Mums in business
Since starting Cuddledry, and particularly since our appearance on BBC Dragons Den, we are often contacted by other people who have business ideas and want to take them further. We have met, talked and emailed with many entrepreneurs like ourselves who are either already in business, just starting out, or are in the early stages with a clever idea. Having made many mistakes ourselves, but also having received invaluable advice from others who know much more than us, we are very happy to share our experiences and help if we can! So we thought it might be useful to put a few of the things we have found helpful up on our site for any budding entrepreneurs out there.
The best one stop shop for business advice for anyone starting up we reckon is Business Link. Through Business Link you can obtain guidance on every aspect of running a business, from accounts to marketing, and get a really good intial overview. Their website is a genuinely good resource (www.businesslink.gov.uk) and they do some great downloads about all the different things you have to think about. Plus there are loads of really helpful real life case studies so you can get genuine feedback from others who've done it before you.
Another government department which has been a huge support to us has been UK Trade and Investment. They offer guidance, support and grants to help UK companies get going in international trade, and run a scheme called 'Passport to Export' to get you up and running - www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk. When you are starting from scratch with manufacturing overseas, exporting, and communicating with different cultures globally they can really help you avoid major pitfalls and potential costs. They also offer some really good, practical training courses which help you understand the challenges and opportunities that are out there - definitely worth taking the time to do (and a great networking opportunity too!).
But perhaps the greatest help to us has been talking, talking, talking to people who are already in business, or doing the same as us. At the simplest level it is reassuring, because everyone faces problems and frustrations and it is always good to know you are not alone. But at the most important level, we believe this has saved us thousands of pounds, as we have been able to learn from others rather than make mistakes and have to pay for them!
Visiting and exhibiting at trade shows - whether local, national or international - is a valuable time to meet a lot of people in the sector you are involved with, all in one place. You can learn about market trends, make useful contacts, and get a real 'insider' feel for what is going on.
And once you have built a network of friends relevant to your work, its not all a one way thing - we share information and learn from each other. We meet regularly for a catch up with a few trusted contacts, and share information so we can all be confident we are doing things as well as we can!
The other question we are so often asked is how to manage your own business as well as being a mum or dad. We won't claim there is a simple answer to this one! It is, as you can imagine, incredibly hard work and a constant juggling act. But on the other hand, running your own business means that you are in control, and you can make sure you work hours which do not affect your children, so you can enjoy your time with them.
We have learned that segmenting your time strictly is the way to manage being working mums. At Cuddledry we have created a structure which means all our team work from home and work flexible hours. We do not waste time travelling to and from an office, and we all work flexible hours to suit us and the business. As a result our business is highly productive, and we are able to work with people in different time zones too.
We use technology to keep communication really strong between all of us, despite the fact that we have team members in locations as diverse as Somerset, Kent and Hong Kong. This business model also means we can recruit exactly the right person for the job, without being constrained by geography. Each of our team operates essentially their own 'mini-business' within our operation, which is hugely motivating for each of us and allows us to really use our individual strengths efficiently.
We also outsource wherever we do not have in-house expertise - which is cost effective and again, much more productive. So each individual flexible worker within our team can juggle the demands of their family, life or other work whilst also doing a great job for Cuddledry.
Some of the best advice we have been given is that none of us should expect to be able to do everything - we should outsource, outsource, outsource - in home life as well as business. This seems like expensive advice, but when time is your most valuable asset, it must be right.
There are an increasing number of websites out there to support working parents, such as mumsclub.co.uk, which act as signposts for more advice, and also offer forums where you can share information and learn from others.