Introducing Natalia from Clear Desk VA

Juggling parenting and being their own boss. Meet Natalia from Clear Desk VA


I’m Natalia and I’m a Mum of two young girls – Rose, who is almost 3, and Arabella, who is 1. I was an English teacher for almost ten years in a previous life and now I run a Virtual Assistant business called Clear Desk VA. I’m married to a blooming incredible guy, called Chris, who puts up with my ridiculous house rules and is endlessly supportive.

I am the oldest of 4 girls, love being surrounded by female friends and having a boogie with a couple of glasses of fizz. We live in sunny South Gloucestershire, right near the estuary and the bridges that cross to Wales. Originally, we are from Worcestershire (yep, we met at school and then came together in later life!) and we live in a house that we are slowly renovating, one room at a time.


Tell us about your business baby:


My biz is Clear Desk VA. The idea for Clear Desk was born, as all brilliant ideas are, at 3am on one of the many long nights of being up with my youngest daughter, when she was tiny. I had this fire in my belly that I wanted to start my own business (I have lots of amazing female friends who are business owners and I wanted in!) but I just couldn’t think what it would be. I don’t “make” anything, so that was out, and I really wanted to do something brilliantly and be successful…which is when I realised that I just needed to marry together all of the qualities that I love: organisation, support and efficiency!

So, the idea to become a VA was born. I researched the heck out of it (love a bit of research!) and knew this was for me. Now, I am about to recruit my first Associate and my books are full, which is still hard to get my head around, as I only launched in September 2018! I simply ADORE my business and what it has brought to my life, as well as my family. It has brought opportunities, new friendships and a passion that I thought I’d left in the classroom, before I became a Mama. I pinch myself each week, honestly!


What’s your WHY


Ooh that’s a good question. This is the sort of question where you expect to read “my children”, right?! And, of course, they are a massive part of my ‘why’. I want to be a strong female role model for my girls and show them that working flexibly is an option, as a Mother.
But, to be perfectly honest, my main ‘why’ is Me. I want to keep striving to be the best person that I can be and pushing myself to be successful. I think I lost part of that, when I became a Mum, and finding that again has really made me feel like my old self.

What do you find the hardest bit of doing the juggle?


Childcare! Ugh – childcare! The blooming childcare juggle is hard, for sure. We don’t live near family so, when one kink in the childcare chain breaks, we have to try and work around it and it can be really hard to keep the balls in the air, keep clients happy and manage the dreaded Mum Guilt!
My husband and I have promised each other that, if we ever become grandparents, our motto will be “always offer”! Even if we live miles away, I think that’s something that I will really remember about this period of our lives.


Who’s your support network?


I’m so lucky to have a bunch of really strong female friends that I’ve met in the last couple of years, particularly Danni McCabe, who runs Mama Tribe and is a shining light of possibility and wonder. She has a great, creative brain and she’s such a fab support. Also, Maxine of Digital Bon Bons, of course! Her positivity is infectious and she’s such a wonderful friend.

Then I have my lovely girlfriends who I try and keep in touch with as much as I can. My best friend is in Oz for three years, completing a PHD, and I miss her a ridiculous amount. My other bestie is in London and we send each other lengthy voice notes on WattsApp everyday! Such a simple thing but it really helps to keep connected, when you don’t see each other as often as you’d like too.


If only I knew then what I know now…


How much your heart grows when you have children. It catches me each day!


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Ways to think about your business vision

What do you really want?


I’ve asked myself this question many times. When I first decided to launch a business and work for myself I thought about what I actually wanted. At that time is was to create something that could help people and ultimately lead to me saying goodbye to the 9-5 corporate life. As my business then started and grew I think about this in a slightly different way because now I have that flexibility and freedom to have the career I want on my terms, I now think about what I really really want from my business.

When you’re first launching especially when it’s on top of another job the first vision can be about the business doing “well enough” for you to do it full time. That’s the first goal isn’t it – to do what we love all the time. But it really does help to think about it on a more longer scale too and here’s some tips on how to do that.


Ways to think about your business vision


1) Mixing Business and Pleasure

I definitely feel the two worlds support each other because what I want to achieve in my business is very much linked to what I want for us as a family and the goals we have.

Start by listing down all the things you want for yourself and your family, it can be small or big things. You might like to be able to go to a class once a week or eve hire a cleaner (oh my a cleaner, that’s on my list). Perhaps you want to know for sure that every year you will have a holiday abroad together – it can be whatever you want. One of mine is that we finally decorate the downstairs bathroom.

Once you have your list then start thinking about how your business could get you there. How the business could support you in achieving what you want for you and your family. Can you work out how much the business would need to make for you to say “Yes – come and clean my house once a week”. Or think about what products or services you might need or even thinking about your current prices etc.

2) What does growth mean to you?

I think we can so easily feel that our business vision have to be big, contain loads of big milestones or goals when actually it really depends on what big or growth means to us as individuals. For example, I don’t want to grow into an agency. I don’t want to have employees. I want to stay small, I like being me, myself and I. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t outsource some work to a VA perhaps but in terms of company growth I’m okay with where I’m at.

I’m currently reading a brilliant book at the moment called “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis and I will be writing a book review post once I’ve finished, but this book focuses on exactly this and what it means to grow and how staying small might be the better thing.

Paul touches on numerous points throughout the book about instead of thinking big maybe we should think better instead and I personally love this. I don’t want to be huge, I want to work with soul-aligned clients on the schedule that works for me, the schedule that enables me to do all the other things I love to do to like be with my daughter from 3pm onwards and take trips to the park. Be available for school holidays etc – this is my growth. Plus I just want to be really good at what I do so staying small also enables me to have time and freedom to improve my learning and develop personally.

Have a think about what growth means to you and for your business as this can really help define your vision.

3) Get visual

Now for a vision I like to get visual. I’m naturally a visual thinker so images make sense to me and to be honest it’s why I love platforms like Pinterest and Instagram so much because they’re visual. I’m also a creative so design and how colours and graphics work together completely light me up.

When I’m thinking about the vision for my personal and business life I hit something like Pinterest and create a Vision Board. You might have heard this term spoken about quite a bit or it might be a brand new concept for you. If you’re new to it have a read of “How to create a vision board” blog post to help you get started.

Using all the things I have mentioned about start collating together images, you don’t even have to do this online, you could get a pin board (done this), a scrapbook (done this before too) and get fun and arty with some glue and scissors – be a kid again for a few hours and have fun.

Not only is this really good for the mind and soul but it’s a great way to see that your vision in a very real sense. Plus if you start visualising it from the start who knows what might happen right?

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Introducing Shelley from Ivy’s Library

Juggling parenting and being their own boss. Meet Shelley from Ivy’s Library


Hello! My name is Shelley and I live in SE London with my fiancé Simon, our 3-year-old daughter Ivy and our cat Esme. I am a stay-at-home mum (all day, every day), a freelance marketing consultant (evenings and weekends) and in my spare time (!!!) I run a site called Ivy’s Library.


Tell us about your business baby:

Ivy’s Library ( is a children’s book review site with a difference. 1) I only feature titles which have had the seal of approval from my story-obsessed toddler, and 2) my reviews focus on both my impressions from the point of view of a parent and her thoughts and reactions to the books.
My aim is to help parents and carers quickly and easily find (and purchase) the books which their children will enjoy. I love finding little hidden gems outside of the mainstream which people may not have heard of!

The idea for the site sort of came about my accident. When Ivy was tiny, reading to her was one of my favourite things for us to do together. We amassed a lot of books in the first 18 months and I found that all my friends with little ones would ask for advice on what they should buy themselves. This turned in to an Instagram account that I set up for fun and I added a Facebook page once it was apparent that people outside of my own circle were interested in what I had to say!

At the start of 2018 I took the plunge and set up a website to house my reviews, which allows people to search by category, theme, author, illustrator, publisher etc and to click through to purchase from a retailer via affiliate links. It was a gamble as this was the point at which I had to put some money in to the site to make sure I was happy with the look and feel. Fortunately, it paid off and I still get very excited looking at the site stats and seeing how many people are browsing!

The next step will be to look at further ways of monetising the site and getting the Ivy’s Library brand out there!

What’s your WHY?

Reading has been a huge part of my life since I was a child and I am so happy that this love of good stories seems to have been passed down to Ivy. I think reading with your child is so, so important. Alongside the obvious benefits of improving literacy, vocabulary and imagination, reading together creates such a lovely bond. Books are part of our daily routine and I love to see Ivy’s mind at work as she picks what she wants to read each evening before bed.

Since starting the site, I have received lots of emails and messages from parents who really want to get their children excited about reading but who haven’t been able to find books which have sparked their imaginations. Being able to help them do this (and often seeing pictures of them with their new books) makes me do a little happy dance!

What do you find the hardest bit of doing the juggle?

At the moment I guess I have 3 jobs – parent, marketer and book reviewer. Each of those things takes up a significant amount of time and there just aren’t enough hours in the day! Being a parent is my number one role and it’s important to me to always be ‘present’ when I am with Ivy. This means I don’t (and to be honest, can’t!) work during the day when she’s with me. This pushes my other two roles in to evening and weekend territory. Some weeks the balance is perfect, and I feel like I’m winning at life. Others I find myself staring at my laptop late in the night wondering exactly what I’m doing. Overall, I think I’m doing ok but as soon as you throw a holiday or house guests in to the mix then it all threatens to come crashing down!

Who’s your support network?

When I started to flesh out the idea of Ivy’s Library, I went to a couple of local business events (most notably at Space at 61, where there is a fantastic small business group) and discovered a whole network of amazing women in my community who I had not crossed paths with before (despite living in this area for over 10 years!). Through meet ups like these I’ve met some fantastic people and made some great friends – all of whom go the extra mile to support each other because they understand the juggle.

This is what inspired me to start a regular feature on our site called Ivy’s Guest Book, where I chat to small business owners about the books which they like to read with their kids. It’s a win-win because it gives me a lovely piece of content to share and it gives them the opportunity to promote their business to a wider audience

If only I knew then what I know now…

In retrospect launching a site for my passion project whilst freelancing and looking after a toddler 24/7 was perhaps a bit full on. If I’d known how much work I’d have to put in to Ivy’s Library to keep it ticking along I would perhaps have waited until she started school!

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How to create a Vision Board

Vision Boards that work for you and your business


The power of vision ay? It’s exciting.


Funny enough I thought that I hadn’t really done any vision boarding before starting my business but actually I had. Cleaning out some boxes from my Nan’s loft the other weekend I had found a notebook with some pages covered in cut outs about what I wanted my life to be – this was back in 2007. What was even stranger is that some of the things I had collated together had come true – weird. It was only looking back that I realised and at the same time this was incredibly exciting.

When I first launched my business I hadn’t done a vision board. I was brand new to all of this and it was only when entering my first year of being full time on my business that I started to hear more and more people talking about Vision Boards and why they help. I was intrigued because I am a visual thinker so anything involving being creative I am there with bells on, pass me the scissors and magazines.

Spending time thinking about what I wanted for my life and my business was really helpful. It helped me get clear and also think about what I really wanted from it all. So if you’re new to Vision Boards here is how to can get started in creating your own.


1) Block some time out to think about what you really want.

That’s right, you are going to need to have some special time just for you to think about this stuff and really think about what you want for you, your family and your business. Make sure you have a nice quiet and clear space too, don’t surround yourself with all the things you get distracted by, you want this time.

Have a think about:
What you want for you – i.e. self care days, spa weekends, personal development, better lunches, fitness.
What you want for your family – i.e. holidays, debts paid off, on-going financial security, more days out, flexibility.
What you want for your business – i.e. consistent income, take a course to expand your learning, hire a VA, hire employees.
Think about how you want to feel in all of this as well. Because that is so powerful.

There are no right or wrong answers and go with your instincts, go with what feels right to you, not what you think you should put down.


2) Pick a canvas that works for you

It’s your vision board so think about what feels right for you.

Do you love all things digital? In that case something like Pinterest would be perfect, if you want to have it physically up in your work space maybe grab a big piece of paper and some magazines and get cutting and sticking.
You could use a Pin Board and have it up on the wall. The choices are endless and they’re all filled with fun.


3) Creating a Pinterest Vision Board

Just diving into Pinterest here and how to get started with a board on Pinterest.

Create a new board and make it secret
Give it an inspiring and powerful name that’s going to fill you with excitement
Now start exploring Pinterest and start pinning.
You can, if you wanted a little more organisation, create sections in your board i.e. Home, Family, Me, Business etc but it’s really up to you.

When you are searching through pins go with what your drawn to. If you want to be “debt free”, you search for this and an amazing pin pops up of a lady jumping in the air in front of a confetti canon and you want that to be you – PIN IT.

If you search for “beautiful houses in Greece” because that’s where you want to go on holiday and you see one that feels right PIN IT.

Play with words too – try searching for words that represent how you want your year to feel and PIN THEM.

No second guessing, go with where your fingers and mind takes you.


4) Magazines Cutting and Sticking

I do love a good old collage and this is what this reminds me off and I love things like this because I want to enjoy some time away from the screen every now and again.

What’s great here is that you can use old magazines, things you see in leaflets or even combine Pinterest and this above and print some things out and stick on. Basically wherever you see inspiration for your vision go for it.

Just remember to check in with what you want.


5) Feel excited

Once you have your vision board you want to spend some time with it. Bask in all its amazingness and really feel excited about it.

Ask yourself when its done – “Do I feel excited about this?”

Because the answer at this point should be yes, if it isn’t then let’s look at why you’re not. Is that because you feel your vision isn’t achievable? Do you feel you’ve gone “too big”. We can be filled with so many stories which frame how we look and approach things, so much past baggage that we carry around but this is your vision. If you want it it is totally achievable for you and if you feel you’ve gone too big that could be because the unknown scares us a little, but remember we need fear to keep us moving forward, we can’t stay stuck and this is where a plan comes in handy.


6) “A vision without action is just a dream”

I love dreaming. I’m always dreaming about stuff. To this day I still have the dream of basically being Cameron Diaz in The Holiday and living in LA making trailers for films – that is one of my many dreams. But I also know that I am never going to achieve that if I don’t have a plan to back it up. I may want that so bad but what am I doing to actually make it a reality and get me there?

Now you’ve got your vision board you want to start thinking about your plan. How are you going to get this vision? What action steps, no matter how small, do you need to take to see this vision become your reality?

Look at each thing you have put down and individually write some action points to get you there. Some might be quick wins, this always surprises me how we can think something is so far away and actually by a tiny little step being done its achieved – woop woop! Some might be longer actions and actually take a bit more time and that’s okay – this is your vision remember and you’re in control. When you have your actions go forth and make them happen.

Don’t forget to always check in with your Vision Board. Have it somewhere that you can see regularly to make sure everything you want to do is on track. It’s a great way to help you stay focused and keep momentum moving in your personal life and your business. Plus, always remember this is yours, for you.

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The Jugglers: Lucy from Brand New Mum

Intro us about you:

I’m Lucy, Mum to two lovely, energetic and funny little girls: Cora (8 months) and Bea (age 2). I live with my partner, in a lovely, peaceful market town in rural Cheshire, which we’ve just moved to after 10 years of city living in central Manchester. I work from home and run a coaching business called Brand New Mum. When I’m not working, you can usually find me with my head in a self-development book, or escaping the chaos with some trash tv and a big glass of red in hand: my favourite guilty pleasures.

Tell me about your business baby:

Brand New Mum is the business idea I conceived and launched between having my own two children; whilst on mat leave with my first in fact. It’s a coaching business, and my services are designed to support new mothers navigate working for themselves once they have children; be that starting up an entirely new venture or simply adjusting to new ways of working and figuring out how to still grow their business now they have kids to care for too. I offer 1:1 support via coaching programmes, and will be launching workshops and online courses soon as well, focusing on time management, productivity and generally making things happen. I’m all about helping mums to find simple ways to get more done with minimal effort in their businesses – making work as easy, fun and productive as possible amid the chaos of family life.

What’s your WHY?

I’m driven by the desire to help women forge an alternative path for themselves and find their own way to work through motherhood; supporting themselves and growing a business that fits their brand new life.
It came about as I had so many mums around me, who I’d got to know on mat leave, who I realised were dreading going back to work – as was I. What were perfectly good jobs just no longer seemed to fit once the baby had arrived, either because they didn’t stack up financially, weren’t flexible, or because they just weren’t stimulating enough to satisfy any longer. Motherhood changed everything for me, and for many women I knew they were seemingly between a rock and a hard place – not wanting to be a fulltime, stay at home mum, but likewise unable to happily just return to the old workplace once mat leave was over.
I knew these women wished they could do something different that gave them a better, more satisfying and flexible way of bringing in an income, but were held back – often by fear, indecisiveness, or simply confusion over how to make it happen. I realised the coaching and business skills that I’d used in my previous career to support creative entrepreneurs and small organisations could help new mothers deal with the difficult decisions and leaps of faith they were facing, as they got started on their own successful business ventures.

What do you find the hardest bit of doing the juggle?

Not gonna lie, I miss my old-style working life; which included a quiet office, hot coffee and proper lunch breaks! Now I’m more likely to be found working at the dining table ignoring a messy kitchen while the baby naps, or stealing an hour in a cafe while my mum takes the toddler to the park. I also found squeezing work into small windows of the time hard at first, and have worked a lot at staying organised so I can make the most of any unexpected opportunity I get; for example, to fit in a few emails or do an extra social post.
I have to keep working at prioritising myself as well – basic stuff like getting a haircut or booking a health appointment can get put to the bottom of the list too easily, so I always try and factor in my own needs to my to-do list as well as the family stuff and my business workload.

Who’s your support network?

My own mum has been SO important to me in getting my business off the ground and helping me with my own juggle – honestly don’t know how I would have done it without her supporting with the childcare she does, and am eternally grateful. My partner, who is incredibly supportive of my ambitions, and never doubted me for a second even when I handed my notice in whilst on maternity leave with zero savings to fall back on! I also owe so much to the wonderful insta-mum community I discovered online after having my first baby who continue to inspire me, motivate me and be there for me in some very lonely, 3am moments when I’m finding motherhood (and business) tough.

If only I knew then what I know now…

That building a business might take longer, or have more twists and turns than anticipated, but that you can make that stuff in your head become real. So I guess; to keep the faith!

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The Jugglers: Mads from The London Mother

Tell us about you:

I’m Mads Panchoo and I run online parenting magazine, THE LONDON MOTHER and online course programme TLM Social. I have 10 years+ experience in sales, marketing and PR and have worked in fields as varied as teaching, television and technology. I LOVE writing. I used to write all the articles myself but now I have a team of (paid) freelancers and I focus mainly on teaching how to turn your passion into a full time job via my TLM Social online courses. My real break came when I started writing an unpaid fashion and beauty blog for HELLO! Magazine Online. I was prepared to write for free to get the on the job training and PR contacts.


Tell us about your business baby:

THE LONDON MOTHER highlights the best in things to do, see and eat in London when you have children. It’s not about me at all – I made the conscious decision not to feature myself or my children. I wanted to be a business owner, not an influencer. My real passion is helping others which I do as a coach and online via my courses at TLM Social. I get great pleasure in showing people, usually parents, how to access the freedom, flexibility (and hard work) that comes from running your own business.


What’s your WHY?

I loved my job when I worked in the city but it was so hard juggling childcare and an office job, and my employer was very flexible as I worked two days in the office and two half days from home. I wanted to break free from the corporate world and really flex my creative muscles and I knew writing was what I was good at and what I loved. I was also pragmatic – I knew I wanted to work for myself but I knew there had to be an audience for what I was going to ‘sell’ and parenting in London was what I was doing so I thought why not write about that. Before long brands were paying me to write and THE LONDON MOTHER was born. Along the way I met lots of women who also wanted to freedom and flexibility that comes with having your own business and after a few in-person coaching sessions, decided to create a course so I could teach everything I knew quickly and at scale.


What do you find the hardest bit of doing the juggle?

Knowing when to switch off. Working for yourself can feel like you’re never not working.


Who’s your support network?

My husband Ryan who runs his own business – a niche, gluten free, vegan bakery Borough 22 and is the yin to my yang. He’s creative and has an eye for colour and scale while I’m all about numbers, Excel spreadsheets and business strategy. He balances me perfectly.


If only I knew then what I know now…

Social media isn’t as important as you think it is. Own your audience via your website and email list; income is more important than follower count.


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