I Started a Business With a Baby: Jo Fazel of Best Baby Shower

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.

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.