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Mumpreneurs – meet the mums who are winning at business

Out of the 1.2 million-plus self-employed women in the UK, an estimated 300,000 of these enjoy the dubious moniker of ‘mumpreneur’. But love or loathe the term – it’s here to stay. With self-employment figures for women rising nearly three times as fast as men, these multi-tasking mothers now contribute £7.4bn to the economy every year.

And it’s easy to see why. With the rise of tech and connectivity it’s becoming increasingly easy to work flexibly and more feasible than ever to set up and run a successful business while raising a family.

We spoke to two mothers who’ve done just that.

Tessa Wire and her colleague Zoe Moore, both mothers, spotted a gap in the UK wedding market – and decided to fill it. Pea Green Boat is “an online party paraphernalia emporium stocking beautiful, original and stylish decorations, stationery, tableware and accessories for wondrous weddings and celebrations.”

So Tessa, what made you want to start your own business?

I’d never found a childcare solution that was as flexible as my work needed me to be, nor a way that I could do my job well without constantly feeling guilty about the children. I was working as a freelance TV producer, which meant early starts, late finishes, last minute jobs and last-minute days off. By the time my youngest was in full-time nursery, I wanted to find my ideal job – one that was creatively, intellectually and financially rewarding but doable between the hours of 9.00am and 3.30pm. That way I could still make the school runs and be there for breakfast, teatime and bedtime.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

All the jobs I’d ever done – TV producing, interior design, event organising – all came together when I got married and organised our wedding. At the same time, a good friend – an ex-journalist, interior designer and mother of two – was also arranging a wedding and wanted to ‘do something’. And so the idea of Pea Green Boat was born.

Do you use any technology to help?

We use email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all the analytics apps. In fact, everything we do is online except accounting – and even then we’re thinking about getting an accounting app soon to make our lives a bit easier.

Our next mumpreneur, Ali Nester-Smith, spent many years in advertising at one of the UK’s largest agencies. She created Happy Box London in 2002 “with the ambition of creating beautiful gifts with a very personal touch.”

Ali, what made you start your business?

During my time in advertising, I noticed how frustrated people became when trying to source genuinely thoughtful and creative gifts for colleagues, clients, family and friends. Too often, we send well intentioned, but generic, gifts such as flowers and champagne. We established Happy Box London to put real thought and imagination back into giving.

How hard was it to set up?

As with all new ventures, our lofty ambitions were soon kicked into touch with some grubby realities. I had to set up as a Limited Company, open a business bank account, register our trademark with the Patent Office, research the best fulfilment facilities and negotiate delivery rates with couriers.

Then I registered our business for VAT, learned swiftly how to run a basic accounts package and wrote a marketing plan that was a far cry from the budgets I’d worked on in my previous career.

Next we had to design, build and test the website, arrange online payment processing and ensure we were compliant with the relevant retail regulations.

At some point during those early months, we got to the good bit – creating, sourcing and buying the gifts and packaging that we thought would make people smile.

Does running a business and being a mum go hand-in-hand?

Giving birth to the business coincided with giving birth, so it’s been a joy to have full control over my working hours and environment.

I finish work at 4pm each day so that I can be around for my two small children after school. I’ll often return to the desk once they’re in bed, but I don’t perceive this as a burden. It’s a way of using technology to work flexibly and intelligently in order to accommodate the twin joys of work and home life.

Do you use any technology to help? 

Our business is reliant on technology. As well as the ever-essential email, we also employ a wide variety of online tools to deal with everything from HMRC and payroll to delivery tracking, stock movement, packing and dispatch logistics, and liaising with couriers across different time zones.

On a personal level, I’d be lost without two apps: Uber and Citymapper. My sense of direction and timekeeping leave a little to be desired, so these are my essential tools for being in the right place at the right time.

Do you make use of social media?

We’ve been spectating, rather than being fully in the game, I’m afraid. But as a luxury gifting company, social media presents a wealth of fairly obvious opportunities. So as well as launching our new website, it’s definitely time for us to get social.

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.

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