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An entrepreneur who became a mother at 16 and has overcome major financial and domestic hurdles is now head of a multi-million pound company.

Hampshire’s Charisse Smith launched CMe Media in 2014 and is poised to celebrate its 10th anniversary. She appointed her mother Belinda as Financial Director in 2015 and recently hired her eldest child Jack as Business Development Manager.

Located at the Fareham Innovation Centre, CMe has grown to a team of 18 and boasts clients who are local, regional and national. The company specialises in media buying and providing creative, digital and complete marketing support. While the brand CMe is almost 10 years old, the new business CMe Automotive has just celebrated its first birthday.

Charisse, 41, a mother of three, is optimistic about the company's expansion in the coming year, with plans to grow her team. She said:

“A decade ago, I faced some of the toughest personal challenges and struggled from the impact of the 2008 financial crisis when I lost everything I had worked for."

“By then I had a second child so the level of responsibility increased and survival mode kicked in. I needed to provide financial security for my two children forever. It was then I launched CMe Media from my dining room table and regularly worked through the night to get things off the ground."

“As we approached our fifth year I was pregnant again and chasing a large contract and on the way home from an important boardroom meeting had my third child who was premature. It led to a month of juggling business and being a mum from the neo-natal intensive care unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth."

“I watched the lines on my daughter’s life support machine move up and down for a painful touch-and-go 41 days. Just as I thought I could start to think about reducing my hours and adjust to looking after her whilst she remained wired up to oxygen, we were faced with the Covid-19 bombshell."

“CMe suffered a dramatic loss of £500,000 in billings in five days and we were owed hundreds of thousands of pounds that businesses were unsure if they could pay."

“This was one of the biggest tests of my mental health and strength in my life but working with clients and partners we came through it, diversified and created a new future.”

Charisse puts her journey from a 16-year-old mum to a successful business owner down to ‘a need to survive’.

She added: “After having my first child I started work at a scuba diving magazine selling advertising - I rollerbladed to work. I then broke into the automotive advertising sector working for Wave 105."

“I had great managers there and they taught me a lot which I’ve relied on to grow CMe into what it is today. We have had a decade of success despite Covid and my aim is to continue to grow the company and the team.”


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