We started a business with kids: Carey Conway and Fiona Haldenby of Crafts4Kids

Today’s ‘I started a business with kids’ comes from Carey Conway and Fiona Haldenby (left) , directors and owners of Crafts4Kids, which sells crafts, educational toys and gifts for children.

They’ve also given Business Plus Baby readers a 15% discount of your first order at Crafts4Kids – just click this link: Crafts4Kids.co.uk and enter the code BPB15 (note: code can only be used once per person).

Tell us a little about your business

Crafts4Kids offers a stylish and contemporary range of Creative & Educational Children’s Toys, Games & Gifts that are both a pleasure to give and a pleasure to receive. Our products are selected to not only delight your children but to also help them learn. Crafts4kids range is selected from award winning brands and new inspirational brands with something just a little bit different to offer. With over 1000 products to choose from and excellent customer service, Crafts4kids is just perfect for the discerning online shopper – Great Gifts for Kids that you won’t easily find on the high street.

What was your job before starting your business?

Carey – HR and Business Process Consultant

Fiona – Director and Project Manager of commercial software solutions

Carey Conway

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

Carey -Having nearly frazzled myself trying to be a full time professional in the corporate environment and wanting to be a brilliant Mum. I resigned from my job and dabbled on a part time basis in some freelance writing and project managing the start up of 3 after school clubs while taking some time to consider what business might provide the opportunity to ‘have the best of both worlds’.

Fiona – I was working part time and managing work/mum balance but wanted a change.   I was able to support Carey on the technical and operational aspects of the business but kept up my other role for a couple of years.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

Definitely wanting to be able to work more flexibly and to be able to spend more time with the children.

Did you use any childcare?

Yes , it was important to have  a few hours a day to be able do business when others were doing business so we supported this with childminders but apart from that it was a lot of evening  work.

How did you get your business idea?

It was clear that ecommerce was a growing and attractive opportunity with relatively low cost of entry. Our decision to embark upon Crafts4kids was heavily influenced by the types of activities we liked to do with our own children and the awareness that good children’s toys were becoming increasingly difficult to get on the high street. Independent toy sellers were struggling. ToysRus and the Entertainer were the dominant players in many towns and character branded toys appeared to be taking over!

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

Well we knew very little about running an ecommerce business and very little about being retailers so it was a case of trusting our intuition on product range and making cautious investment decisions in areas where our knowledge was limited. There are so many people out there trying to sell you services that don’t achieve very much. Inevitably we made mistakes. It was a really steep learning curve (and still is) but keeping a cool head – learning from your mistakes and taking new things on board in bite size chunks has seen us make good steady growth in turnover and profitability over the last 5 years.

What training, information or advice did you need to get started?

Between us we had sufficient business knowledge to get started – our respective skills complimented one another’s. In terms of getting to understand ecommerce, seo and all other online marketing activities, we have read a lot, developed good relationships with suppliers and as a result learnt a lot from them, attended exhibitions and seminars.

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

Do something you are passionate about – it’s easy to find that extra energy for a spot of late night work if you are buzzing about something!

To get your 15% discount of your first order at Crafts4Kids just click this link: Crafts4Kids.co.uk and enter the code BPB15.

(note: code can only be used once per person).

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I started a business with a baby: Cathy Belford of Discover Me Toys

Tell us a little about your business

DiscoverMe Toys is an online toy store specialising in educational toys that complement the 6 key learning areas of EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage). Our toys include traditional wooden toys, beautifully hand-crafted jigsaw puzzles, activity toys, books and games. I love the toys available at DiscoverMe and we have 2 little product testers to put the toys through their paces. We have recently received a Gold Website Award from MumpreneurUK.

What was your job before starting your business?

I worked in recruitment after graduating from University, specialising in business development and account management working with many of the UK’s leading IT companies.

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

I was made redundant a couple of weeks before my first son arrived on the scene and had a few difficult months but ultimately this made me more determined to realize my ambitions and go into business by myself. Continue reading “I started a business with a baby: Cathy Belford of Discover Me Toys”

I Started a Business With a Baby: Debbie Talbot of Toys and Clothes Ltd

Tell us a little about your business

I run three websites with the help of family and a close friend.  Magicfairywings.com sells baby and children’s products.  Footiemad.co.uk sells official Football Merchandise and Totsactivities.com is a directory of activities for children of all ages.  Magicfairywings.com came first in March 2007 and the others followed. Magic Fairy Wings and Footiemad sell via Mail Order and the website.  They also offer low cost Business Opportunities such as becoming a Sales Consultant. I had some beautiful personalized cards and invites designed by a lovely children’s book illustrator, Loryn Brantz.  I have recently launched a business opportunity for  running your own personalized cards and invites business.

What was your job before starting your business?

I worked in IT, Accounts and Finance in various roles since leaving university with a 2.1 European Accounting and Finance degree.  Whilst working in finance I took several CIMA exams and now have part qualified CIMA status. All of this study/experience has proved so useful whilst growing my business.

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

I opened my limited company in January 2003 after suffering a miscarriage.  I wanted a less stressful role for when and if I got pregnant again. Back then I was selling ex-chainstore clothing on ebay.  Sadly all the large supermarkets started selling budget clothing and so I realized that I needed to change my product focus if I was to continue running my own business.

Whilst I was pregnant with my little girl I temped in a Credit Control role. I hoped to do so after having her but was sadly unexpectedly poorly after her birth and needed an operation when she was 6 months old. A couple of months after that an unpleasant situation occurred.  Since this time I have suffered with depression, anxiety and PTSD.  I wanted something to focus on to use what I had learnt in my career and at university but which fitted in around my daughter and my personal situation.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

I started my business as a result of being ill, but also due to the cost of childcare and because I wanted to work flexibly around my young daughter.  I also wanted other people in a similar position to have the option to do the same but for it to not cost them a lot of money to get started.

Did you use any childcare?

I did use childcare but always as little as possible. Now that my daughter is at school I have 6 full hours in which to work on week days which is great.   In the holidays I split my time between fun time with her and working which can be a struggle at times but overall is fantastic.

How did you get your business idea?

My eBay name was Magicfairywings and my mum said that it would make a lovely website.  I was struggling to find top quality toys for my daughter which would last and had an educational value. I also wanted to help local schools and groups raise well needed school funds and to this end my optional cashback scheme was launched.

With Footiemad I found a company which offered fully stocked dropship websites and decided to give their football products site a try.

With Totsactivities I had struggled to find things to do with my daughter locally and thought that I could not be the only parent or carer in this position.  I also wanted to give children related businesses the chance to advertise for a small fee. I understand how tight the cash flow situation is for small businesses, especially as they are starting out.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

A big problem has been having not enough hours in the day, especially when my little girl has been poorly.  As she has got older it has become easier and I get more done.    Illness has been my biggest challenge as it has affected my concentration and I am tired a lot. Thankfully I have had the support of family and a close friend who share the load. The economy has not made things easy over the last 18 months or but I have found that suppliers have been really helpful by reducing minimum order levels and therefore tie up the least amount of money possible in stock. I have learnt not to be disheartened by quiet periods and to work consistently to provide the best products and customer services possible. Supporting my Sales Consultants has been a learning curve because I did not have a lot of supervisory experience.  I overcame this by using resources such as netmums which have also helped with getting my businesses more well known.

What training, information or advice did you need to get started?

Luckily I knew how to do the Accounts side of things because of my degree and working in industry for so long. Being fluent in French and German has proved useful in dealing with European speaking customers and suppliers after our recent expansion into mainland Europe.  I struggled on the marketing and advertising side at first and so used an outside person until I learnt how to product marketing materials myself by changing existing designs. I have always approached the relevant government bodies when unsure about something and have always found them really helpful. I found an excellent Accountant who specialises in small businesses.  Overall trawling the internet has proved to be my most useful resource.

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

If you are thinking about running your own business but are apprehensive go for it.  There are so many resources out there to help you on your way.  The improvement in quality of life is so worthwhile and the satisfaction you get from thinking ‘I did this myself’.