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1 Jul 2014

My story…….. so far

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When we start out in business we have a rough idea, even if some what muddled of what it is we want to do. Whether that be to make things to sell or offer a service. Something has sparked a passion inside us to give us the inspiration to start a business. I was no different…….

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar

I was working for a large retail company, I really enjoyed the role I was in but unfortunately due to financial constraints and other external factors I wasn’t able to do this to the best of my ability and in fact spent a large majority of my time covering for other peoples roles as we were short staffed. It was frustrating and de motivating, I knew I was good at the coaching and mentoring part of my role and I loved doing it but my passion and my skill was being hidden because of the situation the company was in. I dreaded going to work, I would come home crying, something had to change and it did. I became pregnant and made the decision that I wouldn’t be going back to my job and that when I was on maternity leave I would set up my own business offering coaching, mentoring and training, the aspect of my job that I loved and was good at.

So I set up a business called “Your steps to success” and on the days my little boy who was 3 at the time was in nursery and I wasn’t working I would attend networking and business events to get my name out there and to find out how I could grow my business. I really enjoyed this, I met some amazing people who I am still great friends with now. I didn’t get any clients though, but I learnt lots of lessons!

Finding my ‘niche’

The first important lesson was to niche my business. I was going out looking to help anyone and everyone, I was afraid to cut anyone out, why on earth would I want to limit my potential market?? Big mistake! By being so broad on my approach I was appealing to no one and this needed to change. After getting this advice I thought long and hard about who my ideal customer could be, who could I relate too? Who could relate to me? And in a middle of the night, sit up in bed light bulb moment it came to me! Mums in business, they need the support I want to offer! Fantastic, ok next step how am I going to reach them? And how am I going to do this when I have little baby? Argh! I can’t take my baby to regular business networking event, surely their must be somewhere mums with businesses can meet with their children?

So I tried to find this ‘thing’. I posted on some Facebook groups and on netmums asking if anyone knew of the ‘thing’ I was looking for. No one did. But lots of mums who were also looking for this ‘thing’ spoke up. So I asked if any other mums would be interested in a networking event they could bring their children too and lots were 🙂 Here is my first post for BizMums (before it had a name!)

BizMums first post

So I was off, I designed a logo (see below) made some flyers and posters and planned our first ever event on Monday 12th November 2012. It was a showcase events so the mums could take a stand and bring some products to demonstrate. 10 mums came and we had a great time. Rachel Dobson from PANDAS came and told us more about her story and her charity and I decided that BizMums would help to support them. I set a date for another Shrewsbury event for the following month and also asked if mums in Wrexham and Telford would like something similar, they did so events were set up there too.

Biz Mum's Logo (2)

Over the next couple of months I worked with Web Designer Amanda Wynne Evans to design a professional looking logo and set up www.BizMums.biz. It was important to me to find a web designer who was a mum and local to me as I wanted someone who could understand the ethos behind BizMums and what I wanted to create. Amanda fitted the the bill nicely and on 1st February the website went live! We also launched the memberships and quickly had a nice core of members who would attend the groups, network online and access the online training.

Help is always at hand!

It was shortly after the website launched that I received a phone call from a lady called Julie Carthy from a company called UnLtd. Julie said that she had been hearing lots of good things about BizMums and was looking to help and support mums who wanted to set up Social Enterprise businesses. At that time I had never heard of a social enterprise so Julie explained it to me. After listening to her I explained that there wasn’t anyone I could think of right away but I would bear her in mind and if anyone fitting that description came to BizMums I would put them in touch with her, out of interest I asked her if she thought that BizMums would fall into that category to which she said at the moment no. So that was that. A couple of weeks later I received another phone call from Julie, she said that since our last phone call she had been thinking more and more about Bizmums and hearing more and more good things from lots of people in the business community and that actually with a few tweeks we could fall into the social enterprise bracket and UnLTD could support us. We met up and I talked Julie through my vision and the plans that I had for growing my business she was very impressed and helped me put in a funding application of which I was successful. This funding application enabled me to develop the website and purchase marketing materials and the support UnlTd gave was just the boost I need to know that i was on the right track! At around the same time I was also introduced to the Start up Britain programme running at the Telford Enterprise Hub and accessed support available there too which was invaluable.

I was still working 3 days a week at this point and Harrison was only in part time nursery so it was all quite a juggling act. I took maternity leave at the earliest opportunity as I knew what it was I wanted to be doing and my job was really getting me down. It was quite a sign of relief the day I walked out for the last time but also quite daunting as I knew I was on countdown to make my business a success so I wouldn’t have to go back!

It all starts with an idea…..

Since starting BizMums I had met some any fantastic mums so I had an idea to organise a day where they could all get together to network. I would organise some speakers so that they could learn and at the end we would present some awards to the mums who had really done well in their lives and businesses. I shared this idea with one of my mentors Rebekah Harriman and she suggested that I could get businesses to sponsor the awards, she said that she would sponsor the on line mum award so I had my first sponsor and it snowballed from there. You can read about the finished event which was above and beyond anything I had imagined it would be when I had that initial idea! At this time I was also working with another coach Kirsty Percival, my sister from another mister! We were paired together as part of a coaching training programme Kirsty was on and the things we had in common were remarkable! We have Sons the same age and when we met we were only a week apart in our pregnancy’s! Spooky! Kirsty helped keep me on track and focused and has since become a very good friend.

In the middle of all this baby number 2 Isabella was born, Harrison was now 4 but still just in part time nursery so it was a testing few months especially during the 6 week Summer holidays before he started full time school. I had planned the conference and awards so that it fell the second Saturday after the children went back to school as I thought this would be a good time when mums needed a boost to get them back into the swing of things. I hadn’t taken into account all the preparation work that I would need to do with 2 small children at home. But it all worked out well in the end!

BizMums on the move

The response to BizMums had been amazing and I had been contacted by mums in all different areas keen for something similar that they could attend, so in September 2013 we launched new groups in Stone, Codsall, Chester and Ellesmere Port. I couldn’t physically attend all of these events so some wonderful mums stepped up to become BizMums hosts and run their groups. In October we had a hosts meetup and I shared my ideas for growing the areas and introducing a new role of regional co-ordinator. It was just an idea at the time but I wanted to let the hosts know that this opportunity could be available for them. Later that night Stacey Knight-Jones contacted me saying that she would be really interested in the role so I thought why wait lets start it now. Stacey embraced the role and quickly set up new groups across her region. We put a plan in place and set to work with new groups which would launch across Staffordshire & Cheshire in the early part of 2014.

Something else was needed

By November 2013 I was starting to have to think about my options and going back to work. BizMums wasn’t generating enough income to support me at that time, I knew that it had the potential to in the future and that I just needed to keep going but unfortunately that wasn’t going to pay the bills. I also knew that If I had to return to my job I would struggle to keep the momentum going with BizMums at the rate I knew I needed it too so it was a very worrying time. I kept my mind open and one day another ahaha moment came to me.

When we were looking to set up new groups and promote BizMums one good way of promoting it was in local community magazines, I had come across lots of these in different areas but their wasn’t one for my local town. I quickly did some sums and some googling and discovered that their were plenty of businesses in my town to sustain something like this. I shared my idea with Tim my partner who wasn’t 100% convinced but thought it might stand a chance of working so what did we have to lose? I hit the streets and 4 out of the first 5 businesses that I spoke to agreed to advertise! We were in business, The Ellesmere Gazette was born! We did our first edition in December 2012 with 20 businesses advertising. I did all the design work myself with no design experience but it did what it needed to do. Tim and I hand delivered 2000 copies over 2 days! My poor feet were covered in blisters and I quickly made the decision that I was going to be outsourcing this part of the business as soon as possible!! But it was all worth it, we got such a positive response and many more businesses contacted us wanting to advertise in the next edition some even signing up for 6 months! Phew the heat was off! The money that this business was generating meant that I could take an extra 3 months unpaid maternity before I had to make the big decision. I was know running 2 businesses, not quite what I had planned but I enjoyed them both so it was all good!

Success!!

In March I had to make that big decision, which was a no brainer in the end. I’d never been happier and we’d never been happier as a family,  I was determined to make a success of both the businesses and Tim supported me in this. I wrote the letter I had been dreaming about writing since that day in September 2012 when I had made the decision to set up my own business. I had done it! I was a success!!!

Shortly after I handed my notice in I found out that I was pregnant with baby no.3! I entered a few weeks of foggy headedness and both businesses went on a bit of a go slow but I kept going and once the first few weeks of pregnancy went by I gave myself a shake and got my head together. This was it now, I couldn’t play around any more so I implemented new systems hired a coach and in the past 2 months both businesses have reached a whole new level. This month I have paid myself more than I would of if I would of returned to my old job, now that’s a result and to top it off I recently Young Britain Entrepreneur of the Year award.

We have the 2014 Conference planned for October 2014 and lots of new events planned for launching in September. I’ve also launched the coaching side of the business, my original intention so I will update this post in a couple of weeks with the next phase 🙂 you can find out more www.bizmums.biz/winner along with an opportunity to work with me for FREE!