THE following is from Littlemumpreneur.com. I hope you may find it interesting. I meant to point people in Erica's direction a while back! Thanks Erica for the questions.
Q1. What is your business called and what does it do?
I’m the director of Passionate Media. This is an agency in Staffordshire, working on various types of editorial and social media projects and commissions for national and regional clients. We also train aspiring writers, journalists, non-profit organisations and companies in making the most of social media and/or journalism/commercial writing skills.
My last job before I had my children was as a news editor on an evening newspaper. I knew that being a mum to baby twins would not fit with the demands of a busy news desk. I also knew I that in the long run, I wanted to be able to work around my girls, flexibly and part-time. My employers were good to me and allowed me to return as a sub editor one day a week when my daughters were about nine months. By the time they were a year old, I was contacted by a PR firm offering me what I considered a full-time salary for a three-day a week job in media relations. I took it but it was too much, I wanted to cut back my hours so I wasn’t so tired and could see more of my daughters. I considered working for myself the only option and aimed to build freelance writing and consultancy work up to four days by the time my daughters started school.
But due to a combination of factors (mainly people offering me work!) I ended up in a position where I felt I had to share the work out so as not to kill myself doing it at the same time as wanting to be there for my daughters.
I think I was influenced by my dad who has always run his own business and I also think that as someone who jumped around from job to job quite a lot, it was possibly inevitable that I ended up also being self-employed.
I’d like to address the issue of whether I consider myself a ‘mumpreneur’ if I may? I’m not sure that I do. While I undoubtedly set my business up as a consequence of being a mum, and I have overseen business growth to take on a very small number of members of staff, all of whom are parents, we do not consider that status of parents when we are getting on and doing our job. Over the years though we have worked hard to make sure we are as fair as we can be when it comes to maternity leave and flexible working and this culminated in us being praised for ‘leading by example’ by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development after research by the British Chambers of Commerce which featured in Parliament. My friend and business partner Carol was named as the most Exceptional Working Mum of the year by the website www.motheratwork.co.uk in 2006, so that was a very proud moment!
We met at ante-natal and Carol had been told that she would never walk or have children so you can imagine a few tears flowed when she won that trophy!
Q3. What were your start-up costs?
A computer for my bedroom cost around £800 I think, back then, it was paid for out of my wages from the PR company. The only other cost was my time. A short while later I moved my work to a rented office which cost £300 a month. These costs were easily covered by work coming in. Further computers, website design and other business ‘must-haves’ came through ‘contra’ deals where we swapped expertise – so I basically wrote press releases for suppliers instead of having to find money to invest in such equipment or services. I never paid to advertise or anything like that – as a firm believer in the power of PR over advertising, there wasn’t going to be a need!
Q4. Did you need to raise finance to start-up, if so how did you do this?
No and I held off doing anything that would have meant borrowing money for as long as possible. We got a grant of £2,000 from Business Link for personnel advice and we later got a bank loan from Lloyds TSB. We did this by showing them figures of expenditure and income, our business plan and cash flow predictions. Looking back I can see it was a leap of faith but at the time we knew it was the right thing to do.
Q5. Would you consider yourself a leader? What are your strengths?
Um, well I really don’t think of myself as a leader at all. If anything, I think I would be flattered to be called a ‘catalyst’ in that it gives me a huge sense of achievement to know I can make things happen and work on projects that make a difference. I can tell you more about what my weaknesses are than my strengths so I would have to say that perhaps recognising where other people are suited to tasks than me could be one of my strengths. If you held my hand behind my back and asked me to tell you what a strength was because my life depended on it, I would say that I hoped I am fair – both to the people who work with me and those we work for. I also have an ability to think on my feet that must have been a bonus and crucially I have an effective ‘bullshit detector’ which has been put to a lot of good use over the years.
Q6. Have you done any courses or learning programmes to help you run your business?
I attended various ‘business growth’ workshops run by our accountant, training sessions held by a business networking group and various events held by professional associations – all of which were free. In the very early days I attended days of activities run by an organisation called Business Enterprise Support, our local Chamber of Commerce and Business Link. I later became vice president of our local Chamber as they had been very good to me. Just thought I’d mention that – I’m sure you can imagine me there at the meetings! At various times I’ve paid for the on-going services of a business growth specialist who taught me from an early stage about working ‘on’ your business instead of ‘in’ it.
Q7. How many hours a week do you spend working on your business?
It varies. On paper I am now full-time as my girls are older and at school. My partner now works with me in the business and we share stuff like picking them up from school. I do now sometimes work from home as well.
Q8. What advice do you have for other mums considering starting their own business?
Be realistic and pragmatic. Forget sitting around waiting to be inspired. Running a business with all the day to day stresses and strains is the hardest thing you may ever do – outside of raising a family – so put the two together and just imagine how difficult that is. You may dream of being your own boss – well that’s not the case if you have your own business – each and every client you work for becomes your boss. You may dream of working ‘around your children’ but what if that work means chasing people who owe you money through the courts or watching another client go bust? I wouldn’t wish some of the bad days we have had in the office on anyone. Don’t do anything without sound practical knowledge of how to run a business and an understanding of how to maximise income while minimising expenditure. Anything around that *may* just be hot air.