If you read our blog regularly you will know we have a monthly Inspirational Mum slot. May’s Inspirational mum is Sally Bunkham, the founder of mumsback.com, a company that provides hamper gifts for new mums; full of the things they’ve not been allowed whilst pregnant (wine, pâté, cheese, etc.). £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation to help with their amazing work supporting families going through perinatal mental health issues.
Can you tell us little about yourself.
I grew up in Stamford, Lincolnshire, and moved to Brighton when I became a university student, back in 1999. I loved it there and pretty much never left (until 2015). I worked at the University of Sussex for nearly 10 years. My job involved providing events for students to get them interested in entrepreneurship. A lot of it rubbed off on me! I met my lovely husband, Paul, in 2007 at Bestival and we got married in 2013. Our daughter Daisy was born in 2014. When Daisy was just over 2 months old we discovered I was pregnant again. Oops! So in 2015 we had 2 babies under the age of 2. That was hard work! Before our second daughter, Ruby, was born, we temporarily relocated to my home town of Stamford in order to get some extra childcare support from my parents. As it turned out, that was a really good idea, as it was not an easy ride! Things are slowly getting easier now and we are heading back to our home in Brighton in September.
How did you come up with the idea for your current business?
I didn’t quite realise how much I’d miss things like wine, pâté, cheese, beer etc. etc., until I was pregnant and wasn’t allowed it! My other pregnant pals and I used to joke about how we’d do anything for a rare steak or a brie sandwich or similar. When my first daughter was born I got some really beautiful gifts, but it dawned on me that they were all focussed on the baby. It was then I realised there was a gap in the market for something purely for Mum. After all, she is the one that has just grown a tiny human being and gone through childbirth! My second pregnancy, so soon after my first, really magnified the absence of all the things I wasn’t allowed once more, and helped solidify the concept for Mum’s Back!
Sadly I suffered from a bad bout of postnatal depression after Ruby was born. She developed an undiagnosed medical condition (we are still not sure what it was) which meant that from around 4 months to 16 months old she would be incredibly unsettled, day and (especially) night. We tried cutting out various foods, had allergy testing, tried different drugs for silent reflux, and had specialist paediatric care, but nobody could get to the bottom of it. We were getting by on scraps of sleep and the strain of the acute sleep deprivation mixed with the stress of trying to care for 2 babies under 2 became too much for me. I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms (sadly involving self harm) and became quite unwell. I was diagnosed with PND. Thankfully, my daughter started to grow out of the undiagnosed condition and her sleep improved. Once she was on the road to recovery, so was I (this is cutting a long story short!). The experience gave me a deep empathy with anybody going through any kind of mental health issue, especially perinatal conditions. That helped me to realise that my business could actually help make a difference. I decided to try and raise awareness about these conditions by blogging and I also donate £1 from every hamper sold to PANDAS Foundation, who help support families going through perinatal mental health issues.
How do you manage to balance your work around your family?
This is definitely the hardest thing about running a business! My two girls are now coming up to 3 and 2 years old and are still very dependent on me. I have to be incredibly focused when I work. I have a lot of prioritised to-do lists. I work in fits and starts when I can, which I actually find is quite good for concentration. I get 2 mornings a week when I am child-free, so I work then, and most evenings and weekends. Both my children still have a midday nap which is handy, but I know that won’t last forever! I find that actually working on my business is good for my mental health. It gives me a really good balance and helps me feel really productive, so that’s a real benefit. My business has to be agile enough that it can still keep ticking over if I have to down tools and do nothing for a few days, though. If my children are poorly, for example, I have to be able to look after them. In that instance, I can function. As long as the orders go out, that is fine. In times like that, I tend to focus on all the things I AM doing (like keeping my children comfortable and loved!) and not on the things I’m NOT doing. Mind-set is really important during those periods, or else it’s quite easy to get lost in a sea of negativity.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other mums starting in business?
I do love the variety running my own business brings, although it can be a bit of a rollercoaster! I find one day I can be questioning if it was all a good idea at all, and then suddenly something great will happen and it will all be positive again. I think resilience is really important. You’ve got to be able to get back up and shake yourself off if you get knocked down, and keep on trucking. I’d definitely say it’s really important to find something you are passionate about. I hadn’t quite appreciated how fabulous the social enterprise element of my business would be when I decided to do it. It was just something I thought would be nice to do but, actually, it gives me such fire in my belly to know that the more I succeed in my business, the more I can help others. So, if you can find an angle like that for yourself, then go for it! It’s also very empowering to turn such a negative thing in my life into something positive. It’s great that I now own that part of my life, it doesn’t own me!
Anything else you would like to tell our readers?
I love connecting with people, so please do come and say hi on my facebook page or on Twitter.
And watch this space! We had the fabulous news recently that notonthehighstreet.com would like us to be a partner for them, so you should also see us appearing on there, soon.
Finally, we have 2 cool offers on at the moment. There’s our launch offer, where you can get 20% off a classic Mum’s Back hamper. If you are getting a hamper for somebody but do not want it to be delivered until later, that is fine. You can buy now for delivery at a later date.
We are also running a competition at the moment (last day to enter is 24th May), where you have the chance to win a hamper! All you have to do is answer the (pretty damn easy!) question.
Sally’s story really inspired me. Let us know what you think in the comments below.