This week, dear readers, we are bringing you something a little different! Bex was interviewed the other day by an online parenting magazine, on that hot topic of working mothers and how to achieve that elusive work/life balance (something Our Glorious Leader is obviously not managing as she was on her second glass of wine by the end of the questions). Read on, for a simply fascinating insight into forgotten packed lunches and the necessity of a good Shiraz…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I’ve always worked for myself, and think it is a little bit late to start taking orders from someone else now!
Following my glorious time kneeling in a muddy hole looking for bits of bone I was a glass artist. However after I had my son Wolf I quickly realised that breast-feeding and tiny bits of glass aren’t the ideal combination, so decided to start a website where I could employ other people to take the pressure off a little. When I was backpacking I had written a book full of advice for women travellers, so embarked on the process of setting up a website with that market in mind. It took about a year to get it up and running, with all the researching and finding stock, and designing my own ranges to sell. I also trained as a bushcraft instructor so I could run survival classes tailored to women travellers; nothing like a cup of nettle tea to make you feel outdoorsy!
Ten years on and I have just started my third website…
How has the world of business changed since you started?
It’s so much harder… when I began (with absolutely NO knowledge of computers, I might add), Amazon only sold books, so the only competition were my peers in the outdoor market. Now Amazon rules online selling, and margins are being squeezed tighter and tighter; the only way you can compete now is by thinking outside of the box a little and providing your customers with something different.
What advice would you give to a parent thinking of starting their own business?
Make sure it is something you love, and that you know inside out. You’ll be living and breathing your business during busy periods, so make sure it’s not something you’re going to get sick of in the first couple of years… when I get flustered I just go into the Christmas aisle and play with all the Danish elves for a while and it resets my emotional clock back to zero!
One of the most important skills to learn is the art of delegation. As women we have so many roles to fill, as mother, business woman, partner etc. It is nigh on impossible to give everybody what they need 100% of the time, so it is really important to prioritise, delegate and not feel guilty about all the stuff that slips you by. Do the jobs that only you can do, and pass on as much as you can to others. Find a cleaner, organise a home shopping delivery and use freelancers to free up as much of your time as possible, so when you are with your kids, you are REALLY with your kids, and not worrying about running out of washing up liquid. I find People Per Hour an invaluable resource for little jobs like leaflet design, stationery, web tweaks etc, as the fellows there can accomplish amazing jobs for very reasonable prices, in about 1/10th of the time it would take me.
Don’t panic if everything takes a while to set up as well; we generally work on the principle that everything will take twice as long as you think, whether that’s getting quotes from suppliers or waiting for our new designs to come to fruition.
How do you manage to spend time with your child?
I try and make sure I am there to pick my son up from school every day and I help out there as much as I can. We also go away for a little trip together, every school holiday and half-term. Even a night at a cheap hotel or youth hostel is enough for us to have a mini-adventure together and that goes some way to relieve the guilt of being stuck in the office all the time during the Christmas madness. Actually we have just had a few days at Port Eynon YHA in Wales, which I can highly recommend; it’s an old lifeboat station set right on the most amazing beach and when the tide is high the waves crash up against the common room window, it was literally awesome!
Children are only little for so long, so I want to squeeze every drop of juice out of the mummying thing before he starts hanging around on street corners and drinking White Lightning 🙂
How do you manage to keep you work/life balance?
I would say that the work/life balance thing is SO hard to get right, and it has probably taken me ten years to work out how to combat that. I read an article a little while ago saying that working mothers suffer the worst stress levels in the population, and it is even worse if you are a single parent. When your business takes off and everything is going bananas, it is even more important than usual that you turn the phone off at 6pm so you can distance yourself from it. Never read your emails in bed or your mind will start whirring again! I keep a little notebook on the kitchen table and write down any things I need to remember just before I go to sleep, just to stop that “making mental lists at 2am” habit.
And buy yourself some little treats! It is all too easy to spend all your money on either the kids, the grocery bill or the business, so make sure you reward yourself now and then. I am currently wearing a men’s White Company black tracksuit with a cashmere content of about 0.2% that I bought in a sale, as my Christmas bonus to myself. Yes, I do look like a badly made sofa but it is unbelievably cosy and when I put it on in the evening it signals the working day is over. Oh, and only buy decent wine, you’ll need a proper glass by suppertime. Cheaper is weaker 😀
What have you done today?
Is there a “knackered face” emoji? Today I have done the school run, gone to a yoga class, went back to school because my son forgot his packed lunch, packed up some Easter stuff for a well-known reality show to use to decorate their Easter special, then googled it and realised it is a different programme from the one I thought it was and everybody appears to be orange, photographed new stock from Denmark, spent a fruitless twenty minutes trying to find out where my useless chickens are currently laying, gone back to school, sorted out childcare for next week when I am supposed to be an expert on a panel up in London, ignored the laughter from my family about the notion of me being an expert on anything apart from falling over, then fed my boy and went with him on a two hour night hike with his youth club. Now I am eating macaroni cheese, watching The Expanse on Amazon and drinking Shiraz! Happy days! x