Hi, I’m Jo Fazel and I run www.bestbabyshower.co.uk, an online company that specialises in baby shower party supplies such as decorations, tableware, games, favours and gifts. I aim to be a totally comprehensive site where you can purchase everything you could possibly want when hosting or attending a baby shower so that you don’t have to spend hours shopping around.
I try to add extra value for my customers by offering a free baby shower guide to newsletter subscribers, giving lots of advice and tips on how to host a baby shower, the etiquette and history of baby showers plus lots of theme, recipe & game ideas. I also have a blog where I encourage ‘crafty’ guest writers to give mini tutorials on making various items that would be appropriate for a baby shower, so that customers can even make some of the things themselves if they wish.
Before I started the business I was an HR Manager for a TV production company in central London. I enjoyed it mostly except that HR always have the horrible tasks such as making redundancies and disciplinaries to carry out. When I got pregnant I fully anticipated taking the year off and then returning to my old job however once my daughter was born I started to see really quickly that it wasn’t a scenario that I was especially comfortable with. Apart from the fact that after huge childcare fees there wouldn’t be that much left over from my salary to make the long hours, cramped tube commute and lack of time with my daughter in any way worthwhile. Luckily the business was going through some change and it was an ideal time to approach them about an amicable exit from the business. So I managed to negotiate not returning and used the exit money to fund the new business. I had decided that if I was to do any work it would need to be something I could do from home and an internet business seemed logical.
…after huge childcare fees there wouldn’t be that much left over from my salary…
I was already so immersed in the world of babies that having a business that was also baby-related in some way made sense as well as I would have a real understanding of what my customers would be looking for. There were so many sites out there already selling baby items but hardly any where you could get baby shower party products, and almost nowhere that you could buy them on the average high street in the UK. I figured this would be a good time to get into a niche that was just starting to get popular and it grew from there.
I spent months and months researching and sorting out a website, suppliers & stock, legal matters and so forth. I incorporated the Limited company just as my year’s maternity leave ended and I started selling to the public about 6 months later. Since then I’ve gone on to have another little girl and my children are now coming up 4 (in March) and 2 (in May). A lot of the research and learning was done through laborious Google searches but I also found a lot of helpful information in places such as business link and invaluable support on forums like mumsclub.co.uk. I also bounced so many ideas off friends and family constantly – in fact it’s something I continue to do today as sometimes when you are surrounded by your business it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees and a fresh pair of eyes can pick up something you’ve overlooked.
Life is too short to regret not taking a chance.
I mostly manage my work around nap times and in the evenings when the children are asleep. When my eldest was 2 ½ she started 3 mornings a week at a local nursery which was great for her confidence and making friends. However I didn’t gain any extra time to run the business as I had also just given birth to my youngest daughter. It was hard at that point continuing to run the business and make orders up whilst looking after a newborn and a boisterous toddler on very little sleep but I never felt overwhelmed by it.
Looking back I’m not sure how I managed to do it but I think if you have enough passion for your business it becomes another ‘baby’ to you and so you just put in the hours because you can see through to the longer term. Now my youngest will be soon going off to the same nursery when she turns 2 although this time it will be for 5 mornings a week. For the first time since I started the business 3 years ago I will have a block of child-free hours each morning to get on with the business! I am very excited about what I can achieve with the extra time I’ll have, although I no doubt will still be working evenings and weekends to get everything done for some time to come!
Along the way there have been so many challenges including learning about websites & retail from scratch, teaching myself about product photography & editing, trying to find the right balance between family & the business and having to continue to run the business straight after giving birth to my second daughter. I don’t doubt that there are numerous challenges still to come but I look forward to them – part of the reason I set up the business in the first place was that I felt I would need the additional challenge that running a business would offer, so that I had something that made me feel like ‘me’ – a person in their own right and not just someone’s mummy.
If I could give any advice to a mum thinking about setting up her own business it would be to thoroughly investigate your idea first – talk to your friends and family and have a clear idea about what you are aiming to achieve and then go for it! Life is too short to regret not taking a chance.