Tag Archives: entrepreneur

Inspirational mum Sally from Mum’s back

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.

Do you need some Calm?

As a mum and entrepreneur I find that running my own business is incredibly rewarding but also very stressful. During a recent difficult spell we looked into some of the meditation apps on the market. Many have a day or two’s limited access to trial them, but the Calm app really caught our eyes.

In case you are not convinced of the value of slowing down, here are a few quotes from Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew, the founders of Calm. These are from their Calm book.
Entrepreneurial life can be a chaotic, restless and intense experience. Few of us do anything to train and nurture our minds. Pretty much everyone has an inner voice that does not shut up. Taking time to calm the mind has a huge range of benefits.

In the Calm book, Michael and Alex share their stories of what led them to launching Calm in 2012. “By stepping away and stilling my mind, I was able to fully appreciate the power of calm, we are now on a mission to help the world find more calm and less stress through mindfulness meditation.”
So we downloaded the calm app and bought the book.
The app consists of meditations, bedtime stories and simple deep breathing exercises.

So here are our family’s thoughts on the app:

Sarah:
As soon as the app is opened, it says to take a deep breath then shows you a beautiful, natural scene with the relaxing sounds of nature. I found even to open the app make me feel calmer.

My favourite part of the Calm app was the Emergency Calm, which has proved invaluable to me in restoring a peaceful mind following fraught moments, particularly on difficult mornings after fighting to get the kids to school on time (or not!). Emergency Calm promises to provide immediate relief when feeling overwhelmed or stressed. There is a choice of 2, 5 or 10 minute sessions. It starts with deep breaths, focusing on the body, and some positive affirmations.

The bedtime stories section was a lovely way of finding some calm before sleep. I love to listen to stories: the first time I used it, I was asleep in minutes and did not remember the story. The second time I used it was during a particularly restless night. The story incorporates lots of deep breathing and, at the end of the twenty minutes story, I felt much more relaxed.

There are three different meditations for preparing for sleep. My personal favourite is deep sleep relax. I had encountered this idea before and it worked well for me.

The Breathe section is great when you need to be grounded again; it helps you take slow deep breaths, slow down your thoughts and be more grounded in the now. It has sound to it so can even be running in your pocket, quietly reminding you to simply breathe.
My daughter was having a bit of a meltdown one school morning so I gave her my phone with the Breathe running, whilst I drove her to school. It worked for her. We arrived at school with her in a much calmer place.

Maik:

I think this app does what it says. From the moment the app is opened it creates a sense of calm.

I liked the selection of sleep stories. I listened to them together with Sarah,< who fell asleep within seconds.
I liked the selection of meditations designed to help you relax to sleep and felt they worked for me.

Jasmin and Emily:
The girls enjoyed the sleep stories and meditations specific to their age groups. My youngest really enjoyed the warm heart meditation and managed to follow the instructions well. The blowing candles one was a useful concept when she had her ears pierced recently and we had to clean her ears each evening. The blowing candles idea helped her to focus whilst I cleaned her ears.
Both of my girls enjoyed all of the sleep stories, but the clear favourite was Ella’s lagoon.

Josh:
My teenage son listened to the meditations aimed at 11 to 18 year olds, but found the Emergency calm most helpful.

We found this app helpful for creating a calm space in the day and restoring some order in thoughts.

The accompanying book is illustrated beautifully with gorgeous pictures and fluid text which flows around the pages. You can dip in and out of it, or leaf though it when you are feeling overwhelmed. I found exploring the book an adventure it itself. It has space for interactions, creativity, journalising, and is crammed full of tips for living more mindfully. It makes a beautiful gift for yourself of others.

Disclaimer: We were given a week’s free access in order to review the app.
We have since decided to pay and subscribe for ourselves.

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.