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The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

11th May 2018

Five work at home mums tell us their business secrets from their crafty homespun ventures making cloth nappies...

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

11th May 2018

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

11th May 2018

LOCAL CONCERNS

Sarah Hyde has three daughters, age seven, five and three and runs nappygolucky.co.uk. The family live in Carmarthen in West Wales.

‘It was my husband that suggested that we try cloth nappies. A friend and I realised there was no one selling nappies in our area so went to the local chamber of commerce and took their business start up course. Most parents buy cloth nappies online but for many prospective parents the amount of information and choice online is overwhelming so we aimed to offer local parents free consultations to demonstrate how easy cloth nappies are, allow them to touch and feel the nappies, as well as retail online. My business partner opted to go back to her job after maternity leave and I chose to carry on running the business myself. My girls often come along to events with me; they mostly enjoy going to shows and I believe that I’m setting them a good example, that women can work and raise a family; that with determination, anything is possible. I rent an office in town where I store all my stock and meet local clients but I often work from home and can update my website, respond to emails and schedule social media wherever so I enjoy the flexible nature of online retailing and find that on the whole I can be there for my children and manage the business without too many sacrifices.’

SARAH’S BUSINESS TIPS

  1. Research, research, research! Explore your idea, who your customer will be and how will you reach them.
  2. Learn new skills Find out if there are any training courses locally, you may think you know how to use social media but do you know how to use the various platforms as a business? Often you can find half day courses that help to get you started.
  3. Network with other mums Finally I’ve found local networking groups invaluable for getting support, referrals and recommendations.

Sarah Hyde photo: Mike Walters Photography

LOVE OF NAPPIES

Ruth Cumming lives in Birmingham and runs sewndownpurplelane.co.uk

‘I set up the business two years ago after making lots of cloth nappies and accessories for my boys - Andrew now aged five and Joel three. I was drawn to cloth nappies for cost and environmental reasons, and (with two children in nappies) I decided to start making my own. Night nappies for my heavy wetting toddler were my particular focus to begin with. I also made all our accessories like wet bags, washable wipes, fleece covers and PUL wraps.

I made a few bits for family and friends too, and the feedback was great, so I set up the business. I was looking for something to work on for a few hours a week, something to give me a creative outlet and a small income. My main interest is in sewing practical rather than decorative items, and my work has been heavily influenced by my love of cloth nappies and babywearing. Apart from nappies, a popular product is my stay-put boots that are great for babywearing as they can’t be kicked off.

It helps that I have a separate room to work in. I can shut the door and work doesn’t spill over into the rest of the house.

RUTH’S BUSINESS TIPS

  1. Research before you start Do lots of research before you set up. I toyed with the idea of being self-employed for ages before actually taking the leap. During that time I researched things like insurance, registration with HMRC, and regulations. I know it’s not as exciting as the creative process of sewing, which is of course the part I really love, but admin does need to be done too and there’s lots to do before you even start.
  2. Take the rough with the smooth I really enjoy my job - creating new things and seeing them appreciated by customers is such a great feeling. However, as with any job, there are downsides, and the customer service aspect of the role can sometimes be tricky to manage if I feel I’ve done my best but something has gone wrong (for example, missing post). It’s easy to take it all personally, both bad and good. I find it helpful to talk to my husband or friends to try to separate the roles in my head.
  3. Believe in your work Know that a hobby can become a viable business, if you put some work into it. Sewing has always been a hobby, a creative outlet that I enjoy doing and find very therapeutic. I wondered at first how that would translate to doing it for work, i.e. I’m paid to do it. But I still love sewing and don’t feel it has changed my perspective since the business has become a steady source of income for us. I am passionate about raising awareness of reusable nappies (and babywearing) and that helps because I’m interested in the bigger picture too.

GROWING ORGANICALLY

Victoria Passmore lives in Kent with her husband and three children; Millie, 11, Fraser, nine, and Beatrice, four. When Beatrice was three months old she made a nappy for her out of an old towel and facebook.com/BumbleBeesClothNappies was born.

‘I dug my mum’s sewing machine out of the loft, drafted my own pattern, and chopped up an old towel! I discovered that I was quite good at it. The business grew from there, with new ideas and designs being tested out on Beatrice and my friends’ babies. Over the past four years I’ve introduced more and more products including reusable baby wipes and cloth sanitary pads. The business has grown from a small Facebook page to a website which stocks my own products, and, from time to time, other fabulous things from fellow UK work at home mums.’

VICTORIA’S BUSINESS TIPS

  1. Do what you love Make your own unique product which you enjoy creating.
  2. Grow organically Make sure you keep your work/life balance in check; build up your business slowly and steadily when you know you can take on more work without it getting in the way of family life.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

Becky Ackary lives in a little village in the Cotswolds with her son Leo, two. She started Sweetness and Pea (sweetnessandpea.co.uk) when her son was eight months old.

‘I became a single parent when my son was eleven weeks old and found myself looking for ways to support my family but equally have a happy work life balance where I could attend his regular hospital appointments without fear of jeopardising my job (Leo was diagnosed with bilateral talipes when Becky was 20 weeks pregnant and later with hip dysplasia). A good work/life balance was one of the biggest draws for me when starting the business but it has in fact been one of the hardest things to achieve. Although I often work late nights, I have the flexibility that just would not have been possible in a typical day job. It’s only now, 18 months into the business that I am starting to have a social life outside of being a parent or working!

BECKY’S BUSINESS TIPS

  1. Believe in yourself You can achieve the goals that you have set for yourself and your business.
  2. Seek advice Take as much advice as you possibly can, from all kinds of people - some will not be relevant but there will be some gems hidden in there too!
  3. Do something that brings pleasure Enjoy whatever avenue you pursue. Starting a business and making it successful takes too much hard work to not enjoy almost every moment!

GROWING ORGANICALLY

Victoria Lumb, has two sons; Oli, four and Charlie two. The family moved from Exeter to Villereal, in southern France, 18 months ago. She launched sewdomesticated.co.uk when her children were very small.

‘My boys inspired me to start my business. I started when Oli was a few months old, sewing for him, for friends and family. I never wanted to be a mum with kids in full time child-care whilst I scraped together nursery fees for them. I started out sewing mainly clothes and nappy bags. I’m very lucky; creche in France is subsidised by the government, which makes it more affordable for Charlie to be in childcare. Oli is already in school - they do four full days, and one half day. I do admin work in the evenings with my husband, whilst watching TV. I don’t work at weekends, unless I really have to. Having clearly set business hours makes it much easier for me to keep my work life balance going - I found when I didn’t, the work spilled out to take over all of the available time, and I didn’t achieve any extra. I also felt run down and burnt out. I use a virtual assistant during my busiest times, and she helps with admin. I have a head full of plans! I’m currently researching creating a shop locally to sell - the French love buying face-to-face. I’m hoping to create a haven for parents of eco-friendly baby kit - clothing, cloth nappies, wooden toys etc. I want to work with other small businesses to create an amazing one stop shop, where parents feel like they can pop in and kids can play without getting dirty looks from the shop owner!

VICTORIA’S BUSINESS TIPS

  1. Structure your time Set clear working times and do a to-do list. Your work will expand to fill your life if you let it.
  2. Be yourself Be brave, be bold and be yourself. Copying people doesn’t get you anywhere in the long run. You need to come up with something that stands out, but you need to be true to your own values.
  3. Pay yourself fairly Don’t undervalue yourself. Remember to properly calculate prices for things you want to sell. You need to be able to say ‘this product costs x to produce. I pay y tax on it, and then z is my profit margin’ Never allow your wages to be below minimum wage.

This article appeared in The Green Parent magazine. Subscribe here for as little as £2 a month >
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