Blogs I like: NikkiPilkington.com and Birds On The Blog

I'm a huge fan of small business blogs, but I guess you knew that already! So here are a couple that I'm just starting to read regularly

NikkiPilkington.com – Internet Marketing

Nikki has been helping businesses connect with their customers using the internet since 1994, so she really does know her stuff. And that's refreshing when it seems like half the people on the internet are claiming to be internet marketing experts. (The other half seem to be social media or SEO experts!)

This blog has helpful (non-technical) advice that you can go out and use straight away – I've already learned about a couple of incredibly useful WordPress plugins plus some great ideas for what to write on my Facebook fan page.

Birds on The Blog – Business women blogging – but not just about business…

One day I was browsing around Nikki's blog when I stumbled across Birds On The Blog. And I'm very glad I did. Birds On The Blog is a written by a group of business women, but only some of the articles are about business. It has a wide range of articles – all useful, engaging or entertaining. I do enjoy a good mummy blog from time to time, but it's great to read articles from women who are blogging on other subjects.

Business Ideas For Mums: Beauty Therapies and More

Tell me more…

Do you enjoy working with people and have an interest in beauty? Then you might like…

  • Beauty therapy
  • Spray tanning
  • Manicure and pedicure
  • Facials
  • Massage

What are the benefits?

You can work as many hours as you want. Some clients may actually prefer you to work in the evenings and at weekends, which can fit well around a family.

If you’ve always had a passion for beauty, this could be your chance to turn it into a career.

Things to consider…

  • You can work from home, visit your clients in their homes or hire a room, e.g. in a hairdressing salon – or a combination of all three.  If you rent a room, you will still need to market your services. The centre or salon owner may help you to do this, but on its own this will not be enough to bring you a steady stream of clients.
  • Marketing methods that work well for this type of business are either word-of-mouth or ‘taster’ sessions. There’s nothing like a referral from a happy customer or a chance to demonstrate how good you are.
  • It’s a good idea to have a website listing your services, but this needn’t cost as much as you think. Health Hosts have website packages for therapists that start at £4.95 per month.
  • You might like to consider packaging your services, for example a bridal package that gives the bride-to-be all the treatments she needs to look fabulous on her big day. Perhaps you could offer a mum-to-be package for pregnant clients or even a ‘fabulous over 50’ package. Other possibilities are offering pampering parties or hen nights.
  • If you’re working from home, check with your local authority’s environmental health department as they may need to inspect your working area. Don’t forget to inform your home insurance company that you’re running a business from home. You’ll also need to consider the implications of bringing clients to your home. Do clients need to walk through your home to reach your treatment room? If so, will you be able to maintain a professional image with children around? Even if you work evenings when they are in bed, you may still have to deal with the mess they leave behind!
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance for the services you’re providing.

Further information

  • ITEC offers a range of beauty therapy qualifications plus a new business qualification.
  • Check out your local college for courses.
  • Healthy Pages has a list of courses and a forum covering a wide range of therapies.

Not convinced that being a Beauty Therapist is for you? Take a look at other business ideas for mums.

Creative Commons License photo credit: TaniaSaiz

I Started A Business With A Baby – Cara Sayer, inventor of SnoozeShade

Tell us a little about Cara Sayeryour business

I have started a company called Really Simple Ideas Ltd. I invented SnoozeShade – a product to help babies sleep in their prams and pushchairs as a simple and secure alternative to draping things over the pram when baby nods off and when they need help getting to sleep when over tired.

What was your job before starting your business?

I have spent most of my career working in PR, marketing and events. I have never worked in retail or product manufacturing so it’s been a real rollercoaster of a journey over the last few months.

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

I left my last job as the hours meant I was never going to get pregnant and went freelance which allowed me the time to relax and then we underwent IVF which was all much easier as I was working from home. We were very lucky and our daughter was born in October 2007. I wasn’t planning on returning to work before she went to school but was getting a bit bored and so was doing a bit of local consulting for free and volunteered with my local NCT. I only officially started the business a couple of months after I attended the Baby Products Association show in October 2009 – a nursery trade show – with an early SnoozeShade prototype and had orders placed on the spot so that meant I had a very hectic Christmas and New Year getting everything ready for launch in February.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

I didn’t really plan it to be honest, it’s just happened and snowballed and turned into a great business that I can operate from home spending maximum time with Holly whilst keeping the old brain cells ticking away.

Did you use any childcare?

My mum has been amazing looking after Holly whenever she can. I have to work a lot in the evenings and sometimes get up early before Holly wakes up to get a few bits done. She goes to nursery for morning s about 4 days a week during term time so holidays are a challenge now but everyone including friends and family are mucking in to help me which is much appreciated.

How did you get your business idea?

I started working on the idea when Holly was very small as I got frustrated with my useless attempts to cover the pram with blankets and coats that would get dislodged at every chance and so I said to a few friends that I wish someone had invented something to help and they said why don’t you do it. (and stop moaning about it). I looked everywhere online and couldn’t find anything that was purely aimed at helping babies sleep – all the sunshades out there prided themselves on the fact that baby could see ou which was not what I needed.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

The main obstacle has been working around looking after a small child and also that fact that I have no experience in retail or product manufacturing. I have however  been very lucky with many kind people from the nursery world helping me and giving me advice which has been amazing.

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

I went to my local Business Link and they sent an advisor round who was great – she had actually worked on a baby magazine and so was particularly clued up on the industry. I also spent a lot of time on the phone to the Intellectual Property Office who were very helpful in helping me protect my rights, get started with the patent process, register a trademark etc.

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

I have a few pieces of advice I’m afraid – I would say do lots of research on your business idea to see if it has legs – this can be as basic as asking friends and family but ask them to ask relevant people they know who have no bias. Be prepared for criticism and use it as a positive thing, no idea is perfect and criticism can help you improve what you are doing and make it better. Do research on existing competitors or people who think they are your competitors so you have as much information available as possible. Believe in what you are doing, we all have bad days but I always say feel the fear and do it anyway. My final piece is to look at people you admire and ask for their help – you’d be surprised at how helpful people will be – they’ve all been where you are and I have had the most amazing support from some fantastic people.

Cara Sayer

www.snoozeshade.com

What’s My Greatest Challenge as an Aspiring Mumpreneur?

mumpreneur socksWhat’s my greatest challenge as an aspiring mumpreneur? Not enough time or money. Oh and not forgetting the lack of sleep (milk in the washing machine, dirty socks in the fridge – you get the picture).

The fact that I’ve had the word ‘aspiring’ in front of my job title for about eighteen months now gives you some idea of how long the research phase takes when you have babies.

But we mumpreneurs face even more challenges than a mere lack of time, money and sleep. If you’re short of cash from being on maternity leave or working part -time, then you need to start a business on a shoestring, which means you might have a lot of competition. And that means your marketing needs to be good if you’re to stand out from the crowd. That’s a tall order if this is your first journey into the world of business.

Most businesses have one main aim – to make money. Most mumpreneurs run businesses with two aims – to make money and to work around their family. This is a tough juggling act, especially if you’re grabbing an hour here and an hour there when the children are napping or at pre-school.

So why on earth are so many of us doing it?

• Because we refuse to miss the first years of our children’s lives by working full-time when they are tiny.
• Because we refuse to be restricted to the typically low status and poorly paid part time jobs out there.
• Because we’ve earned our own income all our lives and don’t see why we should stop now.
• Because we want to show our daughters what women can really achieve. And our sons, too.
• Because we’ve got talent and we want to use it.
• Because we get such fantastic support from other business mums. We don’t compete, we collaborate.
• Because childcare is outrageously expensive so many of us have no alternative.
• Because we want to.

Having children shifts your priorities in ways you cannot imagine until you do it. Of course your children become the centre of your world, but with this can come a huge burst in motivation and creativity. Your time becomes more precious – any working time is time away from your babies – so you want to make the absolute best of it.

The urge to provide for your family is not just for the guys. Mums have it too.

It’s this potent mix of instinct, motivation, determination and (let’s face it) necessity that drives us to start our own businesses at one of the toughest times of our lives.

Watch out, here we come.

(First published on the Start Up Donut Blog, picture by Tie Guy II)

Don’t Try This If You’re Houseproud…

Today, Rachael Dunseath of www.myroo.co.uk and www.millyandflossy.co.uk gives us her tips for starting a business as a mum to two pre-school children…

Being a mum can be challenging, being a business woman can be challenging too. Trying to do both at once can be mind-boggling. I fight shy of the term mumpreneur, but if it suits you, then that’s what I am. I run my small business from home and I am also full time mum to two pre-schoolers.

I always swore I wouldn’t and couldn’t run a business, house and family at once and I was right, something had to give and sadly that was housework! If inspiration strikes but you think circumstances prevent you from acting on it, then ignore your head and go with your heart. Running your own business is a rewarding, fun, busy add-on to family life and just the challenge my poor nappy-brain needed. So a few tips if you fancy joining me on a self-employed mum adventure;

Plan, plan and plan some more. Time will be the biggest constraint on your business, so make sure you make the most of every bit of time you have. All the usual business management tools work great, to-do lists, diary systems, electronic reminders. I’ve always preferred telephone contact to email, but am finding email works better for me now. It’s off your to do list, even if the person at the other end can’t help you there and then.

If you are house proud then don’t do it! There are not enough hours in the day to do everything and your business and family should come first. If you can’t sit and work at the kitchen table while stoically ignoring the pile of laundry and washing-up then this isn’t for you. Ignore the chores and don’t feel guilty, if you’ve got one get your other half to step up his cleaning contribution.

Set targets for the day. Aim to actually complete one task a day, that way you will feel that you are progressing your business plan.

Keep special family time. Make sure you set aside time in the day that is just for you and the children, no interruptions. Or you’ll get to the end of the day feeling that you’ve done neither job well.

Use TV wisely. DD2 still has a nap but DD1 conveniently gave hers up as I launched the business. We now have quiet time, no TV during the rest of the day (hopefully) but she watches for a chunk in the middle of the day while I crack on. Don’t be worried about using the TV to help, all children watch TV, use it wisely to get the most done.

Don’t underestimate the power of social media. It allows you to network quickly and cheaply from home, even if there is chaos all around you. Keep your laptop open and logged on and then you can pop in when you have 5 mins.

Make time for yourself. You will inevitably do most of your work after their bed time, but make sure there is time in the week for you to do something for yourself, gym trip, coffee & cake out, stroll round the block, whatever. If you don’t, you risk burn out and then you are no use to anyone.

Good luck to you and I’d love to hear all about your experiences.

Rachael Dunseath runs www.myroo.co.uk handmaking all-natural, luxurious skincare products. She also offers a baby range at www.millyandflossy.co.uk.