I Started a Business With a Baby: Alexandra Atkins of The Ultimate Baby Shower

Tell us a little about your business

My business is The Ultimate Baby Shower Ltd (TUBS), which is the first company to focus on the British baby shower market. Rather than copying the way the U.S. are doing it, I have thought about what the British public would like. This involves cosy afternoon teas with girlfriends, swapping hints and advice, spoiling mummy to be, eating elegant baby themed cupcakes and cookies – supping the odd glass of pink champagne! The decor is elegant and sophisticated with butterflies, parasols and baby themed accents. I recognise the fact that new mummies should be celebrated and need plenty of hints and advice before baby arrives. It is a fun affair and watching the opening of the cutest of baby gifts goes down very well too!

What was your job before starting your business?

I used to work as an Environmental Consultant and travelled to Europe working on projects for oil and gas companies. I thought I would continue to do this once my baby arrived and employ a nanny to look after her while I worked but as soon as I saw my daughter I knew I couldn’t be away from her so I set up on my own.

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

I always thought I would continue my job because it is what I worked towards throughout university and it was the career path I always wanted. However during my maternity leave I handed my notice in because I couldn’t hand my daughter over to a nanny while I spent all day at work or travelling. I wanted to enjoy her as much as I could.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

I needed to use my brain and keep busy. I found I was spending time visiting other people with babies, going to baby groups, having lunch with mums etc. I felt I was being absorbed into a world of babies and I needed my own focus. I’d always been busy studying or working and I couldn’t cope with not having this organisation anymore.

Did you use any childcare?

To begin with I only worked during nap times – forming my ideas and getting things down on paper. I also worked evenings. After about 6 months (when my daughter was a year old) I had a part time nanny who worked 3 mornings a week. I spent this time creating my website, setting up the business etc. I worked 3 mornings a week, during the afternoon nap and in the evenings between my daughter going to bed (6pm) and my husband getting home (9pm). If my daughter was unhappy at any time when the nanny was with her then I would sit working with my laptop on my knee while she played on the floor with the nanny.

How did you get your business idea?

I have cousins in the U.S. who had numerous baby showers and kept asking why I wasn’t having them. I always thought they were rather tacky and not my kind of thing although I loved the idea of getting the girlfriends together to offer hints, tips and advice to mummy-to-be whilst eating cupcakes and having a glass of champagne. I found a way to create baby showers with elegance and style.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge has always been, and still is, splitting my time between my work and my children (I now have 2 daughters age 6 and 3). I’ve worried whether my work is taking my time away from my children. If my children have been unhappy then they have always come first, meaning my business has suffered along the way and taken much longer to get to where it is now. I closed the business for 12 months after my 2nd daughter was born because I couldn’t cope with a new baby, a 3 year old, a house move and the business. We had just moved to a new house in a new area away from friends – there was no child care so I needed to be with them full time. I worked evenings to keep things ticking over but that was all I could do. I never wanted to compromise being a mummy. Even now I work 3 days a week and every evening when they are in bed.

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

I went to Business link to begin with but because my business was unknown to anyone at the time (baby showers weren’t really heard of in the UK back in 2005) it wasn’t much help. It’s been a huge learning curve for me because I didn’t know where to get help from and didn’t seek advice about running a business. I jumped into it, thinking I could do it and I did. Organisation and determination have been key to me succeeding. My business has changed massively along the way and isn’t what it was 5 or even 2 years ago. It has evolved as I have gained experience from my customers. I have responded to their needs and they have helped form the business.

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’re starting a business and find you can’t cope because of demands from your little one then put the business on hold, sort out what needs sorting out, and pick it up again. The good thing about starting a business is that you’re in control of your time and where it is spent.

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