The Jugglers: Claire from LittleFolk Tales

Tell us about you:

I’m Claire and at the time of writing I am Mum to Jacob who is nearly 4 and ready to go with baby number 2 any day now! My full time job is as Head of Drama is a Secondary School; I’ve worked in education for the last 12 years after a brief stint playing ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in a touring theatre group, and as a Community Theatre Leader for a local theatre.

 

Tell us about your business baby:

It’s been almost a year since I officially launched ‘LittleFolk Tales’, an online children’s bookshop. I also hold pop-up shops and storytelling sessions in and around Liverpool. I aim to bring inspiring and imaginative books to parents who want to go beyond the usual offerings when it comes to the children’s books you can get on the high street (although don’t get me wrong, these books are great too!). I’m interested in books that have a great story, whilst also focusing on great illustration and design; books that can really be treasured and loved, and that look great in the home too!

 

What’s your WHY?

Like a lot of working Mums I guess, after having my little boy I began to consider how sustainable my current job would be around my family, especially given the changes that have taken place in education over the last few years, and the marginalisation of creative subjects such as drama. I remember doing a sort of ‘rediscover yourself’ type activity, which suggested making a list of things I used to love doing when I was younger, and reading came out top of the list. I used to devour books when I was young, and really want to pass that love on to my children, and what better way than to nurture that love from a young age through brilliant picture books. In this digital age, I think it’s important to preserve the pleasure of turning the pages of an actual book, and I think it is a great way for parents to bond with their children and focus on being together and present in the moment as they share a book together.

 

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

Finding time to fit everything in! Working full time is tough for anyone, being a Mum is tough, and running a small business on the side sometimes seems like a really crazy thing to do! But I get such a positive reaction about the books I choose whenever I host a pop up event, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside some other great businesses such as Parentfolk who have been a great supporter of LittleFolk Tales since I started, and I feel like I have become part of a really positive community of independent, family led businesseses.

 

Who’s your support network?

My family! My husband is always encouraging me to keep going with the business; there are times when I question if I should just give it up and get that time back for myself and my family, but he reminds me that what I’m doing is something I really enjoy. And my parents are always there for the practical help, such as looking after Jacob and bringing him along when I have an event. This has really opened my eyes to how much our working lives impact on our children; Jacob has seen me ‘do my bookshop’ and he loves to make his own bookshop at home, laying out all his books on the sofa or the coffee table and says he wants to be a shop keeper when he grows up!

 

If only I knew then what I know now…

Well I still don’t know how to organise my accounts and keep track of the ‘business’ side of things so I would definitely like to know that! Otherwise, I think I was a bit naïve about the amount of work that needs to go in to an online store, to encourage traffic and regular sales…but when I hear that little ‘ping’ on my phone that tells me a sale has just come through it really does put a smile on my face!

 

Inspiration Quote you love

 

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The Jugglers: Carly from Bloomingals

Tell us about you:

Hello, my name is Carly, I am a mum of two strong-willed toddlers.  My children are 3 years 6 months and 1 year 10 months.  That’s right I am hitting the terrible two and threenager stage simultaneously!  Good Luck Me!

I have a BSC degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy.  I work for the NHS three days a week as an Occupational Therapist in a rehabilitation unit on a stroke ward.  My job is to help someone that has had a stroke, re-learn everyday activities that they now find difficult in order for them to be as independent as possible.   I do this, whilst juggling being a mum, wife, daughter, auntie, sister, friend (you get the jist) alongside my online business Bloomingals.

I love nothing more than spending time with my friends and family, eating, going on holiday and drinking prosecco.  I was born in Essex and have never flown far from the nest. I am generally quite a shy person which doesn’t always make the best first impression, but I love meeting new people and have learnt to push myself out of my comfort zone both on a personal level and in business.


Tell us about your business baby:

Bloomingals is an online luxury family shop that showcases Maternity and Breastfeeding wear, Baby and children’s clothing, Nursery items and family gifts, which I personally select from independent brands. Bloomingals conveniently introduces you in one click to products and brands that you will not find in your usual high street shops.

It’s an evolving business and we have just launched our maternity dress hire collection.


What’s your WHY?

When I was pregnant I always found it hard to find stylish yet practical maternity clothes which gave birth to the idea of Bloomingals.  I wanted to create a convenient place for mums and families to find items that would make you look and feel great on your journey from pregnancy through to parenthood.

By having one destination to shop all things parenting not only saves you time but also provides you with a trustworthy place for you and your family to visit over and over again.

Initially, Bloomingals was set up as an online store for expectant mums, however, since becoming a mum myself and entering the wonderful journey into parenthood, it has naturally progressed into an exciting destination for the whole family.  I have a passion for helping others and the parenting game can feel quite daunting.  Alongside my business, I like to share my experiences and lessons learnt via social media posts and blogs.  If my story helps just one person, then I am happy.

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

I find many parts of doing the juggle hard but the biggest challenge for me is overcoming the constant guilt.  I am busy, really busy. I am constantly on the go, taking the children to a class, play date or carrying out general mum duties whilst juggling dinner, nap times and housework.  On top of what feels like a full-time job being a mum, I have my part-time job and I work on Bloomingals around my family life and my part-time job.

That’s when the guilt kicks in. I constantly feel guilty that I am not fulfilling my to-do list for my business, or when I am working on the business I feel guilty I am not spending time with my children.  On top of this, I feel guilty that the evenings that I used to spend with my husband when the kids are in bed are now consumed with work. Then, I feel guilty that I do not have time for everyone else around me.

But I remind myself that this is all part of the larger picture and all that I do is to better my life and that of those around me.  What can I say but “The juggle is real” and I wish I had paid more attention in juggling class at school.

Who’s your support network?

My husband is my absolute rock.  He is the person that pushes me to succeed and helps me with all the parts of the business that I find challenging.  He is also the person that takes my backlash and gets the least of my time.  But he loves my business, he wants me to succeed and he supports me with everything I do.  He is not only a support for me, but he picks up the slack with the children too.  If Carlsberg did husband…he’d probably be the best husband in the world!

 

Inspiration Quote that you love:

 

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The Jugglers: Saskia from Share the Joy Media

Tell us about you:

Hi, I’m Saskia. I’m a copywriter and content strategist focussed on helping kids and family brands to communicate a confident brand voice and create parent-attracting digital content! I’m also a home-educating mum of 2 amazing little boys (age 5 and 2).

Tell us about your business baby:

I launched Share The Joy Media at the very end of 2016. With the birth of my second son, I decided I really needed to up the enjoyment factor of my freelance copywriting business (which I’ve been running for over a decade – eek!) if I was going to spend any time apart from him. I’d previously had a generalised approach and was writing about things like drone cameras and insurance… Very dull!! I had a think about what topics would never bore me – kids and family related topics – and quickly saw a gap in the market for copywriting/content services tailored to parent-targeting customers.

What’s your WHY?

My biggest WHY is to provide the flexible lifestyle my family and I are privileged to experience. My husband and I decided I would be the sole earner when my first son was born, meaning he looks after the boys when I’m working. My current schedule is a morning of work, an afternoon of play – and then a little bit of catch-up in the evening if needed.

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

The rollercoaster nature of it all. And fighting the whole notion of ‘balance’. I love that you’re embracing the ‘juggle’ aspect as I think striving for balance is almost dangerous… Perhaps there are seasons of balance in life… But when you have young children to look after, sometimes they need you more. Sometimes your business needs you more. Sometimes YOU need you more! It really is up and down, and many months I think to myself ‘I can’t do this anymore!!’ and then here I am…

Who’s your support network?

I couldn’t do any of it without my husband. Not just looking after the boys but also trusting me so implicitly in everything I do. He does take interest if I want to chat about what I’m up to (he knows who I’m talking about when I speak about my clients or insta connections) but generally he lets me get on with it. My parents and in-laws are also hugely supportive, even though they are both hundreds of miles away. My faith is also a big part of how I do business and survive the ups and downs.
The support of other parent bosses I’ve met online has been incredible too! I’m so grateful for the Instagram community I’ve found who work so hard on their businesses while still being completely lovely!!

If only I knew then what I know now…

“You’ve still got loads to learn and that will never change!” I started out when I was so young (18) that I clearly didn’t have a clue what I was doing and was completely winging it. Then after a few years in (scratch that, by about 7 whole years in!!) I realised I’d been doing LOADS wrong in terms of prices and business boundaries. I gradually started making changes but took feelings of stupidity with me. “How could I have been doing it like that for so long?!” As I’ve matured, I realise there’s always more to learn and we’re never going to have everything sussed.

Inspiration Quote that you love:

We can’t fix everything in life. We can’t fix all the hurts and injustices we come across. But we can set the best example as possible by being the change we want to see and knowing that others are paying attention (even when we think they’re not). As a parent, I always cling to the fact that my boys will learn most about being a kind, proactive, positive member of society by seeing how I behave than any life lessons I try to ‘teach’.

 

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The Jugglers: Shona from Space @ 61

Tell us about you:

Hello, I’m Shona Chambers, I am the owner of a Venue for hire in South East London, & also do Marketing Consultancy again after quite a long break post kids/career changes. I am the Mum of 2 lovely kids, a boy & a girl! When I’m not working (haha) I enjoy keeping up with the ever-changing foodie landscape in London & popular culture (i.e I have a Netflix account and license to binge).

 

Tell us about your business baby:

I’m a bit unusual in my small business story in that my current business only exists because my first business failed. The very short version of this is in 2012 I sold my family home to finance a cafe deli the site of which needed complete modernisation. It was my dream to run a family-friendly venue which catered for children & families in a lovely setting. We had a lot of loyal customers but very sadly the business wasn’t viable. We also had various disasters like a flood which closed us down for nearly 6 months and in the end, the decision had to be made to close it for all of our sanities.

However a good friend of mine made a comment once in the cafe about the fact it was such a nice venue and that any other sort of business may also do well, so I gave it some thought and in August 2016 I closed one business and opened Space at 61 instead. It has been a trial by fire to build a business from the ashes whilst still supporting all of the outgoings for the building whilst finances built up again.

Space at 61 we market as being an AirBnB for business use. You can book us by the hour, half day or day. We are unusual in the sense that there aren’t many spaces readily available in this way, most offering space hire are already a daily business with rooms or a more formal long-term affair with contracts, whereas you can just get in touch with us the night before and if we have the space available you can book it.

 

What’s your WHY?

I believe in small business, 100%. Having worked in large corporate Marketing teams for 10 years prior to opening my cafe, I know what it is to feel bogged down by structure, and flattened by protocol. I love being my own boss for good or for bad, and I will always encourage other people to take the step and make their own destinies.

 

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

I often struggle to be present at the right time mentally. I find that a challenge sometimes. When you have children you know only too well how quickly they grow and change and you want to be in the moment, but knowing you have a million other things in the background can really put a strain on the mental capacities.

 

Who’s your support network?

Well, its funny you should ask because I actually have a Networking group of my own, First Fridays because we meet on the First Friday of every month. I started it up in January of this year along with another local business person Sharon Gardner of Core of Life, with the aim of fostering community among the Self-employed/ freelance/small business people locally & we had 30 business people show up at the very first one, and it has been a rolling success ever since. There are around 50% new people/50% regulars at each meeting which is really nice because it’s not cliche but it is welcoming.  Each month we have a new speaker on a relevant topic, often its someone from the group, next month (September 7th) we have Shannon Reed the owner of Mockingbird Makes doing a talk on Creativity which will be amazing. The women crochet’s Unicorns! We can’t wait for her talk. There is coffee & food & we just all get a chance to mingle and talk and share the load for 3 hours. So that’s my support network.

 

If only I knew then what I know now…

I’d counsel any new business to think about the minimum they need to operate with when they start up. My situation worked out but I often think I’d like to have started smaller and worked to build myself up rather than going in feet first. Life and learn!

 

Inspiration Quote that you love:

 

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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.

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