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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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.

******

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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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. 

 

******

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

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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

 

morganaKylie shares jewellery brand Jack & Freda’s Start Up Story
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Helen shares BabyLoved’s Start Up Story

I am such a fan of this lady and her business! I’ve known Helen for just over a year after meeting through my old business, Little and Fierce kids, and since then we’ve become great friends. In this interview you’ll get to know about the wonderful event she runs and how she started it all off. I’ve been to BabyLoved as a stall holder and as a customer and each time I come away with a smile on my face and lots of goodies too!

 

 Hi, I’m Helen. I’m actually a teacher by profession and have been teaching secondary Physical Education for the last 11 years. I’m really into my fitness and have a love for both squats and sweets in equal measures.

 

Tell us a little bit about your business

BabyLoved is a local premium pop up event for parents in Preston, Lancashire.  It has been going for 1.5 years now and specialises in showcasing the best local independent businesses, along with super services available to families with little ones.  There’s also ‘Perfect Preloved’ items on offer at a fraction of the original cost, along with our on site barista and quality cakey refreshments.

 

Once you had the idea for BabyLoved how did you go about turning it into a reality?

I was super fortunate to have the help of a friend when setting up BabyLoved.  Between us, we would meet up to discuss our plan of action, divide up the jobs and then we begun being more active on social media.  It really just snowballed from there. 

 

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?

The hardest thing for me as an events business is knowing that people will attend!  I’ve worked really hard on incentives, and what started out as a problem is now a ‘selling point’.  I offer free goody bags for all advance purchased tickets as an incentive. All the items sourced for the goody bags are from other like minded bigger brands who want to get their product out there.  If you’re wanting a ticket (and your free goody bag of treats), you can reserve one here (use discount code CWS25 for 25% off).  Here’s where you can catch all the latest event info too.

 

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

Flat whites and protein bars all the way.  Oh, and a quality fringe trim so I can see my screen!

 

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

My personal fave is Instagram as I love the visual appeal of all the squares coming together.  This is a great platform for connecting with many of the other local businesses I work with.  Facebook is where my main attendee base comes from, so I like to rock both of these social media platforms.  I’m always looking for ways to work better on there. I’ve really enjoyed using the survey/poll functions on FB and Insta and have found its yielded some useful info which I have acted upon.

What’s been the best part of running BabyLoved so far? Has there been a ‘pinch yourself to check it’s real’ kind of moment for you?

The best part about running Babyloved has genuinely been speaking with attendees and local business stall holders on the day.  Making links and planning for the future with them on the day, is really exciting. I’ve made some really lovely online pals too and connected with old friends from childhood which has been really sweet.   I also really love that I’m able to support the Preston Womens’ Refuge through organising a collection of essential items for women and families fleeing domestic violence. It’s super to be able to put my organisational skills to good use and facilitate this collection for them.

 

Has being a parent influenced the way your business works? 

Being a parent has 100% made me prioritise and be really strict on what I will and won’t spend time on with BabyLoved.  Sometimes things aren’t as ‘finished’ or as ‘polished’ as I would like but I just roll with it as there’s often more pressing matters to deal with when small people need their Babyccinnos 😉

 

What’s currently your favourite aspect of your business? And your least..!

I would say my favourite part is connecting with other like minded folk for coffees and passing it off as a ‘business meeting’!  The least fun part is before an event and I’m needing ticket sales to reach a magic number in order for my heart rate to return to a normal level.

 

 

What’s in store for BabyLoved?

WELL, I’ve got some plans for the not-so-distant future to collaborate with a larger super stylish event!  It’s still in planning stages so I can’t share the details just yet but I’m really excited about it and it’s a giant step for BabyLoved. I’m also planning a small re-brand to keep the BabyLoved brigade in events. Currently BabyLoved is aimed at 0-4 but I’m hoping the age range can expand a little to meet the needs of the attendees and their  troops of ‘growing up’ people.

 

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

I would say ‘remember who you’re doing this for’.  You’re not in competition with all the fabulous insta-brands out there so don’t compare your insides with their outsides.  Use these brands for inspiration and aspiration but keep your reality-check-radar on. For me it’s about remembering that I have family and friends to enjoy, I’m a part-timer in business and a part timer in my actual teaching role.   I have to remember that my 1 hour or 1 days work for BabyLoved each week can’t be compared to another person’s full time job.

 

*************

The next BabyLoved event is taking place on 13.5.18 at Hoghton Village Hall PR5 0SG. Top tip – from personal experience I recommend you come prepared and bring cash with you ready to get some fab goodies! Tickets are available to purchase at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/babyloved-preston-13518-tickets-45448313128 and I’ve a special discount code for my readers to get 25% off their ticket price – CWS25

 

I’m also excited to share that Helen has tickets for you guys to win – one for you and one for a friend!

Enter below to be in with a chance..

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

(full terms and conditions can be found below)

GOOD LUCK!

 

Find out more about BabyLoved

TICKETS

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

 

Giveaway terms and conditions – 

UK entries only

The prize is –
2 x complimentary tickets to the 13.05.2018 BabyLoved event
2 x BabyLoved goody bags
2 x cupcakes

(for one winner)
For more information about the event- BabyLoved
Giveaway ends 6/05/2018 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
The winner’s details will then be given to the Babyloved organiser in order for the prize to be arranged

morganaHelen shares BabyLoved’s Start Up Story
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Gemma, founder of Premier Drama Academy shares her Start Up Story

I’m excited to share Gemma’s story of starting up her drama academy, I’ve seen it grow from strength to strength and loved getting to know how it all started and how she manages running it alongside her busy family life. Gemma is so passionate and it shines through every area of her business, I hope you find this feature as interesting and inspiring as I did.

Hello, my name is Gemma. I live in Lancashire with my daughters and Hubby. I have been in the theatre from a young age, qualified as a Drama and English teacher, had babies and decided that I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to be there for my children and not have to miss assemblies, sports days etc.

 

 

Tell us a little bit about your business

Premier Drama Academy is a stage school which helps children to realise their potential, not only on a performance basis but also helps them boost their confidence through classes in various subjects such as Musical Theatre, Drama, Ballet, Jazz, Cheerleading and much more.

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

I found it so important to speak to other businesses; some are really approachable and are more than happy to help. Other business owners have been through it all, they know what works, what doesn’t and where to turn or who to turn to. Their advice can be invaluable.

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?

I think the hardest thing for me is not feeling guilty when I give myself some time off. It is so important to look after yourself as well as run a successful business. Allow yourself some me time, timetable your day and stick to your breaks. Do not feel guilty for making yourself a brew and watching a cheeky episode of ‘Hawaii 50’ (my guilty pleasure)

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

Peace!! I love my children to death but seriously, I like the quiet. When I’m in the zone and need to focus, I have to switch the telly off and just concentrate. Jasmine tea always helps too.

These days any business needs a strong social media presence, which is your favourite platform and do you have any tips for running it?

I’m going to let you into a secret; I’m not too great when it comes to social media. I use facebook and Instagram a lot and I get feedback and traffic through there, however my mission this year is to become more media social savvy.

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?

Apart from being able to be there for my girls and hubby, I’d have to say that it is watching my pupils flourish and grow in confidence. There is nothing more amazing than watching a shy, introverted child blossom week after week and knowing that what they have learned in class has helped them get there and will help them throughout their lives.
I am so lucky that I get ‘pinch yourself moments’ quite regularly. Watching the children perform makes me emotional and makes me so grateful that I started my business. We are a big family and they all make me extremely proud.

 

Has being a parent influenced the way your business works?

Oh gosh, definitely. I treat my pupils how I would like my girls to be treated and the same goes with the parents. I question myself: would I, as a parent, be happy about this? Would my girls love this?
We are all a family and I think that has come from the fact that I understand family life, issues that arise and the everyday slog of driving your kids here, there and everywhere to every club, fad and whim they have decided on that week.

You’ve gone from being a ‘one girl band’ kind of business to taking on new team members. How has it been sharing your ‘business baby’ with someone else?

I am, and have always been, a little bit of a control freak. It is something that I am working on and employing new staff has been enlightening. Who knew that somebody could do the job as well as I would have wanted?
It is scary because this business is my baby but it’s so important to have an amazing team around you. I have come to realise that I can’t do all of this by myself and to make Premier Drama Academy the best it can be, I have to delegate and rely on my teachers who are also part of our family and are amazing at what they do. It’s been a big learning curve and one I am so glad that I have had to do in order to boost the business.

What’s your current favourite aspect of your business? Running a class? Overseeing the whole academy?

I love to teach obviously but I also like to go into classes that I don’t teach and see how far the pupils have come.
I can’t really say that I have a favourite part as I love it all but when I see the children performing all together, it makes me emotional and nothing can beat it. It makes me realise that, for me, Premier Drama Academy, was the right business to pour my heart and soul into.

Got any new classes or projects in the pipeline?

Well, we do have some fantastic classes; our newest being cheerleading. We also run a preschool ballet class now as well as our other classes in dance, including pop, ballet and tap, musical theatre and drama.

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

Do it. Yes it can be a scary prospect but isn’t it better to say that you have tried, rather than always thinking ‘what if?’
You have nothing to lose. Take baby steps and you’ll get there. If you have a passion for something and it makes you happy to go to work every day, then why not?
Life is too short to be unhappy. Go for it and enjoy what you do x

*******

I hope you enjoyed reading Gemma’s story, if you have any questions feel free to ask below. You can find out more about Gemma’s drama academy here –

Website / Facebook / Instagram 

 

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 there own businesses

morganaGemma, founder of Premier Drama Academy shares her Start Up Story
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Emma the founder of online store, Mrs Rawlinson shares her Start Up Story

I first met Emma in a Facebook group a few months ago, it then turned out we had mutual friends in real life and ended up meeting in person at the most recent BabyLoved shopping event. She is just as lovely as I expected that she’d be. Emma’s store, Mrs Rawlinson, has the most gorgeous gifts for new mums (and us old mums too!), from gift boxes bursting with luxury goodies, to sleep mist and teething jewellery. It’s a must if you’re looking for a gift for a new mum or a mum that deserves a little treat. I enjoyed finding out how Emma started her business and learning more about how she runs it. Enjoy!

 

I’m Emma, a down-to-earth mum of two with a love of unique products to help women through pregnancy, birth and new parent life.

 

Tell us a little bit about your business

When I became pregnant with my second, my first-born was just 9 months ( I know, I know, what was I thinking?). Having kids in quick succession meant that i needed to sail through pregnancy and once baby was born, heal fast so I could be the best version of me for my children. 

However, when you become a new parent, it’s always baby that comes first. The sleepsuits, the comforters, the baby bath are all gifted for your new bundle of joy. Yet, quite often, as the body and brain goes through indescribable stress and emotional turmoil, it’s the mums that require the little pick-me-ups.

I manically Googled a number of products and potions. It really frustrated me that quality products made with mums in mind weren’t available in one place online in the UK. 

Soon after giving birth I decided to do something about that. Little did I know it would be so well received. 

At Mrsrawlinson.com you can find everything you need from anti-morning sickness sweets to breast milk enhancing herbal tea. There’s also a selection of unique and beautiful gifts for your friends and family, all of which place new mums front of mind. 

 

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

I talked to a number of small businesses whose samples really impressed me. This was quite tricky as I didn’t have a website, or a brand, or any sort of financial support. However, once I had those initial conversations, everyone was quick to agree it was a great idea and so I placed some orders, became a stockist and carried out a bit of a soft launch. I’m now trying to find some time to take it further and help the thousands of women across the UK access beautiful products and gifts.

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?

Wow there are many; time, finances, children being sick but I’d say the main one for me is the tendency to compare. Every person I speak to who has done a similar thing, whether they are huge sellers or small makers got a little side-tracked with comparing themselves to established businesses or influential social media personalities. Sitting there scrolling though social media and giving yourself a hard time for not having as many followers or boxes of orders piled high is just not conducive. Keeping things real and bringing my focus back to why I did this in the first place is the only way I’ll be successful.

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

Well I’m still up during the night thanks to my little one so it’s definitely not sleep. I think I’d go crazy if I stayed within four walls so the one thing I couldn’t live without would be fresh air. 

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

I was late to the Instagram party but I love visually stylised things and so this platform is perfect for me and the products I sell. I feel that it has become a little crowded and using the stories feature will help small businesses to get seen and bring a brand to life.

 

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?

As I’m so new to this, I can hand on heart say I’m not expecting to make a a lot of profit, my intention is simply to ease others through new parenthood without any fluffiness. When I receive messages from mums who have loved the products and they have made life a little easier for them, I do a little happy dance.

Has being a parent influenced the way your business works? 

Massively. Being a mum has changed nearly every aspect of my life. I resigned from my PR and Marketing role at an agency to allow myself more time with my children but I felt the need to challenge myself to launch and run a small business too. I have a very good memory of how I felt during pregnancy and of course all the savageness that comes with new mumhood.

Running a business as a ‘one girl band’ means you have to be, and do, everything from managing your budget and accounts, being the buyer, being good at sales, as well as being the IT department! What do you do to manage your time and what tips do you have for avoiding being overwhelmed?

Get some experienced, lovely and most importantly real people around you. I count myself extremely lucky to have met and connected with some new friends. Regular coffees and gins with people who have done this all before keep you grounded and ensure you aren’t driving yourself to exhaustion. Big up here to my wingwoman, Erin at Pops and Ozzy and Amy Cheadle of the Northern Dough Company. 

 

What’s been your favourite item or range that you’ve stocked so far and why?

Oh eeeek too hard. They are all essentials for different reasons. Pregnancy bon bons for morning sickness, healing bath tea for recovery from birth and sleep mist for the insomnia. 

Got any plans for new boxes or products in the pipeline?

Absolutely. I will be growing the collections to offer much more for pregnancy related issues, post-birth healing and also a special edit for breast feeding mums. 

 

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 an online store?

Whatever the idea, good ones tend be based on what you enjoy, what people will buy and something that improves on what’s already available. Don’t attack it without a strategic plan though or you’ll soon feel overwhelmed. 

*************

I’m super excited that Emma has given us a couple of her lovely gifts for a giveaway, her award-winning hair elixir by Evolve Beauty  AND the Chocolate Society’s blonde chocolate and crushed espresso bean bar.

Enter below to be in with a chance of winning these lovely treats

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

(full terms and conditions can be found below)

GOOD LUCK!

 

Have a browse around Emma’s store

mrsrawlinson.com

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 there own businesses

 

Giveaway terms and conditions – 

UK entries only
The prize is –
1 x Award-winning hair elixir by Evolve Beauty to help repair the postpartum hormonal hair. Made with Moroccan organic Argan oil, organic Baobab and Tahitian Monoi.
1 x The Chocolate Society’s blonde chocolate and crushed espresso bean bar.
See them here –MrsRawlinson 
Giveaway ends 18/03/2018 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 MrsRawlinson

morganaEmma the founder of online store, Mrs Rawlinson shares her Start Up Story
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Holly the founder of Rocks Design shares her Start Up Story

I’ve followed Holly’s business, Rocks Design, on Instagram for sometime now and love seeing her business grow and develop. I know you are going to love her designs, just as much as I do and get ready to add loads to your wish lists! Settle in with a coffee (or any drink of choice) and read her Start Up Story….. psst and make sure you don’t miss the huge giveaway at the end!

My name is Holly, I was born in Cornwall but am now based in sunny Suffolk (apparently, the driest county in the UK – lucky, lucky me!) I have moved house 7 times in the last 11 years, not through choice, but I’ve loved it. I’m a mum to 3 year old Max and a military wife of an RAF PTI (Physical Training Instructor). The newest member of the family is Olive, she’s a miniature dachshund. She has more pep than a coffee with an extra shot. If you follow me on social media you’ll already be enjoying your weekly dose of ‘Sausage Spam.’

Tell us a little bit about your business 

I started my business properly, in 2015. I’m a trained Graphic Designer and I specialise in prints and cards. I LOVE to design for new babies AND us mums, because we need treats too! My business was triggered when my husband was deployed with the military for 6 months. Max had just been born so it was a bit of shock. So, off he went and there I was, a new mum, 6 hours from all family and our support networks, holding the forte. Right, OK. This was going to be a very long six months unless I did something to take my mind off him being away.

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

Of course, I had Max and this was the most wonderful, wonderful thing. He was a dream. But, in reality we all know how hard and consuming a new baby can be without any escape of ‘me time’ or something for ourselves. Design has always been a huge part my world. So, I thought, I think I’m going to set up my own business, I’ll do it in six months, whilst Paul is away. From then, Love Island (2015 – guilty pleasure!), this crazy business goal and Max were plenty to get me through and keep me distracted. I was accepted onto notonthehighstreet.com on my 30th Birthday and my Etsy store was born a little after. My first orders started to trickle in and I was away!

 

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?

The hardest thing about running my own business is when tech breaks down! Although, my husband is fast becoming my in house IT helpdesk! I also really miss office cheer! The Starbucks, Dominoes, Twanger and Crème Egg runs. And just the general company of other colleagues and friends.

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

A dog walk first thing in the morning clears my head. One of the reasons why I wanted a dog was because my head was so consumed in work that I needed something else to help break up my day. She makes me stop to walk her, then I think, well I might as well have lunch now! Before I had Olive I would go a whole nine hours on just coffee, water and maybe a healthy homemade ‘make sure you drink your shake – it’s in the fridge’ shake.

I know from running this blog and my own online store that when you’re a primarily online based business you need a strong social media presence, which is your favourite platform and do you have any tips for running it?

I LOVE Instagram, It’s the most creative platform in my opinion and I love seeing all my fellow business friends on there. I adore seeing how creative people can be with those tiny squares. It’s the best way to connect with my lovely followers too, I love hearing from them and being able to communicate and chat with them.

 

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?

The best part…I used to love working for other people because in a strange way I used to like being bossed around. I don’t know why. Working for myself is a whole different ball game, but I still boss myself around! I’m very hard on myself as I want my customers to have the best products and the best experience and service when they shop with me. One of my pinch me moments was when I bought Olive. I’ve wanted a dachshund for as long as I can remember. Because I now work from home, it seemed like the right time to sneak off without Paul knowing and go dog shopping. She sleeps in my office whilst I work. I also love that I can take time off without having to ask anyone. I still have to schedule it in and work really hard before and after any time off but, being able to pick and choose when I work is really lovely and gives me the freedom to spend time with my family whenever I want to.

Has being a parent influenced the way your business works? 

Absolutely. Max is my whole world. Everything I do, I do for him. Your world changes when you have children and your priorities shift to a new dimension. I want him to have the loveliest life he can possibly have and grow up knowing that his mummy built a little magical empire for us all to enjoy, whilst bringing joy to other families with my work.

 

Running an online business must get overwhelming at times, what do you do to manage your time and what tips do you have for avoiding being overwhelmed?

Lists. I LOVE lists. I never used to write them and my days would turn into disorganised carnage. I have a huge white board in my office that Paul bought for me. Every Sunday I spend 30 minutes planning the following week. I set time limits too for each task. I use an online management system for most things but for some reason I like to physically write these big tasks down. I tick them off as I go then by the end of the week I know I’ve got everything done. I get so SO much more done now.

What’s your current favourite item or range in your store at the moment?

I love my ‘Hello’ little girls print. I love the colours and the words, I also love my rainbow prints that give you a little boost on those rainy Mondays.

 

Got any new products or projects in the pipeline?

Just in time for Mother’s Day I’m launching my range of jumpers! 

You can see the range here – Mother’s Day

 

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

You have to believe in yourself, you have to really believe. Have faith and follow your own path. Be yourself and try not to be influenced or swayed too much by others. Be true to your own passion. JFDI is something I always live by too. (Just Flipping Do IT) (some people insert a much ruder word in place of Flipping – whatever works for you!) I tend not to put things off now as I find they never get done, so I schedule it in, then I do it. Eat the frog…in other words do the hardest/most difficult thing  then the rest of the day will be filled with the lovely things ie. Not frogs. Twangers, Crème eggs and unicorns. Remember doing that when you were little? Always eating the sprouts and turnip first so you could then enjoy the reason why you sat down for roast.

As the Rizzlekicks once said ‘Skip to the good stuff’. Try not to be too hard on yourself and understand that it is a marathon not a sprint. And…you know, I also believe in ‘celebrate the little things’ It’s SO important. It took me a while to realise. WHAT? I can’t spend a penny of my hard earned cash on myself. No way! How dare I! It must go back in to the business. No. Every now and then treat yourself. You’re doing a fabulous, fabulous job. Give yourself a little pat on the back and you’ll realise and remember why you’re working so hard. It doesn’t have to be a Miniature Dachshund, it could be something that needs less commitment like chocolate or a new bathroom!

 

*********************

What fantastic advice to end on! Like Holly I’m a huge advocate of getting the tough stuff done first – Eating the frog- as well as celebrating the little things. In the spirit of treating ourselves and celebrating the little things Holly has kindly offered to giveaway £100 worth of Rocks Design prints of your choosing! What a fantastic prize, I wish I could enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

*****

Have a browse around Holly’s store

www.rocksdesign.co.uk

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook 

 

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 there own businesses

 

 

 

morganaHolly the founder of Rocks Design shares her Start Up Story
read more