Category Archives: Interview

Inspirational mum Meghan Fenn

This month’s inspirational mum in business is Meghan Fenn, the author of Bringing Up Brits, and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs. I’m really excited to interview another multilingual mum in business, so here it is.

Q: What’s your career background?

I started out as an ESOL teacher and taught in Prague for two years and then in Tokyo for two and a half years. I taught both children and adults and had an amazing time learning new languages and cultures and meeting lots of different people from all walks of life. I studied English and Art at University and the original plan after graduation was to teach abroad for one year, then go back to the States, get my Masters degree and get a job. Within the first few days of leaving the States and starting a brand new life in a very different country, I met my future (now) husband, a British man from England. That changed my whole life. I ended up marrying said British man in South Carolina, USA, then moving back to England to continue my expat life.

Q: How did your career change after having children?

I did end up getting my Masters, but in England instead, and in Design Studies. After graduation I got a job as a senior Internet designer and worked there until I was made redundant while pregnant with my second child. Of course that also changed everything! I was 5 months pregnant so couldn’t even consider going for interviews, so I decided to start up my own web design company. I thought I’d freelance until after the baby, and then get a job part time as I’d have two babies under the age of two. Again, plans changed because my business really took off and within the first year, I had established a client base, a great reputation and had a constant stream of regular work coming in. I also loved working from home which gave me the flexibility to look after my young children and not have to pay out for full-time expensive childcare. Working from home around my family really suited me.

Q: Where did the idea for your business come from?

There are two parts to my answer because I’ve since started up a new company. So the idea for my first business came directly from what I was doing as an employed designer. I simply started project managing my own web and graphic design work and clients. I advertised in the Yellow Pages and spread the word through client referrals and my website. There wasn’t any social media back then so I had to rely on advertising and getting the word out there through happy clients. I managed to grow organically and keep a steady business going around the demands of a busy young family. Fast forward 10 years, a move from the Midlands to Sussex, and one additional child and I was ready to take my business to the next level. I had been working closely with a marketing and PR professional who I’d met at an awards event and throughout the 6 years of working with her, felt she could help me achieve my business goals. So, I asked her to join my company. She politely declined but suggested we start something new together 50/50. So that was how our company Shake It Up Creative Ltd was born. We do design, marketing, PR, websites, social media and search engine optimisation. We’re essentially a full service design and marketing company.

Q: How did you move from idea to actual business?

Originally, when I was starting out, I asked the nursery proprietor where my baby went, if she would like a website designed in exchange for free child care places. That was my very first job as a freelance web and graphic designer. Paid jobs came very quickly after that. I think once I decided to go for it on my own, I just picked up the phone, registered with HMRC, designed my logo and letterheads and invested my time and energy to make it a success.

Q: What’s your USP?

My USP has always been that I can do the graphic design AND the web Techie work too. That still is part of our USP. We can do it all or as little as you like and we’re flexible. So for example, we can do logo and branding right the way through to website and marketing and PR campaigns. Or, we can simply create a logo or stand-alone graphic design, copywriting or one off PR.

Q: How do you spread the word about what you do?

Through our website, on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) and at regular networking events.

Q: What’s been your most successful marketing/PR strategy?

Networking definitely. But also our #ShakeItHUB free design and marketing help sessions. We offer these to our local business community. They are open to all and people come to us with questions about their website, about a marketing campaign, for help with social media or anything design and marketing related. We give hands-on help with no obligation to ‘buy’ or take anything further. They are very popular and it helps to spread the word about our company and what we can do. It also shows people that we are experts and we know what we’re talking about and that we’re willing to help businesses.

Q: What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

In the early days, it was balancing family life with a home-based office. You have to become very disciplined and use time wisely, work smart so when it’s family time, you can concentrate on that and not work. Now, it’s winning pitches in a very saturated market place. Worthing and Brighton have a huge number of marketing companies so there is a large amount of competition for us.

Q: Why is work so important to you?

I’m a creative person, I have a strong work ethic and I like to be productive. So work suits me. I also want to be a good role model for my children. I have a teenage boy, a teenage girl and a seven year old boy. They know I work, they know I run my own company. They like that and understand why I do it and how that benefits our whole family. Financially as well, we need to be a two parent income family in order to maintain the lifestyle that we want to have and give our children the best start in life as possible.

Q: Who inspired you?

Because I came here to live with no family or friends nearby (or even in the same country), I had to find inspiration from within. That is one reason I wrote my book Bringing Up Brits Expat Parents Raising Cross-cultural Kids in Britain. I wanted to share my story and inspire others and show them that they are not alone, that there are other parents out there doing the same thing and it’s hard. So hard! But if we find others who are going through a similar experience, we can find comfort and encouragement. Now, I’m inspired by my children and how amazing they are and how supportive they are of each other and of us (myself and my husband).

Q: How do you balance your business with your family?

I work full time around the children. So that means I work during school hours. I usually also work a few hours in the morning before they get up and some, not all, evenings. It’s tough running your own company because you’re always ‘on’ especially working from a home office. But it means I can be here for the children when they get home from school, I can do the after school clubs and activities and attend day time school functions. My children are at the age now where I can work (from home) when they are around. I have a room that is my office so I don’t have the chaos of working from the kitchen table. If they need me, they come get me. My eldest is very good with my youngest so during the summer holidays, for example, he can fix lunch for everyone and take my youngest out to the playground. I can also usually take days off here and there when I want to.

Q: What are your top three pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

1. Network in person – this will help you to gain new clients, spread the word about your business and also, very importantly, find people who can help you get set up (such as a trusted accountant or business development expert). Be open to collaboration, service exchanges and coffee meetings to get to know potential clients and business associates.
2. Try to launch with a USP. That will set you apart in a very highly competitive market.
3. Make your own logo, branding and website stand out. People will want to see your expertise and you can show this through your own designs for your own company before you have a significant portfolio to showcase.

If you want to get in touch with Meghan
Meghan is co-director and chief designer, Shake It Up Creative www.ShakeItUpCreative.com
Author of Bringing Up Brits, co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs
www.bringingupbrits.co.uk
www.expatsinbiz.com

If you want to buy your own copy of her books check out the links below

How do children acquire language?

This week I have the pleasure of introducing you to Shirley Cheung. She is currently researching how children acquire language for her Phd at Lancaster University. My sister took part in one of Shirley’s research sessions and we met shortly afterwards. So without further ado, on with the interview.


Could you tell us a little about your early language learning

My first (native) language is Cantonese. My mother is from Hong Kong and my father was from mainland China, but I was raised in the United States. I started to learn English as a second language in preschool, but I only transitioned to using English as my dominant language when I was around 10 years of age. As I started using more English at school and with my friends over time, I slowly lost my fluency in Cantonese.


Why are you interested in languages?

I am fascinated with languages and how we learn them from a very young age, because language acts as a gateway to communicate our thoughts and intentions with others. The ability to use language at the level that we do is what distinguishes us from primates and animals. Language is so complex, yet it seems like we acquire it with remarkable ease. Languages are also very different from each other (for example, Sign Language vs. French) yet they accomplish the same goal??? to communicate!

Why did you decide to do the research you now do?
My PhD investigates how language background (i.e. monolingualism vs. bilingualism) affects speech perception in young infants. More importantly, whether learning two languages promotes a greater advantage for infants to pick up sounds from languages they have never been exposed to before (that is, non-native languages). My main research question asks whether bilingualism aids in perceptual flexibility in the speech signal at the time where infants’ native-language perceptual systems start to become focused on only the sounds of the language(s) they are exposed to.


How can we help you with your research?

Currently I am seeking Mandarin-English bilingual families to participate in my research. Below is a PDF copy of my recruitment flyer. I’d also like to mention that I anticipate bringing my research down to London for a few months, so if any parents around the area are interested in taking part, please keep in touch. My email address is s.cheung@lancaster.ac.uk

Betty and Cat – Hennie’s Multilingual writing adventures

This week I have a real treat in store for you. An interview with the amazing Hennie, author of the Betty and Cat books.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Holland, immigrated to Montreal, then lived in Toronto, moved back to Holland when I had a mid-life crisis, and now spend my time between Holland and France.

How many languages do you speak?
I speak Dutch, French, and English. I studied German, but for some reason, the words won’t come out of my mouth properly! My current thing is learning Spanish.

Have you always been keen on languages?
I’ve always been keen on communicating, and sometimes it takes another language. At home, languages were always a thing – my dad was keen – he spoke four and started learning Spanish at an advanced age. He also thought Esperanto was the way forward and learned that.
Living in Montreal at a time when the English were in power, we were the only family I knew that had Francophone friends. We were different, they were different, and the people we lived among (the Anglophones) must have thought that we were different. Somehow, that ended up making us more tolerant, and I think more interesting in the long run.

Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey as a child,
Learning English (there were three of us kids; my parents already spoke school-English when we immigrated) was always fun at home. We shared stories, we showed off, we were shown off (I remember my dad having me recite Humpty Dumpty into a tape recorder for the folks back in Holland). It was never considered a chore, hard, un-fun, or extraordinary.
New year’s day we had Dutch friends for lunch and ended the day with French friends. My husband is American. So: we started the day in English, nattered in Dutch over lunch, spoke French all evening, and then went home talking English. There are millions of people all over the word who live like this, and were probably never taught to make a big deal of it. It just happens.

Could you tell us a little about your career background?
I was a copywriter all my working life. My greatest joy was writing a two-part children’s story for the newspapers around the Santa Claus Parade, sponsored by the department store I was working for. I even got a fan letter.
What inspired you to write and publish your books?
A friend here in France, an illustrator who has grandchildren growing up bilingually in Brussels, asked me if we couldn’t collaborate on a bilingual kids’ book. She ended up being too busy to illustrate it – but I caught the bug, and did it. Not for a second, though, did I consider a translated book – the Betty & Cat books just flopped out in two languages.

Anything else you’d wish to add?
There are so many people around the globe working with kids – and adults – teaching second, third and more languages it gives you hope for the future. Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner. And one way to truly understand is to learn the language.

Find out more about Hennie’s amazing books at bettyandcat.com

Inspirational mum Michelle from 1st early education

Each month we interview an inspirational mum in business. This month we have Michelle from 1st Early Education. I’ll let her introduce herself.

Hi I’m Michelle and I am originally from Dublin now living in Co. Wicklow Ireland with my family. I have a daughter in her early twenties and a teenage son.

What’s your career background?
I am a creative writer and storyteller and am trained in the Montessori method of education. I have been working in the field of childcare and early education for over 25 years.

where did the idea for your business come from?
I have always liked the idea of running my own business. When I found out I was unable to renew my contract because of a government embargo I decided to combine my experience of teaching and working in early childhood education and my love of creative writing and storytelling to create an online resource for parents and teachers called 1stearlyed.com. I have had great reaction to the audio work and have now launched my first album called ‘Fun in the car’.

Who are your target audience?
Parents of young children , The parent who values listening and sharing time with their little ones, wanting them to have lots of fun and learn making the most of this most valuable time in their formative years.
It appeals to preschool teachers as well as it is fun with an educational twist. The poems and stories you hear on the album compliment what they learn in their early years.

How do you spread the word about what you do?
Word of mouth , when people hear my album they tell others which is great, Because it is online through social media channels I am able to reach people all over the world which is fantastic, I have a lot of contacts in the early education sector and go to conferences and seminars spreading the word.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Believing in myself and having the confidence to put my work out there.

And your proudest moment/biggest success so far?
Launching my first album ‘Fun in the car’

Why is work so important to you ?
I am very lucky in that I am passionate about what I do. I love my work. I absolutely love writing and creating material for children in their formative years.

Who inspires you ?
I have to say the little ones I have worked with over the years. I can see their little faces as I write and create the audio, it’s magical.

Balancing work and life.
Working on this because a lot of my work is online. I need to make sure take time out for myself and my family. Live every minute to the full.

The album consists of 9 tracks which can be downloaded. The tracks are full of original poems and stories narrated by Michelle with lovely background noises. They can find out about Teddy and all the adventures. Teddy loves playing hide and seek. The children can listen and interact learning about different places they may go and things they may see. The great thing is there are lots of little facts incorporated so along with improving their listening and observational skills ,plus enriching their vocabulary, they will be absorbing knowledge in a fun way.
On the site you will find resources to do with your children and activities to compliment what they hear about on the album. Keep checking back as it is always being updated.
You can find out more about the album and resources at www.1stearlyed.com

facebook 1stearlyeducation/

twitter @1stearlyed

If you want to buy your own copy of this great resource check out Fun in the car CD

Inspirational mum Kerry from Discovery Bubbas

This months inspirational mum is Kerry from Discovery Bubbas.

Hi Kerri, could you tell us a little about yourself.

I am a mummy to one 2.5 year old girl and a wife to a musical and hard working man. I was a nursery nurse prior to having my little one, so I am qualified and experienced in childcare and early years education, I initially took up some nannying when my daughter was 11 months old which was lovely because I could take her with me and she became friends with the families own little girl, but I stopped the nannying because I was at the same time just developing my ideas and starting up my Discovery bubbas group- which is sensory, messy exploration and creative play sessions. I decided to set up and run these type of sessions because I love it, all of that kind of play was my favourite thing to plan for and watch the children enjoy during my nursery nurse career. It is so beneficial to their development as it links in with many areas in the EYFS- EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE. It is very well known and widely researched that creative play, art and the freedom to explore and express themselves is great for a child’s individual way of learning and their current play and learning patterns or ‘schemas’.

How did your business come about?
I had the idea of setting up a messy play type group quite a few years ago, whilst I was still a nursery nurse
But the time just was never ‘right’,but once I had my daughter I just knew I didn’t want to go back to a ‘normal job and my husband and I agreed that I should be there for her and not put her in someone else’s care, especially if it meant me returning to doing just that but for other people’s kids, that just did not make sense to us, me looking after other kids whilst our precious little one was being looked after by someone else? No sense in that! anyway, I started thinking about this messy play group idea again whilst on maternity leave and the more I thought about it and the more ideas I wrote down,I knew I had to just go for it and do it. I started to get resources and equipment in here and there whilst I did the bit nannying and with some help from my mother in law I set up and started running Discovery bubbas at the end of Feb 2016. What I love the most about running the sessions is not only can my daughter come along with me and get the benefits from the sessions herself too but I just LOVE it, from the planning of session activities and seeing all the ‘little Discovery bubbas’ enjoying it and reaping the benefits and learning whilst having fun. The sessions are suitable for and mainly aimed at little ones from approx 6 months to 5 years, it’s a stay and play session which means parents/carers are to stay and join in the discovery fun with their little ones.

I am currently just making plans for this new year to start running some separate sessions for older children 6+ during school breaks, these will be; Discovery kids- STEAM (science,tech,engineering,art, math) club, this is a hands on mixed activities workshop which incorporates the STEAM concept/education system.
I am also planning to put together a range of ‘little discoverers’ activity kits, including busy bags, Mini STEAM challenge kits, ‘create, make and do at home kits’, tinker/DISCOVERY boxes and more.

How do you market your group?
I mainly use Facebook to advertise and promote Discovery bubbas,I have given out flyers but Facebook is working fine for me at the moment, I am listed on some kids activity directories and bloggers sites like Sophia’s diary and I have noticed an increase in page likes since listing on there. I do find that word of mouth and people recommending and reviewing my sessions helps a great deal, I have had new people come to sessions after being told about them by a friend.

What is your biggest success so far?

My best moment or session so far just has to be the special ChristMESS session I did on 12th December, I raised £50 for Herts young homeless and put together a kindness care basket from donations I asked people to bring to put in it and as there was a lot donated I split it, half to Herts young homeless and half went to the St Albans and hertsmere women’s refuge. I also had Mickey and Minnie Mouse come visit near the end of the session which was great.

Who inspires you?
My dad has been my biggest inspiration when it comes to working hard and to try things out, to see the funny side of life and to be honest and kind, he did and still does work hard to provide for his family and that instilled in me the drive to always value whatever ‘work’ I did and do, it just so turns out that I followed a path which has now lead me to set up my own little venture doing something I enjoy and it makes a difference by enhancing and promoting children’s development. Of course my daughter, my little star, is also my biggest inspiration, do it all for her.

What advice would you give to anyone out there thinking of setting up their own business?
My advice to anyone thinking about setting up a similar class or any other type of class or little business, is to just ‘go for it’, do your research, talk to people and just do it!

Thanks Kerri, it’s been a joy to chat to you!

If you want to find out more about Kerri’s Discovery bubbas sessions check out.
Facebook.com/discoverybubbas and Discoverybubbas.webs.com

Percy the Pigeon – Katie’s first book

family-katieI love to celebrate the achievements of other mums in business. This month we have an inspirational interview with full time mum Katie who has just fulfilled her dream of writing a children’s book.

Hi Katie, could you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Katie Budge, I’m 25 years old and I live in the town of Stevenage in Hertfordshire. I live with my two young sons and my boyfriend of five years. My sons – Gerrard-Anthony (2 and a half) and James (7 months) are my whole world and my full time job is getting to spend every day with them being their mum.

I’ve previously worked in schools but stopped working when my first son was born. That’s where most of my inspiration came from when writing children’s stories. I started writing children stories years before, when I was in college studying a ‘diploma in child care and education’ course, we were asked to write a story that helped to teach children valuable life lessons or had some sort of moral to it. I got wonderful feedback both from my tutors and peers and I thoroughly enjoyed writing them.

What was your biggest challenge in writing you first book?
My biggest obstacle was getting published by a publishing company, unfortunately I didn’t manage to find anyone and had to self -publish my book. Although that was my biggest obstacle it meant I got to choose my illustrator, who drew in a way that I liked, which I wouldn’t have got the chance to do, had I been published by a company. I also got to take my time, keep editing my book along the way and at the end of it, I could say, I did it myself. Which is a fantastic achievement and one I’m very proud of.

What would you say is the most important thing when working from home?
Balance is a very important thing when writing stories and having my two boys. Whenever they are taking a little nap or fast asleep in bed by half past seven each night (they’re very good boys) I use that time to write and re write my stories. I’m very lucky that I have so much inspiration around me everyday from my two beautiful boys, but I haven’t yet bought myself round to writing a book about eating snot, which is a daily occurrence with a two year old!

percy the pigeon

Could you tell us a little about your book?

Percy the Pigeon was written after I spotted a very aggressive and greedy pigeon scoffing all the bird food put out in the garden while I was washing up. The story about a very greedy pigeon who doesn’t like to share food with his friends which eventually gets him into trouble. The story follows Percy and his over indulging ways and we find out whether he eventually changes his ways, or if he always puts his belly first.

I really hope people enjoy reading it, especially all the boys and girls out there, and I would love to hear feedback from anyone who purchases it. My book can be found and bought at:
http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/7500674-percy-the-pigeon

It’s been a pleasure to chat to you Katie, thanks so much.

This beautiful book would make a love Christmas present. It’s lovely rhyming book about the value of sharing and friendships. I’m sure you’ll enjoy snuggling up to your little one to share this story. Let me know what you think.

What has an Armadillo got to do with homophones?

A few months ago I met Guy Moore. He has created a fun educational app to help with language learning, inspired by his grandfather. I was so intrigued by how story told to a young boy could in time become a learning tool for many, I’ve asked him to share his story on our blog. So here goes, over to you Guy… grandfather

This project all began because of my grandfather Clifford Frost who loved to tell me stories, and one day he told me a story when I was just six years old, and it has stuck with me all these years.

He sat me down and said
‘When I was a little boy Guy I was locked in a tower that was so high it went into the clouds. There was only one window with metal bars and I wondered how I was going to get out. Well I thought and I thought until my head grew sore, and with this/ saw I escaped from the tower. I was miles away from anywhere so I shouted and shouted until my voice grew hoarse ‘Help Help’, and on this horse I rode away until I reached an endless wall. Well I found half an orange, and a little bit further along I found another half of an orange. Two halves make a whole, so I climbed through the hole.
Even though it was quite short, I found it absolutely fascinating, charming, engaging and very educational.

Even at such a young age I realised how helpful it was.

We have also created a lovely back story film called “Aarchie. Where it all began’.

It was his creative use of the English language which was one of the reasons I decided to get into advertising.

So eventually 44 years later I decided with my writing partner Tony Malcolm to take it to the next level and create an interactive edutainment book. The Tales of Aarchie was born.
My granddad lived to the ripe old age of 103 and was overjoyed that Archie would be his legacy, and be passed down from generation to generation.
Working with a fantastic team of developers in Cardiff, and my best friend Les the illustrator, who is a veteran in the games industry including working on Angry Birds with Rovio, we wanted to create an educational story that makes learning for children fun. What has an Armadillo got to do with homophones?
The Tales of Aarchie is a funny, charming animated story that explains that quirk of the English language, the homophone.
Homophones are words that sound the same but mean completely different things like witch/which, horse/hoarse, plane/plain and so on.

The interactive app encourages children to press the homophones to move the story on, and therefore literally highlighting the play on words.
The benefits of this are pretty simple.
65% of people are visual learners and take in a lot more information when they are having fun.
We have created two versions.
An animated interactive app while reading, or a ‘read it to me’ mode.
Plus we also have a digital e-book.

The interactive story is aimed at children between the ages of 5-9, but we have seen other children who aren’t English be a little bit older.
At the moment it’s only available on an i-pad, but we are currently working on an Android version too.

There is a Lite version of the app which is free, and then there is the full all singing and dancing version which is £2.99.
Both versions are available on The Apple Store.
The one thing we all really believe in and as a team feel very strongly about are in app purchases. Well, with The Tales of Aarchie there are none and never will be.

However, he haven’t stopped with the app and book, we also have Aarchie…the Puppet.
Aarchie has been magically transformed by a brilliant puppeteer called Phil Fletcher.
So we acquired a YouTube channel just for Aarchie and we want it to be a brilliant edutainment channel that children and parents will enjoy, and refer back to again and again for new episodes.
With our gorgeous puppet and blue screen technology we’ll create broadcasts of funny stories and facts about English presented in both short 20-30 second bursts or longer formats.
We have yet to start filming, but this will hopefully start in the very near future. How much fun can be had with homophones?

Want to try the app for free? Guy has kindly provided two free passes for our readers. The two lucky winners will be chosen at random on Monday 12th November

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

Can preschoolers learn coding?

As a mum in business I love to celebrate what other amazing business mummies are doing. This month we’ve got an inspirational interview with Liane from creative kids; coding site Mama.codes. We met at Mumsnet Workfest a few months ago.. so, can preschoolers learn coding?

girls_woodland_workshopsmall

Hi Liane could you tell us a little about yourself and your family?

Sure, I’m a mum of two (my daughter is 8 and my son is 5), living in south London and married to my student sweetheart 🙂
I’m a digital journalist – turned product manager and consultant – turned entrepreneur! I spent 12 years working at the Guardian website on the News, Politics and Travel sections, then I went part time after having my daughter and found longer-term project work easier to manage than 24/7 news. I worked on the Guardian’s mobile and apps team and loved working more closely with software developers and exploring emerging technologies. We even designed an iPad app before we’d ever seen an iPad for real as Apple kept them under wraps until launch day!

Why did you decide to launch your business?

I’d gone freelance and set up my own digital consulting business which was very flexible while my youngest was under 3. One day, a friend of a friend (and now my co-founder Alice Thompson!) suggested meeting for coffee. She told me she’d been teaching her then 4-year-old daughter to code creatively, using jokes and songs, etc. and wanted to share what she’d learned with other mums in the form of local meet ups and maybe a website. She already ran the impressive Mums Make Lists parenting website with our third partner Luci McQuitty Hindmarsh, which had excellent content and a huge following in both the US and UK.
It sounded amazing – I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on this important new skill and knew that she wasn’t super excited by the coding she’d done at school or with me during Hour of Code.
Alice asked if I’d like to get involved on a very mum-friendly basis, school hours and term time only and the rest, as they say, is history! We have over 90 coding projects on the site and teach Year 1-3 classes at a London primary school, we’re launching an afterschool club and holiday workshops and have over 1,000 users signed up to our website.

boy_woodland_workshopsmall
How are you finding it fits in with your family?

It’s amazing, I can work whenever it suits me, day or night, from home or while watching a swimming lesson. We are mostly a home-working team, talking via skype and constantly ‘chatting’ via Google Hangouts. We meet weekly, either in a Shoreditch co-working cafe for our startup ‘fix’ or at our new office in Docklands, thanks to being finalists in the MassChallenge accelerator programme (a bit like X Factor for startups!).

We are particularly inspired by Dame Steve Shirley, who founded a company of freelance coding mothers who worked from their homes – in the 1960s! (Her TED talk is fantastic) We try and work like crazy during term times and then give our kids a lot of time during school holidays.

Anything else you wish to tell our readers?

Running your own business is hard work but massively rewarding, and it’s really simple and inexpensive to get started. Once you are your own boss, there’s no turning back! Similarly, people shouldn’t be so daunted about learning to code… it’s just another language skill, and if our kids can pick it up, there’s no reason us parents can’t join them for the ride!

 

liane_byline_photo

Mama.codes offers creative coding projects for children aged 3-8 (and their parents and teachers!)
It’s free to sign up and try 4 introductory, step by step projects. Readers of this blog can then claim a 25% discount on the Bundle of Fun pack of 50 beginner coding projects. Use promo code LINGO25

What are you waiting for?

Do you think coding is a language? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Interview with James from Soundimals and a hamster!

James HamsterAt our Lingotastic family language classes anything that involves animals and making animal noises is a hit, so when I came across the fun Soundimals illustrations by James Chapman I had to find out more…
We last interviewed James in January 2015, you can read that here


Since we last spoke I know you’ve finished your PHD. How are you finding life after University?

Life after university is good! I always imagined I’d double my productivity as I used to work all day at university then come home and work all evening on illustration, but now my days are all illustration I’m pretty worn out by about 6, ha. It’s good to have some relaxation time though, I never really had the whole work/life balance sorted out before but now it’s all quite nice.

Emily: We’ve just got a pet hamster. Have you done any pictures of hamsters?

Congratulations on the hamster! Hamsters are a lot of fun, my brother had one when we were young, had to keep it well away from the cat! I think I have drawn maybe one hamster? I’ll have a look and see if I can find it somewhere, it was wearing a tiara I think!

Jasmin: Have you got any pets in your house?

As for my pets, there are some fish that I live with! Three of them and they blub away while I’m working. I’d love a dog and some cats, but I don’t think I’m allowed them in my building just at the moment. One day though, one day I’ll have a hundred cats.

Have you had any interesting commissions lately?

Over the summer I’ve had a few wedding commissions to draw up, which is always really nice. I actually was commissioned to make a comic book that was used in a proposal between two friends of mine! It told the story of them both and the last page said “Will you marry me” and it was very very adorable. Wedding stuff is always very fun.
Aside from that I’m working with a Manchester charity for an art show in a few months. Exciting and daunting in equal measure, it’s still in the works but hopefully it’ll be a fun fun event.

What are your hopes for the future of Soundimals?

With Soundimals, I’d love to keep spreading the word mostly! It’s a fun book but with a strong message of diversity and being open to other cultures and I’d like to share that with as many people as possible. It’s had a really good response already online and the books are selling really well, so I suppose maybe the next step is to find a publisher/distributor and try and get them in shops all oooover the place.
In the mean time, I’ve been working on a few new books, including a big one about proverbs from all around the world. I’ve posted a fair few around instagram and my site, they’re mostly wise phrases and expressions that are commonplace in their native country but sound so different to other cultures. “A bad workman blames his tools” sounds quite normal to me, but in Polish the phrase is “a bad ballerina blames the hem of their skirt” – a much more exciting version! I’m just trying to get that book together now, so hopefully they’ll be some news on that in the new year. Keep up with what I’m up to on tumblr

The book Soundimals and How to Sneeze in Japanese can be found in my shop along with a new new new book called When Frogs Grow Hair. It’s all about the different phrases people say when they think something is impossible – like when pigs fly in English. In Spanish, they say “when frogs grow hair” and in German it’s on “St. Never’s Day” which sounds especially sassy, like a line from Mean Girls. Anyway, that’s the new one! I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone.

PS I found it! It was a sketch someone requested in the front of their book!

Thanks James, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. The hamster is soooooo cute!

Inspirational mum Fiona from Bitzbags

Fiona Gowing

Fiona Gowing

As a mum in business I love to celebrate the successes of other mums in business. This week we have an interview with the inspirational mum Fiona from Bitzbags.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your family?
My name is Fiona Gowing, I have been a qualified Occupational Therapist (OT) for 17 years and have worked both in the UK and internationally. However, when I had my children, Ben & Ella, I decided to have a career break. It was while I was a stay at home mum that I decided to set up a childminding business and that’s when I had my light bulb moment: a new children’s product idea.

Why did you decide to launch your business?
Inspired by my children Ben and Ella and while running my childminding business I was looking for a play to pack away solution for fiddly kids toys. I dreaded the noise of a full box of Lego being tipped out onto the floor as it was time consuming to tidy up and the kids often wanted to go from one activity to the next, as fast as possible! The only products that were on the market were plastic storage boxes (which the kids loved to just tip out onto the floor), and mats with lengthy pull cord (which isn’t suitable for a child due to safety reasons). So I had to design something new.

Mess with NO stress (twitter)
Could you tell us a little about your business?
I designed Bitzbags a new 2 in 1 portable storage solution. It’s made up of a square mat, with detachable bag. The drawstring free design on the bag is what makes the Bitzbags design different.
I started the business from home, making my first batch of Bitzbags from my kitchen table to test the market at local fairs. Then, outsourcing the manufacturing enabled me to launch the product nationally in August of last year. We have exhibited at large Childcare Expo events in Edinburgh & London, and we are stocked in local retail shops. We are also available online through www.bitzbags.com and an early years resources website www.imagido.co.uk.

How are you finding it fits in with your family?
Owning your own business is hard work and I have been fortunate to have a very supportive husband and also to have the support from business start-up services such as Entrepreneurial Spark www.entrepreneurial-spark.com, Bright Ideas Scotland and Business Gateway. In regards to family life I am able to run my business around school pick-ups and drop offs and even get my children to be involved in the business! For example, they loved being involved in the photoshoot for our marketing materials and packaging, telling me that they “feel famous”, aww…

Anything else you wish to tell our readers?
I would encourage anyone out there, thinking of starting a business, to give it a go! This is the decade of the female entrepreneur, there has never been a better time for women to start their own businesses’ with a vast array of start up support specifically tailored for female businesswomen. So give it a go, dream big, and make it happen today.

At my Lingotastic classes I use a similar idea of wrapping up ducks in blue fabric ready to pull out as we start the song, or all the stuffed animals we use in story, wrapped in fabric so I can quickly get them out when we read the story.

Fiona kindly sent us a bitzbag to trial. My daughters were really pleased, I found my son’s outgrown Lego so they could play with it. I’d been meaning to do it for a while.
As she has said earlier it is brilliant for Lego and the brilliant storage bag is great if you want to put it away quickly to play later or take out with you.
If we’ve inspired you to buy your own (I’m not on commission) visit www.bitzbags.com

If you would like to see more of the Bitzbags products (including the new outdoor bitzbags visit www.bitzbags.com and follow them on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Linkedin.

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