Mums The Boss – The Blog

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42-16072097Most of the time I feel like I’m operating on a completely different time zone to my children. They never want to eat when I want them to, or get dressed, or have a bath, or – God forbid – go to bed!

Similarly I find that I am rarely ready to wake up in the morning when they want me to. Nor do I find I want to be used as a trampoline when they think it’s a good idea. And, of course, as soon as I want to work, that is when they want me to play!

And on those occasions when I am running late or in a hurry I find those are the precise times when they decide to be as awkward, obstinate and downright difficult – isn’t that strange! When I want them to walk they run. When I WANT them to run, they dawdle. Why IS it that our timings never seem to match?

I am sure, in years to come the problems will be different but still as frustrating. Then they won’t want to get up in the morning or come home at night when by the time I set as curfew. I can only hope that at SOME point in our lives we find ourselves operating in a similar time zone and enjoy doing the same things at the same times!

Spare Room Start Up coverSpare Room Start Up: How to Start a Business from Home is written by Emma Jones, the founder of Enterprise Nation, the UK’s largest website for people starting and growing a business from home. Emma also runs the Home Business Awards, produces the annual Home Business Report and advises Government on the topic of home-working, so has a fine pedigree to be writing a book on home-working.

My first impression of the book was that it would look just as good on your coffee table as it would on the bookshelf in your office. To me this book was more than just about starting a business from home – it was about making a lifestyle choice and this was illustrated beautifully by the informal photos of Emma with her family, friends and colleagues.

Like the Enterprise Nation website, the book is split into 3 categories – Business, Lifestyle and Technology. The Business section takes you step by step from getting an idea for your business and writing a business plan through to marketing your business and making that all important first sale. The Lifestyle section discusses setting up your home office, work life balance and taking care of yourself while the Technology section helps you choose the right equipment for your business, at home and when on the move, as well as a good website.

I particularly liked the Lifestyle section, which is something that doesn’t tend to be touched on by other start-up books. For a mum it is SO important to look after yourself, as you are the pivotal person in the family. So advice on eating healthily, exercising and balancing work and home are just as important as choosing the right printer or phone. I also loved the home office section. Working as I do on a laptop on my dining room table the idea of having a designated working space is heavenly to me and Emma was the first person to introduce me to the concept of ‘shed-working’, which has now become the working environment of my dreams!

Emma ends each chapter of the books with links to useful website resources. For a busy mum starting a new business it is so helpful to have someone do all the time-consuming internet research for you – and being a year down the road of my own home business I still picked up some really useful resources which I know will help me out in the future. In addition there are numerous pages of templates at the back of the book to help you write your business plan, marketing plan, press release etc…

Spare Room Start-up is a useful guide from someone who is clearly passionate about helping others achieve their home working dream. This passion is further accentuated by the numerous inspiring case studies of successful home business owners who have walked the walk and now wouldn’t dream of returning to the rat race. Other start-up books may go into finer detail about each individual topic but this may be the book you return to time and time again, as a friendly reminder that you CAN live the dream!

PH01449JNow that we have officially arrived in summer holiday territory, many of us will have calenders crammed with numerous children events, outings, meet ups, sleep overs etc…..and you may be beginning to wonder ‘How am I ever going to fit in any work?’. Most of us are self-employed because of the flexibility this affords us to be able to be with the children during their holidays. But how do you keep everything ticking along?

Nobody said it was going to be easy….but mums are incredibly clever at multi-tasking and time management, and work at home mums even more so. Try not to feel guilty about finding time to do some work – you are still spending more time with your children than normal, and it is good for them to know you have to work sometimes, and that it is for the whole family’s benefit in the long run.

So – how do you do it? Here are some ideas from us to help you squeeze in some work whilst enjoying the holidays with your offspring;

  1. Family – Grandparents and other relatives are often happy to help – sometimes they are just waiting to be asked. Even if it is a trip to the park, a picnic or going with Gran to do some shopping, children enjoy being with other people.  And you’ll be amazed at what YOU can achieve in an uninterrupted hour! 
  2. Friends – Most parents have friends with children of similar ages. Try and plan some time when you will look after each other’s children – the children enjoy having friends over and sometimes having extra children can be less work as they play together rather than needing you to entertain them. For the parents it frees up small pockets of time to get some phone calls made or other ‘work’ which is harder to do when the children are around. 
  3. Time Out – Plan ‘quiet time’ into each day at home. If you still have children who nap, excellent. If your children no longer nap there is no reason why 20 – 30minutes playing quietly in their room cannot become a normal part of the day. When everyone is home together without the pre-school/school/nursery routines, some time apart can prevent the family niggles that build up when spending so much time together. This time can be used to check and answer any important emails each day.
  4. Holiday Clubs – If you can, why not look at local holiday clubs – some have very flexible arrangements and even if it is 1 morning a week you will manage to get a huge amount achieved. It is also a good way for the children to play with other children and be entertained in a different environment. Some Local Authorities also run very low cost summer play schemes in parks for older children.
  5. Evenings – All WAHM’s are familiar with working in the evenings once the kids are in bed. If you have a supportive partner maybe they can be persuaded to take over the tea, bath & bedtime routine a couple of nights a week – that way you can get some work done – and still spend some  evening time with them.
  6. Weekends – Weekends are great for family time, but also a great time to steal a couple of quiet hours to keep the business ticking over. If you have somewhere quiet to work at home that helps. If not, persuading the rest of the family to go to the park for an hour or two will help your concentration.
  7. Planning/Lists – take a notebook with you whenever you take the kids out. Any spare time you have while they play can be turned into a great ‘list making/planning’ opportunity. You can keep one eye on them whilst jotting down ideas and things that need to be done later.
  8. TV – Whilst we are not advocating your children spend the entire summer spent watching it, it can be a valuable tool for the WAHM. If your children will sit and watch favourite programs  or a DVD  then use that time to your advantage. 
  9. Organisation – Be ultra organised – have a clear idea of what is a priority and what the minimum amount is to achieve. Use time without children around to make phone calls and do tasks that require full concentration. Use other times to work on the computer and send emails as it doesn’t matter if you get interrupted. Keep a list and enjoy ticking things off, you will be amazed at what you can achieve.
  10. Take a break! – Have a holiday yourself – you are entitled and you certainly deserve it!  If you were employed then it is likely you would be taking a break at some point.  Don’t forget the reason for working at home is to be with the children and enjoy the holiday times.

Hopefully some of the above tips will help keep your productivity levels up this summer – as well as your sanity! And if you have any good tips to share – don’t be shy – leave a comment!

Bear HuntIn times when money is tight networking is undoubtedly a cost effective way to let people know about your business. However, few people I have met actually enjoy it or find it easy. There is no doubt that you can learn certain tricks of the trade which will help you work the room more confidently but if you are new to business, and a mum, the thought of walking into a room full of ‘proper’ business people can feel intimidating and overwhelming.

That is exactly how I felt a year ago when we set up Mum’s The Boss. I still felt I was ‘playing’ at being self employed – it wasn’t as though our mortgage payments depended on my success. Yes I was in business, but I was more interested in making some extra pocket money each month, to pay for the little luxuries, rather than becoming a business tycoon!

It was for those reasons that we wanted Mum’s The Boss meetings to be as friendly and informal as possible (as well as include lots of nice cake!). We didn’t want any mum, however new to business, to feel intimidated about coming along and showcasing her business – and for admitting that first and foremost she is a mum and her children come first.  

Maybe our purpose in life is to bridge the gap between complete networking phobia and ‘real’ networking!  So to ease that transition, here’s a little something familiar that might make you chuckle to yourself next time you find yourself networking out there in the big, wide world!

 

We’re Going to a Networking Meeting

We’re going to a networking meeting
We’re going for referrals
What a beautiful day
We’re not scared

Uh-oh  – a drinks reception
We can’t go over it
We can’t go under
We’ll have to go and join it!

Sip, slurp, shuffle, smile 

We’re going to a networking meeting
We’re looking for referrals
What a beautiful day
We’re not scared 

Uh-oh  – a one minute elevator pitch!
We can’t go over it
We can’t go under
We’ll have to stand up and do it! 

Um, errrr, mumble, quiver, sweat.

We’re going to a networking meeting
We’re looking for referrals
What a beautiful day
We’re not scared

Oh, what’s this?

One navy suit…..
…Two shiny black shoes……
……..A big box of business cards…

AARRGH – IT’S AN ACCOUNTANT! 

Quick, hurdle over the chairs
Sprint past the bar
Back into my car

Drive home
Into the house
Pour some wine 

Grab a Mars Bar
Run up the stairs
Hide under the covers

We’re not going to a networking meeting again!

 

(NB. Apologies to any Accountants – I know several Accountant’s who are lovely but I needed to pick a profession with the right number of syllables to fit the poem – well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!!)

Twitter_Bird_Logo_by_iPotionToday’s Follow Friday blog post is another one close to my heart and all about some of our lovely Mum’s The Boss members who regularly frequent the Twitter airways! All of them have fab blogs or websites, or in Sarah’s case both!

@HelenLindop Helen has been a member of MTB right from Day 1 when she came along to our very first meeting with her baby daughter. Soon after Helen found out she was pregnant with baby No 2, meaning she would have only a 15month gap between babies, and she has spent this entire pregnancy researching business ideas in readiness for the arrival of her 2nd child. Helen’s blog is charting her research – so for any wannabe Mumpreneurs you really should read Helen’s blog http://helenlindop.wordpress.com/,  which is honest, impartial and informative, because she has done all the hard work for you!

@Ivy_House Sarah is the founder of Ivy House Interiors and a very sweet and funny lady. I found Sarah on Twitter a few months back when I was searching for businesses in Bedfordshire, and invited her along to our group. In the short time I have known Sarah she has launched her website, a fabulous blog with a great Wallpaper of the Week feature and just this week has appeared in the local press in a feature on local businesswomen! If her success continues as this rate, then this is a lady to watch!  

@tummies Donna is one of our newest members and very new to business (only 3-4 months) but you would never know it if you met her. A nurse by profession Donna had a lightbulb moment about a business idea and just went for it – which I absolutely love about her! She sells fabulous hand-appliqued clothes and blankets for children – so if you like things colourful and funky then www.tummiestotantrums.co.uk is the place for you!

@susie72 Susie is an aspiring web designer and is currently redesigning the Mum’s The Boss website for us, in between baking delicious cakes and cruelly posting pictures of them on Twitpic! Susie especially deserves a follow as today she has just set up and posted on her blog http://wisegenius.wordpress.com/ for the very first time. So make her day and leave a comment on her very first post to set the standard for the future!!

As well as these 4 lovely ladies we have lots of other great mums running great businesses whose websites are listed in the Members section of our blog – and hopefully one day I will tempt some more of them over to join us on Twitter!

superwoman-300x286This week Mum’s The Boss is attending a local business event – not as visitors as you might think, but rather as invited guests where we will on hand to talk to visitors who are thinking of starting their own business.

This marks a massive turning point for us. In less than a year we have gone from the people seeking advice to those giving it! It is also an enormous compliment that outside agencies rate what we do enough to include us in their event and a fantastic way for us to raise our profile amongst local businesses.

When we started out less than a year ago we contacted lots of local organisations asking for help and sponsorship and in all but a few cases never received any replies to our requests. We quickly got the feeling that people viewed us as ‘just a group of mums’ and not really worth taking seriously. It made me smile then last week when 2 of these organisations contacted us out of the blue with offers of assistance and support – obviously word has got out that this ‘group of mums’ is going from strength to strength!

We are just one tiny example of what mums can achieve when they put their minds to it. All over the country mums are making a difference to their schools, families and local communities as well as in business.  Look around you – Mum Power is happening everywhere!

In business mums inherently possess a number of skills which can make them great entrepreneurs. Bringing up a family makes you skilled in the art of multi-tasking, prioritising, negotiating and dealing with finances. As women we are good at thinking creatively, being supportive and generous with our time and often adopt a more more holistic approach to business. And working around a demanding family we can be incredibly productive given limited amounts of time!

Mums know how to get the best from social networking  by doing what they do best – making connections and chatting! Women concentrate on building relationships first and doing business second. Work at home mums with online businesses can generate healthy sales by promoting themselves in a friendly and generous way. How much cheaper is that than paying for expensive advertising that people may never read?

Sally Walker of Squash Box Media has written a brilliant article on The Power of the Social Media Mum. “If you want a piece of news to spread quick, you don’t need to publish it in the daily newspaper or hire a TV crew to come round and interview you on the news. Just find a Mum who has a computer and let her do it for you…..What better way to promote something than by getting millions of Mum’s worldwide to chat about it online.”

Plus a new genre of Mummy Bloggers has emerged, who are generating an enormous amount of attention from their online thoughts and recommendations. Some are even being approached by large companies asking them to review their products, such is the sway their opinion holds. Mum’s like to turn to other mums for advice, hence the growth of online communities and forums such as Netmums, Mumsnet and Gurgle. Individually mums have a powerful voice – but en masse they can be formidable! 

So whatever it is you do, or want to achieve, never underestimate yourself or your ability to make things happen. A mum who feels passionate about something is a force to be reckoned with. Never think ‘but I’m ONLY a mum’ – YOU are a superhero!

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