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 (www.ivyslibrary.com) 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!