First-hand advice on planning a business while on maternity leave

Here, Lindsey Fish gives some top tips on how she went about planning a business while on maternity leave.

By 2025 the 'Mum Economy' is expected to be worth £9.5 billion to the UK economy

By 2025 the 'Mum Economy' is expected to be worth £9.5 billion to the UK economy

The ‘Mum Economy’ is growing. By 2025 it is expected to be worth £9.5 billion to the UK economy and businesses run by mums by this time will have created and supported more than 217,600 jobs. The idea of starting a business for women is gathering steam because returning to a 9-5 corporate career is tricky.

With flexible work still being a topic of debate within many corporate organisations, the childcare costs and the reduction in wages when dropping a day or two mums, now more than ever, are starting to realise there is another way, that we can have a successful work or business life as well as looking after our family. Really all we want is to be able to manage our working day, if that means working for ourselves and starting a business then so be it.

My story is the same as thousands of others; I didn’t want to pay £15 a day to a childminder while I was commuting for three hours simply getting to work and back; that’s £15 on top of the £40 I would be paying to actually complete my eight-hour working day. The wages I would have had in the bank after childcare and commuting costs was a feeble amount even on a good salary. So I thought to myself, ‘if I can’t make that feeble amount on my own then what the heck have I been working so hard for these last 15 years?’

This was how I was feeling back in 2013 and then I started to think about alternatives. Events are my thing and I knew 100 per cent I could deliver events as a service. So I decided to start my own B2B event management agency which launched when Molly was nine months old in 2014, instead of returning to my job after maternity leave as a marketing manager for a city tech firm.

This journey of going through that conundrum and then starting a business led to my ‘lightbulb’ moment for the Mums Enterprise Roadshow. And for two years now I have been working with my business partner Lucy Chaplin to bring these exhibitions to life and help other mums find the flexible work or business solution that suits them. I no longer organise events for other companies, it seemed like that business was a stepping stone to what I was meant to be doing with my professional life now.

From this experience, I know what it feels like to have worked so hard climbing the career ladder and then have your circumstance change after a baby. You still want to do ‘something’ but the question is always…what? So here are some top tips from me about how I went about planning a business while on maternity leave.

Get everything from your head onto paper

Write a one-page business plan – you don’t need a long document, just something to guide you and get an idea from your head to paper. This is a great template from Talented Ladies Club – view and use it here.

Understand your market and audience. Make sure you know who your ideal customers are and start making a list of companies or individuals to contact, and ways you can reach them. As you start to write your business plan this will form part of it. Get help here.

Identify a need for your service or product. You can share a Survey Monkey link in Facebook groups, on your Facebook personal page and in general out to Twitter etc. Just get it out there and ask people to complete it. People generally are nice and helpful. Avoid asking family, you need strangers opinions and ideally the opinions of those ‘ideal customers’ you will be ultimately targeting. So don’t post the link in a ‘construction in the UK Facebook group’ if you will be targeting mums.

Set a date for when you will be ‘in business’ and work towards that. Arrange childcare if you can or plan for that day to be a ‘working day’ and for your mindset to really mean business.

Before then your to-do list should look like this:

  • Set up your social media profiles for the business – set them up and claim the names. Decide which ones are best for you with this helpful article about using social media for business by Talented Ladies Club
  • Set up a web domain and get your emails sorted for your business domain – gmail really doesn’t look good. But you can have a business address using gmail emails – see how here
  • Sort your website out -whether it’s a one pager or more complex. You don’t need to spend thousands, pennies will do and if you are not sure just ask a friend. Anybody honestly can do it, don’t be afraid of trying. See Wix, Webflow and WordPress and there are so many others
  • Start scouting for business, start making lists of the type of companies you will contact to try and sell to. Just create an Excel document and start making a hit list. Same for place to promote yourself, make a list of places you need to be seen like Facebook groups, Linked-in Groups, Free online Business Directories, networking groups etc.

Then I would say you are pretty much ready to roll. You will never be 100 per cent ready; there will always be more prep work you can do. But you will never get going if you try to perfect everything. Nothing is ever perfect and you will find your journey will take you somewhere, you had no clue it would ever go and you WILL make mistakes. But that’s all part of the fun and why you will keep learning for as long as you are in business. I certainly learn every day, I make mistakes and the only way to correct them is to make them in the first place. Even if your first business idea doesn’t work out, I am sure it will lead to something else. Just start the process again, don’t be afraid to fail.

To finish, just a few tips about working around a baby when planning all this.

Laptops and the ‘cloud’ are glorious things. I took my laptop outside with me, to the park and to cafés as I still had Molly and wanted to get her out and about. But she was only seven months or so when I started to plan so she could easily be entertained by a few toys. I also sometimes sat close to a café to access WiFi without having to go in.

Work in the evenings and during your babies nap times.

Keep the most of weekends when you other half can take the baby and give you some time to focus.

Write to-do lists – plan what you are going to do when.

If you are going for a walk with your laptop but won’t have access to WiFi plan to do jobs where you don’t need it.

Plan childcare. This is from the date you have set as your very first ‘business working day’. Arrange childcare if you can with family or friends. Even if it’s just two mornings a week, take it seriously and use that time to work. Do not get distracted by the washing up. For me I found a childminder and budgeted eight hours a week childcare to start with. That was £40 a week as I had no family to help me living nearby. But that eight hours a week was all I needed to make the sales calls to land my first client with a value of £2,500.

If you are seeking support you can attend our free child-friendly work and business exhibitions, join our supportive Facebook group or follow us on social media @MumsEnterp. I promise you are not alone, you’ll see.

Lindsey Fish is founder of The Mums Enterprise Roadshow

Further reading on mums and business

Nominations are now open for the British Small Business Awards 2017, the leading event celebrating the brightest stars in the SME sector. Click here to enter, and make sure you get involved today using the hashtag #BSBAwards. Good luck!

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