Meet the mums who are doing it for themselves
With the news last year that the so-called ‘mum economy’ – which refers to businesses run by mothers with children under the age of 18 – is generating over £7billion for the UK economy and supporting an incredible 204,000 jobs, it’s fair to say that the mums of the nation are a pretty powerful bunch.
We spoke to some of the UK’s best and brightest ‘mumpreneurs’ about how they have mastered the work/life balance:
Laura Tenison is the founder of JoJo Maman Bebe, a company which she set up shortly before giving birth to her first child:
‘When I used to get home from work totally frazzled, I would make fun out of being a slightly lazy mum! Occasionally I’d be too tired to cook or I wouldn’t have time to shop, so I would ask he boys if it was an upside down day. We’d have cereal, toast, tea and yoghurts for tea. They always loved it.’
Lucy Burnford is the co-founder of AA Automyze, a company she set up while pregnant with her first child:
‘For a long time I was the start-up founder cliche. I still had wet hair from the shower at 4pm and I’d forget to eat anything until late afternoon. It didn’t help that my development team was off-shore, so emails start flooding in just as I was planning to clock off. To top it all off, I fell pregnant as I was setting up my business, and even then three or four am finishes were standard. To get the work/life balance back, I learnt how to ask people for help. I realised there were lots of people wanting and eager to lend a hand with my newborn. Drafting in parents and in-laws freed up stretches of time that meant I could devote to work or whatever else was most pressing. I also learnt to be honest with people about my commitments. Meetings, however important they seem, can usually always be rearranged or held in a place a little more convenient to get to!’
Cathy Hayward is the managing director of Magenta Associates a company which specialises in PR for the built environment sector. She’s the mother of three children aged 6,8 and 13.
‘I take a more holistic view of my time – there is no real set ‘work’ and ‘life’ times. Instead I try to do what I have to do whatever the time. So, for example, I try to drop my younger children off at school which might mean getting to work a bit later. I also try to leave earlier on a Friday to get a session in the gym once a week. I also keep a good to-do list. I have an Excel spreadsheet with the type of task, the deadline that it needs to be done by and a description. I manage all my activities through it from booking doctors appointments to opening bank accounts and booking hair appointments. It’s the only way I know what I’m doing and when!’
Larah Davis is the co-founder of Ibiza Retreats and is the mother to a 4 year old boy.
‘As a holistic coach, yoga teacher and therapist I am giving out a lot – which is an honour! Time in nature whether it be running, walking or swimming in the sea helps me reconnect with myself and renew my energies. I then have a lot more patience and positive energy to put into my family!’
Becky Patterson set up Not Before Tea with her son, Henry:
‘The last thing I do before I go to sleep is write a list of things I have to do the next day. I then wake up, driven and focused. I also carry a notebook with me at all times. I have all the best ideas driving to school or sitting in traffic and used to forget them when I got back to the office! I am very results driven so I set myself targets each month and then write down a treat next to each one, like get a new pair of shoes. When you are an entrepreneur no one pats you on the back or congratulates you for doing well. So just pat yourself on the back!’
Lindsay Neal is the founder of digital marketing consulting company called OLLI Marketing. She is also the mum to two children.
‘We have a huge chalkboard in our lounge and we write up things that the kids weren’t able to do in the week as life is too busy. This way I don’t feel as guilty when I say we can’t do something in the week and the kids know that if it’s on the board then they’ll get to do it on the weekend. It acts as a reminder for me and my husband about what we have promised! Some of the things on my list for this weekend is to practise doing plaits with my daughter and playing scalextric with my son.’
Holly Wright runs a successful children’s book publishing business called Itsyourstory and is also the mother of three children, aged 6, 8 and 9.
‘Work out which part of the day is really important to you when it comes to your children and make it your priority to manage your working commitments so you never miss it. For me, it’s about being there at bed time but for others it may be to be the person who drops their children off at school.’
Sarah Lambley is the director and co-founder of Fit for Keeps alongside her business partner Jenny Garside. They are both mothers. Sarah had these tips to give:
‘We have a rule around weekends – we keep that time as separate as possible and we plan activities that involve leaving the house, otherwise it’s too easy to keep going back to the laptop! I’ve definitely learnt that you can’t do everything. Instead of agonizing over the household jobs and trying to keep a perfectly clean and tidy house, I’ve realized that my time when not at work is far better spent doing something with my kids.’
Hayley Reynolds is the founder of RAW Pr & Marketing, a successful food and drink PR company in Devon. She’s also the mum of three children, aged 5, 7 and 9.
‘My top tips to make life easier as a working mum are to accept help wherever possible, to work with positive people who understand that you have other commitments and to hire a cleaner (that’s been my one luxury throughout!). It’s extremely hard to not feel guilty as a working mother sometimes. Sometimes I find it hard to not beat myself up about not making a cake for the cake stall at school and to try not to worry that everything isn’t perfect!’
Sarah Watts is the founder of Two Little Boys Ltd, an award-winning gift and activities service. She is also mum to three children, now aged 2, 2 and 3 who were all born within the space of one year.
‘My three children are used to seeing me work and I don’t always keep it rosy – If I’ve had a bad day, I will tell them so that they can see me getting up and working the next day. I show them not to give up if things get bad. I really feel like that’s enormously empowering for my children to see that their mother is creating something. I’ve never felt prouder of myself!’
Flo Broughton, is the co-founder of Choc on Choc, a Bath-based chocolate company as well as the mother of two children, Sienna and Charlie, aged 2 and 5.
‘As a mother who runs a business, it’s really important to try not to do everything yourself. My husband is also self-employed and we share the childcare responsibilities. I also delegate a lot more tasks at work than I used to and have learnt to say no and set boundaries when needed. I’ve also learnt not to waste time, so for example, if I’m travelling from London to our factory in Bath I make important calls while in transit.’
Kirsty Henshaw set up her free-from, chilled ready meal brand, Kirsty’s when she was a single mum in her 20s.
‘I’ve learnt to say no and not to feel guilty for it. I’m at an age where most of my friends are off work with new babies. A common misconception is that self-employed people are flexible, so as tempting as it is to do ‘coffee/lunch’ on a Wednesday afternoon with my friends. I simply say no now, unless I absolutely feel like I can! I also think it’s important to take care of myself, which often comes with guilt for some mums. Finding time to exercise, eat well or even have your nails painted are simple things, but they can make a whole load of difference to the way we feel and therefore perform at work.’
Geeta Sidhu-Robb is the founder of the award-winning, Nosh Detox which is the UK’s first home detoxification and weight-loss delivery service. Geeta is a mother of three.
‘My biggest time-saving tip is that my admin office team always work from the basement of any house I live in. I originally did this as a single mother so the kids knew where I was. I could pick them up from school and not waste time commuting and also I could work at night when they were asleep. I kept it up because it suited me and I never wasted time commuting to my desk.’
Renata Papcunova runs Home Affairs Training Academy while also bringing up her two boys.
‘I used to get up at 5am to start my day, but after starting the Sleep Training for babies course I learnt how important sleep is. Now I make sure that even if I get up at 5am, I try to fall back asleep. I’ve become more content and happier. Sleep deprivation for a working mum is really a big no no!’
‘Never feel guilty for getting help or delegating. You never hear a man apologising for his success so why should we. I do the things I enjoy and that a mother should. I make it to school plays and sport days but by having help at home I can have more quality time to spend with my children.’
Charlotte Jamme is the founder of Mia Tui whose bags sell on QVC. She’s also the mum of two girls, Amelie and Mia aged 8 and 9.
‘Finding balance when you run your own business and have a family is very difficult. I run a women’s handbag label called Mia Tui; I couldn’t be happier with the business at the moment and the brand is going from strength to strength, but to ensure the successful running of it and give the girls the time they need with me, I start very early in the morning. Taking some time each day to turn off computers and mobile phones, especially when the children are around is important too. Even just for an hour each day, this gives me dedicated time to be 100% available to my family, which helps with the working mum guilt too!’
Jenn Gledhill is the co-founder of natural mother and baby skin care brand, Love Boo. She’s also a mother of two children aged 10 and 12
‘Every mum suffers from guilt whether working or not. There’s a constant barrage of conflicting information about how to bring up your children and that can make us mums feel like we’re fighting a losing battle most of the time! So what if they’ve eaten beans on toast for both lunch and tea or CBeebies has been on loop all day? Some days are just like that! Are your kids mostly happy? Then you’re doing a brilliant job!’
Sarah Bohn is a mother of one and also the founder of Bohn Swimwear, a mix and match collection of swimwear
‘On of the biggest things that helps me keep a healthy work/life balance is to have my office at home. That way I can do the school pick up and then get back to work afterwards. In this day and age, my team don’t need to be in the same office as me! We come together when we need to. If I was going to give some tips to working mums it would be to always have more school uniform than you think you need, have back up contacts for school pick ups and get your kids involved in the morning routine. If they help empty the dishwasher, make their own breakfast and sandwiches or learn to pack their own school bag it helps you and it’s a good way to give them responsibility too.’
Karina Thomsen is the founder of wishagift.com. She’s a mum of two.
‘For me, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. I confide with other like-minded mums all the time. We’re all busy running around juggling lots of balls and when you know you are not alone and can count on friends for a favour now and then, that makes a world of difference. I joined Google’s ‘Campus for Mums’ program for entrepreneurial mums and dads. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so much energy and determination of mums starting and building their own business together with being a parent. I didn’t feel like the only crazy one anymore!’