I started a business with kids: Lisa Roberts of Babyblooms

Babyblooms - Lisa Roberts PhotographTell us a little about your business

Babyblooms was the first company in the UK to offer bouquets of Baby Clothes as an alternative to fresh flowers, offering next day delivery within the UK and a worldwide delivery service. The website www.babyblooms.co.uk now includes Babyblooms own range of natural skincare for Mum and Baby as well as a wide selection of baby hampers and personalised gifts.

What was your job before starting your business?

I studied Business and Finance at university and initially worked as a financial advisor for a couple of years before switching to account management with a Telecoms Company. When my sons were born I worked for a while, part-time selling educational software before childcare costs became prohibitive and I worked a couple of evenings a week waitressing in a local Italian restaurant, leaving my days free for the boys and leaving the boys with my husband in the evenings. Whilst quite poorly paid, I had no childcare costs so had more money in pocket and essentially had two nights out a week!

How did you go from your old career to your new business? 

I launched Babyblooms in 2005 when my boys were aged 4 and 7. At that time I had been working part-time in the evenings, which I stopped when the website went live. Both were at school but it was just not possible to be there at both ends of the school day. Initially, friends were able to help by having my boys on ‘playdates’ after school and I would endeavour to return the favour. I was also very lucky that my parents and sister were able to help out and would take the boys to stay with them during school holidays. It was very difficult and stressful making arrangements of an ad-hoc, day to day basis and I needed a permanent solution. So, having seen it work for a friend, I advertised for an Au Pair and found a lovely German Girl who was looking to stay in UK for up to a year. She lived with us and was available daily for two hours to collect the boys from school and onto the park or to play, feed them tea and do their reading and spellings. This worked really well for us while the boys were that age, but I don’t think I would have wanted to rely on an Au Pair for more than a couple for more than a couple of hours a day or for younger children or babies.

What were your reasons for starting a business? 

I had always wanted to work for myself and to do something that would allow me to be creative and to spend time on something that I really enjoy. It was my hope that running my own business would allow me the flexibility to work around my family and children and to be there for the milestones, the school assemblies, Easter parades and sports days etc.  Whilst running an online business requires a big commitment and has inherent deadlines such as courier collection times and same day dispatch deadlines, I have been very fortunate to work with family and an excellent team of flexible and accommodating staff. Working in a small team is all about give and take and we have been able to provide cover for each other to ensure the business meets its deadlines and we all get to be there for our families too.

Did you use any childcare? 

My children were at school by the time I started my business. However, prior to its launch I spent over a year in the planning stage, designing the garments and bouquets, liaising with manufacturers, working on our branding and website, doing my market research and planning budgets and funding.  I did all of this in the evenings when the boys were in bed. Needless to say, bedtime was strictly adhered to otherwise I would never have got it done.

As I have mentioned above, we had an Au Pair for a while who helped a couple of hours each day after school.  In 2008 we relocated home and business from Berkshire to South Gloucestershire, our current location. I was spending large amounts of time racing between our rented industrial unit and home and I was desperate to move somewhere that could house my family and business in one place. Our home in South Gloucestershire, a redundant farmhouse and buildings gives us exactly that. The barns and milking parlour were converted in offices and warehousing for Babyblooms, David, the boys and I moved into the farmhouse and an adjacent stone barn was converted to house my parents (can’t beat having babysitters onsite!)

How did you get your business idea?

When each of my boys were born I was inundated with fresh flowers and only owned one vase. I also didn’t have enough of the basic baby garments that new mums really need. When, subsequently my friends began having babies I wanted to find an attractive way of giving them the really useful clothes they would really need. I wanted to create a gifting experience that was all encompassing: Practical baby gifts, beautiful presentation, sleek packaging with elements that could be reused or kept as keepsakes.  I persuaded my Mum, Marilyn to make some prototype bouquets from baby garments I had at home and we played around with perfecting the presentation and design.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

Our biggest challenges was moving home, family and business from Berkshire to Gloucestershire without a break in the Babyblooms Service or next day delivery guarantee. When faced with a challenge I usually break it down to what I can change and what I can’t. I write a list detailing what actions I need to take and when and then I follow it. I fold my list up, go home to my family and shut the door on it until it is feasible to do something. Worrying in the meantime is futile.

If you could give one piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?

I would advise any Mum with babies or young toddlers to think very carefully about embarking on a new venture while their children are so young, if you are lucky enough to get it right and have a support network then you can’t beat it. However, while the trials of motherhood seem unending and clichéd as it may sound, they are babies for such a short time. That said, I firmly believe that having a role outside of my home and family has helped me to appreciate the time that I spend with my children and family. It has given me space to be me and I hope that I am a better mother as a result.

Don’t rush into anything, use the time when they are napping or sleeping to research and plan. Always consider the worst case scenario. My own business plans always include targets and objectives (which are usually very ambitious) and then alternative scenarios, which show the implications of achieving 80% or just 50% of those targets.

Thanks Lisa!

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