Mums in Business - four mothers give their tips

Thousands of mums across the country are looking for new ways to balance their worklife and aspirations with the demands of bringing up children. It is a familiar conundrum.

But becoming a mother doesn’t have to mean that your entrepreneurship is abandoned. We spoke to four ‘mumpreneurs’ who are all building successful businesses – using their experiences of motherhood as inspiration.

Shazia Mustafa of Third Door

Third Door is a flexible workspace offering on-site childcare on a pay-as-you-go basis. It opened in May 2010, but the business is already looking to expand into new premises. Shazia is a mother of two.

Hi Shazia. Tell us a bit about what your business does.
Third Door is a workhub with an onsite nursery, operating on a flexible basis. We provide both a workspace and a nursery that can be used together or separately when needed.

How important do you think it is for a new business owner to have their own workspace?
It is not really a question on having your own workspace as being able to work productively in an environment with few distractions. Working from home can be lonely and distracting – there is always the washing to be done and staring at four walls can drive one crazy after a while! Trying to work around a child is even more challenging…it is virtually impossible. Members who use our workspace find they can achieve the same amount of work in a couple of hours that they would usually do in a day whilst trying to work at home.

Third Door is a very new business. What are the major challenges you have faced so far?
As well as being a very new business, we are also a new concept in the UK. There have been many challenges launching a business this ambitious around two very young children (youngest being only 6 months old at launch), recruiting the right members of staff, getting our pricing right and most importantly, getting customers to sign up as members. It’s been a challenging first six months of the business, but we have recently gained a Good rating in Ofsted and our membership has really picked up.

Wendy Shand of Tots to Travel

Tots to Travel is a family-oriented travel company offering some 300 properties around the world - all of which have been inspected by a team of mothers. The company looks set to turn over £1 million this year.

Hi Wendy. Tell us a bit about what your business does.
Tots to Travel specialises in providing safe, genuinely family friendly holiday accommodation across Europe. We give parents with small children and babies the peace of mind in knowing that their holiday accommodation has been visited and inspected to make sure that it is safe, fully equipped and as beautiful as it looks in the pictures. On the other side of my business we work with holiday property owners by supporting them to respond to the demands of this niche market and in doing so helping them to increase the number of weeks that they let out every year.

What was the inspiration for your business? Did you have prior experience in the field?
I was a primary school teacher and prior to that I was in PR, but after a stressful holiday where my 2.5 year old son fell into an unenclosed pool I felt that there had to be a better way to holiday with kids. I didn’t have any experience running my own business but I knew there was a real need for genuinely family friendly holidays. And now there is!

How do you juggle motherhood with running a business?
I have a home help who looks after my baby whilst I work and the eldest two are at school. I stop at 3pm to do the school run and drive the after school activities taxi service, followed by tea, bath and bedtime before recommencing work at 7pm. I have to be flexible in my approach and very organised or else it falls to pieces. I’m also very dependent on my team who are fantastic and allow me to work the hours that I do. I’ve had to be very strategic in growing a business that is not dependent on me, allowing me to work ‘on’ it, not ‘in’ it.

Isobel Thompson of Morrck

Morrck develops practical products for babies and children, including their flagship product the Baby Hoodie. Isobel is a mother of two.

Hi Isobel. Tell us a bit about what your business does.
As a mum of twins, I struggled to find the right products for my growing children. I was disappointed with the utter impracticality of so many baby products and kept finding new ideas, saying…’What I need is this…’ or ‘Why doesn’t anyone make that?’ Our first product was the Baby Hoodie, a shaped travel wrap that fits into carseats and buggies – and makes it much easier for parents to get out of the house fast. Since then we added baby hoodies for all the seasons, a simple to put on waterproof coat for children called the Wrapture, a beach wrap called the Splasha, a hat and scarf set and blankets. In short, we make practical products that make life for parents a little easier – less fuss, more fun!

Morrck is beginning to explore markets outside the UK. How important do you think this will be for your future growth?
At the moment, we are primarily selling direct instead of using retailers. But to achieve further growth, we need to look beyond the UK. We already sell our products to customers around the world, but we are now investigating ways to internationalise our site so that people in other countries can shop in their local currency and get the product information in their local language. We are targeting cold regions first - Scandanavia will probably be one of our first areas that we actively market our products in. We believe by creating an international site, we will be able to achieve growth through international sales, while still maximising our profits by selling direct.

What advice would you give to other mothers considering setting up a business?
Find local resources in your area that can give you free advice. We have received tremendous support from the Enterprise Hub in Milton Keynes, Business Link and the Chambers of Commerce, which has given me the confidence to grow the business.
Also, I always get people to ask themselves 3 questions:

  1. Work out what you will have to sacrifice in order to start and maintain the business and ask yourself, are you prepared to do this?
  2. Are you prepared to do whatever it takes to be successful (within legal and moral guidelines of course)?
  3. If you won the lottery would you do it anyway?

If you can answer yes to them all, then you have a chance, because that’s the passion that’s required.

Justina Perry of MamaBabyBliss

MamaBabyBliss specialises in pampering and nurturing mothers and babies. The company also provides natural pampering products, and has just launched a new training scheme for affiliates.

Hi Justina. Tell us a bit about what your business does.
We specialise in providing a range of natural and holistic services and products to pamper and nurture mothers, babies and mums-to-be. Alongside, our own award-winning range of MamaBabyBliss pampering skincare products, we also specialise in MamaBabyBliss expert classes in pregnancy and postnatal yoga as well as baby massage and baby yoga. Due to the popularity of the baby massage and baby yoga classes in the North Hertfordshire Area we have recently launched an MamaBabyBliss Affiliate Teacher Training Programme in Baby Massage and Baby Yoga to train MamaBabyBliss Baby Massage and Baby Yoga teachers nationwide.

MamaBabyBliss has recently begun franchising. What has the response been like?
It’s not a franchise per se. It’s an affiliate programme and so far, the response has been
phenomenal. We only launched the MamaBabyBliss Affiliate Training Programme in September 2010 and already two Training Programmes are fully booked indicating that in early 2011 there will be 20 new MamaBabyBliss Teachers nationwide.

What would you suggest are the most important things for entrepreneurial mums to remember?
Know who you are and what role(s) you play and when you have to play them! Many
entrepreneurial mums work from home so the boundaries can become blurred. Between the hours of 9am and 3pm I am Justina Perry, Founder and Managing Director of MamaBabyBliss. I need to be very disciplined during that time. I find my persona changes – it has to so that I can stay focused and on top of the business. Even though I am proud of being an ‘entrepreneurial mum’ when I am at work I am first and foremost an entrepreneur and business woman.

Conversely, when I am with the children, I try to leave work in the office. It’s all too easy to never to switch off because work is physically always present, so I make a point of closing the door to my office and I switch of the data option to my Blackberry so I am not aware of emails coming in. That’s not to say that I don’t work outside of 9am-3pm. If you are considering setting up your own business, you need to realise that you will probably work harder than you ever have before, just not between the hours of 9-5! The difference however, is that it is because you want to and it is your passion driving you. There have been times, when times have gotten tough (we set up the MamaBabyBliss in 2007 and did not predict a recession two years later!) that I have asked myself whether it is really worth it. But each time, the fire in my belly has re-ignited and I know that I couldn’t stop, because alongside my four other children MamaBabyBliss is also my baby!

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