In 2005 I went on holiday to France with my family when a shocking experience redefined my life.
My son Barnaby was a lovely and lively two-year-old playing at the holiday villa we were renting - when he fell into an unenclosed swimming pool. We were extremely lucky that we were there watching and my father jumped in straight away and pulled him to safety.
We were horribly shocked - though like most toddlers he bounced back pretty quickly. The problem came when I began to think about a holiday the following year and could not find a family-friendly company that met the safety criteria I now considered essential.
It's funny how the best ideas can come to you by accident – literally, in my case. I felt there had to be a safer and more enjoyable way to holiday with small children. More to the point, I knew there must be plenty of parents just like me who were looking for the same thing. An idea began to form.
In April 2006 I started what was to become Tots To Travel from my kitchen table, with a grant of just £100. This bought a logo, which I used when approaching holiday home owners. I also chose a name, Tots to France, which quickly proved too limiting and had to be changed as we grew. I launched with nine properties on my books – and it wasn't long before I found our services were in demand.
Several years later and we now have more than 350 properties across France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK and Canary Islands. It’s been a huge learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed every minute, and even had another wonderful baby along the way.
Getting to where I am now, running a successful award-winning company, has been a rollercoaster ride and often a lonely one at that. While the highs are great, the lows are hard work. It can also be difficult to get away from the business, it is such an exciting journey that my brain rarely switches off, and at times it can feel relentless.
But, of course, there are plenty of good things about being your own boss. Not least that while on a day-to-day basis I work full time, I am able to organise my time around my children and I'm there to take them to school and look after them when they're sick.
I am the 'present' parent I want to be, while still having a creative outlet and sense of my own identity. I have achieved fulfillment on every level and am able to say, with confidence, that I am creating an exciting and secure future for my family.
Running my own business was the only way forward for me and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a career choice. I only wish I had done it sooner.
Extract taken from The Mother of Invention, written by businesswoman, author, mentor for women in business and mother of three Wendy Shand, owner of multi-award winning business Tots To Travel. The book is available to download for free.