Fleur Sifford lives with husband, Mark and their two children – Bayley, three and Elodie, nine months in the West Midlands. She runs parenting shop ellisandwren.co.uk.
‘I’d daydreamed about setting up a business since Bayley was a small baby: he was the inspiration behind it, because of the journey he has taken me on since becoming a parent. We decided to call our shop Ellis and Wren, my children’s middle names, because without our children, the shop would not exist, it’s all about them!
To my surprise I fell very naturally and instinctually into attachment parenting, very much led by my son, and discovered a world of cute cloth bums, magical slings, colourful kids’ clothes, organic products and breastfeeding! I became passionate about sharing what I had found with other new and expectant parents. More than sharing these gorgeous products, I am also really keen on being a support and source of information within the community to try and reach people who maybe otherwise wouldn’t have come across attachment parenting.
My business is very new and juggling setting it up with a young family has been difficult. I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who definitely pulls his weight with the house! In some respects starting this business has helped with my work/life balance as I take my youngest with me, which is definitely something I couldn’t do working in the office! It has made me appreciate the days we’re all together more, for example once a month we will do something special for a day as a family like going to the theatre or a day trip to an animal park.
There’s a fair amount of Admin and other jobs I have to do outside of the shop, but I just do that once the kids are asleep, which is when hubby clears up after dinner.
I am setting up an Attachment Parenting support group for local parents and pregnant couples where families can share experiences and find friendship. We’ll be sharing positive birth stories, offering breastfeeding support, learning about gentle discipline and more.’
FLEUR’S BUSINESS TIPS
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: very few people will waltz through a new business faultlessly, so don’t beat yourself up when you do make a poor decision, just learn from it!
- Make sure you love your business. It is time consuming to start a new business and, if you’re like me, you’ll have at least a few moments of extreme self-doubt plus you’ll feel like you need more than just another pair of hands to get everything done. It’s during these times that your passion for what you’re doing will pull you through.
- Research. Lots. The more leg work you can put in beforehand the better! Make sure you understand your business inside and out before taking the plunge, this will hopefully reduce the number and/or severity of the mistakes you make (see point 1) and will also make your new business part of you (see point 2).
Paula and John set up Eco’roos when their daughter was born two years ago. Paula is now expecting their second child.
‘Eco’roos was born from our own struggles in making sustainable parenting choices for our daughter when there was little information available. Our daughter made us think about what impact our actions have on her future life. We wanted to use reusable nappies, yet there was so much choice, conflicting information and lack of general knowledge that the choice was overwhelming. So we made that decision to make that journey easier for parents at least in our local area, that’s how we set up the nappy library in Derby offering completely independent and unbiased advice. Same with slings, we made mistakes and we learned from them, now I’m a certified carrying consultant and John is a baby-carrying peer supporter.
We also set up the business so that we could both invest in our family life in the hopes of gaining some more control over how we work and how much time we spend with our family.
It’s tough, it is really tough to manage the work/life balance. Although we’re still in the very hard phase, we do make opportunities to play! It is incredible to see the world through our daughter’s eyes and it teaches us that we can find joy even in the most mundane tasks like “building a display shelf”, everything we do is an opportunity to play and laugh, so long as we’re together we can have a great time!
Although Eco’roos was set up as a retail business, it really is so much more, the majority of the work we do at the moment is voluntary and non-profit through the nappy library that we run in Derby and Sling Library. We would love to be able to offer parents a “safe haven” they can come to, a place where children and parents matter and where information is widely available.
Our longterm vision is of course to normalise and make widely available some of the less known choices in parenthood like good ergonomic slings or reusable nappies but above all we think we as a society we need to work on empowering parents.
PAULA’S BUSINESS TIPS
- Stay true to your values, these are what really set you apart. In a retail business is so easy to default to looking at the biggest margins or most popular products or having to face less than ethical competition… And whilst that may make you money, it doesn’t set you apart. Whatever your values or ethics are, stick to them, they are the best legacy you have.
- Persevere, it is hard work to start any new venture. You may feel disheartened at times, but never give up on a bad day. You have done the hard work, you have done your planning, your financing and decided it was a worthwhile pursuing… Things may not happen as quick as you wanted them too, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it work! If you love it! You’ll make it work!
- Enjoy what you do! The likelihood is that if you are considering setting up a family business is because you’d love a better life/work balance and spend more time with your children… So whatever you do… Make sure you’ll enjoy it now… Loving what you do makes the journey much easier!
Nicole Hepburn runs The Nappy Laundry Company. She has three children, Owen, 12, Quillan, nine, and Monica, four and the family live in the seaside town of Stonehaven in Scotland.
‘Although I set up the nappy laundry initially, I have recently trained as a baby wearing consultant and I am expanding into baby carriers. It’s important to be disciplined with your time and this can evolve as your children grow. At the moment I try and work when my daughter is at nursery and evenings. In August my youngest goes to school and I will once again rearrange my schedule to fit in with family.
NICOLE’S BUSINESS TIPS
- Step back occasionally and remember why you decided to work from home, and if you need to readdress that work life balance.
- It can be lonely working at home, so make time for friends (not just online) - have a network of other working mums as well.
- Be prepared to evolve and change your business to suit the market – trying to read the future of what’s going to be popular is always a challenge.