Welcome to Part Six of our Wonder Woman Collective! Our mission is to showcase inspirational women who happen to be parents and their wonderful businesses!
This week we are talking to Natalie from The Norm. Natalie is a Mum of two young children who is pursuing her dream of following her passion for creativity that empowers others. At the beginning of her journey into business and juggling two jobs we learn about how The Norm came from developing post natal anxiety after the birth of her second baby and how Natalie pours her heart and soul into her passion and her children, (not to mention being one of the most supportive and kind people we have come across on our Mumspirational journey).
Here’s Natalie’s story:
Tell us a little bit about your job or career before you launched The Norm
I work for the NHS and have done for…..12 years! I’m within the HR sector as one of the Medical Workforce Leads – in a nutshell stuff to do with Doctors Rota’s, monitoring, sickness etc. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. But it’s not what I want to do or where I want to be. But I’m incredibly lucky to have an understanding and supportive line manager, who helps me make it work (to the best it can be).
Tell us all about The Norm and what you offer?
I design hand lettered products such as prints, cards and mugs, and I’m working on some new stationary products too that I’m really excited about, so hopefully you’ll start seeing some new products soon (fingers crossed in time for Christmas). Whether it is pen to paper, brush to paper or iPencil to iPad it is all handwritten. Some people think I use fonts, but I don’t (accept for the obvious Arial or Times New Roman text, that I use on occasion) – all made with my fair hands oozing with love.
My motto for the business is to make people happy, send some kindness, spread a little love and create some smiles.
The Norm is a great name for a company, what is the reason behind it?
We have a family furniture business named after our daughter; Avie & Oak, so I wanted to incorporate my son’s name into the business as he is the main reason I launched the business. He has two middle names, one of which being Norman (something he won’t thank me for one day, but it is after a great man, my maternal Grandfather and fills my heart every time I say his name). But I also had this thought of trying to design something a little different, something ordinary but not…if you know what I mean – just the norm / not the norm…..and so it stuck!
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I’ve wanted to have my own business for quite some time and I’ve gone through quite a few ideas over the years. Avie & Oak was supposed to be something for both my husband and I. He’d do the furniture and I’d do the soft furnishings, such as cushions, doorstops, kitchen textiles etc, but it was tricky to develop without the backing of a LOT of money sourcing the fabrics etc.
What made you take the leap to decide to start out on your own?
After having my little boy (second baby) I suffered from post natal anxiety and felt incredibly low. I was barely leaving the house, didn’t want to see people much and just felt like I was failing in all aspects. So I started to look for something. I needed to fill my life with something other than the children. I needed something for ME. So as always, I looked for a creative outlet (I don’t like exercise much) I started practicing calligraphy and brush lettering. It was love at first ‘stroke’ and found it very therapeutic, which is something I really needed at the time. I just fell deeply in love with it, and found myself needing and wanting to do it pretty much every day. I quickly realised that this was part of me and how much I wanted to turn it from a hobby/therapy into a business.
What do you love most about your job and why?
I get to be creative. It gives me something to focus on and I’m learning new styles all the time.
Where do you find your inspiration for new products?
I spend a lot of time scrolling a lot of miles (so to speak), on Instagram and Pinterest looking for inspiration. I also draw inspiration from music, lyrics, poems, quotes and my family. I know this might sound a bit cringe worthy, but as I’m a bit soppy and an old romantic at heart, my husband is a big inspiration for me.
But also, I try to think of quotes that I hope will lift people up. It’s something that massively helped me when I was going through a difficult time after having my little boy, so I hope that some of my work will do the same for others. And spread a little kindness and happiness here there and everywhere.
How do you juggle being a Mummy and having your own business?
I’m not sure I do (hand over face)!! Now I’m back at work 3 long days a week, I’m just having to do work for the norm wherever and whenever I can, which is mainly from 7:30pm to 10pm every night after the kids go to bed. On my days off I have the children (my eldest has just started mornings at preschool) so it’s really tricky to fit in work on those days, and I’m mindful that I don’t want to be trying to grab five minutes here and there as I’m worried I’ll make mistakes and it also takes time away from the children too. It’s tricky and I’m still trying to find a balance that works for us all, but I think that might just have to come with time and as the kids get older.
Do you have any particular rules to make sure you balance things so you get family time too?
As The Norm is very new and in the early days, no I don’t yet. I’m finding it really hard to switch off from it. Other than, no mobiles at mealtimes or bedtime. I probably wouldn’t go to sleep if I lay in bed scrolling through instagram to catch up on everything I might’ve missed.
Is there anything in particular that you find makes things a little easier for you?
My husband. He is the rock of our family. The core foundations. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have started my business or have any faith in myself whatsoever. I’m very lucky, We’re not perfect and we have our moments like any couple or family, and I’m certainly not the easiest person to live with, but I’m so grateful he chose me to spend the rest of his days with (ok, ok I’ll stop making everyone cringe now)!
Do you come across any negativity from others because you’re a working Mum?
No. I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by supportive friends and family and any new people I’ve met are all in a very similar situation (which is working, mother AND trying to set up or run a business)!
Business nowadays are’t just about contact via email, potential clients reach you via social media as well as websites, do you feel a pressure to keep up to date with social media?
I’m pretty much ALWAYS on my phone/iPad. And if I’m not on it then it’s very close by with notifications on from Instagram and Facebook. It’s very consuming and I get frustrated with myself that I can’t just switch off. And as my memory is pretty poor these days, if something pops in to my head, I have to act on it there and then otherwise it’s gone. I use mainly Instagram for the norm, so when they decide to do their little ‘shadow-ban’ and change the algorithm, it has quite an impact on my small business and following
What do you think the hardest thing about having children and being your own boss is?
There’s no home time or switch off button. Whether you have children or not, if you run your own business its so difficult to completely switch off. My mind is always ticking over for new ideas and designs. Did I reply to that query? Is this business doing well enough? Where do I want it to go? What’s next?
And what’s the best thing about it?
I’m yet to feel the ‘positive’ benefits as such, as I still have to work a ‘proper’ job, but I hope the days will come when I get to separate the time I do spend on the business with the time I spend with the children (if there ever is a time). Like they’re at school, I work, they come home, I don’t work – and getting weekends together without sneaking off to do some work, although that will be a tricky one I think.
What advice would you give another Mummy who is considering changing their job or career to follow their passion?
Be prepared. I set up the business ready to go, but there’s quite a bit I missed off. Such as T&C’s, business cards still aren’t finished, etc. Keep the faith. Oh and GO FOR IT. Do what you love.
We would like to thank Natalie for taking the time to talk to us today & we hope her interview inspires you to follow your passion & reminds you that even if you already have a job and children, you can still start to follow a new and exciting path which can often lead to a new, exciting future.