Wonder Woman Collective

Wonder Woman Collective Pt6 – Natalie – ‘The Norm’

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!

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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). 

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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.

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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)!

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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. 

You can find Natalie’s wonderful products on her website here and you can follow her on Instagram here and Facebook Here.

We absolutely love the ‘Strength Collection’ some of which you can see below. 

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Wonder Woman Collective

Wonder Woman Collective Pt5 – Steph Douglas

Welcome to part five of our Wonder Woman Collective and thanks for visiting! Our mission is to showcase inspirational women who have made a leap into their own careers and are following their dream.

When I began this project, one of the first people who came to mind was Steph Douglas, I can’t think of a more deserving Wonder Woman for our feature this week. Steph encapsulates everything many Mums on maternity leave dream of. She had the most amazing lightbulb idea and has made a living from it!

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Career and entrepreneurial skills aside though Steph is Mumspirational for other reasons too. If you ever have the opportunity to talk to Steph you’ll notice that the 48.6k combined social media followers and blogger friends in high places have not changed her, not that we knew her before, but you know what I mean, she doesn’t grace the room with an air of arrogance, she is ever compassionate, humorous and approachable. Steph shares her stories with women across the world in her Sisterhood blog where she talks candidly about life as a mother of two and is expecting her third baby later this year.

She doesn’t take herself too seriously …

During Steph’s journey into parenthood at just 14 weeks pregnant with her first baby in 2014 her world was rocked by her 30 year old husband receiving a cancer diagnosis. I imagine this life changing event, as dreadful as it must have been for Steph and her family, has served to mould her into the person she is today, appreciating the little things and living for the moment. Perhaps it’s this that spurred Steph to create her own business, taking life by the reins and trusting her instincts.

So here’s our interview with Steph Douglas, Founder of ‘Don’t Buy Her Flowers’ we think you’ll love her as much as we do!

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Hi Steph, tell us a little bit about your job or career before you launched your own business.

I have always worked in Brand and Communications, on Government campaigns and then on London 2012. My role was to integrate all the elements of a campaign – advertising, PR, design, digital, materials etc – and make sure they all worked together and were consistent. It involved working with all the teams responsible for each of those elements and joining everyone together, which I loved.

Tell us all about your current business.

I started Don’t Buy Her Flowers in November 2014, selling gift packages for new mums. Very quickly our customers started also sending our packages for get well, bereavement, birthday – any occasion when they wanted to send some TLC in the post. The idea came when I had my first baby and was sent eight bunches of flowers from lovely family, friends and colleagues. They were all well-meaning but it struck me as bizarre that the go-to gift for new mums is another thing to care for, when you’re doing more caring than you’ve ever done in your life. All our packages are about encouraging the recipient to take a bit of time out for themselves, and that of course works for new mums (who are so hard on themselves) but also for anyone that needs a bit of looking after. Which I think is probably most of us!! We’ve also seen growth in our corporate orders, including working with businesses that want to use our services to develop bespoke packages so that’s very cool.

What made you take the leap to decide to start out on your own?

It was a combination of things really – I had the idea but then went back to work twice after both my babies. On my second maternity leave I started thinking about it more. When I went back to work I found I didn’t have the same passion for my job, and also struggled with the constant race against the clock for pick ups and drop offs and then the inevitable call that one of them was sick and needed collecting. Those things combined and then a glance in to the future when they’d be starting school and thinking ‘how the chuff will we manage then?’ made me start to think doing my own thing might be the answer. I started a blog first and that went really well, which built my confidence enough to make the leap and quit my job.

What do you love most about your job and why?

We are in a really exciting phase as the business has grown considerably in the last year so we’ve been able to build a team, and it’s awesome finding people you respect and trust to take over different elements. I like working with other people but also it means I’m not responsible for everything, which makes it all a lot more enjoyable! The feedback we get is also wonderful – we get a lot of reports of people crying when they receive our packages,

I completely underestimated how powerful it is when someone reaches out to say ‘hey, you deserve this because you need looking after and you are loved’. Our customers are just lovely.

B & M with me at Kew

How do you juggle being a Mummy and having your own business?

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t! I don’t think anyone has the answer and I think whether you have your own business or any job, it’s a juggle! Those first two years of starting a business were particularly intense and I have to say often not enjoyable. The problem is, you’re learning all the time because it’s all new, and you’re never done. There’s always more to do and no one is going to say ‘stop now, you’ve done enough’ so you have to learn to do that yourself. I think as the business grows, your confidence does and then it becomes easier to allow yourself to stop and say ‘I’m doing ok’ and recognize the things you’ve achieved rather than only focusing on the things you’ve yet to do. It’s a massive learning curve.

Do you have any particular rules to make sure you balance things so you get family time too?

“I leave my phone downstairs every night – I’d really recommend it. Waking up and going straight in to social media/emails is not good.”

I also try not to work weekends now if possible. I also love having weekends with no plans – weekdays are always going to be busy with work and school and clubs, but having a weekend with no one to please but ourselves, and no time schedule to keep to but our own, that is my absolute favourite time.

Is there anything in particular that makes things a little easier for you?

Accepting that you can’t do everything you did before and run a business on top. The house might be a bit messier, the meals may be mostly jacket potatoes or beans, and your social life might take a hit for a while. Something has to give and if you don’t work that out, you’ll burn yourself out and then you’re no good to anyone. You also have to share the load more at home if you can.

Do you come across any negativity from others because you’re a working Mum? If yes, what?

No – I think a lot of the time when we feel judged it’s actually because we worry we’re being judged, or we’re measuring ourselves against other people. But most of the time the person hardest on us is ourselves. It’s something that is really hard when you first become a mum and seems to get easier as your kids get older and have more confidence in yourself as a parent.

I’m pregnant with my third and the nicest thing is that I don’t care for anyone’s opinion about how I’m doing it.

That is very hard to manage with your first because it’s so unknown and you’re so vulnerable.

Business nowadays are not 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 and if so do you find this impacts on your time, especially in the evening?

It does, and it’s another work in progress. We’ve actually taken on the very lovely Nicola from toomuchmotheringinformation, who manages all our Don’t Buy Her Flowers social media. That has made a huge difference, and I did it when I realised I was having a third baby and do not want to be juggling a newborn and feeling compelled to post for the business at the same time. Social media is a wonderful thing – it allowed me to grow a business with very little marketing budget – but we’re all still learning how to manage it and still do ‘real’ life. Putting my phone in another room works for me.

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What do you think the hardest thing about having children and being your own boss is?

The juggle. Definitely. But I think that’s for all parents, not just mothers with businesses. I feel pulled by both things a lot of the time.

And what’s the best thing about it?

Whilst it’s a juggle, if it’s sports day or school holidays or someone’s sick, I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to down tools. And I can be there for bedtime and know that if I have more work to do, I can pick it up once they’re in bed. It’s not easier – I’ve never worked harder – but it can be flexible and it’s also a passion so it doesn’t always feel like work.

What advice would you give another Mummy who is considering changing their job or career to follow their passion?

Something I think is really, really important is that no one feels under pressure to use their maternity leave to start a business or new career.

I went back to work after both of my babies and didn’t start Don’t Buy Her Flowers until they were 2 and 3. There’s a lot to be said for the familiarity of your old job and colleagues and even the same journey to work, and of course the income. So much changes when you have a baby – whether it’s your first or not – and taking a bit of time to get used to that without adding another pressure worked for me. Take your time, and when you’re ready you’ll know.

So there we are, one true Mumspirational Lady. Honest, down-to-earth and open. We love her business and her attitude and wish her every success with the business and the arrival of their third bundle. Thanks to Steph for taking the time to talk to us.

If you’ve been inspired by Steph’s story please do share it! We would also love to receive your Wonder Woman nominations so please do get in touch if you have ideas for future features.

You can visit Don’t Buy Her Flowers here, and if you would like to send us the Gin Package (below) then we won’t complain!!

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Uncategorized · Wonder Woman Collective

Wonder Woman Collective Pt4 Rachel

Welcome to Part Four of our Wonder Woman Collective, thank you for visiting!

This week we meet Rachel Turner, a Mumspirational Mum of two who lives in Warwickshire.

Rachel made the leap from working for an engineering company to ‘paying herself and others to do the hokey cokey’ (her words haha). Read all about how she made such a huge change in career, how she juggles parenthood and the challenges of running your own business and Rachel’s advice for anyone thinking of making a change in their career.

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Hi Rachel! Tell us a little bit about your job or career before you launched your own business

I worked in waste management in Birmingham for a big engineering company called Atkins. Writing reports for planning applications for large waste facilities.  After having my children I did 3 days a week, but it still meant getting the 7.12am train to Birmingham and the 5.03pm back, rather a rush and a 2 hour commute each day.

Tell us all about your current business

I run Rhythm Time music classes for babies, toddlers and pre schoolers. These are great fun,

I pay myself and other people to do the hokey cokey!

A dream job after thinking I would have liked to be a childrens TV presenter. I teach 4 mornings a week and then do the admin for the business in the afternoons and evenings. I work some weekends for parties, and events. In 2016 I was networking mummies networker of the year. This year I was a finalist in the networking mummies small business awards.

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What made you take the leap to decide to start out on your own?

It was a gradual thing and almost happened by chance. I had stopped working as it was just getting too much, the long hours the constant rushing, my husband working away a lot. I wanted to spend more time with my children while they were little and cute and liked spending time with me.

After being at home for 6 months I started assisting at Rhythm Time, then trained to be one of the teachers. Then the current owner was retiring she asked if I wanted to buy the business.

It was something I had never considered, being a business lady, it seemed too grown up.

I have some very good friends who encouraged me, gave me lots of support and advise and I made the plunge and became a business owner.

I am usually better being told what to do, I don’t feel like a born leader! As it is a franchise there is a lot of support from head office and the lesson plans are provided. if I need marketing material this is pre designed and there is lots of help with marketing and running a business etc. There is also support from the other people leading Rhythm Time classes across the country, I feel like part of a big family.

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What do you love most about your job and why?

The interaction with the children in class, seeing them singing, dancing, enjoying themselves. Seeing their progression and confidence increase as they learn how to play in time and sing solo. Listening to 15 pre schoolers sing a song to me un accompanied, watching the pride in their parents faces and the happiness we all have. Seeing the babies smiling and laughing and gurgling along to their favourite tunes and just the sheer enjoyment of the classes. It is truly joyful and great fun.

Through my job I am able to help support and fundraise for local charities and good causes. I put on Rhythm Time sessions at charity events, provide prizes for charity raffles and charity collections in classes at Christmas. it is great to help local charities through my business.

How do you juggle being a Mummy and having your own business?

It is rather busy, the children help me set up the class before the school run, they also help me practice the songs. I then take them to school and then go back to start the classes. In the afternoons I do admin, but am there to do the school run. They are in after school club 1 night a week so I can catch up on paper work.

Do you have any particular rules to make sure you balance things so you get family time too?

This is one thing I need to get better at doing, stopping working! So I can just sit with them and chat after tea instead of working.

I am also leaving my work phone at home when we are on holiday and leaving someone else to answer the emails.

Do you come across any negativity from others because you’re a working Mum? If yes, what?

Not because I am a working mum, as most of the mums I know do work. Perhaps sometimes because I don’t do a normal job, but I think working flexibly is becoming the norm.

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Business nowadays are not 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 and if so do you find this impacts on your time, especially in the evening?

Yes I need to stop checking Facebook after a certain time and even emails. Of course I want people to be able to contact me , but I need to be strict on when I answer, I need time to unwind and switch off and watch Eastenders!

What do you think the hardest thing about having children and being your own boss is?

Time management, as I do feel guilty if I am working  when they are at home.

And what’s the best thing about it?

That I am there for them, have tea with them, get to take them on school trips when I can, spend hours at the park after school and just enjoy being with them while they are still little. It is good that they see me working and want to join me when they are older. My 5 year old wants to work at Rhythm Time when she is older or work on the computer at home!

What advice would you give another Mummy who is considering changing their job or career to follow their passion? 

I would say to go for it. Life is too short to hate your job and be unhappy at work.

It will be hard work but you are strong and can run a business or change your career.

Do not regret not following your dreams and doing something you love.

My friend sent me a card which read, “she believed she could and so she did” it hangs above my desk. I know she believes in me and I believe in myself.

We would like to thank Rachel for taking part in our Wonder Woman Collective! You can find Rachel’s Rhythm Time classes here.

Rachel is currently taking bookings for baby, toddler and Pre-School music classes in Leamington, Kenilworth & Stratford Upon Avon to start in September.

Make new friendships and have fun whilst helping your child develop!
Our fun activities help brain development, balance, concentration, listening skills and language which in turn help with reading, writing, maths, co-ordination and socialising.
Rhythm Time also helps stimulate your child’s imagination and develops specific musical concepts such as rhythm, pitch and listening. It’s the perfect foundation for school and future music making!
🎶 Join in the fun and start your child’s musical journey by visiting www.rhythmtime.net/rt232 to book a class (Places are limited) or email Rachel at rachelrtime@gmail.com.

If you would like to nominate a #mumspirational Mum for us to feature please do get in touch!

Wonder Woman Collective

Wonder Woman Collective Pt3 – Lauren – Founder of Kokoso Baby

IMG_0207We first came across Lauren & her beautiful brand Kokoso back in 2014 when we used her gorgeous products on our 1 year old. Fast forward three years and Kokoso has launched a new baby wash in addition to it’s already acclaimed coconut oil and has successfully gained investment from the one and only Touker Suleyman in a nail biting Dragons Den.

Kokoso is also now stocked in Boots, thanks to a triumphant win at the Boots ‘Inspired by me’ competition!

Lauren is the perfect example of a Mum who is juggling being a successful entrepreneur and running her own business and in our interview we discover just how she does it.

Tell us a little bit about your job or career before you launched your own business.

Before Kokoso Baby I was a copywriter in advertising and marketing. It’s a skill I’ve been able to use to help build the brand – everything from writing the labels on our packaging to press releases, blog posts, website and social media content.

Tell us all about your current business.

Kokoso Baby offers pure, natural and oh-so-gentle skincare for little ones packed full of organic coconut oil goodness. Our hero product is our premium organic coconut oil and we’ve recently added two gorgeous baby hair and body washes to the range, with more coconutty skincare treats in the pipeline. 

IMG_0209What made you take the leap to decide to start out on your own?

Fate! I was on maternity leave with my first daughter in 2012 when I had the idea for Kokoso. Like a lot of new mums, I was concerned about the nasties in mainstream baby toiletries, so when my little girl developed dry and sensitive skin problems I wanted to find something natural and organic to care for her.

I was a total coconut oil novice at this stage but was literally blown away by how it made her skin feel and the amazing multitude of uses. It magically cleared up her troublesome skin and we continued using it as a baby massage oil, bottom balm, daily moisturiser and so much more.

I started buying coconut oil for friends with new babies and that’s when I had my light bulb moment – to share the coco-love with parents everywhere by sourcing a premium quality organic coconut oil that’s the very best product for little ones.

The idea was born but I’d already arranged to return to work. And then fate intervened. On my second day back in the office I was told my whole team was being made redundant. This was the catalyst I needed. Sometimes life just pushes you in the right direction…

What do you love most about your job and why?

I love working from home with my husband and working my own hours – the flexibility means I can always do the school run and be there for my children whenever they need me. The flipside is we’re often working late into the evenings after the children have gone to sleep.

How do you juggle being a Mummy and having your own business?

The juggle is real! I do find it hard to switch off sometimes and immerse myself fully in mummy mode, especially as work is so easily accessible via my phone. And of course starting a business is all-consuming because you have to put everything into it to make it work. It can leave you feeling guilty and pretty frazzled. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Is there anything in particular that makes things a little easier for you? 

Grandparents!

Do you come across any negativity from others because you’re a working Mum? If yes, what?

No, never. Any negativity comes from myself.

Business nowadays are not 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 and if so do you find this impacts on your time, especially in the evening?

I try to make sure I respond to customer emails during conventional work hours. My husband is always reminding me that the business won’t collapse if I don’t send that email tonight. Social media is trickier as there’s a sense that you should respond to comments and questions quickly. It does mean I’m often on my phone in the evenings.

What advice would you give another Mummy who is considering changing their job or career to follow their passion? 

You’ll never work harder but no other job will ever mean as much. If you’ve got the support network around you then go for it!

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Thank you so much to Lauren for talking to us about her journey! I’m sure you’ll all agree she’s truly #Mumspirational and is living the dream we all think about while on mat leave! 

If you know a #Mumspirational Mum please do let us know and we will feature them in our series of incredible women who are also parents!

You can buy all of the amazing Kokoso products here on their website. We love this gift set which is perfect for baby showers or for a gift for a new baby/mummy!

Newborn gift set Kokoso

 

Wonder Woman Collective

Wonder Women Collective Pt2 – Karen

Welcome to part two of our Wonder Women Collective!

In the second interview of our series of inspirational women who also happen to be Mums, we talk to Karen Wood. You may not have heard of Karen.. yet, but you will almost certainly have heard about her business! Karen is the MD of Strider Bike Distribution for the UK and Ireland. Strider have now sold 1,000,000 bikes and have taught more toddlers and young children how to ride a bike than any other brand and Karen has been instrumental in that success. In our interview we hear all about her brush with a bullet in Columbia and how she spectacularly quit her job following struggles meeting travelling expectations whilst being a Mum to a four year old and an 18 month old. Karen’s exciting and inspirational story is a must-read. We defy you not to feel empowered by her story.

Tell us a little bit about your job or career before you launched your own business:

I Spent 10 years driving overland expeditions – taking people in a converted truck across Africa, S.America and across to India after back packing my way around the world whilst dodging uni. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just didn’t want to be told what to do, so I guess that was the first hint that I was an entrepreneur and needed to do things my way. I learnt to be very resourceful, fix engines in jungles, deal with difficult passengers and blag our way out of difficult situations. I had also been shot at in Columbia so decided I had used up my lives and came home to the UK. By chance, I was offered my first “proper” job by chatting to a guy in a waiting room of a recruitment agency that was there to interview others and he offered me a job on the spot. I worked my way up to being a business manager for a blue chip medical company within 5 years,  before standing up one day in the boardroom and quitting on the spot. I had a 4 yr old and an 18 month old and I missed spending time with them whilst stuck on motorways and corporate life wasn’t for me. I knew it so decided to not prolong the agony longer, I figured we would work the financial problem out later and my husband was very supportive.

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“We were broke but then I spotted a Strider Bike in the USA.”

Tell us about your current business:

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Strider was a business I started 7 years ago, with toddler in one hand and laptop in the other. I spotted the unique balance bikes being manufactured in the USA and just knew I could do something with them. I missed signing the distribution contract for the UK by only a few hours, so I built myself up as the largest Strider dealer in the UK instead. Back in those days we were the only brand that wasn’t a wooden toy bike and Strider are the originals but it was still a struggle. Selling online was a new venture, so I bought a coding book, built a website and told anyone that would listen about the bikes. In 2014 I then got the call to offer me exclusive distribution that I accepted on the spot. Despite needing to raise funding for our first container, finding a warehouse and with Christmas only a few weeks It simply felt right to take it. Mind you, that autumn was one that I don’t actually think I slept more than 4 hrs a night. I even had to drive to the port and cry outside the port directors door as our first container got pulled for a customs check, except the port had no staff to drive it through the x-ray machine. I made them sort it in time to meet our own deadlines.

What made you take the leap to decide to start out on your own?

Gut feeling it was the right thing to do

What do you love most about your job and why?

Being completely in control of the brand and what I do with it. I love holding the reigns and the responsibility of the whole brand for the UK and Ireland is mine to shape as I like. I am really proud of it and I am still as enthusiastic as I was on Day1. I simply love getting out of bed and working on it. I am also quite partial to the business trips to the USA where I take the whole family and we go and hang out with the global Strider Team. I get my travelling fix.

How do you juggle being a Mummy and having your own business?

Not brilliantly! The first year of distribution I was also a full time mum and doing the school runs. Rarely was the house clean, clothes were never ironed and food was more often than not still in the shops and I worked late every night so was tired and grumpy. However the kids got stuck in and helped. They have both developed good business sense and now have their own jobs at events we run and a salary so it is teaching them great life lessons. In 2015 my husband quit his career and joined me. Now I take on most of the business decisions and and he runs our warehouse and the logistics. We share the responsibility of the kids although I probably do less than my share.

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Do you have any particular ways or rules to make sure you balance things so you get family time too?

Yes, we now have an office away from the house and the phone automatically diverts to answer at 5pm. I also never allow phones or gadgets upstairs so whilst I do tap away on the phone in the evenings on occasion, we do have our evenings and weekends back. Its also lovely we never need external childcare as the kids come with us everywhere, and if they are sick then it isn’t an issue.

Is there anything in particular that makes things a little easier for you? 

Online shopping! If it can’t be bought online and delivered we don’t have it. I work with brilliant reception staff that take in everything for me.

Do you come across any negativity from others because you’re a working Mum? If yes, what?

I don’t think I have ever stopped to notice. My social calendar is next to non-existent anyway if it isn’t school or work related, but being a mum helps me relate to our customers, as I can offer genuine honest advice to other parents looking to buy their child’s first bike. I think the only way it becomes negative is if you use it as an excuse for poor performance..

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Businesses nowadays are not 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 and if so do you find this impacts on your time, especially in the evening?

I use a lot of scheduling tools for social media so evening posts are set up weeks before. I am very organized and have a photographic memory so it all helps to keep on top of it. I am also very fortunate that Strider parents often become great friends to the brand and also to ourselves, so often questions left by others are answered by our own customers before I even spot them.

What do you think the hardest thing about having children and being your own boss is?

Last minute demands from schools. Too often I get info about sports days and events that I simply need more time to juggle my diary. However, I haven’t missed anything yet. The other thing is dealing with their demands when I am stressed. In distribution I am at the mercy of other suppliers and shipping containers around the world has problems of its own so trying to keep it altogether and not get cross with the kids under pressure can be a toughy.

And what’s the best thing about it?

That I am doing this to give them a far better standard of living and I can do it around them as they inspire me. Customers comment that my kids are very grown up and polite and its all down to them helping me with the family business. I don’t mean to go and buy material things, but I do spend a lot of money on experiences and holidays so I can show them the world. I take holidays to suit us, although don’t ask me to count how few I have taken this year..

What advice would you give another Mummy who is considering changing their job or career to follow their passion? 

Be prepared that there will be tough days. There will be times you wonder why you are doing it and times that partners “don’t get it”. Also be completely honest with everyone at all times. I see too many mums trying to sell themselves on the basis of unproven track records. Work hard, very hard and with luck it may come good. Don’t give up at the first hurdle…

You can see all of Strider’s fantastic products on their website here . Karen organises a host of fantastic Strider events across the UK where you can take your little ones to participate. See the events calendar here for more details.

We would like to thank Karen for taking the time to talk to us about juggling motherhood  and work. If you know a #mumspirational Wonder Woman you think the world should know about, let us know! Comment below or contact us here or via our social channels.

Uncategorized · Wonder Woman Collective

Wonder Women Collective Pt1 – Madelaine Furnivall

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Photo credit Anna Clarke

Welcome to the first interview in our Wonder Women Collective!

Every Wednesday we will be sharing Mumspirational Stories from Wonder Women who happen to be parents. We hope that these real stories inspire you to believe that you can achieve your goals and be a great Mum at the same time. There’s no need to compromise, if you have a dream, Follow It!

This week we introduce Madelaine Furnivall, a Mum of two from Leamington Spa who is living her dream as the owner of The Bridal Boutique Warwickshire nestled in picturesque Henley In Arden. Madi talks to us about how she juggles being a Mum and business owner and talks about how her husband has embraced flexible working so that they can balance family with work together. 

Tell us a little bit about your job or career before you launched your own business.

I worked in beauty for years and worked my way up to become a Spa Manager of a top spa but due to a back injury I had to give that up. I then kind of fell in to recruitment which really wasn’t for me, but I met my husband there so not all bad! When I had my daughter my NCT friend told me that the lady she brought her wedding dress from needed a manager for her Wedding dress boutique, long story short I applied and got the job.

What made you take the leap to decide to start out on your own?

I loved my job and bridal as a career and I wanted to create something with a more unique offering. So I went on a mission to find something that would have the wow factor and I found it! I now own the Bridal Boutique Warwickshire in Henley in Arden, we sell top designer wedding and bridesmaid dresses. The business focuses on making girls feel amazing and styling them from head to toe.

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I get to make people feel amazing everyday. We help find your style for your wedding but also really make a difference to all aspects of that special day. Be it dealing with mother-in-laws, bridesmaids or helping with recommendations on photographers, florists, make up artists etc. I feel like we really make a difference and our brides leave feeling inspired and excited about their big day.

How do you juggle being a Mummy and having your own business?

Being a Mummy and juggling my own business is the part I’ve found hardest. We bought the business two years before we had really wanted to. But the opportunity came up and you have to go with fate and follow your heart. The first two years really tested us. I had one in nursery and one at school, both at opposite ends of the town and nowhere near my Boutique. Also having to work two if not three evenings a week and every weekend was very draining on our family time and my energy to be able to be the best mummy. Since building the business up and managing to recruit good staff my hours have reduced which means very rarely do I need to work evenings. It also means I can have days off and not have to spend every second working from home.

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Do you have any particular ways or rules to make sure you balance things so you get family time too?

Monday and Tuesdays now I walk to and from school, which I love and also take the children to after school activities on those days.

Wednesday to Saturday I work full time but the great thing is now I’m in a position that if a school assembly comes up or sports day or any activities like that I can schedule my brides around that so I get to attend nearly all school functions now. This has made a huge difference this year to my children’s happiness. Also the business is so strong now that I very rarely offer to see people on a Sunday, this is now our strict family day. I have realised this is so important as we only get one day a week as a whole unit. In the first two years I worked nearly every Saturday and spent two to four hours on a Sunday at the boutique as well.

In the last month my husband has started a flexible work day on a Wednesday, meaning we all get to eat dinner together mid-week too which has been amazing.

I never thought something so small would make such a difference. People who eat together every night as a family really are very lucky. I would really urge families to look at their dynamic and if you find yourself in a similar position to me, look at flexible working. It really can make all the difference, and it isn’t just for the women as we are proof.

Is there anything in particular that makes things a little easier for you? 

Our mums play a huge part in us being able to function. If either of the children are ill and we can’t take time off work, they step in. If I need to work late and can’t collect the children they are there for us. They also help with school holidays, which is huge for us as it costs such a lot of money to find childcare during that time.

I won’t lie I struggle with the guilt of not being able to take more time off in holidays and we never get round to seeing all the people we want to, but that’s my busiest time as a business so I have to work.

Do you come across any negativity from others because you’re a working Mum? 

I have come across some negativity because I’m a working Mum, I think people don’t always mean to make the comments they do and maybe don’t think about what they are saying, some of the comments I get can be quite upsetting such as “I could never work weekends or evenings” or “I would never send my kids to holiday clubs, the holidays are for families.” Comments like that really that do make me feel guilty.

Business nowadays are not 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?

This is a big one for me as I have a real issue with social media and phones and ipads being too near children. But this is a problem when I have to answer emails, Facebook messages, staff texts, Instagram posts everyday 24hours a day! In the last year this has become a something that I have had to become better at. Brides want to follow you and you have to update all these social media apps everyday, this means my children rarely see me without my phone. This is my biggest annoyance with myself but also one I have no power to do anything about at the moment as to be the best I have to be contactable all the time and have to post to social media regularly.

What do you think the hardest thing about having children and being your own boss is?

Guilt! No off switch to work it’s never ending

And what’s the best thing about it?

Being able to make time now we are successful to go to the little things that I couldn’t have done if I worked for somebody else. Even just being able to walk to school makes me happy.

What advice would you give another Mummy who is considering changing their job or career to follow their passion? 

Go for it! But remember it takes at least three years to succeed and get time off, even then it’s constant when it’s your business you can’t turn off when you get home like you can when you work for somebody else. I love that my children also understand and value money: they know mummy and daddy work really hard do that they can have the nice things.

We would like to thank Madi for taking the time to talk to us and inspire other Mums to follow their dreams and ambitions. You can follow Madelaine’s Boutique on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram 

If you are a Mumpirational Wonder Woman and would like to share your story, we would LOVE to hear from you and help you to inspire the world. Contact Us Here

Till Next Week! x