plan on having children?” etc). I must have said what they were wanting to hear as I was offered the role of Temporary Controller looking after North Bristol and Avonmouth sites. I went from knowing very little, to having more than 100 temps in a short space of time. This was very much to do with the excellent training and management style that this company invested in.
Fast forward six years and, with an idea plucked out of nowhere, Liz and I decided to set up Blake and Blake Recruitment. We took the plunge and opened our doors in June 2006 – at that time specialising in Office Support and HR recruitment for both Temporary and Permanent staff. We built our brand, reputation and business over a period of time, seeing some great results quite quickly. Then in 2009 the world hit trouble and recruitment suddenly became a lot less smooth and many companies we dealt with closed or faced redundancies. This time was hard but we got through it and, I suspect, we are stronger for the experience.
Then in 2013, I took maternity leave after I had our little boy. Maternity leave then went on a little longer than planned and we didn’t return to Blake and Blake until 2016.
So here we are now, back to what we love doing: working with people and companies in the Bristol area, helping source great candidates for exciting office support roles.
Looking back, would I have changed things? I am sure I would have changed lots, but I love our small company, the flexibility we have to work around our children giving us a great work life balance that many working Mums don’t have the luxury of having. I love the challenges. I love placing people in their second, third role with us. I love exceeding companies’ expectations. I love working with my sister …. I love her making the tea!
I hope our future is as fun as the past 12 years and that, in another 12 years, our children can complete work experience with us if they choose. We really don’t want to be the biggest agency in the world – that was never the plan. We are just two Bristolians loving the city we have always lived in and hope that we can continue to establish good working relationships with companies.
1) What did you want to be when you were a little girl? I either wanted to draw maps or be a child’s nanny.
2) Who’s in your family (apart from Liz)? My husband is called Matt and we have a son, Ronnie. So many people ask me if we would call a second boy Reggie. No!!!
3) What do you like most about Bristol? I think that when you have lived in a city all of your life, it’s quite easy to take it for granted and not always appreciate what you have on your doorstep. There are so many amazing things about Bristol. Whether that’s our culture, fun events, even people-watching while drinking a coffee in Clifton. I am yet to speak to a visitor to Bristol who hasn’t enjoyed it.
4) Favourite drink? I am great to take on a night out because 99% of the time I’m usually the one who drives. I am not a big drinker, and often prefer a cuppa to a Prosecco (that makes me sound so dull!).
5) What would I be doing if I wasn’t in recruitment? I have a huge interest in interiors and would love to work in that industry. Having an idea, putting it on paper and then bringing it to life fascinates me. Maybe one day I will find the time to do that evening course I keep talking about.
6) We get asked all the time… “What’s it like working with your sister?” My answer is that, as I was born first, surely I’m the boss?!?!?