Celebrating the passion, creativity and drive of the brilliant women who’ve launched and grown their businesses with Successful Mums.
Since introducing our Business Start-up course back in 2014, we’ve helped a steady stream of small businesses get off the ground and been blown away by the energy and vision of these enterprising women.
We love helping mums create their own flexible careers and seeing them turn their business ideas into reality. It also means a lot to us that so many of them stay in touch to share their progress, successes and expertise.
Here we catch up with five inspirational mums who started their business journeys with us to find out more about their motivation, their challenges and what they’ve learnt along the way.
Every Successful Mum’s story is unique and the reasons why they choose to start their own businesses are many and varied.
“Having a family can make a lot of people reassess what they want from their careers – not just mums but dads, too,” says Successful Mums founder Jane Knight. “The flexibility offered by self-employment is obviously a big factor for many of the women we work with but it’s by no means the only factor“
“Lots of them have dreamed about being their own boss for years but you gain a huge number of new skills when you become a parent and that can give you the confidence to do something about it that perhaps you never had before.”
Jane’s Business Start-up course helps women embrace those new skills, focus on what they’re passionate about and harness all that energy and enthusiasm to move towards their business goals.
Mama + Max founder Emma Chamberlain (left) found the impetus to create her own dream business after becoming a mum. After 12 years in fashion PR, Emma came up with the idea for her beautiful contemporary online children’s store after spotting a gap in the market.
“I’ve always had a creative side and love seeking out things that are a little bit different,” explains the Tonbridge-based entrepreneur. “When I had my son, Max, that became even more apparent. I just didn’t like the things I could buy on the high street: everything seemed to be covered in blue dinosaurs for boys or pink fairies for girls. Whenever I was up at night with Max, I’d end up on the internet, looking for things that were more design-led.”
Those sleepless nights gave Emma her lightbulb moment. “I realised that if I could bring beautiful, modern and unique brands together in one place, then that’s exactly where I’d want to shop. And I knew that a lot of parents out there would feel the same,” she says.
It was being made redundant while pregnant with her second child that prompted Anna Butterfield (right) to take a fresh look at her career. The Beckenham-based mum–of–two realised that her priority was to do something she loved and was soon on the path to launching what is now a thriving garden design business.
“Before my children were born, I had a really stressful job in sales and marketing. I was working myself into the ground for a big company, where I was a small fish, and I wanted something that had a bit of meaning and passion behind it on a more personal level,” says Anna.
“I’ve always loved gardens and gardening and it’s been great being able to show my daughters that you can do a job you love. It’s hard to go back to work and juggle all that you want to do as a mum as well but I love the flexibility I have now and being able to make choices about what I want to do.”
Zoё Roberts (left), founder of sewing and craft party company Oodles of Craft, is another Successful Mum who turned a lifelong passion into a business and was able to design her work life around her young family.
The former teacher, who is based in Beckenham, rekindled her love of sewing when her first child was born. “It felt like it was something for ‘me’,” recalls Zoё. “When you become a parent, it can be a slight shock to the system and I remember wanting to do something for myself, so I didn’t just feel like I was breastfeeding all the time!”
Zoё’s renewed love of sewing and craft coincided with a realisation that she wanted more flexibility in her work.
“I’d been a primary school teacher for 14 years and I loved it. But the hours were long and when my eldest son started Reception, I couldn’t take time off for sports day, the nativity play or open mornings – little things that were important to him – so I knew I had to make a change.”
By starting her own business, Zoё gave herself more control over her working hours and the chance to focus on the part of her job she’d always enjoyed most: being creative.
“Teaching has always been my passion and I’m loving being able to maintain that and be around for my boys while they’re still young. It’s a win-win for all of us!” she says.
Of course, it’s not all plain sailing, as our mums are at pains to point out. Starting your own business takes hard work and dedication and you need to be realistic and resourceful to rise to the challenge.
Mum-of-three Lynda Smith (right) started her company, Elless Accounting Solutions, after being inspired by a chance conversation on the school run.
“In the early days, one of the biggest challenges can be cash flow,” says Lynda, whose company specialises in working with small businesses. “That can be a struggle, so bear in mind that it might be tough for the first six months. In the beginning, it feels like you’re paying out a lot but it is an investment and worth it in the end.”
“You definitely need to think about the finances and go into it with your eyes open,” agrees PR expert Debbie Scott (left), who set up her consultancy, Scott Communications, to take her flexible career to the next level.
“There are a lot of different challenges. You might find you feel too lonely, as there’s a lot of working from home on your own. Or, if you get into it because you want to be around for school drop-off and pick-up, you need to realise that it can be very hard to fit in everything you need to do for your business during school hours. Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day! But I think you have to be quite practical about it and expect to have to do extra work in the evenings or at weekends and be prepared for it to take a while to work out.”
For garden designer Anna, the key is to be focused and realistic about your goals.
“I don’t mind working late and working hard because it’s something I love and it’s important to me – but I probably need to get a better balance some weeks! The best piece of advice I took away from Successful Mums was: don’t try to be everything to everyone. That really helped me focus on what I wanted my business to be.”
All five women agree that planning, persistence and a good support network are essential for taking on the toughest of challenges and coming out the other side.
“The homework and research I did with Successful Mums, along with having that supportive community spurring me on, was absolutely crucial. I dread to think where I’d be if I hadn’t done the course,” says Mama + Max’s Emma.
But, she adds, it’s also important not to be too hard on yourself.
“I came across a quote recently that really rings true: ‘Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20’. That really resonates with me because you can look at what someone else is doing and go into a panic and wonder how you’ll ever do that. But it’s worth remembering that they all started in a spare room or at the kitchen table, too.”
…and the rewards!
Despite the bumps along the way, it’s clear our Successful Mums wouldn’t change a thing. For accountant Lynda, flexibility is the biggest plus of running her own business but the sense of achievement comes a very close second.
“I’m really proud that I’ve actually been able to do it… and it’s all me!” she laughs. “It is no doubt the scariest thing I’ve done but I feel vindicated when I get nice feedback from clients and knowing that I’m taking a headache away for them.”
Lynda says that the most important thing she has learnt is to believe in herself.
“As Jane at Successful Mums points out, we’ve amassed all these amazing skills as parents that come in very handy when you’re running a business and are also in demand in the workplace like never before. I’ve managed staff in the past but I know I’d be a much better manager today, having now had the experience of dealing with an assertive preschooler!”
Oodles of Craft’s Zoё echoes Lynda’s words, adding that she’s learnt as much about herself as about running a business.
“For me, being my own boss has been a great experience. I’ve learned such a lot along the way and I’m so much braver now. Having to sell myself wasn’t necessarily something I needed to do before but it’s a skill I’ve had to develop,” she says.
“To any mum thinking of starting out in business, I would definitely say give it a go. Even if it doesn’t work out, at least you’ll have tried, you’ll have learnt from it and, hopefully, you’ll have gained some fantastic skills you can use for something else.”
Debbie Scott agrees:
“Starting your own business isn’t necessarily an easy option but if you have a great idea, you’ve done your homework and you have the support in place, then absolutely go for it. It might be the best decision you ever make!”
If you’d love to start your own business adventure, Successful Mums can give you all the practical advice, support and motivation you need. Find out more, and book your free* place on our next Business Start-up course today.
*Subject to eligibility