Having invested in other projects with her husband and business partner Michael Toxvaerd, Willingham then realised that being an entrepreneur and investor could be the very idea she was looking for.
“We asked ourselves, could we run this as a business,” she said. “For the first time in my life, I felt this could be the set-up I was looking for for the next 40 years.
“As an investor, you meet the most brilliant people and gain an insight into lots of different industries. I don’t want to create another monster, however, so it’s important to manage expectations in terms of how much time people expect you to be able to give them.
“In terms of choosing who to invest in, Michael and I have what we call the Sunday dinner test, in other words, would we want to sit down for dinner with them. You can have the best business idea, but if you can’t work with the person then there’s not a future in it.
“It’s also important that when you invest, you don’t take too much out of the business. The entrepreneur must always feel it’s their business, so it’s a question of finding the right balance and, over time, you get better at that.
“In terms of my life set-up, I’m very happy. I’m doing some really cool stuff with different businesses and we’re starting to see plans for some of the early businesses we invested in come to fruition.”
One such success story is The London Cocktail Company which, after what Willingham describes as “an incredibly fun journey so far, with a lot more to come” launched a public fundraiser on investment crowdfunding platform Crowdcube earlier this month.
On the topic of women in business, she says: “A lot of women are very vocal about being gender neutral but the reality is I am a woman and a mum and I don’t feel the need to be gender neutral.
“I am proud of the fact I have four great kids and I work. I don’t go out of my way to try and inspire people but if there is just one mum who thinks ‘I can do this’ as a result, then that’s great.