I Started a Business With A Baby: Crissi Burnell of Assist Computing

My name is Crissi, I am a self-employed mum of 2 girls aged 4 and 7. My hubby and I are partners in Assist Computing based in our home in Verwood, Dorset. Our eldest daughter is in full time school, she has Dyspraxia and can be a little more challenging or more dependant than the average 7 year old. Our youngest daughter attends pre-school for 3 hours per day so is home with me most of the time.

Our house is like a circus – juggling is a necessary requirement!

My partner and I did the whole 9-5 / 8-6 work thing and we weren’t happy. The kids were in childcare and we missed them. Family time was used to catch up on the washing or cleaning and it was just no fun! Two and a half years ago, we made the decision to change it and to start our own business – we knew this would be hard, we had to take the kids out of childcare and really take a risk! Deciding on the business was the easy bit, our experiences and strengths lay in computing and technology so it was an obvious transition.

We knew we were going to have to start small and hope to build the business gradually – this is where the real juggling began! I took charge of marketing and finance whilst hubby attended all of the jobs that came in. I put up flyers that we had printed at home in the local Post Offices and newsagents and I took private cleaning jobs to provide a temporary income and to fund future advertising in local magazines. This also paid for me to attend an evening web design course at the local university – hubbys new jobs just had to fit in around all that, and so did the childcare!

The business gradually generated interest from advertising and word of mouth and our client base soon grew. Once my course was finished. I spent my evenings after putting the kids to bed, teaching myself the more complicated stuff like SEO and coding. I designed our business a website and added ‘website design’ to our list of marketed services. Once I had the extra work coming in, I could resign from my cleaning jobs.

I’d love to say that is enough for any mum, but I can’t go without a mention of my pet project, Whizz-Kids-Technology.co.uk. It’s a free information site that I created to help parents teach their children safe computer and Internet use based on my own experience. I also add reviews of children’s software and apps and accept guest reviews and articles from parents and kids. I even use the website to get my own kids involved in technology by having them add their own reviews from a childs perspective.

My experience has taught me that starting your own business is no walk in the park, we worked extremely hard to build up our business from nothing and had luck on our side. We still spend our time juggling, hubby does all the computer repairs, we share the computer tuition, I take care of the website work and marketing and the majority of the childcare.

Working for yourself, from home means that you never have ‘me time’, it’s very hard to close the door on work and a client could knock on the door when you are in your dressing gown, but all that said, I wouldn’t change it for the world! I love that we can fit work around life, I can be there if one of my children are sick, I can attend every nativity, sports day or open assembly without worrying about ‘the boss’ and if the weather is nice, I can just take the family out on the spur of the moment – even on a Wednesday!

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