By: Zoe Bolechala
I had the idea for my business, before the birth of my first son. I wanted curtains and soft furnishings for his nursery that were quirky, vibrant and reflected my own taste. So I found some fabric I loved and made my own. Life and motherhood took over but, following the birth of my second son, I came back to the idea, having gained an appreciation of how important black-out curtains and blinds really are.
Since graduating from a foundation year at Central St Martins in 1997, professionally my creativity had been put to one side in favour of a career in project management and marketing.
I wanted to work for myself for a few different reasons. Primarily, I wanted to find a way of working that would be flexible, on my own terms, and allow me to spend more time with the boys. I often asked myself “Why am I doing this?” as I dropped my elder son at nursery four days a week.
I also wanted to get back to doing something more creative, that I really enjoyed and found satisfying. Time becomes so precious when you have children, and I wanted to make sure the time I had to spend away from them gave me some fulfillment too.
Now, having taken the plunge, here I am, enjoying making bespoke, quality curtains and blinds from my Brighton-based workroom (with my husband Luke’s support); indulging my love of all things vintage, sourcing one-off fabrics, and loving the resurrection of my creative side.
Looking for advice on how to start my business, I attended Mumsnet’s Workfest 2013. I left feeling inspired and determined to make my business a success. A year on, I’ve just enjoyed my first week of full-time small business ownership, having just resigned from my day job. My commute is to my work room in our former garage.
Here are some of the things I’ve learnt along the way
Flip your schedule around. Starting a new business does take a lot of time and energy. I found it by carefully structuring my time. Days centered around my children, so evenings became the best time to get things done – there are no childcare costs and you’re only clock watching for bedtime. Some evenings I did just want to flop on the sofa, but the vision I had for a truly flexible home and work life made me make a coffee and get on with it. Energy can be harder to come by…I found mine by taking snippets of time out for myself, seeing friends or going for a run to clear my head.
Take advantage of the support around you. This was a clear message I came away from Workfest with. Lots of us try to do it all and, although we may just be able to manage, why do it to yourself? I asked my parents and husband to look after the boys two times a week. I also started asking friends for help in their areas of expertise in exchange for a coffee, or skills-swaps for bigger tasks.
Put plans for perfection aside. Waiting for the perfect moment, idea or time to start my own business stopped me achieving my ambition for years. Having children and doing a full-time job in part-time hours, I learnt that “good enough” really is just that. I also learnt how to do some extreme prioritizing. I still am a perfectionist at heart, which is useful for the business I’m in, but it doesn’t help when trying to set up. A business plan is useful to keep your focus, but you don’t need everything planned out to get your business started; flexibility is vital too.
Notice your networks. The concept of “networking” had always given me the shivers in my professional life, but I’ve realized that life is one big network without the name tag. Once you are doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like networking, it’s just chatting. Start talking about your business idea now and you’ll gain valuable feedback. You never know where a casual conversation in the park might lead to.
Put your mind to it. I had talked myself out of business ideas for years. If you really want to get a business off the ground, decide what it is, make sure it is viable, and then be really positive about it. My experience of natal hypnotherapy, after a first emergency C-section, gave me an appreciation of the power of the mind. I decided that if I was going to spend time away from my children working, I wanted to do something I really enjoyed.
Set firm financial goals. Work back from what you need to live on to know what the business needs to make.
Source: the telegraph