I’m a mum of two boys, aged 3.5 and 2 years old. I created the New Baby Guides in January 2009 and since then, they’ve grown exponentially and have been the springboard to other great things for me and our family. The New Baby Guides are NHS Maternity Unit publications which we produce for local NHS Maternity Units at no cost to themselves. We fund the Guides by selling relevant and appropriate advertising from businesses with a local presence in them. We also give some of the profits to each Unit we work with. The Guides started in 2009 and are now getting to over 100,000 new mums and families each year. They have a glossy card cover and good paper inside, so they are something that women and their families hold on to and use regularly as a source of information and help.
Before starting my business I was in fundraising and events management. I’ve worked for businesses ranging from the Financial Times Business and EMAP – organising dinner and a funfair for 400 at the National Maritime Museum, to charities and finally, at the University of Hertfordshire where I secured a donation of £0.5 Million which is their biggest ever gift from an individual to date. I went from my old career to my new one whilst on my second batch of maternity leave. I was all set to go back to my job part time and run the New Baby Guides part time, but then I got some big contracts in, just as the opportunity for voluntary redundancy came up. My old director wasn’t exactly thrilled with my volunteering as she wanted me to go back, but as I was middle management the HR team pushed it through which was great news.
I started the New Baby Guides because I wanted to find a way to still see our boys, but work as well. I didn’t want to be a stay at home mum but also wanted to be there if they were unwell and it’s hard to find an employer who is really ok with those sorts of things. In my old job, I did a lot of international travel which wouldn’t have worked whilst I was still feeding our boys. That’s not to say that I wanted us to be together 24/7. I appreciate that it’s important for us all to do our own things. I recently thought about taking offices locally but I really like seeing the three of them making castles and being pirates when I go to make a cup of coffee, so I’m going to carry on with the home office for as long as we can…
I didn’t want to be a stay at home mum but also wanted to be there if they were unwell and it’s hard to find an employer who is really OK with those sorts of things.
We use paid for childcare from the local preschool and my husband is a stay at home dad now, as the business has grown so quickly. The boys were doing 2 full days at a brilliant nursery, but it was costing more than £110 a day for the two of them, which was expensive, but manageable at the time. We’ve now moved them to the local preschool where they will make friends with the children they will go to school with. It’s not as good in some ways – not as many hours and we have to organise their lunch, but Daddy is on hand to do everything now, and we want them to have the most of their time with him before they start school. My husband only stopped work after Easter this year, so until that I point I had two days a week, plus evenings and weekends – and I really have worked evenings and weekends for over a year to get this up and running. It’s been hard work and difficult for our relationship but we are getting through the worst of it now….
People always ask me where I get my business ideas from – in this case I got my business idea from seeing a competitor doing it badly. They were alienating people, charging lots of money and undercutting. Then when they didn’t deliver on time, and people got upset, they were rude to them for questioning it. So I started up my own version, on the premise of being the opposite of this and it’s working nicely. I work on the basis that what goes around comes around, so in the end they do me a favour, because we look so much more approachable and ethical because we operate so differently to them.
My big challenge was getting the NHS Maternity Units on board. It was hard work when they didn’t know me. Thankfully I was introduced and recommended to Heads of Midwifery by the Head of Midwifery at my own NHS Maternity Unit and from there, the phone didn’t stop ringing which was brilliant. To make things work in the early days, I relied heavily on my previous experience to get started – the sales were hard work, and still are. I didn’t dare to ask for advice as I didn’t want anyone to steal my idea from me. I asked then and still do now, the advice of Heads of Midwifery on new business ideas, as I like working with and for them. They are a very powerful collegiate group of people and I am grateful to them all for their help, input and guidance.
I didn’t dare to ask for advice as I didn’t want anyone to steal my idea from me.
If I could give one piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, it would be to accept that you won’t be going to as many coffee groups or social things for 18 months. This won’t be a popular thing to hear – but it’s nigh on impossible to have it all, all day long, every day. So embrace it like the new discipline that it needs to be. Commit yourself to working at every single opportunity even if it means missing out on your social life. I found that hard to do and now, I’m able to find a bit more of a middle ground it’s great, but I did have to shut myself away and work every single night for months on end to get things going. The rewards are amazing once you are through the first 2 years of highs and lows. The New Baby Guides have generated opportunities I never thought possible – I’ve now got the Young Families Baby and Toddler Show and Weston Communications is providing marketing, PR and support services to all sorts of businesses, and it’s great to be able to help them grow.
I don’t know what the future holds. At the moment we’re big enough to make an impact but small enough to respond to what’s happening in our markets. As we get bigger, we’ll have different challenges so I’m just making the most of everything that we can – and using resources on sites just like Business Plus Baby which are invaluable in getting started…