I love my job and what I do and as a result I spend lots of my life seeing and hearing things and then being unable to stop myself relating them to being a good leader and what makes organisations work. I guess if I was a musician I’d always have songs in my head!
A few days ago we were doing a long journey in the car and we put story CDs on in the car for our young sons to listen to - and so, for the first time in ages, I heard Aesop’s Fables. Initially I wasn’t really tuned in and then I heard this one and BANG my mind was back in work mode again:
The Belly and the Members Fable - An Aesop’s Fable
One fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the Belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or two, the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two the Members began to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest. So thus they found that even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the Body, and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces.
As I listened, it occurred to me that we so often feel that we are the ones who are doing all the work, whether it be at work or at home – and we forget that there are other people in the team who are doing their bit too, but in a quiet, often overlooked way.
I regularly facilitate in situations where someone is convinced that the other departments or individuals aren’t pulling their weight – and I get them to understand and/or work in each other’s departments and also encourage them to make sure their own house is in order before they start casting around to give criticism. These approaches get good results, but I think I’m going to add this fable into my toolkit as it underlines the point very succinctly and is a great model for good organisational design. I probably need to pin it on the fridge at home too!
Emma Warren, Portfolio Directors
This post originally appeared on Emma Warren's blog
I think that marketing is a really important key to opening up the sales door for my yummy sauces. I regularly do food tasting sessions at the shops where they sell my products.
It's time, however, to up my game and analyse the return on investment of all of my marketing activities. This is another tricky task for a novice like me: do I know how to measure the effectiveness of a marketing event and the get figures to quantify? Er, I think you know the answer.
Take last Saturday, for example. I had discussed the idea of having a Mariachi band at the Food Halls with Selfridges . It turned into reality on Sat 31 January and we had such a good time, which is clearly a good thing. These are some benefits from this tasting session:
Two videos taken were particularly interesting:
This is where I reach my limits as I don't know how to quantify whether the event was good ROI. How do I measure this? It's not straightforward. On the day, we saw 300+ people and I will get the sales figures next week.
This is what we spent:
To summarise, I think that the event was worthwhile: we sold, created awareness, and have been/will be on other websites. However, this is only my gut feeling and I need to take the guesswork out of investing on marketing to focus my very limited resources wisely. Do leave me a comment if you have any suggestions.
You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com
With the general election imminent, it’s hard not to see the most recent budget as strongly political. A number of tax incentives were announced, mainly to benefit the largest groups of taxpayers, but paid for by rises affecting the wealthy.
There were no further announcements on income tax, National Insurance or VAT. Although, as previously announced, a 50 per cent top rate of income tax will be introduced from 6 April 2010 on incomes of more than £150,000. On the same date, a reduction in personal allowances will start on incomes of more than £100,000. Finally, a 1 per cent increase in National Insurance is due to take effect from 6 April 2011.
First-time buyers escape stamp duty
The stamp duty threshold will be raised for first-time buyers from £125,000 to £250,000. As the threshold was raised at midnight last night, almost all affected buyers who have not yet exchanged will benefit. The stamp duty rise will take effect for the next two years, and could result in tax savings of up to £2,500, compared with the previous threshold.
Wealthier homeowners will fund the rise. There will be a permanent increase in stamp duty from 4 per cent to 5 per cent on house purchases over £1m.
Tip: Where possible, consider negotiating the asking price to below the threshold by negotiating extras such as curtains or garden furniture in a separate deal.
Good news for SMEs
From October, there will be a business rates cut. This will result in an exemption for properties with a rateable value of less then £6,000 and an increase in small business rates relief for properties with a value between £6,001 and £11,999.
The annual investment allowance will be doubled to £100,000. The relief – which allows a 100 per cent tax deduction for new capital expenditure – will be welcome by small and medium-sized businesses in particular.
The lifetime limit for entrepreneur’s relief will be doubled, with the effect that the first £2m (previously the first £1m) of gains will be taxed at an effective rate of 10 per cent. Contrary to wide predictions, Capital Gains Tax did not rise with the Budget, but will remain at its historically low level of 18 per cent.
Tip: It continues to be a good time for businesses to invest in growth. The difference between the top rate on income tax at 50 per cent and Capital Gains Tax rate at 18 per cent provides a clear incentive for investment in business expansion.
The Chancellor announced a 15 per cent increase in the number of government contracts that will be awarded to SMEs.
The two state-subsidised banks, RBS and Lloyds, will lend a further £94bn, of which at least half will be to small and medium-sized firms.
The Chancellor will set up an investment bank with £2 billion of equity to invest in low carbon industries such as wind farms.
The planned hike in petrol duty by 3 pence will be staggered, so that there will be a 1 pence rise in April, a further 1 pence rise in October and the final 1 pence rise in January 2011.
Good news for savers
As announced in the pre-budget report, the ISA limit will be raised from £7,200 to £10,200 from 6 April. The Chancellor also announced in this Budget that the limit will rise in future years in line with inflation.
Tip: If you have not yet used your ISA allowance there are just a few days before the end of the tax year to use the allowance before it is lost.
The wealthiest targeted
The one-off 50 per cent tax on bank bonuses has raised more than £2bn – double the amount forecast. Further attempts to increase tax revenue from higher income groups were also announced.
The inheritance tax thresholds will be frozen for four years at £325,000. If there is inflation, this will amount to a real term reduction in the threshold.
There will a crackdown on tax avoidance through agreements made with Dominica, Grenada and Belize.
Tax credits rise
Families with one and two-year-olds will receive an additional £4 per week in child tax credit from 2012. The number of hours needed to qualify for working tax credit will be cut for the over 60s.
Tip: Consider making a protective claim for tax credits. Your tax credits claim is based on the prior year unless there is an increase in your income of more than £25,000. Alternatively, you can claim for your assessment to be made on your current income level. Careful planning can ensure you derive the maximum benefit from the system.
The tax system is constantly changing and it is important to review your investment plans, cashflow forecasts and wealth management in the light of new rules and regulations.
Raphael Coman, founder of south London-based Coman & Co, is a chartered certified accountant with many years' experience gained at leading, national accounting firms. He specialises in taxation and small business accounting and offers personal tax advice to business owners, managers and contractors.
Those of you that have been following the trials and tribulations of the development of a logo for Flourish, my new branding, graphic design and marketing services business, on this and my own blog know how much hard work we put into getting it right.
And those of you that can read between the lines probably know how much I wanted to just put the finished logo in a box and forget about it. Designing your own logo feels a little like childbirth – you’re pleased with the end result but you wouldn’t want to go through it again. Of course, most of us do forget the pain and go back for more!
So I chuckled to myself when a friend emailed me and asked: “Great, I see your logo’s done. What next?”
“Well where do I start?” I typed back. “Erm… the stationery, business cards, website design, exhibition stands, brand manual, email signatures, folder, postcards, ‘leave behind brochure’… I could go on, but you get the picture”.
Designing a logo is just the start of it. The impact comes from everything we do around the logo, the identity we build and the image we create.
Most small business owners will invest in having a logo designed, but they often don’t see through the whole process. They take the logo and throw together their own stationery, “knock out” some leaflets or take up that offer from a friend to design their website.
Their brand identity doesn’t reach its full potential and they miss the opportunity to create the best impression. At worst, the homemade designs undermine all the hard work they’ve invested and that hard-worked-for impression goes by the wayside.
It’s only by designing several pieces of marketing literature, perhaps a website or some stationery as well, that you can build up a true picture of what fonts, colours, imagery and illustration styles really work for your identity.
We’ve test-driven several fonts and illustration styles before we’ve settled on the ones we’re using. Why? Simply because, when you put them into practice you find some don’t work as well as you’d hoped.
And I’ve found that my “extra stuff” – the fonts, quirky illustrations and the photos we’ve used – are what I love more than the logo itself. It’s the “heart” stuff, the magic, which blends so well with the sensible “head” decision of my logo. But you can’t have one without the other.
So if you can afford it, you should definitely have your logo designed by a professional. But from experience, I’d also strongly recommend you set aside some budget for developing the whole identity. It will make such a difference in the long run.
Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing
Planning before the end of your accounting year could reduce your tax bill and improve your cashflow. With 5 April fast approaching and many start-ups reaching the end of their year on 31 March, here are my ten tips for year-end tax planning:
Ray Coman, Coman & Co Tax Accountants (specialising in helping start-ups to succeed through quality accounting and tax advice)
I love having my own business. I love the fact that I develop my own products and I meet people who are really good at their jobs who are generous with their advice and can help me with aspects I haven’t got specialist knowledge on - for example, testing my products in a lab for shelf life or designing a website. I love the opportunities, the dream that I can bring a new product to market and that people will love it.
I also like the feeling that I can contribute to helping improve other people’s lives through generating jobs and purchasing goods at fair prices, and be a positive role model to my children.
There is no denying that this keeps me busy. I sometimes have to be away from home a lot and work very long hours. Yesterday, my husband and I were stuck at the Belfast Airport as our flight back from our friends’ wedding was delayed. We set up camp on at comfy sofa in a coffee shop and started planning our next steps for 2010.
We talked business strategy, learning needs, project management tools and the fact that it looks like I’ll have to work away from home a lot. "Do you think the children feel that I am not around enough?" I asked him. Conflicting thoughts. I have heard them speaking about the fact that their mum is an entrepreneur and has a business and that I sometimes appear in the paper and on websites. But they are growing up really quickly and I say to them that although I may not be physically at home, they can contact me and I am always available to talk to them.
"Can you work really hard, be away from home sometimes and still be a good mum?", I ask my children. They both say “yes” and I sigh with relief. They tell me that they know that I care for them and that is, I think, the bottom line. I ask them what they are learning, if anything, about the fact that I have to put a lot of time into my work. “It’s a lot of time, but hopefully if I try really hard at something I really want to do, I can be successful” my daughter says, and I think this is a good lesson.
You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com
Cashflow is the lifeblood of any organisation. Getting it wrong means that your business will fail, but getting it right at a time of economic uncertainty is a significant challenge.
Having a healthy cashflow is crucial for all companies, but can have a massive impact for start-ups. A new business can only survive for a short time with a negative cash flow, and ultimately the business will end up insolvent. Start-ups must adopt processes to help manage their cashflow from the moment they are set up.
Late payments are a significant problem for entrepreneurs to deal with. Half of the small businesses polled by Sage in its monthly Omnibus said they had been impacted by late payments over the last twelve months.
For start-ups waiting to improve their business cashflow, there are a number of steps to take, including:
Know where your money is – It sounds simple, but a lot of small businesses will fail because their owner doesn’t keep a close eye on the funds coming in and out of the business. That visibility is best achieved by maintaining regular updates on your cashflow forecasts.
Know your customers – Many businesses have a set date for paying invoices, learn when these are for your customers and record the date. If the date passes and you are yet to be paid, then there is a good chance that something is not right and you can follow up with your customer.
Set-up an online automated contingency plan – This will help you actively manage your cashflow. It is critical that start-ups remain aware of how much money they are owed and when payments are due, so that late payments do not occur in the first instance. However, if they do occur good management can ensure the late payment does not have a damaging effect on the overall cashflow. These are all aspects that business accounting software can help you get to grips with.
By implementing theses correct processes a start-up will be able to manage their financial planning effectively, forecast the year ahead and identify any potential cashflow issues. By following these guidelines and implementing the right software, businesses can make sure they remain strong and cash positive.
Brendan Flattery is the Managing Director of the Small Business Division at Sage UK and Ireland.
Think back to those heady, idealist days, before you started running your own business... What was your business meant to stand for? What would your being your own boss give you, which employment couldn’t?
Now honestly, look at how you are running your business? Are you truly in control, or is the tail wagging the dog?
From personal experience, and also my client’s experiences, some of the symptoms of your business running you (rather than the other way around) are:
Unfortunately, there is no easy one-size fits all solution – every business owner and business is different. Whilst one business owner may want a six figure income, another business owner may be happy with significantly less.
The first step in the process of taking back control of your business is to reconnect with your initial vision for your business and the lifestyle you wanted to lead as a business owner. What was it that so attracted you to business ownership? What was the aim of your business?
The second step is to identify where you have lost control and moved away from this vision, and in what aspects the business is now running you.
The third step is to start to allocate time in your working week to stepping away from the technician role and move into the entrepreneur and manager role. When I talk about technician, this is actually working in the business, doing the client work. The manager is the role where you put in systems and processes into the business, which help run your business more efficiently. Finally, the entrepreneur role allows you to lead your business and take the time to grow it as per your vision.
The fourth step is to plan how you want to run your business rather than letting momentum carry you along. Do you have to be in such a hurry or can world domination wait a little longer?
And then, finally, the last step is to implement the plans for your business.
It may sound simple, but in practice this process may be hard to complete.
Heather Townsend, The Efficiency Coach
Getting free publicity can be simple. In fact, the reason many businesses get it wrong is they try to overcomplicate things. Ever heard of KISS? It stands for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. No offence! It’s a phrase that could almost have been invented for PR (press or public relations). When trying to get free publicity, here are my five tips which I hope will prove useful:
1 Tailor your story to the audience
Journalists are focused on their audience. If the people for whom they are creating content want to know about a specific subject, that’s what they will write about. If you seek publicity for something else, they won’t be interested. You need to understand exactly what your target audience is interested in and make your story fit. Get that right and it becomes much easier to persuade journalists to write about you.
2 Be different
It’s the best way to capture a journalist’s attention. Your story must be packed with ‘standoutability’ (a made-up word that sums it up perfectly). Journalists get hundreds of press releases and story suggestions every day. If yours are the same as the rest, they’ll go the same way – in the bin.
3 Become an expert
If journalists recognise you as an expert in your field, they’ll turn to you first for comment, time and time again. And that means your customers will know you’re an expert, too. Incidentally, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you are a true expert; what matters more is who positions themselves that way first to journalists and their audience.
4 Make journalists’ jobs easier
Most press releases sent to journalists go straight in the bin (these days they simply hit the delete key, often without even opening an emailed release). Largely, it’s because the people who write them don’t understand what journalists are looking for. Once a journalist becomes interested in your business/story, make sure you give them what they ask for – information, quotes, photographs, etc – and do it quickly. You can lose media attention as quickly as you attracted it if you don’t make the journalist’s job as easy as you can.
5 Generate creative ideas for stories
If all you’ve got is a run-of-the-mill story, forget it – why would a journalist want to write about you? You’ve got to use your imagination. You must be creative and seek to generate stories that inspire and sustain interest. Find interesting angles where possible.
Journalists are desperate for great stories. This presents nothing but opportunity for you and your business. I look forward to reading about your business soon.
Personal branding is how you project yourself to the world, how you create and maintain your image and identity. Your brand is just as much about your profession, business and career as your background, what type of person you are, your interests and any interesting facts.
Personal branding is what you do, what you are and above all – what you can do for others. Having a meeting, making a phone call, sending an email are all activities where you get the opportunity to demonstrate your personal brand. Offline and online, you only get a few seconds to make a first impression, so you must get it right.
Do you need a personal brand?
You already have one. You need to make sure it projects what you want it to by staying consistent or – better still – continuous improvement. You must take control of your personal brand because it can help your business to get noticed. It will help you to be seen by current and prospective clients, business partners, employers and so forth. You want people to remember who you are and what you do.
People buy from people – not businesses. Unless you’re ordering a book online, you want to know the people behind the business. This is especially true in service and high-end sales environments, where customers only buy from credible sales people with strong brands. Blue chips are giving their managers personal branding training to turn them into better ambassadors for their employer. The trend is growing and personal branding will be part of everyone’s induction training one day.
Personal branding is extremely important to start-ups – possibly even more important. Customers buy from a few individuals – not really the business brand, which has to be developed over time anyway. Having people with strong personal brands working for a start-up basically means they lend their credibility to the business. Leveraging your employee’s personal brands is probably one of the most cost effective ways of marketing and promoting your business.
Where do you start?
If you want to boost your personal brand and get the maximum impact straight away, the Internet is the best place to start. It’s free and very simple to sign up for online networking sites, which are great tools for promoting your personal brand.
A typical professional will have a profile on Linkedin or Facebook, some will have lots of others. As long as you use and maintain your profile correctly, you’re on to a winner. Try Googling your name and see what happens. Prospective customers are likely to do this these days. Are you happy with what they will see? If you were a client, you would probably want to see a supplier with a professional profile on Linkedin and possibly other platforms.
If you can’t find yourself, you have a fair bit of work to do. You will also be cross-referenced on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, blogs and other sites to see that you are not simply putting on a ‘corporate act’. Make sure the brand you project is consistent and well positioned.
What are the ‘must-haves’?
Having a professional looking, well-written Linkedin profile will benefit many start-up owners. You should also have well-rehearsed elevator pitch that you can deliver at any time. I’d also recommend an online bio you can link to, as well as ‘clean’ and searchable profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Google Profiles.
And the ‘nice to haves’?
Make sure you’re consistent with everything you communicate to the world. This includes everywhere you have an online presence. Consider whether prospective customers will be surprised or even disappointed when they meet you for the first time. You must be one and the same across all channels, then you will stand a better chance of coming across as genuine and trustworthy.
Share information about yourself, tell stories and inspire others. Add some personality to your brand – we all know it’s easier to sell on emotions than facts. When you think you are finished, anyone should be able to locate you online and find out what you do and what makes you special. If this isn’t the case – you need to put some more work in.
Jörgen Sundberg, Personal Branding UK
The Start Up Donut’s week-long celebration of mums who run businesses – mumpreneurs, kitchen table tycoons, business mums, businesswomen, call them what you will – is over for another year. What did we learn?
People don’t necessarily like to be labelled, so do we need a term to define this group? Is it necessary for people to know you’re a mum or is the fact you have children irrelevant?
The discussion surrounding the term ‘mumpreneur’ on our forum threw up some interesting opinions.
On the one hand, business women such as Laura Rigney are proud of the ‘mumpreneur’ tag. She said: “It takes an awful lot of determination and dedication to start a business from scratch and then continue running it while doing the everyday things that come with being a mother”.
Emily Cagle disagreed, saying: “The main issue for me is the irrelevant categorisation of a business owner (who happens to be female and a parent). People tend to mean well by using the term to recognise the challenges mums often face, but I think it's generally unhelpful.”
There will always be disagreements over such things, anyway, if Cara Sayer is right, the term 'mumprenenur' will undoubtedly go out of fashion”. Other terms, such as ‘kitchen table tycoon’, were also disliked, it must be said.
We also invited guest blog posts from business mums last week and it was interesting to see the common themes: the importance of being resourceful; effective time-management; the need for multi-tasking; the need to start up on a shoestring; remain flexible; and being adept at prioritisation of time and tasks.
The lessons learned when managing a family and various school runs, mealtimes, hobbies and bedtime routines can be very useful when running a business.
You can see from the case studies that we’ve featured on the site, such as April Browne who runs Crystal Jewels, that despite much competition for their time, many mums continue to be inspired to start a business, while for some, such as Claire Willis of SnugBaby, necessity is still the mother of invention and the basis for many new mum-owned enterprises.
At the end of the week, I asked an open question on Twitter aimed at all business mums: “What was your inspiration for starting your business?" These were just some of the replies:
These were broadly representative, with the vast majority related to having enough flexibility to look after children while still providing for the family. Starting a business seems to be the perfect solution for women who want to continue working but who also want to spend time with their children while they’re small.
On a personal level, it’s been really nice to be in touch with such a lovely group of people who’ve been so helpful and really got stuck in with the discussions.
I’d like to say a special thank you to our blog contributors and to everyone who retweeted, commented, said hello and helped to spread the word. Although Mother’s Day has been and gone, our support for mums running their own businesses will continue throughout the year.
Anna Kirby, BHP Information Solutions
Well, guess what. I have finally heard from the bank, after 3+ weeks. Inefficiency? Procrastination? Well, whatever it may be, the bank said no. At this point I could U-turn and get a job, a salary and pack it all in. But I KNOW there is something out there that will work, a stone that has been left unturned.
This is a hard knock on my fundraising effort. We have gone so far. Larger contracts have been placed and I can’t develop new products without the funding I was counting on. What next?
I spoke to my neighbour, a successful, experienced builder who is going through a difficult time at the moment. He said exactly the same thing. He needed bank support to make a new project a reality. The equity was there to secure the loan but the bank said they didn’t want to make him homeless- can you believe it? I’ve no words to explain my frustration.
I have been speaking with a couple of investors but they want to take their time and my time is now. How do I say “now”, not later? How?
I think you’ll agree with me that opting to run your own business means NOT settling for the easy option. There’s a huge degree of resilience required, which one needs to develop along the way to cope with the difficulties. As the bank said no to lending to the business, we moved on to (another!) personal loan.
Now it’s all about moving forward... due to a grant we got from the East Midlands Food and Drink iNet, we were able to have a PR agency work with us for a few months. This means we were able to write our first newsletter and we also sent loads of samples to magazines and newspapers. I've had my first interview with a glossy magazine which will hopefully mean that there will be more awareness for the products nationally. We’ve had interest from other national magazines, and a large food magazine is talking about writing a feature on us which would be fantastic.
You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com
I don’t often write about the challenges of running a business and being a busy mum to four children. And whilst I do attend some of the women’s networking clubs, I do like to think that our business can stand on its own two feet - mum or not.
To be honest I think that most of us mums have a massive advantage over the men and child-free ladies who are competing in the business world.
Well firstly women are naturally blessed with amazing multi-tasking and time management skills. Show me a working mum and I will show you a lady who has set the alarm for one hour before the the kids are up to complete a project and who has successfully managed to feed a baby whilst drafting an email on her blackberry.
The second and most influential success factor for working mums is determination. I was a young teenage mum. Before the birth of my (now nearly 19 year old) daughter, I was studious but really lacked any kind of focus on what I wanted to be. Having had a baby before my first job (does a paper round count!?) prompted me to question what I needed out of life. And the answer to that 16 year old mum was money. I chose A-Levels and a Degree that would open doors (Maths, Physics, Business Studies and a Degree in Computing). In fact my whole adult life has been goal driven.
Now in my mid thirties and with baby number five on the way I am so happy to have been able to carve myself a career whilst managing the work-life balance. Just in the last few weeks our home has been struck with a sickness bug, terrible three week long colds and on Wednesday my three year old son woke up covered head to toe in a horrendous rash which later turned out to be an allergy. Had I still been in the corporate world I dread to think what my boss might have said each day as I requested more and more leave to care for my children!
After 11 years of working as a lecturer in further education, I was beginning to feel more and more like I needed a change, but just didn't know what.
What I did know, was that I wanted to work for myself in some capacity. I'd run my own business before, but took the job at the college because I wanted the benefits of maternity and sick pay.
In February of 2007, I found out that I was pregnant. It came as a complete surprise and it certainly wasn't planned. I already had two boys and had made my mind up that I didn't want any more.
As soon as I began my maternity leave, I had an overwhelming feeling that now was the time to start my own business and I just knew that I wouldn't be going back to the college.
But what would I do?
In October 2007, I gave birth to a gorgeous little boy and I became even more determined to work from home, running my own business.
Although my partner was working, he also had a small online business called www.BeingaMillionaire.com. It had been moderately successful but he'd begun to lose interest and because of this, some orders had been overlooked.
I decided to start sending the orders out while I was off work.
I should add that at the same time, we were having a very large extension built on the house and the place was crawling with builders. The only place I could sit quietly and work was our bedroom. So it was there that I would sit on the bed, laptop perched on one knee, baby bouncing on the other while I typed emails with one hand!
It didn't take long for the business to take off. It was such a great idea, all it needed was a little TLC.
I chose not to use childcare so baby had to go wherever I went - to meetings, visiting suppliers, seeing the bank manager...everywhere, and he always got a great reaction.
When the time came for me to return to work, I took the plunge, called HR and told them I wouldn't be back. I did have to pay back some of my maternity pay, but it was worth it.
Even though I was sad to leave as I had made some great friends, I've never looked back.
Two and a half years later and my little baby is now a toddler and I work during his playgroup sessions and nap times.
The business has just had it's most profitable year yet and I'm currently in the process of expanding the product range.
I know not everyone will have such a great experience as me but I wouldn't discourage anyone from taking that big step into their own business.
Andrea Daly, The Accidental Businessmum
What’s my greatest challenge as an aspiring mumpreneur? Not enough time or money. Oh and not forgetting the lack of sleep (milk in the washing machine, dirty socks in the fridge – you get the picture).
The fact that I’ve had the word ‘aspiring’ in front of my job title for about eighteen months now gives you some idea of how long the research phase takes when you have babies.
But we mumpreneurs face even more challenges than a mere lack of time, money and sleep. If you’re short of cash from being on maternity leave or working part -time, then you need to start a business on a shoestring, which means you might have a lot of competition. And that means your marketing needs to be good if you’re to stand out from the crowd. That’s a tall order if this is your first journey into the world of business.
Most businesses have one main aim - to make money. Most mumpreneurs run businesses with two aims - to make money and to work around their family. This is a tough juggling act, especially if you’re grabbing an hour here and an hour there when the children are napping or at pre-school.
So why on earth are so many of us doing it?
Having children shifts your priorities in ways you cannot imagine until you do it. Of course your children become the centre of your world, but with this can come a huge burst in motivation and creativity. Your time becomes more precious – any working time is time away from your babies – so you want to make the absolute best of it.
The urge to provide for your family is not just for the guys. Mums have it too.
It’s this potent mix of instinct, motivation, determination and (let’s face it) necessity that drives us to start our own businesses at one of the toughest times of our lives.
Watch out, here we come.
Helen Lindop, www.businessplusbaby.com
If you're a mum in business, there are a number of areas that could be of benefit to you. As well as making sure you are claiming Child Tax Credits, you could try the following:
Not paying Class 2 National Insurance Contributions
Currently £2.40 a week, Class 2 National Insurance Contributions don’t have to be paid if you earn below £5,075 in 09/10, but make sure you understand that you will be giving up rights to incapacity allowance, basic state pension and maternity allowance. Claim a deferment and you can save £2.40 a week (09/10 rate). You are eligible for state pension anyway if you have children under 12. Make a claim on http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/forms/cf411.pdf.
Investing in The Child Trust Fund
The Child Trust Fund is available to all children born on or after 1 September 2002. The government will give you a voucher for £250 which you can invest in a Child Trust Fund savings account of your choice, and they will give you another £250 when your child is seven. If you have a relatively low household income, you may also receive another payment. You, your friends or family, can top up the fund by up to £1,200 annually and there are no taxation impacts. The fund will be available to your child when they reach 18.
Setting up a pension for your children
An even better place to invest for your child’s future could be in a pension. Obviously this is a long term investment and would not be available from age 18, but many parents may consider that an advantage. Stakeholder pensions are available to non earners and children, and you can invest £2,880 a year, which is then topped up to £3,600 by HMRC.
Making sure interest on savings accounts is tax free
In most cases, your children should be receiving interest on their savings tax free. If this is not the case, complete form R85 and take it to the bank to make sure interest is paid tax free.
Involving children in your business
Amy Taylor Accountancy takes every care in preparing material to ensure that the content is accurate and up to date. However no responsibility for loss to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of this material can be accepted by Amy Taylor Accountancy.
Amy Taylor, Amy Taylor Accountancy
Working for yourself is certainly one way in which to take control of your working hours, be more flexible with childcare arrangements and, more importantly, spend more time with your children when they need you. However, nothing in life is for free: everything has a cost attached. So what is the cost for work at home mums?
The house, the husband/partner/significant other and the children all continue to need you, and make demands on your time, but there is also a ‘New Kid on The Block’ – your business. For that to survive and be successful it also needs as much care and attention as a new-born baby. So when all these demands has been squeezed into a day… well there aren’t many minutes left.
On a personal level, being able to do the school run is a very important and key reason for choosing to work for myself. However, the pay off for that is a shortened working day, which results in working evenings and weekends. This in turn impacts on my relaxation time and time with my husband. So how do you counteract this?
Time management is one of the hottest topics around as we seem to be under pressure to cram more and more into each day. Mums generally are very adept at both multi-tasking and fitting 48 hours worth of tasks and activities into a day. Where the problem may lie is in delegation and prioritising, especially when it comes to ensuring we still have time for ourselves and our partners.
If you start with 24 hours and all the things that have to be fitted in, you will quickly come to the conclusion that cutbacks need to be made. The trick is to ensure that every ‘department’ should take a part in these cutbacks. So rather than the ‘me time’ and ‘us time’ sections being all but eroded, why not look to all areas. Highest on my own list for a cutback is housework, and it doesn’t take me a lot of encouragement to miss the dusting for a week or leave the ironing pile for another day. Likewise, much as I love cooking, there are times when the usual home-cooked-from-scratch meal is replaced by a take away or convenience food, and – surprise surprise - the world doesn’t end!
The majority of mums take the decision to work for themselves because of their children. However if this enables you take and collect your children from school and be with them in the holidays, then you shouldn’t feel guilty if Daddy does bedtime or you spend three hours working at the weekend; they will benefit more from the key times you are there compared to paid employment. Equally it is good to have your partner onside who can help understand that your attention and energy is being drawn in a new direction, but will support you and understands that in the long term this is a solution which will benefit you all.
Most important of all is ‘you’ time. This in my experience is the first to go when working for yourself and takes real strength of character to maintain; you have never ending to-do list, the housework is falling behind and the family are missing your undivided attention. How do you justify time for you, let alone actually find it? Firstly you need to re-train yourself; not an easy job if delegation is not one of your strengths or you are used to being 'mistress' of the home. Secondly you need to gradually retrain the rest of the family that Mummy doesn’t do everything, and accept that their way isn’t the wrong way.
And finally, convincing yourself that you deserve that time; you work hard all seven days of the week for the benefit of the family… so even if you only manage a half hour’s peace with a G & T in the bath, you truly need and deserve it. Without you, neither the business nor the family would be so successful. Cheers!
Sam Pearce & Helen Woodham, Mum's The Boss
A version of this post originally appeared on Mum's The Blog
My Count On It® labels enable busy households like mine to keep track of when food has been opened and make an informed decision of whether it should be thrown away. As a busy mother to two young boys, I was always throwing food away because I couldn’t remember when I’d opened it.
Such is the success of my business, a while ago I was invited to an event at Downing Street to celebrate the achievements of Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses – something I never thought would happen. It’s amazing – if somebody had told me two years ago that one of my ideas would be retailing through a national high street store and that I’d be invited to Downing Street because of it, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Getting the business off the ground took a combination of a tried and tested route with a helping of TV quiz show luck. Having come up with the concept I contacted Business Link for help. I then won £15,500 on Channel 4’s Deal or No Deal, which enabled me to move things forward quickly. Following research and trials of product samples, the first batch was manufactured in April 2008 and soon we were trading online (www.count-on-it.co.uk).
Lakeland and Betterware now stock my products and their popularity is growing through word of mouth, online via Twitter (@mummypreneur) and my website. I am also in talks with a distribution partner in America and have sold as far afield as Korea and Australia. Count On It® labels have received glowing endorsements from celebrity mums such as Amanda Holden and Angela Griffin, as well as green/eco advocate Janey Lee Grace.
Becoming a mumpreneur has changed my life and as an advocate for taking an idea to market should the opportunity arise, I’d encourage any mum who wants to fulfill her entrepreneurial dream to take that leap of faith. As Goethe succinctly puts it: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
Lyndsey Young, Count On It
I’d often dreamed of becoming my own boss but I lacked the start up capital to take such a huge financial risk so it stayed a dream. It wasn’t until I was on maternity leave that I realised I didn’t want to leave my son with someone else while I went out to work but I resigned myself to the fact that this was how it was going to be.
Then a week before I was due back to work I was made redundant. I was devastated. I was relying on the income after months of unpaid leave and I needed to start earning money again. The recession was in full swing, there was a lack of local jobs and I still wanted to stay at home with my son.
After a while I started thinking this was my opportunity to finally start a business. By this point I’d had some success sewing toys and shoes for my baby and had managed to get a few custom orders. At first I thought this was great but I soon realised the baby shoes were too time consuming to make which meant I wouldn’t make a profit. For years I had been fully immersed in the online handmade community and while I was researching other business possibilities I realised there was a gap in the market to help others in this area. I was seeing so many creative people trying to sell their handmade goods but not having much luck purely due to the fact that they didn’t know the best way to market themselves. With my past experience working in advertising, marketing and promotions and my first class degree in Design and Management I knew I could help.
But I had no money. I knew my target market was international and because my niche was crafters I knew where to find them. I joined Etsy, a handmade marketplace for small businesses. On Etsy you list items for sale under a shop front which you can design yourself. Etsy allows you to sell non-handmade items as long as you are providing a finished item which in my case is marketing and PR plans.
Start up costs
I set up my shop on Etsy for free. I designed a banner, logo and illustrations to list my products under. Listing was 20 cents an item and I listed 4 items to start with. I actually didn’t have to pay anything upfront as the bill for these listings would be due a month later.
Marketing on a budget
Despite not having much money I was able to utilise the internet to market myself for free. I use Twitter and Facebook to interact with other entrepreneurs and forums to chat with potential customers.
I set up a free blog with marketing tips and I decided early on to feature inspirational businesses in a series called Creativity Speaks! This helped to gain readers whilst becoming a resource for creative businesses.
Within a few weeks I had my first clients. One in Canada and the other in Singapore. Due to my low overheads, almost overnight I had a profitable international business.
I now spend my days playing with Lego, finger painting, exploring in parks and collecting things for our nature table. When my son naps I catch up on emails, when he goes to bed for the night I complete marketing plans. Being made redundant was the best thing that ever happened to me. Just don’t tell my old employers that!
My top tips when starting up on a budget:
Isa Maria Seminega, Noisette Marketing
Being a mum can be challenging, being a business woman can be challenging too. Trying to do both at once can be mind-boggling. I fight shy of the term mumpreneur, but if it suits you, then that's what I am. I run my small business from home and I am also full-time mum to two pre-schoolers.
I always swore I wouldn't and couldn't run a business, house and family at once and I was right, something had to give and sadly that was housework! If inspiration strikes but you think circumstances prevent you from acting on it, then ignore your head and go with your heart. Running your own business is a rewarding, fun, busy add-on to family life and just the challenge my poor nappy-brain needed. So a few tips if you fancy joining me on a self-employed mum adventure:
Good luck to you and I'd love to hear all about your experiences.
When starting a business it is difficult to put aside an amount for marketing and it’s hard to justify how much should be spent.
When I started my business Rentabuggy.co.uk in 2008 I spent a couple of thousand pounds on marketing within the first six months but was surprised to find that I didn’t get many results from it. Here are my top five tips for advertising on a low budget.
Laura Morris, Rentabuggy.co.uk
Working as a life coach and business mentor for the last three years, I have come across many challenges and issues mums face in trying to run their own business; time management, dealing with guilt etc. However, one of the major obstacles mums seem to come up against time and again is that they have difficulty selling their product or service. They aren't 'sales people'.
Ask any businessmum to describe her business and its benefits and she could probably explain to you in glowing and passionate terms what she does and why she does it. Ask her to sell you her business and she clams up. Why? Although I've asked for the same thing simply using different wording, many people assume that use of the word 'sell' implies pushiness or forcing a product or service onto someone who isn't interested. For example, when you think of a salesperson, how do you picture them? A bored girl in a shop, a car salesman? Or something different?
It makes sense that when starting out with an opinion of sales like this, it is always going to be difficult to sell yourself or your business. So, why not challenge those long-held beliefs? Think about all the people who have to sell in their line of work and how many of them actually fall into this category. Can a different picture of a salesperson be developed?
Alternately, why not classify the action of selling as something other than sales. For example, informing or enthusing (choose a word that suits you and your personality). If the burden is simply to inform a possible client about a product rather then sell, does this lift the pressure? Is the process approached with a lighter heart?
The second thing a lot of mums assume about selling is that it implies concluding with a sale, often by 'coaxing' or 'pressuring' a client into it. It doesn't need to be this way. If you truly understand your market and what they want and can present a product or service in such a way that it appeals, sales will be created simply by making people aware of what is on offer. Assuming the demand is there, of course.
Some other great ways to combat the no sale are:
Selling needn't be stressful or pressured. Approached positively, it can simply be a celebration of what you do and who you are and, in the end, aren't people more likely to buy from someone who's enthusiastic about their business than someone trying to force it down their throat?
Alli Price, Motivating Mum
I do love the support and compliments I get from my fellow mums. I am regularly asked: “How do you fit it all in – not just one child, but a baby and then your business?”.
There is no real secret to it. But this is how I manage:
1) Firstly motivation – without motivation, there is no way you will fit it all in. If you are motivated, then things do become much easier. This is what motivates me:
2) There is, of course, time management:
3) Set realistic expectations/adapt to the time you have:
I was recently asked if I ever sleep – you know what – I do! I sleep more than my peers, almost eight to nine hours a night (with interruptions from the baby, of course) and I do read too – probably one book a week. So the tips above do work. Honest.
The key is probably to find something you love and the rest will follow naturally.
Margarita Woodley, Red Ted Art
Dear aspiring mumpreneur,
I'm writing this open letter to you to outline some crucial points that I wish someone had laid out for me. I'll keep it as short as possible because I know your time is precious but I'm sure that if you read this through, you'll save a ton of time in the long run.
If you are truly serious about becoming a part of the wonderful world of mumpreneurialism, read carefully what I have written below, you'll gain the information you need to act now and get in the right mindset.
Here are, not necessarily in the best order, my top tips to set you on your way:
So there you have it, the open advice that I wish I could have received when I first started out. I hope that it serves you well and that you go on to be truly successful and accomplish all that you set out to achieve. Maybe you could look me up in the Mumpreneur community and let me know how you're getting on sometime ― I'd love to hear all about it.
So, from one Mumpreneur to another - good luck, stay focused and live each day to the max!
Nikki Backshall, WebMums.com