The Jugglers: Becky from The Dream Home We Built

Tell us about you:

I’m a mummy to four-year-old twins, Poppy & Caspar. I’m a professional photographer and I’m an imminent home renovator, in addition, I’m a full-time HR Business Partner, as well as wife and friend.

Tell us about your business baby:

About 8 years ago I began photographing weddings and for a long time this was my real passion, however I found once our children were born that my Saturday’s really became such a precious family day (as I was also working full-time in Human Resources throughout this) and this, combined with the influx of people coming in to the wedding photography industry, saw me wind down the number of weddings I was shooting.  I still shoot often but more for pleasure, although there is nothing like photographing someone’s wedding and producing images they treasure.  So that was then…….

And now…….     Well, in December 2017 we purchased a large 1960s property, primarily as it was the only house available in the school catchment area we wanted to live in.  There was a lot of competition for the property as it sits on .5 acre and overlooks fields.  Despite 10 offers on it we were delighted to find out the property was ours, the vendors were insistent the property went to a family and not developers.

The home had a nice feel to it despite the fact it hadn’t been updated or modernised in that time, so I’m now the proud owner of some of the most patterned and lurid carpets that existed (which would look at home in the Queen Vic!).

Since moving in we’ve begun the process of working with an Architect to design the house we want, this process takes a long time, applying for planning permission is a minimum of 4 weeks (if you are lucky) so  we’re only just at the stage where we’re about to go out to builders to tender for the work.  So my baby is now www.thedreamhomewebuilt.com , a blog that tracks the progress of the build and records the ever-changing look of the house as it’s transformed from a tired old house, to a contemporary, modern home.   It really is my baby as it’s in its infancy and my Instagram following is fairly small but its growing daily and I’m loving it.   Instastories are such fun!

My passion for photography has also helped here and whilst I’ve not been able to post much about the house transformation as yet (given we are waiting for the builders to start), its seen the blog to evolve into more of a lifestyle site, with features about Bristol (where we live), interiors and travel.

What’s your WHY?

With a love of photography and a good eye for style, I’m planning the interior of our home (and garden) to make it a real show stopper (but still a family home).  Ultimately I want to work with interior and lifestyle brands and longer term this would enable me to reduce the hours spent in my HR career, so the pendulum would swing and I’d have more of a work / home life balance of time spent writing / instagramming and being with my family.  My why? I guess I’m a home bird who wants to make a beautiful home for my family, feel less like I’m on a fast-moving hamster wheel and instead reposition the focus of my day to doing stuff I love and not just doing stuff that pays the bills.

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

I have very little quality time with my husband. I’m thankful we’ve got a great relationship as the past four years have been really tough and we’ve only got through it by being honest when we were finding the juggle tough.    To do anything pleasurable for me takes a lot of effort and organisation so I often don’t bother to attempt it, which is daft as it’s the little moments that make me feel more like me!     I’ve set myself a goal of trying to book a few classes and networking events as I really do enjoy them once I’m there.

Who’s your support network?

This is probably my weak point.  I don’t have masses of support and find the juggle and not having anyone to really talk to really tough.   I think I’ve probably retreated in to myself a bit as I don’t have a huge circle of people around and at 9pm at night after a day at work, putting the children to bed and then making dinner, there’s little gas in the tank to want to talk.   I’ve found reading, listening to podcasts and getting as much sleep as possible is my key to staying sane!  Probably my greatest support is some of my photography buddies, a group of girls I met via a Facebook group called the Shooting Sisters.  Geographically we’re nowhere near each other but when we do meet up, its brilliant!

If only I knew then what I know now…

A friend and amazing mother told me this when my twins were about 12 weeks old ‘Two children make having one feel like none’.   Having never had just one I can’t confirm this but it feels like it’s true.  Two children at the same time is nuts with everything else to juggle.  So what I know now, the tumble dryer is your new best friend, its fine to warm a cup of tea in the microwave 3 times before you drink it, that every now and then paying someone to come and do your ironing when your ironing towers over you is worth every penny.

I also wish I’d had some foresight into how much I would change as a person and what this would mean for me and also for some of the friendships I had at the time.  I didn’t do NCT as someone had told me not to bother, that was a big regret and I do think if you can afford to to do it, purely for the network of fellow parents you get to meet.  By not doing it I found the first 8 months a fairly lonely experience, most of my friends were in work and there were very few people in my life having children so I felt isolated and trapped in the house a bit.  I therefore got up every day before my husband left for work to have a shower and was out at baby groups by 9:00am, it took until month 8 when I joined the local twins group and met some baby friends but I think I’d have found it hugely helpful to establish a network of fellow Mums earlier on.

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What I’ve learnt from being a year as self-employed

I think more of a question is what haven’t I learnt, because it certainly feels that way. I felt a mix of emotions when I hit my one-year self-employed anniversary on Friday 5th October. I felt elated and so happy that I had made it this far, but at the same time quite taken aback as to what a year it’s been. I recorded a podcast episode reflecting on this and what I’ve learnt in this last year but I also thought I would share some additional lessons here.

Learning Number One: Take it steady!

Yep, I learnt this one the hard way. When I left my corporate jobs after 17 years of being employed I went straight into my business. Now you might be thinking “that’s not a bad thing is it?” , possibly not, but for me, it was. I didn’t give myself time to actually adjust to the huge change I made and I found over time I was paying the price where business and life were merging oh too often.

If you are kissing goodbye to working for someone else just take some time to recognise that massive change and process it. If like me you have never ever had your own business before it’s going to be a huge change and you are stepping into a lot of unknown – both wonderful and overwhelming, so just take that time. Take the first week off just processing it all and then jump in ready for world domination.

Learning Number Two: Trust your instincts

I started to realise this when I first launched the business but this definitely hit home when I was focusing on it full time. There will be opportunities that come your way in your business and you will have gut feelings about them. You will find yourself torn between money and what feels right. When you solely rely on the income you bring in from your business because that employed safety net is gone this will test you. But really listen to that voice inside that is telling you how you really feel because trust me, you will save yourself a lot of stress further down the line.

Learning Number Three: Be wary of chasing the money

This follows on from the above because as I said when you are relying on that income you might find that you say yes to things because you need the money despite the fact they don’t feel or sit completely right with you. It happens, don’t beat yourself up over it if you have already done this or there’s that time that you do. Just know that over time you do build the confidence to say no because you’ve learnt that often it brings you more stress than the money was worth.

Learning Number Four: Don’t de-prioritise yourself

Ooooh this is a biggy isn’t it? I’ve definitely learnt over this last year that I really need to put myself first. When you become a parent you know that you are not looking after you anymore, you have something much more important, but actually, you are important, because if you aren’t functioning, nothing else will no matter how hard you try. I’ve learnt that for me to be the best version of myself, as me, as a business owner and as a parent to Ava I need to look after myself and I can’t keep seeing myself as a second anything. My mindset needs attention, my self-care needs attention and I need to listen to what I need be that a ten minute sit down to clear my head, or sometimes walking alone with some fresh air. Be kind to yourself, always.

Learning Number Five: Ask for help

There’s just me in my little team. I’m the one making the morning tea to start the day, there’s only me to reflect on whether I saw Bodyguard last night and what I thought of the latest Bake Off evictee. It can be isolating and often you feel that because there’s only you, you have to do everything yourself, but you don’t. Just because it’s your business doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help, if anything you need help to help you grow and get to where you want to be. We simply can’t do everything, we are not super humans no matter how much we want to be. Recognise where you need the help and ask for it, whether that’s someone offering to babysit for you so you can grab an extra two hours to pack orders, if something offers to help you pack the orders – take the help.

So there we have it, some lessons I have learnt this past year and I am learning all the time. I think we can put way too much pressure on ourselves, I know I certainly do, to be at a certain point or comparing ourselves to others when actually let’s take a step back and put stuff in perspective. My husband said to me “A year is a long time in many ways, but also, it’s not very long at all, so take it easy with yourself. One step at a time”.

Learning Number Six: Celebrate

Hands up if you’re not very good at doing this? Yep I hear you. I am really quite rubbish at doing this and often don’t do it at all. However I have learnt a lot over this last year that doing this, taking that time to celebrate, even the smallest thing, is really good for the soul and will keep you going. Working for yourself is different from being employed, there’s no appraisal, no pay increase for working super hard. The beauty is that you can charge your worth from the get go, but there’s no official celebration area – so make one. Make one every single day. Make a log of the feedback you’ve been given and share it, not just on Social Media but with family and friends – this is especially great if they are a little unsure of what you do. Take the time and buy the chocolate cake. Sit, enjoy and here’s a virtual hug from me to you.

Family-Time-On-Holiday

The Jugglers: Eirlie from Over All 1516

Tell us about you:

Hi! My name is Eirlie and I moved to London from Sydney, Australia with a plan to get a few years working in UK high street fashion under my belt before returning back home. 5ish years later and things have taken a slightly different path, I’m still in London and working in fashion, but now it’s for myself, and I do this along side solo parenting my two toddlers who were born in London in 2015 and 2016. I once had the nickname “the cycling queen of Sydney” and I’m very much looking forward to the days when both boys can cycle & we can form our own little bike gang. I’m also a massive fan of documentaries about artists & subcultures, such as ‘Paris is Burning’, and I find endless inspiration in glazed pub tiles & ageing surfaces around the city, particularly graffitied doors, walls and windows.

Tell us about your business baby:

I design and manufacture childrenswear under my brand Over All 1516, which I launched in March 2018. I started up because I couldn’t find durable clothing that fit over my boys big cloth nappy covered bottoms. Looking back the easy thing would have been to just start buying disposables! But I’m a stubborn Taurus & really wanted cloth to work for us, so I combined my experience in streetwear design and development with my understanding of what babies & toddlers (and their parents) need in a garment, and got to work. My dungarees have a signature exaggerated leg shape which makes them nice and roomy for cloth nappy wearers, as well as children who wear disposables and pants.

What’s your WHY?

I was going through a challenging time personally, and basically I just thought “why not?” things can’t get much more difficult than they already are! I was a newly single parent, my boys were 10 months & 25 months old, I was dealing with severe anxiety, depression and PTSD and I think having a project utilising my skills that was creative and enjoyable gave me the strength and motivation to push myself and my life ahead. I’d had over a decade’s worth of experience in multiple areas of fashion design and production, a product in my head that no one else was doing quite in this way, and a dream that I could create work around my commitments to my boys, and build a future for us making something fun yet practical, so I went for it.

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

I used to think lack of time, but now I’ve come to see the positives that working in little windows of time throughout the day/week brings. It’s forced me to sit on ideas longer than I would have in the past, which means I end up working through them in almost every detail in my head prior to even putting pen to paper, I play out the entire concept, the pros and cons without actually having to execute it in real life.. it’s also forced me to be super efficient & cut out a lot of unnecessary stuff. Also, reading the 4 hour work week was great for this too (actually I haven’t made it all the way through yet!) but key bits about time management & efficiency in that book are gold.

So, in answer to the question (!) I personally find it really hard to switch off, mostly because I have so much fun doing my job. I love the fact that having your own business gives you an excuse to learn about so many industries, from marketing & social media to the latest innovations in the garment industry and social trends and movements, doing just one thing bores me, so running my own business is the perfect antidote to that. But the flip side of that is there is SO MUCH TO LEARN. It’s hard being just one person and combining all of those roles while still doing the original job of designing and producing products.

Who’s your support network?

I speak to my parents and brothers fairly regularly as well as my wonderful friend Lucy who has been there for me always despite us living in different hemispheres. But the biggest and nicest surprise I have to say is that about the brilliant people I’ve met through Instagram. I find it almost impossible to get out and see people IRL due to lack of childcare options, but I have “met” so many kind, generous, funny, caring, inspiring and intelligent people through Insta, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them.

If only I knew then what I know now…

How long each pair of dungarees takes to make! I started off way underselling myself, there is something to be learnt from everything mistake & I’m now much more thorough with my costings! Plus I’m happy that at least through my error some of my earliest customers were able to grab a bargain.

 

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The Jugglers: Laura from HexNex Jewellery

Tell us about you:

Hi! I’m Laura and I’m the owner of HexNex Jewellery. I live in South East London with my husband and two boys – Louis is two and a half and George is 13 months. We moved to London 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia to be closer to both our families. Neil works in the city and I work from home every day whilst taking care of the boys.

Tell us about your business baby:

Here at HexNex we make stylish silicone teething jewellery, designed for Mums to wear and babies to interact with and enjoy whilst feeding, in the sling or just during cuddle times. Every Mum knows that babies love jewellery – they’ll make an immediate beeline for anything sparkly around your neck and dangling from your ears! But ordinary jewellery is dangerous, with heavy metals, small beads and the constant risk of breakages. So HexNex Jewellery is made from a non-toxic silicone, which is safe to be chewed on and strong enough to withstand the baby trash-test! The beads are mounted on soft satin cords and fitted with a breakaway clasp, to avoid breakages or strains on Mums neck. And we deliberately make our necklaces as stylish and fashionable as possible, so they DON’T look like a baby related item, because we believe Mum’s deserve to have stylish accessories that they can enjoy just as much as Bub can!

Breastfeeding is a difficult job, and as a Mum who tried, and failed, with both my boys to breastfeed, I know you often need all the help you can get. One of the worst parts of the job can be the skin scratching and hair pulling whilst nursing, so the brightly coloured beads are designed to attract your baby’s attention and keep their hands busy. This also aids the development of hand-eye coordination and helps them maintain focus when feeding.

We’ve recently been expanding our range to include greetings cards, breastfeeding reminder bracelets and unique, bespoke, handheld teethers. And there’s always more in the pipeline because I can never sit still for too long!

What’s your WHY?

I started HexNex whilst on maternity leave with my eldest. I’ve always been a creative person at heart, and I always need some kind of project to work on, not just to keep me busy but because it helps with my mental health too. When you suddenly become a Mum and your days revolve around this little, demanding person, it can be quite tough, so I started HexNex to give me something that was my own – an adult activity to take my mind off nappies and feeding times!

Shortly before I was due to return to work, I was made redundant, and so I chose to take that as a sign and go full time into my small business. Ironically, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because it removed the fear around quitting a job or taking a leap, as it was more that I was pushed instead!

Since the business has grown, it has become ever more important for me to be a positive role model to my boys. I want to show them you can do anything if you want it enough, put your mind to it and really work hard for it.

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

It’s definitely the fact that there isn’t anyone there to pick up the slack for you! If you have a bad day, where you’re tired, sick or just can’t be bothered, you have to crack on with your work anyway, because there no one else who is going to do it for you. Of course, the Mum guilt is huge too. You wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t sense it sometimes. I’ve recently upped the hours that both the boys spend at nursery to give me more time to work, and so I’ve been wrestling with that decision as to whether it was the right one. But I remind myself that my business is helping to build the boys a better future and that they will, hopefully, one day, be proud of me for it!

Who’s your support network?

Of course my family are there for me every day. They’re the reason I’m doing this and they’ve always been behind me 100%. My husband puts up with a lot of sh*t from me, especially when I’ve had a bad day, either work-related or otherwise, so I’m pretty luck he’s stuck by my side. But one of the greatest, most unexpected side effects of starting your own small business is the online community you are welcomed in to. I have met so many other incredible women and Mums in business who have become my best friends and my biggest supporters. They understand what you’re going through, they have your back and they’re always right there for you if ever you need a pick me up. I can honestly say that HexNex would not have enjoyed even half of the success it has, had it not been for some pretty incredible other Mumpreneurs who have supported me along the way.

If only I knew then what I know now……

That my crafty side project would become my main hustle! I think everyone else always had a lot more belief in me than I did in myself, so it took me a long time to realise and accept that HexNex was no longer just a hobby, and instead that it was a real, viable business. It’s very easy to think, “I’ll open an Etsy shop, that’ll be fun” but then you quickly learn that that “fun” thing will take over your life and that there is so much to learn about algorithms, SEO, keywords, market research, compliance, trading standards and so many other things you just had no idea about! In hindsight, it’s a good job I didn’t know all these things because if I had, I probably would never have started!

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The Jugglers: Emma from Isabella and Us

Tell us about you:

Hi! I’m Emma, 27 and from Lancashire. I live with my husband, two cats, Pippin and Luna and I am mummy to 7-month-old Isabella, who is the inspiration behind Isabella and Us. I watch way too much Netflix and eat an insane amount of biscuits and am a qualified Teacher for 16+ Education in Photography too.

 

Tell us about your business baby:

Isabella and Us. was started four weeks after I gave birth to Isabella and it came from the struggles I had during those first four weeks. I design everything myself at home and I have put so much of myself and my experiences of motherhood into what I produce. Everything I design is focused on promoting positive wellbeing and making parents feel like they are ‘Winning’. Since being diagnosed with PND when Isabella turned 5 months old I’ve been using the business as a platform to talk about my experience of PND and my journey to recovery and hopefully raise some awareness of maternal mental health and to help break down the stigma attached.

 

 

What’s your WHY?

My WHY is pretty easy – to help other mums and dads feel less alone and to remind them of the amazing job they do. My second WHY is to create a brand and business that follows my dreams and that means I can try and create something that Isabella can be proud of.

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

The juggle is hard! When I first launched Isabella and Us. Isabella was still napping loads throughout the day, now I’m lucky if she naps twice and now that she is on the move too (she starting crawling about 2 weeks ago and is already trying to pull herself up on the furniture too) it’s becoming that much harder. I just try and cram in as much as I can when I can. Emails are the bit I find the hardest though as I really need to sit down and work through them all in one go so they are one of the things that get left till last (and my accounts too!)

 

Who’s your support network?

My support network is just amazing! My husband and mum are so supportive of what I am trying to create and if I am having one of those days where I just feel like giving up they are always there to remind me exactly why I started this little business. I am also lucky enough to be surrounded by some amazing women in business who are just the best for talking about ideas with, collaborating with and are there for the good times and the hard times of business too!

If only I knew then what I know now…

I would have talked more about my experiences of motherhood from the start of launching the business. People really want to know the real you behind all the social media as people buy from people.

 

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The Jugglers: Dee from Copper and Wild

Tell us about you:

I am Dee, and I run Copper and Wild. I provide branding and product photography for small businesses. I live in Stafford with my husband and two daughters. I’ve moved around a lot (22 addresses to date!), so I doubt I am destined to stay in the UK all my life. I am lucky what I do will allow me to work anywhere, so I am not tied down to just one location.

Tell us about your business baby:

 

I started Copper and Wild alongside a previous Etsy business, but as Copper began to take off, I couldn’t run both without sacrificing family time, so I closed my Etsy shop in December 2017. I was also previously a wedding photographer, and had dabbled in event/portrait photography, there are still many avenues within photography that I could explore!

What’s your WHY?

With both kids in school from September 2018, I want to be able to say I work for myself, and run a successful business. Having escaped the 9-5 seven years ago, I never want to go back to working in such a toxic environment. I personally love my own company, and have never been happier with my work life. I want the kids to have a strong role model, we may be modest about it, but we are providing for our families, and that’s a pretty amazing thing. Working for myself also allows me to pick and choose my days around the kids and school holidays.

 

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

 

To be honest, I’ve found it much easier since closing my Etsy shop. Running two small businesses was hard work, that’s when I struggled. I certainly miss the extra spending money, but for the first time in a while, I feel rested, and in control. Stretching myself too thin was really hard on the family, as we all suffered one way or another.

 

Who’s your support network?

At home, my husband is my rock. He is my business coach, councillor, financial advisor, and shoulder to cry on. He is incredibly supportive, and always tells me to just be happy in what I do.

Online, I can always count on the Instagram and Facebook community for pick me ups, even from people I’ve never met in real life.

If only I knew then what I know now…

I wish I had made the leap myself all those years ago, instead of waiting to be pushed. I was made redundant (whilst pregnant!) which is what started this chain of events. I would tell my younger self to take that leap. Luckily I had been shooting weddings part time for a few years by this point, so I was lucky to have a backup plan.

 

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