I Started A Business With A Baby – Kayte Judge of Good Things

My business is just a little younger than my two-year old son, Jim

When I first set out my stall I primarily offered corporate social responsibility (CSR) support to micro and small businesses.  Small businesses annually give more to CSR causes than big business every year– but they rarely harness the benefits in the same way that the big guys do. Through staff engagement, streamlining, and identifying meaningful causes and ways of giving that can be transformative small companies and the causes they support can reap the benefits.

A large strand of my work was to fuse CSR principles and staff training; meeting the soft skills needs of organisations through focussed volunteering.  Things have changed now though – I have become far more involved in education innovation and most of my work is now in this area. In many ways the process is the same, it is only the client group that is different. I facilitate, I support, I clarify, I deliver and I aid organisational change and innovation. I suspect that my future lies in education: it really floats my boat.

A little bit about my background

I hold a first class degree in Comparative Religion from the School of Oriental and African Studies, and my early career focussed on people and work: I was variously a jobs analyst, a qualified careers advisor and Higher Education specialist and a communications co-ordinator. I hold qualifications in guidance, careers education, delivering learning and CIPD training. I then moved to the Open University and briefly managed a project to encourage graduates into teaching, before I became pregnant and had my son. My early work as a job analyst and careers adviser had shown me clearly that work impacts significantly on people sense of themselves and I had been introduced to CSR through my CIPD training. I believe that CSR can create meaning in the workplace.

Looking back I had always known that the time I took off to have a child would be time that I could sue to refocus my life and career goals. I had always been disappointed that I hadn’t continued in my studies after my degree and it was always in the back of my mind that I would study again if I became a Mum.

The last few years of paid employment had been increasingly uncomfortable for me

I was competent but miserable. It was the never-ending grind, shifting goal posts and never-quite-knowing-who-you-should-be-pleasing feeling that got me down. But, I was a wage slave. When I took my maternity leave I faced a very tough decision. The OU are a spectacular employer and had given me a pay rise while I was away, they also offered me any number of part time/flexi time working options. I remember opening the pay-rise  letter on the same day that I had handed my notice in and sobbing, fearing for my future career. I always aspired to earn my age, and taking that pay-rise would have got me there at last!

My reasons for starting a business were very much about my own self actualisation

I needed to see if I could create something new in the world and I needed to test my own value in the market place. I wanted to test the limits of my potential. Maternity leave gave me the safety net to create a hole in my CV without any risk: people would expect a gap, and if I used that gap to try to start a business then there was no harm if it all went wrong.  The only other thing that would allow me to break from paid employment would have been a lottery win.  It’s not often that maternity pay is likened to a lottery win…

I started work when Jimmy was 2 months old, I had taken on some data entry work to get funds into the business to get me started. Alongside this I was developing the CSR policy and practice of a Design and Branding Agency in return for the design and hosting of my website and stationery.  I began a short OU finance course to keep my brain working. I networked hard and offered free training to a local forest centre in return for free use of their grounds to offer my own training (I do a lot of outdoor challenges and games). I attended a few business link courses and some at the Centre for Women’s Enterprise, as well as other training courses in specifics, one of which paid for by a grant from http://www.enterprising-women.org

I was exhausted. Knackered.

I didn’t finish the course. My first year profits equalled, exactly, my accountant’s fees (which I hadn’t factored in!). You live and learn.

My Mum helped with childcare and I worked every evening and nap-time

I did try to use a nursery quite early on by it was too upsetting for everyone: it was too much to young for him I think. I don’t think mums should feel guilty a bout using childcare at all, different things work for different Mum/baby combos and there is little harm in trying different things. Looking back I should have had childcare to allow me to sleep first and then start the business slightly later.

Two years on and it is very different – Jim has settled into a different nursery for 3 half days a week (with plenty of extra hours when needed) and goes to his beloved Nanny for two further days. I work much more than full time, contracted for approximately 3 days a week with different clients and studying towards an MSc in Managing Business Creativity and Innovation. I love my work and I love being a portfolio worker.

The big challenges have all been personal

have spent so long outside of my comfort zone I can’t remember where I left it.  I had often been successful in my career pre-baby and feared failure. I had imagined that motherhood would be manageable and satisfying. Oh dear. The horror of childbirth and my complete failure to feed the poor little fella blew all my ideas clear out of the water – I struggled so hard in those early days. If you have managed to survive the early days of motherhood there really isn’t much you can’t do. I have taken more personal risks post baby than I could imagine doing before and most have paid off.

If I were to offer any advice I would urge Mums to be brave, rest up and throw away the guilt. Your child wants you to be happy.

Kayte Judge

www.goodthingsltd.com

Five Tips For Entering Awards

Awards are a great way to get PR for your business, not to mention a nice boost to your confidence! You don't even have to have been in business very long – there are awards out there for 'best new business' for example.

Joanne Dewberry, who last week won the Langtry Manor Business Women's Awards 'Business Mother of the Year Award' for her business Charlie Moos, gives us her top 5 tips for entering awards.

  1. Write a list of all your achievements, quirky things about your business, your unique selling point (USP), how or why you started your business.
  2. Ask your friends why they like or admire about you and the business. Collating this information will give you a big picture of you and your business and lots of examples to draw your answers from.
  3. Read the questions carefully. Make sure you give exactly the information they ask for.
  4. Sell yourself – don’t be embarrassed to big yourself up – this is what they are looking for! They want to hear about the great things you have achieved.  You did it and deserve recognition for it.
  5. Enter them all!  Save copies of award applications, that way you can cut and paste the information about you or your business and refine it so that it's word perfect.

Awards to look at :-

Everywoman Awards  – www.everywoman.com/everywomanAwards
Nectar Small Business Awards – www.nectar.com/businessawards
Barclays Take One Small Step – www.takeonesmallstep.co.uk
Enterprise UK – www.enterpriseuk.org

Joanne Dewberry, full time mummy to Charlie 3 and Megan 1
www.charliemoos.co.uk  and www.networkingmummiesdorset.co.uk
Winner of Langtry Manor Dorset Business Mum of the Year 2010
Highly Commended MumsClub.co.uk PR Comp 2009
Future 100 Young Entrepreneur 2009
TGF Best Rated Awards 2009
Short listed Langtry Manor Best Green Business 2010
Short listed Make Your Mark in The Markets 2010

Photo: www.andreapittam.com

Ten Ways to Stretch Your Maternity Pay

It’s not easy starting a business when you’re on maternity leave, so here are a few tips to make your money go further.

  1. You are entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment while you’re pregnant and a year after the baby is born. Don’t forget to book in a dental check up before your child is a year old (easily done when you’re busy with a baby!).
  2. Shop around for home and contents insurance and car insurance. If you can’t find time to do that, phone your insurance company when your renewal letter arrives and ask them if they can give you a better deal.
  3. Shop around for gas and electricity too. Often the best deal is the web tariff, so you don’t even need to pick up the phone.
  4. Have you got baby equipment that seemed a good idea before the little one was born, but has hardly been used? How about that heavy travel system that fills your entire car boot and that travel cot that turned out to be too small? You can sell these now and spend the money on kit for your older baby such as a play pen, garden toys, a bigger travel cot and a baby bouncer. You can buy and sell at Netmums.com, eBay, car boot sales and notice boards at some Sure Start centres.
  5. Look up new recipes using seasonal ingredients. Seasonal ingredients are usually cheaper than ones that have been grown overseas, they are better for the environment (less travel) and you could support local farmers too.
  6. Try planning your meals for the week before you go shopping. This saves you having to throw away food that has gone out of date because you bought too much. It also saves you from popping to the supermarket mid-week when you run out of food. That means you won’t be tempted to spend £20 more than you expected! Meal planning sounds a pain, but with a bit of practice it’s hardly any effort at all.
  7. Check to see if your mortgage company will let you take a payment holiday for a few months.
  8. Sell your maternity clothes on eBay.
  9. If you have credit cards and or accounts with home shopping companies, make sure you pay them on time. I never used to miss a payment, but I was a bit disorganised after my babies were born and I missed the payment deadline by a couple of times. Once you’ve added up the interest and late payment fee, it can be surprisingly expensive. Check to see if your credit card company will take a minimum payment by direct debit – at least you won’t have to pay the fee then.
  10. Check out www.babybudgeting.co.uk for loads more ideas for saving money when you have a baby.

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Creation Collaboration Women Wednesday

A month ago, a group of friends created a new social network for women in business called Creation Collaboration. Their aims were to promote their own businesses and products, plus support other women in business. And they already have 50 members.

One feature I really like is the Collaboration Women Wednesday  Blog Hop, where you can sign up your blog and visit other members' blogs. This is a great way of networking online and getting more visitors to your own blog. I joined in last week and didn't quite get it right, so I'll try harder this week!

I really recommend taking a look. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

This is why you’re already good at marketing…

Last week I listened to Natalie Lue of Self Employed Mum, Bambino Goodies and Baggage Reclaim speak about blogging. Natalie's name is mentioned in hushed tones by mums who blog because she actually makes a living from blogging.

Being able to earn an income from home by writing is the holy grail for many mums. It's tempting to ask 'what's her secret?' I suspect it's the same secret as for any business owner – know your customers, deliver what they want and more, work hard, keep improving, keep an eye on the finances, plan well.

I really enjoyed the presentation and learned a lot. But what really got me thinking was what she said about 21st century marketing. It's no longer a one-way-street where the seller tells the buyer about their product. These days, marketing is about the business having a conversation with the customer.

That's great news if you're starting a business and have a mental block about selling. Often, our image of selling is the hard sell; pinning someone to a wall and not letting them go until you see their credit card.

If we turn this on its head and think about marketing as a conversation, suddenly all our tension goes. Most of us are actually pretty good at having conversations.

Here's what you could talk about.

Connect with your customers

Do they like your product/service? How could you improve it? What else are they looking for? Who else is selling what they like? Can they help you spot new trends? Can you give them something so useful or interesting that they want to tell their friends about you? How could you turn them into your fan club?

Show them you're an expert

Prove to them that  you really know your stuff. Customers no longer want to be told that you sell the best widgets in the South-East – they want to make up their own mind. How can you help them to do that?

Build your brand

Try to get across what your business is about, what it stands for, its values. Again, not in an old-style 'this is our mission statement' kind-of way. Think about the things that matter to your customers – help them to solve their problems, keep them up to date with the latest news, point them towards great resources. Then let your business brand shine through what you do.

Business blogging is the best way of having this conversation online. Doing it offline involves, well, talking to people!

What kind of conversations are you having with your customers?

Creative Commons License photo credit: paris_corrupted