Tag Archives: work life balance

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

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.

You’ll never guess what happened on Friday!

On Saturday I went along to Mumsnet workfest 2016. I was still very surprised to be going along. Twenty two hours before I did not know I was going! I got a tweet from Barclays to say I’d won a pair of tickets. I looked at the website and was so excited about the line up. Just a quick call to my hubby to chat about childcare and I was all set to go. The Mumsnet workfest looked to be aimed as mums returning to work after maternity leave. I figured there were a couple of seminars that looked really good and it was a great opportunity to network.

The most surprisingCath andMe part of the day was when I met Cath. I arrived early and got chatting to another he. She had an awful lot in common with me. I’m from Bradford, and she lives there now. We both LOVE languages, especially German, so we chatted about that, about our families, and the Lingotastic classes I run. Anyone who has read my blogs, or met me in the flesh will know that family language learning is my passion, so another mum looking to bring more language learning into her family life and maybe run classes like mine is an absolute joy to me. Cath said this was something she’d like to do so discussed my journey and ideas for her to work towards something similar.

The first event was with the keynote panel of Karen Blackett OBE, Jo Whiley, Jess Phillips MP and Kirstie Mackey. It was awesome to hear them share their stories and “How they do it all.”Panel speaking
Karen is a truly inspirational women who has created a culture in her company which includes and celebrates family. Jo Whiley shared how through her radio career she has worked with supportive people who have allowed her to be a mum as well as an employee. The two shining light pearls of wisdom from this session were “One good parent is enough”- Jess, and “Bring the whole of you to work” – Karen. If the day had stopped there, this would have been brilliant already.

I’m self employed, so the break out session on The Key to building your business was just what I wanted to hear. It was so great to hear others stories. I heard what I know now to be true, “Starting your own business is not the easy option”. I also had the time to reflect on how lucky I am to have a hubby who has let me run a selfie2business which did not make any money for the first two years.
For the second breakout session I walked in, and the lovely Esther Stanhope was bouncing around with excitement. It was titled “How to network when you hate small talk” There were lots of brilliant little tips I could quickly put into practice. We had to break into pairs and speed network. I found out that Katie loves Bradford (where I’m from) and writing and blogging. I was so excited I took a silly selfie. She confessed that prior to this she was a selfie virgin!

Lunch was delicious restaurant quality food and great chance to network. I chatted with a bilingual Russian & English mum about what they do at home, and she said advice and support would make a massive difference to her as her daughter grows. This was a massive encouragement to me and something I am considering I how to work in practice.

 

I went along to the self esteem workshop with Kim Morgan from Barefoot Coaching. The room was pretty full. It was a high speed session including many ideas and a couple of group exercises. I came away with a revelation that as women we all struggle with similar issues which was a real eyeopener to me. Her book The Coach’s Casebook looked a good way to follow up on the session.

We were so fortunate to be able to find out “What we did next”-inspiring stories with five awesome women who were inspired to launch their own business by Workfest 2015.

I was so excited that the guest speaker this year was Matthew Syed. My hubby has been reading his book “Bounce”, so I was excited I could hear him speak. He presented so clearly. This was a real lightbulb moment, to see my own growth mindset and fixed mindset. It was a real eyeopener as a mum, to help me to encourage my own children to see that if things go wrong, failure is not final, and though failing we learn how to do it better next time.
MattSyed If you want to buy his books Black box thinking and Bounce for yourself, click through.

It was an awesome day and I came away feeling comfortable in my own skin and that I’m not doing a bad job as a mum. Not bad at all for an event I’d not heard about before the Friday.

This blog is the first in a monthly series celebrating women in business and the workplace. I believe that if something is not celebrated it can die, so I want to take the chance to celebrate some awesome women. If you’d like to write a guest blog for us get in touch.

Live Learn Love Languages with Michaela Haynes

This week we are really lucky to have and interview with Michaela Haynes from Laugh, Learn, Love Languages. I met her a while ago on twitter (@LLLLanguages) As a fellow mumtrepeneur with the same vision we’ve chatted lots (and she’s from Yorkshire like me!) This week is really special for her but I’ll let her tell you about that. Over to you…
Michaela Haynes
Hi, my name is Michaela. I’m a fully qualified teacher who has been working in an outstanding Harrogate school, for 5 years, teaching Spanish and French.
I haven’t always had a love for languages, in fact, it wasn’t until I chose to take an hour of Spanish each week, as part of my Travel and Tourism qualification, that I discovered a wonderful teacher who taught lessons that captured my interest and from then on I had a new passion.
This encouraged me to become a teacher on a mission… to make language learning fun, and therefore motivating and enjoyable.
As many people will know, working in a school involves much more than being in the classroom and teaching the pupils. However, it is the teaching that I love, not the endless paperwork and meetings. After having nearly a year off on maternity leave, the thought of going back to the never-ending marking that kept me at my dining room table until 10pm most evenings and on a Sunday, whilst also juggling a family, seemed impossible. So, I decided that it was time to realise my dream… to teach people my way, the fun way, and to make languages accessible and enjoyable for everyone, all on my terms (well, along with the students’ of course)!
That’s when Laugh, Learn, Love Languages was born.
I had to make a decision. Not return to school at all and risk having no job if things didn’t go well (plus having to pay back my maternity pay) or go back to school three days a week and try to juggle the business and a family all at the same time. I chose the latter. It’s been a very busy and tiring year but I’m so pleased to say that things have gone really well. In fact, I handed in my notice at Easter and today is literally my last day at school!
I’m so looking forward to gaining the work life balance that I wanted, as of course this year has been just as busy as previous years, but I’ve enjoyed the teaching so much more. I love being my own boss and having people trust me to do my job without the pressure of the dreaded OFSTED criteria. I also really like the variety. One minute I’m singing in Spanish with toddlers, the next I’m teaching French to a feisty and competitive couple with lots of banter between them and then the next I’m teaching Spanish A Level to a lovely, hardworking student. What more could I ask for in terms of diversity? No day is ever the same!
I have big plans for the future but of course I will take it one step at a time. With some more hard work and a little bit of luck, perhaps this time next year there will be a team of us at Laugh Learn Love Languages. For now though, I’m just happy to be able to say, “Hi, I’m Michaela, the founder of Laugh Learn Love Languages and things are going really well”.
To everyone in a similar position… I wish you the best of luck. It’s not easy and can be daunting at times but I’m sure it will be worth it!
All the best,
Michaela Haynes

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Michaela. I wish you every blessing as you move into this new chapter of your life.

If you want to find out more about what she’s up to check out her website www.laughlearnlivelanguages.co.uk

Michaela and Laugh Learn Live Languages have been nominated for a Kalli Kids award. Vote for them
here
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