Amy and Chris, founders of The Northern Dough Co, share their Start Up Story

Sharing the stories behind small businesses is one of my favourite parts of having this blog. I love finding out how they started and what the day to day looks like. Running a business as a parent with young children can be tricky to say the least but Chris and Amy Cheadle are bossing co-parenting and running a growing succesful retail brand. Amy is one of my Coffee Work Sleep Creative Community members and it’s been exciting get to know her over the past few months and to see her business go from strength to strength. 

Hi, we’re Chris and Amy Cheadle, and we run the retail bakery brand The Northern Dough Co. We met at university in Leeds towards the end of our courses, and loved plotting ways that we could run a business together in the future (everything from see-through toasters to achieve the perfect colour on your bread, to running our own restaurant) but after graduation, we each secured corporate roles and carried on dreaming. After we married in 2011 (on the same day as Wils and Kate! An unplanned clash!) we realised the idea had been staring us in the face, as Chris’ family had been bakers for three generations before him. We started The Northern Dough Co. soon after. 

   

Tell us a little bit about your business 

We make a range of freshly frozen pizza dough, that’s available to purchase through supermarkets. Making pizza with fresh dough creates the freshest, crispest pizza you’ll eat at home, and you can top it in a million ways, exactly as you want to. Before we launched the company, the only way to make your own pizza was to make your own dough from scratch, and it put lots of people off as it can be tricky and time consuming. We use 100% natural, premium, store cupboard style ingredients to make our dough in the bakery the family has owned for over 100 years, freeze it as soon as its mixed, and all our customers need to do is defrost, roll, top and bake, and they have a freshly baked pizza in under 20 mins. We sell it to supermarkets across the UK, including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, Booths and Wholefoods, and its stocked in their freezer departments, meaning we don’t have to use any preservatives to keep it fresh.

 

Once you had the idea how did you go about turning it into a business?

One night, as we were eating pizza that we’d made using dough from the bakery, we realised that we couldn’t just go out and buy something similar in the supermarket. The bakery had supplied Italian restaurants for decades with their artisan recipes, but had never created a brand that individual shoppers could purchase in the supermarket. We realised that was our opportunity, and decided to create a brand, along with some additional products, which is where the chilli and rosemary pizza dough variants came from. We worked with the bakery team to develop new recipes, and then evenings and weekends with a friend who is a talented designer, to create the brand identity and packaging, and then booked onto a food festival in Clitheroe to test it with consumers and see what they thought. By the time we’d sold out of all our stock (twice) at Clitheroe, we knew it was worth pursuing, and Chris quit his job soon after to focus on it full time.

 

The early days!

 

What careers did you have before you founded the Northern Dough Co and does the experience you gained from them apply now?

I (Amy) worked for 14 years in retail marketing and analytics, specifically with brands supplying into supermarkets, so the experience has been the best foundation for building my own brand, understanding how to pitch it to supermarkets, and understanding how to make it sell once its on the shelves. The challenge is the difference in budget, while the brands I was working with before had hundreds of thousands to spend, my budget is a lot more modest, so creativity is key! Chris worked in classic business analysis roles, before specialising in Ux for one of the leading price comparison sites, so his skills apply directly to all the processes behind the business, as well as making sure the creative side pays back in sales.

 

Do you have clearly defined roles and responsibilities when it comes to the day to day of running your growing business?

We’re both very hands on, and its unusual we’ll work in isolation on any single task, as there’s only the two of us who run the business (we make fantastic use of outsourced skills, and love working with independent specialists in their field, like freelance designers and independent marketing agencies) but we do tend to focus on our areas of experience, with me (Amy) working mainly on sales and marketing, and Chris on operations and finance.

Has being married and being parents influenced the way your business works? 

We started the business shortly after getting married, but didn’t have children, and the biggest adjustment was getting used to being in each others’ space all the time. We’ve always been very open with each other, and being married and having no boundaries on what we can discuss has hugely helped us, as it means we get through any disagreements quickly. We had our first baby three years after the businesss started, and it changed everything. We went from being able to pull out all the stops and work around the clock when we needed to, to having to stick to schedules and tag team each other in and out of our home office, the illusion of being able to work while the baby slept certainly wasn’t true for us. The initial months were challenging, as it felt like we weren’t moving forward, but what we realised was that both being at home, and being entirely flexible for our children was a huge goal. Unlike so many Dads who work out of the home, Chris was a co-parent from day one, and continues to be so. We often say that if it all ended tomorrow, the most valuable thing would be the time we’ve both been able to have hands on with our children, despite the huge juggling act it requires.

What do you do to manage your time and what tips do you have for avoiding being overwhelmed?

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when you feel that there’s a million things you could do to move your business forward if only you made the time. It can make any non-working time really guilt-inducing, even more so if that time isn’t then dedicated to family. I knew early on that the pressure of the business, my own personality and having two children within 18m of each other was a recipe for burnout, so I invested in a coach and it was the best money I’ve spent. She helped me to realise that working flat out is counterproductive, that I had an entire lifetime to achieve the goals I had in mind, that taking time out for myself made me more efficient, and that keeping a network of friends is invaluable. They all sound like obvious points, but when you have someone else’s voice in your mind repeating that advice, and giving you permission to do things differently than you’ve been trained to in corporate environments, it makes a huge difference.

I run on black coffee and chocolate biscuits when I’m working, what couldn’t you live without?

Very similar here! A good coffee machine at home and a big supply of things to nibble on! I couldn’t live without working where my dogs are though too, I’ve worked from home for over 10 years now, and have found myself at my desk for too many hours at a stretch on too many occasions. Its lovely to be able to take a quick break and have a minute with my whippets, who are always lounging somewhere nearby, they say that spending time with animals is a proven stress reliever and it definitely works for me.

 

When running a business these days, you need to build a strong social media presence, which platform do you have the most success with?

For me, it’s different platforms for different purposes, as the different groups that make up my target audience interact on different platforms. For example, I have a big following from outdoor cooking enthusiasts, who love to make pizza in wood fired ovens or on their BBQs, but they only use Twitter, so my content there needs to point to them. Over on Instagram, which receives by far the most interaction for me, it’s more about families and people who are seeking recipe inspiration. I’m lucky in that as a food brand that relies on recipes, there’s endless content that I can create. I create all the recipes for social media and snap them all on my iphone, it can take hours but it’s my favourite part of the job!

What’s been the hardest part of your life as a small business so far and how do you overcome those kinds of hurdles?

Working in retail is a really fast moving environment, and with the size of the individual supermarkets, a listing on their shelves is a huge game changer for our business. The buyers frequently change roles though, so on many occasions we’ve spent months meeting with someone, getting excited about the progress, only for them to move onto a new role and we then have to start again with a new contact. The first time it happened was a big blow and felt like a backwards step, but over the years we’ve talked to so many other small food brands and it happens to us all. When the listing eventually does happen, it always feels like it was the ‘right time’ and that perhaps the previous setbacks wouldn’t have worked quite as well, so we try to keep that in mind when faced with the disappointment.

 

What is the best part of running your own business? Has there been a ‘pinch yourself to check it’s real’ kind of moment for you?

It has to be the flexibility and the opportunity to set your own agenda, especially because we’re married, so taking a day off together because the sun is shining and we want to make the most of it and push work commitments back to the evening is our choice. It works the other way though, with holidays involving at least a few hours of work squeezed in every day, but it’s absolutely worth the balance and to not have to answer to anyone. Looking back on our lives with our four and two year old, knowing that as parents we’ve been able to be there equally for them since day 1 because of our business is something that we feel incredibly happy to have experienced, we never take that time for granted.

If you could go back in time to when you started up and give yourself some advice what would it be?

To be really clear on your objectives, and what your business does and doesn’t do and stick to them when faced with opportunity. What’s lovely about running a small business is the amount of people who offer ideas and opportunities to take your business in a new direction, but when time and resources are tight, it can dilute your focus and mean you’re stretched too thin on the fundamentals. While its always worth weighing all opportunities (some of our best have come out of the blue), making sure that they don’t divert you completely off course is really important, or you can end up with bits of business here and there that are difficult and time consuming to service. Spending a decent chunk of time upfront mapping out your objectives and plans, having a really clear target audience and asking yourself what you provide them with is really important, as if a new opportunity pops up that doesn’t fit with those things, you know it’s either not right (or not the right time) to pursue it. 

What are your hopes for the future of the Northern Dough Co?

We’d love to grow the range of products that we offer, and in the same way we were the first company to bring pizza dough to the UK supermarkets, do the same for other products. We’ll always keep our ethos of ‘great food shared together’ and create products that encourage people to share the cooking experience. We’re so lucky that lots of our customers get in touch to say that they’ve had tons of fun making pizza with their children, or enjoyed a brilliant date night of making pizza for their partner, that as long as we keep hearing that kind of feedback, we know we’re doing the right thing.

Whether practical or inspirational, what is your top piece advice for anyone out there wanting to take that leap and start their own business?

If you think starting a business is for you, create it in a market that you’re passionate about. Just because there’s a gap in the market, or an opportunity, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. In the early days, you’ll likely work long hours for little or no pay, and your enthusiasm will soon run out if you don’t love it regardless. Chris and I used to spend up to 18 hours a day doing food festivals, with all the set up and prep either end, and then break even after five days (or lose money if it was a wash out and poured down!). We had to do it to create brand awareness, and we loved it because we believed in the product and we were together, so it never felt like ‘work’ in the true sense. You also have to be incredibly realistic, as starting a business is emotionally tough, while the wins are incredible, the lows can feel very personal and without a team of people, it’s easy to feel isolated and defeated. Surrounding yourself with people in a similar situation is essential, so you can pick up the phone or meet for a coffee and know you’re going through the same emotions as everyone else, a network of ‘virtual colleagues’ is the best team you can have. 

 

A huge thank you to Amy and Chris for taking part in my Start Up Stories feature. I hope you enjoyed reading about them and their business as much as I did. Please do check out their social media – their Instagram especially is worth a follow for lots of recipe ideas!

You have the chance to win an exclusive Northern Dough Co personalised pizza cutting board!

Enter below to be in with a chance of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(full terms and conditions can be found below)

GOOD LUCK!

 

Find out more about The Northern Dough Co

The Northern Dough Co

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Photos by Robyn Swain Photography

Terms and conditions

UK entries only
The prize is –
1 x personalised pizza cutting board
A choice of design variations

 
There is no cash alternative
Giveaway ends 30/09/2018 at 11.59pm
When the winner is announced they will have 48 hours to get in contact, if they do not then another winner will be drawn
Anyone that does not complete the compulsory entry will be disqualified
The prize will be sent out to the winner by the Northern Dough Co

morganaAmy and Chris, founders of The Northern Dough Co, share their Start Up Story
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Using Xero Accounting Software as a Small Creative Business

I’ll hold my hands up, and I’ll admit it, I’m not a numbers person. I very ashamedly fit the stereotype of a creative when it comes to my accounts. Whether it’s the simple things like keeping track of invoices, or saving my receipts for expenses to the bigger issues like working out profit and loss! It’s all been an uphill struggle for me and I’ve definitely had to learn on a trial and error basis. I know that I’m not alone in this, a quick chat in my Facebook group of small business owners, Coffee Work Sleep Creatives, showed that many of us struggled with the same issues.  We focus on the side of our business that we love and can do well and the other bits get put on that ‘to do’ list that gets regularly ignored until panic mode is reached!

As time has gone on I’ve taken the right steps to get a handle on my business finances as a blogger, coach and events organiser. I’ve got a separate bank account and Paypal account just for business so there’s not mix up trying to remember what’s personal spending and what’s business related. I keep spreadsheets to track my invoices and attempt to record my expenses by photographing and logging my receipts. However when it comes to pulling all that together and getting a good overall view of my business accounts I’m left scratching my head.

Xero is a cloud based accounting software platform for small businesses – could it be the answer to my prayers?

With Xero everything is in one place, I can keep track of my blog income, send out invoices to my coaching clients and get all the ticket sales info from my Coffee Work Sleep Creatives meet ups. All the information is at my finger tips, whether I open it up via the Xero app or use the website it gives me a real-time view of my cash-flow, anytime, anywhere. 

You can sync your business banking as well as any business Paypal accounts, this is really useful for me as my meet up tickets are paid through Paypal, and sometimes clients pay me via paypal for ease. Once all your banking info is sync you can label all your in coming and out going transactions making doing your tax return so much easier! If you are VAT registered it even helps you prepare for Making Tax Digital, it makes online submissions easy with simple, accurate tracking for any VAT scheme.

 If you set aside a little time each day, week or month, depending on your level of business, to check your bank statements are imported and up to date, and to reconcile your accounts it soon gets done and just becomes part of your working routine. No more spreadsheets, or folders with receipts and invoices.

Any kind of change or moving over from one system to another can be really daunting. When I had Xero set up for my previous business, an online shop, my accountant set it up for me. If you have an accountant and you’re interested in Xero it’s worth checking and asking if they are Xero partners and if they offer this kind of service. You can find a list of accountants that offer this here – Find an accountant. It makes things even more streamlined. If you’re going it alone on Xero don’t worry it’s very intuitive and easy to use. 

My top tips for getting started

  • make use of the guides and tutorials to get what you need from the platform
  • reach out to the support team if you get stuck, they are super helpful 
  • if you get overwhelmed then just take it a step at a time, you don’t need to master everything at once

 

It even integrates with other platforms, for example when I had my store I paired it up with WooCommerce via Trade Gecko, I know it works with Shopify too. There’s  are loads of different apps you can integrate with it which are definitely worth researching depending on your business needs.

Xero can do so much, and once you’ve taken a little time to get to know what it does and what you need from it it will make your life as a small business owner so much easier. Whether you are a blogger, a freelancer or have a handmaid business it’s worth looking into.

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to try out Xero for yourself then they offer a no obligation 30 day free trial via xero.com

 

I’d love your thoughts on this.

How do you keep track of your accounts?

Are you a natural numbers person, or like me, do you need all the help you can get?

 

morganaUsing Xero Accounting Software as a Small Creative Business
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Female Hosted Podcasts for Creative Business Owners and Bloggers

 

I am a huge podcast fan, I really enjoy finding shows that inspire me and push me in my business. I’ve collated the main podcasts that I’ve been listening to as I really think that you will find a whole lot of wisdom and inspiration in them too. If you are a blogger, a maker or a ‘one person band’ business that’s looking for female led podcasts, well, you’ve come to the right place. Each of these podcasts and hosts have positively pushed me to think differently and work smarter not harder. If you want loud, salesy, pushy podcast hosts that tell you to get a six figure (plus) business whatever the cost, then these are not your people. Instead each of these podcasts focus on aspects of building a sustainable business at your pace for your life.

 

Small and Mighty 

Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess is social media and branding coach for small businesses. In her podcast, Small and Mighty, Sam interviews small business owners and creative entrepreneurs. There is a great variety to her guests and I love hearing from so many people from different sectors. I actually discovered the One Girl Band podcast that I mention later on through Sam interviewing Lola. I’ll pop the link to that one below too.

Some favourites

Holly Tucker MBE, Not On The Highstreet, Holly & Co – I read Holly’s book, Build a Business From Your Kitchen Table, written with Sophie Cornish, and it helped me hugely when setting up Little and Fierce. In this episode Holly talks about her new venture, creative agency, Holly & Co.

Helping Your Shop to Thrive and Not Just Survive with Lucy Ward, Brand Director, Trouva I love Trouva, and listening to Lucy talk about it made me love it even more.

 

One Girl Band

Lola Hoad

I’ve followed Lola for a long time now, and what I love most about Lola’s podcasts, and what makes them a must listen each time an episode is released is her authenticity. She is honest and open and it feels like you’re having a pep talk from a friend that just ‘gets it’. Her strapline for the One Girl Band is perfect and I’m kicking myself that she got there first – ‘a podcast for female entrepreneurs and creatives who work for and by themselves’.

Some favourites

What to do when you feel stuck  – this episode is SO GOOD. I was feeling low and a bit, well, stuck, the other week and listening to this really helped me to re-focus. It’s reassuring to hear that you aren’t alone when it comes to the pitfalls of being self motivated in business.

How to fire your inner critic – I am terrible for letting my inner critic run riot and end up stopping new projects before even starting them. Lola talks through ways she has worked on moving past this and I found it really helpful.

 

Courage and Spice

Sas Petherick

Sas Petherick is someone that I discovered through Sara Tasker’s podcast, Hashtag Authentic. She mentioned the launch of Courage and Spice in an episode and I made a mental note to have a listen when it was live. Unlike some of the other podcasts featured here this one focuses on one main topic, understanding and overcoming self doubt.

Self doubt is crippling and is especially prevalent in women. I know it can creep up on me and massively impact on my work and productivity. The more you let it grow, the more it will take over. This podcast is so helpful in addressing this issue and giving advice and sharing the experiences of others.

Some favourites (with my favourite people in too!)

Imperfection and Instagram with Allison Sadler I LOVE Allison, and have been a huge Insta fan of hers for years now. She started up the hashtag, #freeupmyinsta in response to the algorithm and everyone getting stressed overthinking their instagram feeds. 

Success and Self Doubt with Sara TaskerI found this to be a really helpful episode, especially when I can’t seem to have any success without self doubt creeping in!

 

What She Said

Lucy Lucraft

This is new podcast for me and one that I would say is aimed at bloggers. Lucy is really easy to listen to and I love her calm and chatty style in this podcast. Each episode interviews a different blogger and gives them a platform to share both their story and give tips on relevant topics.
Something to be aware of with this podcast is the sound quality isn’t always great, especially on the older episodes and you’ll need to push the volume levels up high to catch bits.

Some favourites

Starting a blog, minimalism and avoiding comparison with Jessica Rose Williams – I love Jessica’s blog, I don’t even remember how I stumbled across it now. Maybe Pinterest? Either way as someone that’s into slow living and minimalism I find her blog super inspiring. What I didn’t know was just how new she is to blogging, she’s getting fantastic levels of engagement and traffic for someone so new to the scene. If you’re a blogger this is a lovely listen.

The Power of Focus, Community and How to Sell with Kayte Ferris – Kayte has such a beautiful blog, Simple and Season, it’s one that I read regularly so this was a must listen for me. As Lucy says, if you want to learn how to sell without feeling gross or need a boost of focus and creativity this ones for you!

 

On The Make

Josephine Brooks

This is a new podcast to me and I found it when researching this post. A podcast mostly aimed at makers and designers, more than service based businesses, but there is plenty of good advice and wisdom for all of us in there.

Some favourites

Slow Living and Being Intentional about Creating the Lifestyle You Long for with Becky Cole – I enjoyed hearing Becky’s story, I’d not come across her blog before, but slow living is

Getting Organised for the Busy Season Ahead  – A perfect listen for those that are creators and makers for whom Christmas is their busiest time. This helps you get ready and geared up for it.

 

Make It Happen

Jen Carrington 

I’m not sure how I found this particular podcast I think it was a suggested one on iTunes, however I found it I’m so glad I did. In fact Jen was featured in this weeks Hashtag Authentic talking about her ideal week (find it here). I love how Jen describes her podcast, Make It Happen is a podcast where I share ideas, insights and conversations about building a big-hearted business and living a wholehearted creative life. I find Jen so easy to listen to and I love the way she puts her ideas across.

Some favourites

Five reminders for big hearted creatives who are feeling the business blues – it’s hard to stay focussed on the positives sometimes, especially as a ‘one woman band’. Jen talks us through ways to work through these times and reminds us all how far we’ve come and what we’ve achieved.

Answers to five of the questions my clients always ask me about creative living – Jen talks us through issues like freaking out about money and paying the bills and how to not feel ‘icky’ when we market ourselves and our businesses.

 

The Janet Murray Show

Janet Murray

This podcast is a must listen for those with small businesses that are looking for more media and PR coverage but not sure where to start. I’m in Janet’s facebook group and have found it so helpful to chat with other business owners and talk through any problems we’re having. The Soulful PR podcast is more ‘business’ related than inspirational or creative. Don’t let that put you off as it’s packed with practical tips and advice that people pay a lot of money for and Janet shares it for free! There are hundreds of episodes so it’s a fantastic resource if you’re looking for help on a particular topic.

Some favourites

How to get more engagement on Twitter – Episode 214


This is so helpful if you’re new to twitter or feel like you’re floundering with little purpose.

How to tell stories using video with Xanthe Berkley – Episode 215


Xanthe is the queen of creative video and I love listening to interviews with her. I find her really inspirational and this podcast episode is full of 
 

 

Grow With Soul

Kayte Ferris

I’ve been a fangirl of Kayte’s ever since I stumbled across her blog a while back, I really resonate with her concept of slow marketing and working to build a sustainable, soulful business. If pushy sales tactics and click funnels make you feel icky then you need to check Kayte out.

Some favourites

A Slow Marketing Manifesto – This is Kayte’s first podcast episode and really explains the concept of slow marketing so it’s a great place to start.

Slow Living in The Hustle of Online Business with Geoffrey and Grace – Again, two of my favourites in one podcast episode! I’m very anti hustle as a concept and think it’s unhelpful to glorify busy-ness, both Kayte and Melanie shares their thoughts on it and give alternatives.

 

Blogtacular

Kat Molesworth

For those that don’t know, Blogtacular is actually an annual creative blogging conference in London headed up by Kat Molesworth. I went to Blogtacular a couple of years ago and loved it but unfortunately due to other commitments I couldn’t make the date last year and this year we’ve already booked to be in Leeds for the triathlon. Boo. Thankfully I can get some inspiration through Kat’s podcasts and the makers, bloggers and influencers that she features.

Some of my favourites

Episode 21: Allison Sadler – Allison is a bit like Instagram royalty for me. I’ve followed her for years and loved listening to this podcast as she told the story behind The People Shop, her store in Birmingham. 

Espisode 36: The ASA and CAP– This should be required listening for all bloggers and influencers that make money from working with brands.

 

Hashtag Authentic

Sara Tasker

As I mentioned earlier this podcast is by Sara Tasker, Instagram coach and photographic influencer. Often interview based this podcast is perfect for those wanting to work on their instagram, get inspired or hear from fellow creatives. Whether you’re a blogger or indie business owner or self employed creative there is so much to get from these interviews. 

Some favourites –

Is blogging still relevant, with Kat Molesworth – I found this episode so interesting both as a blogger and as a business owner. Kat reminds us of the importance of owning our own space and readers and not to be reliant on just one platform.

Avoiding the comparison trap – Sara discusses how we can keep perspective when the fear of failure hits and we get sidetracked by other people’s achievements. I think this is something we can all relate to and I found listening to Sara’s perspective so helpful.

 

Letters From A Hopeful Creative

Jen Carrington and Sara Tasker

I was really excited when I heard that Jen and Sara were teaming up to cohost a podcast together. Letters from a Hopeful Creative is based around listeners letters and questions to Sara and Jen and they use them to start discussions. 

Some of my favourites –

Let’s talk about pricing and knowing your worth – Whether you are a product based or a service based business, their is a whole lot of wisdom in this post. Pricing can be so very hard to get right and both Jen and Sara shed a lot of light on the issue and I finished the episode feeling more confident in my pricing strategy.

What do I charge for and what do I give away for free? – Again, another money based episode! I find that it’s a topic that isn’t mentioned much – unless you listed to those hustley podcasts that expect you to want a 6 figure business. I always struggle with giving away too much free content, so this helped me to think through how to readdress the balance.

 

Explore Your Enthusiasm

Tara Swiger 

I found Tara through Hashtag Authentic and oh man am I glad I did! Tara is a business coach based in the US and is bursting with creativity and so much wisdom for makers and creatives. I’ve signed up for one of her courses and got her book on order. Yep. Total fan girl right here.

Some favourites

Should You Work For Free – I’ve already shared this on social media and I think it’s a must for any creative/maker/freelancer/blogger

Long Term vs Short Term Thinking – This is something I often struggle with and find myself swinging between the two. Tara helps us make sure the work we do fits in with our long term goals.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this post and found some new and helpful podcasts to listen to.

If there’s any that inspire you that I’ve missed then do let me know in a comment, or if there’s a particular episode that inspires you then share that link too.

 

morganaFemale Hosted Podcasts for Creative Business Owners and Bloggers
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Coffee Work Sleep Creatives X The Northern Dough Co

We all know that working on your own can get lonely, whether that’s creating in a workshop or tapping away at your keyboard in a coffee shop or late into the night while your kids sleep. Not having colleagues to bounce ideas off to or just chat to about last night’s must see TV can soon become something you really miss. This is one of the core reasons why I created the Coffee Work Sleep Creatives, my community of creative entrepreneurs and small business owners, as much as this introvert loves having her own peaceful space to work I do miss having real life connections with people. I knew that I didn’t just want my creatives group to exist solely online but to have actual physical meet ups too. After a few months of just being a Facebook group I tentatively floated the idea of having a meet up and was blown away by the interest, not just from people I knew and already met for coffee one to one but people I’d never met in real life before. Last month we held our fourth meet up, and this one was a little different. Instead of being hosted by the team at Town House we met at the home of Amy and Chris the founders of The Northern Dough Co.

You might have spotted The Northern Dough Co products in the frozen section of your local Sainsburys or Waitrose, it’s ready to roll pizza dough. So what better way to showcase their produce to fellow Coffee Work Sleep Creatives than to host a pizza party! With cakes by Bex – The Brinscall Baker, who was our business spotlight for that month, it was the perfect culinary themed meet up.

   

 

Our members are from all over the North West of England (also a few based in North Wales and Southern Scotland!), but these meet ups usually attract those a little closer to Preston. One day I hope to have meet ups like this all over, but lets not run before we can walk.

 

Amy, Northern Dough Co and Bex, Brinscall Baker

   

 

Sometimes our meet ups are based around a particular theme, this time however, apart from quick intros from myself, our hosts and Bex the baker it was all about the mingle and the pizza and cake. Informal chatting at it’s finest. I loved having a wander and catching snippets of conversations, there was skill sharing going on, ideas being talked through as well as general ‘getting to know you’ kind of chats. 

 

 

The pizzas were delicious, as you’d expect them to be. Amy and Chris prepared them as we chatted and each pizza was stone baked in their outdoor oven. This totally got me Googling outdoor pizza ovens and imagining hosting our own family pizza parties in the garden! Of course, I’ll be hitting up my local Sainsburys to stock up on Northern Dough Co pizza dough.

 

   

If you are a female freelancer or creative business owner in the north west and would like more information about the group and our meet ups then take a look here –Coffee Work Sleep Creatives

We’ve got lots of exciting plans in September so come join in and be part of our community.

 

 

A huge thank you to Amy and Chris for hosting us and of course to Robyn Swain Photography for capturing the event so beautifully.

morganaCoffee Work Sleep Creatives X The Northern Dough Co
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Christina of Fish2 Photography shares her business Start Up Story

Lancashire based photographer Christina of Fish2 Photography is a friend and fellow CWS Creative, our paths cross personally and professionally and I’m always bowled over by the images that she captures in her work. I love finding out what motivated people to set up their business and how they manage it on a day to day basis, this is really what inspired me to set up the Start Up Stories feature. I hope you enjoy my interview with Christina, and don’t forget if you have any further questions just pop them in a comment at the end of the post.

Hi, I’m Christina and I am married to Rob. We have a little(ish) 17 month old crazy toddler called Ethan. I’ve been married for almost 6 years and I started my business back in 2008 which seems like forever ago now. I used to work for a local charity as well doing  graphic design, photography and videos but late last year I decided to quit and to focus solely on the business.

If you ever meet me in real life I am what is referred to as a fiery red head (haha) and with that have the rarest hair and eye colour combination in the world with my blue eyes and ginger hair.

 

Tell us a little bit about your business 

My business is called Fish 2 Photography and has been going for 10 years. I get asked a lot about why the unusual name and not use my own name like most photographers. Well when I sat down to think about what I would call my business I wanted to have something a little different and not just my name especially as I thought I might get married at some point and that would be a nightmare having to change EVERYTHING! When I was younger I used to get teased for having big eyes and I got called Fish and frog a lot so I decided to turn a negative into a positive and decided on Fish 2. There was never a fish 1 but the name also is initials for something else.

Once you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a photographer how did you go about turning it into a reality?

I decided about 5 years ago I really wanted to do this business thing properly and not just do bits here and there. I realised that I love capturing moments in people’s lives and I wanted to focus on their stories and helping to create memories.

I sat down and created a website, Facebook and Instagram pages and set myself a goal of being a fully functional business in 5 years time.

I decided to update my skills, as the last time I studied photography was at Uni,  so I signed up to do an University of Arts London course and put every penny the business earned into updating my equipment and making sure I was all legal, insured and a member of several guilds.

I had (and have) great clients who passed the word around and for the first 2 years I relied solely on referrals. I now do a bit of marketing and attend a few wedding fayres but I still think word of mouth is the best way to meet new clients.

Like so many of us you have what we call a ‘portfolio career’ where you not only have one job or business but a few on the go at the same time. What do you do and how did it come about?

I am a bit of a Jack (or Jill) of all trades as I can do graphic design, film, edit and produce videos, paint, sew, make model space guns for a TV show (don’t ask), photograph basically anything creative I will have a go at and have probably done at one point or another. My passion is definitely photography although I need the other bits to help keep me balanced and feeling creative.

With this I have done many different jobs through the business when people have asked me, especially ones who have seen my other work, and I do love doing them. I especially love helping out other local businesses and charities and sometimes just can’t say no. I think diversity helps creativity but I always come back to my camera, it’s like a part if me.

 

What’s been the hardest part of your life as a small business so far and how do you overcome those kinds of hurdles?

The hardest part I think is balancing the finances and not beating myself up about silly stuff. I’m not a maths whizz so I have to think carefully about what I spend money on but also I need to help provide for my family. and in all honesty, some months that can be a hard thing to balance. The creative side is easy and I love going on shoots and meeting clients but anything legal or maths based I always get Rob to help me out. I was definitely born a creative and not an academic!

I run on black coffee and chocolate biscuits when I’m working, what couldn’t you live without?

I used to run of cake and chocolate but since having my boy I’ve become dairy intolerant (boo!) So I now run on soya hot chocolate (thank you coffee shops) and any cake I can persuade my husband to make for me…that and Haribo!

 

When running a business these days, you need to build a strong social media presence, which is your favourite platform and do you have any tips for running it?

I love Instagram, I love seeing other people’s artwork and their creative ideas and also just normal un-posed photos of people’s daily lives. I have a real love for moments and stories and Instagram does that well without any, or much, of the drama you’d find on Facebook.

I don’t really have any tips, just be you, you can’t go wrong then.

 

What is the best part of running your own business? Has there been a ‘pinch yourself to check it’s real’ kind of moment for you?

Yes, a few times. It sounds weird but I still think that whenever someone books me either to do a commercial shoot or to do a wedding or family shoot.

I think the best part is that I’m happy, I’m starting to live out my dreams and that’s amazing, I never thought it would happen.

 I also get to control my work life balance. It’s hard at times don’t get me wrong but I got to see my baby grow up into a cheeky toddler at the same time as building a business. I usually get to work the hours that suit us as a family, spending some days with my boys where we can just play and have fun memories and some days working all day and night to get a job done. I honestly wouldn’t change it back to what I had a couple of years ago before I went on Mat leave.

Has being a parent influenced the way your business works? 

Yes and no. I don’t let being a mum stop me doing my work but I do try and work in days together as a family or just mum and son days into the diary. Being a parent helps me understand families more although my sister in law has always called me the baby whisperer, I think it gives you a different viewpoint.

It doesn’t change who you are as a person but it changes your motivations. I actually looked at this in a small personal photography project I did a few months ago where I photographed mums in their lives – work, business, home. I wanted to look at different people’s perceptions of what a mum actually is and how we don’t lose who we actually are.

 

Running a business as a ‘one girl band’ means you have to be and do everything from managing your budget, to marketing yourself, to being good at sales, what do you do to manage your time and what tips do you have for avoiding being overwhelmed.

I try and have set days for set activities. Monday afternoons are usually admin and catching up. I spend a lot of time on shoots, editing or meeting clients so I squeeze as much in as I can to that afternoon/evening so I’m ready for the week ahead and I start planning for the four to six weeks.

My biggest tip would be sometimes just give yourself a break. Have a little extra time eating your lunch in the sun, read a little longer, play with your kids an extra 30 minutes. Whatever you do that fills your ‘tank’ is going mean that you are filled and ready to give everything to your work and you aren’t likely to burn out.

 

What’s been your favourite shoot so far and why?

Hmm.. this is a really hard one as there genuinely are so many amazing people I’ve worked with and special moments I’ve captured I’d find it hard to choose.

I think I’m going to pick with my son’s first birthday cake smash. We waited for years to get pregnant and for a baby to ‘stick’ that it’s incredibly special to me personally. I spent ages planning it and getting props and a little studio to shoot in that I will always remember the chaos that happened and the moments I captured.

He’s such a wonderful little boy and has such a strong character I can’t wait to annoy him with the camera for the rest of his life haha!

Got any new ideas or goals you’d like to hit in the near future?

I think my next 5 year goal is to keep growing the business. I’d love to work with more local businesses, especially run by women so we can build each other up, and continue to do weddings. I’m not sure what else life will hold but I’ll be happy if I can achieve this. The other things relate to buying camera equipment and I really don’t want to bore you with that!

Whether practical or inspirational, what is your top piece advice for anyone out there wanting to take that leap and start their own business?

Go the extra mile, take the hit, do your best.  If you do this people will notice, maybe not right away but they will.

Treat everyone you work with respect and honour no matter if they’re in charge or you are.

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A huge thank you to Christina for sharing her story with us, I hope you found it interesting and please do get in touch with her if you’ve got any questions, or leave a comment below. 

 

Find out more about Fish2 Photography

FISH2 Photography

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Want to read more inspiring Start Up Stories? Just click on the image below 

Start Up Stories a series of interviews with parents that started up their own businesses

 

morganaChristina of Fish2 Photography shares her business Start Up Story
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5 Things You Need to Hear if You’re Juggling the Kids and Work This Summer

This is a post for all those freelancers and small business owners that will be working from home and looking after their children over the summer holidays. This will be my third summer doing the juggle and I’m still not a pro! In fact I think I’m the least organised and prepared that I’ve ever been!

Whether you are feeling ‘on it’ and armed with a ton of activities, booked holiday clubs etc, or if you are facing the six weeks with trepidation here are some things you need to know.

 

You Can Do Anything But Not Everything

 

This is my summer holiday mantra for sure.

Managing my expectations (and my children’s) is key to the summer. I won’t be able to get through my work AND do fancy day trips every day. Something has to give. A great thing to do is to take a few minutes to think about the work you have on and when and how you’ll do it, chat to your kids and get some ideas of what they’d like to do. Maybe involve them in the planning? This will communicate to them what’s realistic for the holidays, ie expensive days out every day may not be do-able. Some parents find that working in the evenings when the kids are in bed means that they have most of the day free, or getting up early to work before they wake up. It’s going to depend on the age of your kids and when you work best. Personally I try and get a couple of hours done in the morning most days when I know my daughters (7 and 10) just want to laze around in their pajamas watching TV. 

You cannot do it all though, if you try you’ll most likely end up feeling frustrated.

In light of that..

 

Don’t let the parent guilt take over

 ‘We get 18 delicious summers with our children. This is one of your 18. If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.’ Jessica Scott. 

Have you seen this floating around social media recently? Talk about piling on the parenting guilt! If you’re a working parent whether outside the home or from home this kind of quote is just so shaming. I don’t know about you but as a child most of my summer holiday memories involved me playing out with friends. I think I can count on one hand the trips I went on with my parents. Yet, I can hand on heart say I had the best childhood. I don’t look back on the summer holidays and wish my parents had made sure the summer revolved around me. Now, as a parent myself I am definitely not buying into this emotional manipulation. It’s not like I’m locking my kids away for six weeks, we will do fun things together, but both my husband and I are showing them that hard work goes into giving us the life that we have AND everything does not revolve around them! 

We can’t afford a fancy holiday this summer and I know that in the next few weeks my Instagram will be flooded with families having wonderful holidays. It’s hard not to feel down that I’m not giving that to my children this year. This is where my resilience has to step in and I put my positive pants on. I find that if social media is causing the comparison monster to rear its head I know I need to step back and re-evaluate. Sure, we might not be sunning ourselves in the south of France but we can create good memories here too. They don’t need to be insta-worthy, just fun for us.

 

Don’t be afraid ask for help

Swallow that pride, you really don’t have to do this on your own. In my post on surviving the summer one of the business owners tips is to organise childcare swaps. Chat with your friends and arrange a few days where you take their kids and another day they take yours. This frees up a day for each of you to work. Maybe you have family members near by who can take your kids out to the park one afternoon? Hit people up and plan it in, you don’t always need expensive holiday clubs – though they are useful.

We don’t have to do it all alone, we were never meant to – Brene Brown

 

Be present over perfect

Right, let’s get this out of the way  – you probably won’t have a plain sailing, perfect summer. Do yourself a huge favour and get the idea of perfection that you are hoping for or dreaming of out of your head. It doesn’t exist. Things with be so much better if you approach the six weeks with a dose of realism. Be present in each moment rather than wishing it was different or better or more Instagrammable. Honestly, you’ll find you enjoy things much more if you appreciate them for what they are rather than always wishing they were different.

 

You’ve got this!

However you decide to organise the summer holidays just know that you can do it. You and your kids will survive, and most likely will make some great memories in the process.

 

Free Weekly Summer Holiday Planner

If like me you’re a bit of a planner and you love getting ideas down on paper you might find my weekly summer planner useful. You can print off six copies and use them to break down the long weeks. I find having a few trips out planned and put down on paper help my kids know what’s going on and that mummy won’t be working all the time! If you’re dreading the holidays this is a great way of breaking the weeks and days into smaller sections so the six weeks don’t feel quite as daunting. However you’re feeling about the summer holidays having some ideas up your sleeve or a visual plan is always going to be helpful

free printable summer holiday planner

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Pin this to Pinterest for later

free weekly summer planner

 

 

How are you feeling about the summer holidays?

If you’d like any tips and help on how to practically balance work and kids then take a look at this post full of advice from parents that are in the same boat – The Juggle is Real

 

 

morgana5 Things You Need to Hear if You’re Juggling the Kids and Work This Summer
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Kylie shares jewellery brand Jack & Freda’s Start Up Story

Really excited to share this tassel earring queen’s brand story, Kylie of Jack and Freda is a creative superstar.. even if I do disagree with the way she has her cream teas (sorry not sorry!). If you’re an avid Instagrammer you might have even seen her gorgeous jewellery pop up already, where she counts Instagram royalty Erica Davies as a fan.

Hi, I’m Kylie, originally from Devon but now living in Berkshire with my 2 sons (3yrs and 7yrs) and husband. I’m very loyal to my Devon roots and for some strange reason it really riles me when people don’t agree with the Devonshire way of eating cream teas – CREAM FIRST!

 

Tell us a little bit about your business 

I used to work in advertising in London, but when we had our 2nd son we moved away from London to Wokingham, where we could afford a bigger house and garden. I just knew my old job and commute wouldn’t work around having kids, but I’m someone who loves working and always has a project on the go. I set up Jack and Freda (which are my grandparents names!) on maternity leave and it’s now in it’s 3rd year of business. I make tassel jewellery and also sell a range of products from other independent brands.

 

Once you had your idea for Jack  and Freda how did you go about turning it into a reality?

I almost can’t remember this stage as was in the midst of a new baby! I started by researching and contacting small brands asking if I could sell their products in my ‘shop’ (which initially was going to be a weekly market stall and website). Once I had a good selection of products, I started building my website and it’s kind of evolved from there. (I started out only selling other brands products and it’s only fairly recently that I started making jewellery which has really taken off).

What’s been the hardest part of your life as a start up business so far and how do you overcome those kinds of hurdles?

Time! Which I expect is most people’s answer! Having a really good idea but only being able to work on it during nap times and in the evenings was difficult. I have more time now my youngest is at pre-school, but there is never enough time in the day to do everything. The fun stuff is the making, but there’s also the admin of running a business, marketing, photography, fulfilment etc.  I’m trying to organise my child-free time so I do specific tasks on specific days, but I’m also a freelance social media manger for a couple of local businesses so time management is something I need to work on!

 

I run on black coffee and chocolate biscuits when I’m working, what couldn’t you live without?

Working from home means I eat a lot of pate on toast! I find myself having a second breakfast after the school run and not having a separate studio or workshop means I can access snacks all the time – not a good thing!

 

When running a business these days, especially an online store, you need to build a strong social media presence, which is your favourite platform and do you have any tips for running it?

I LOVE Instagram – it’s such a supportive, friendly community, especially for creative small businesses I think. I feel like people are generous with their commenting and sharing, and there’s a real camaraderie for supporting independent businesses.

Top tips:

Engage, engage, engage! Follow, like, comment, reply as much as you can. The more you put into Instagram, the more it will work for you.

Captions are as important as the image – think about what you’re saying and give your followers/customers something they’ll find interesting/fun/likeable.

Instagram Stories – use them. I’m yet to brave speaking on Insta Stories, but I know I need to start doing this! I often watch someone’s Stories and don’t check their grid anymore.

What is the best part of running your own business? Has there been a ‘pinch yourself to check it’s real’ kind of moment for you?

Oh yes! Seeing Erica Davies wear my earrings and getting a mention in the Selfish Mother Insta-zine were BIG moments for me. When things like that happen, I pinch myself and go ‘oh my god, people actually like my stuff!’

 

Has being a parent influenced the way your business works? 

Yes, because I feel more confident since becoming a parent. Little things which would have stressed me out in my career pre-kids, now seem so insignificant. I’m comfortable contacting influencers on Instagram for example, or chatting to people I don’t know (like introducing myself to the Mollie Makes Editor at Kirstie’s Handmade Fair), because what’s the worst that can happen?!

Running a business as a ‘one girl band’ means you have to be and do everything from managing your budget, to being a buyer, a maker and good at sales, what do you do to manage your time and what tips do you have for avoiding being overwhelmed.

Speak to people who are in a similar position. I’m a member of The Mamahood, which is a community of like-minded mother makers/small business owners and we support and help each other on a daily basis. It’s like having a team of coworkers. Our daily Whatsapp chats can be anything from help, what’s everyone doing about GDPR to help, my kid’s been up all night with chicken pox!

 

What’s been your favourite product so far and why?

All of the products I make with the tiny tassels are fun to make and the tassels come in so many great colours. I can’t stop adding new colours.

Got any new products or ranges in the pipeline?

I’ve got some ideas, but no time at the moment to work on them! Watch this space!

 

Whether practical or inspirational, what is your top piece advice for anyone out there wanting to take that leap and start their own business or even start up on online store?

I’d say just do it! It’s relatively easy to set up a website these days or start off on Etsy to test the water. Make sure your photography looks professional, but all you need for that is good light and a phone. All of my photography is taken by me on my iPhone. 

 

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A huge thank you to Kylie for sharing her story with us, I hope you found it interesting and please do get in touch with her if you’ve got any questions, or leave a comment below. 

Kylie is offering 10% off for all you lovely readers!

Just pop the below code in at the checkout when you’ve chosen what you’d like to buy.

 

CWS10

 

Find out more about Jack and Freda

jack and freda discount

SHOP

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

 

 

Want to read more inspiring Start Up Stories? Just click on the image below 

Start Up Stories a series of interviews with parents that started up their own businesses

 

morganaKylie shares jewellery brand Jack & Freda’s Start Up Story
read more