How and why I became a mumpreneur

Christianne JamesOnline nursery furniture, baby bedding and baby gifts retailer 4little1s.com was started in 2008. After a glass (or two) of wine, it began life as a rough idea jotted onto a piece of paper on a kitchen table in Surrey, but now it turns over £120,000. Founder and mumpreneur Christianne James has big plans for the future

“I used to work in the City for a major international bank. It was a great job. However, I always felt I needed a better work-life balance, especially if I was going to have children. The bank job didn’t really offer the prospect of the type of work-life balance I’d need."

King Richard

“Deep down, I’d always had a keen interest in business and knew that one day I’d set something up. It was reading Richard Branson's autobiography that finally inspired me.

“It taught me the lesson that sometimes you just need to give it a go. You can read, plan, run through spreadsheets, talk with people, look at statistics and so on, but sometimes you just need to get on with it and do it.

“To be fair, starting a business just as the world was entering into financial chaos raised a couple of eyebrows, but I’d covered the downsides and felt confident the idea would work.

“Shortly after becoming pregnant, I decided to take a look online to find out what I could purchase without the need to go down to my busy local high street on a wet Saturday afternoon."

Lightbulb moment

“It soon became apparent that it wasn’t as straight forward as I had thought, which is when I had the ‘lightbulb moment’ with the realisation there has to be another way.

“My husband had been working in the City for a number of years in IT and had the technical knowledge. I'd spotted a gap in the market for a quality online nursery retail business.

“Starting and establishing the business has required very hard work, long hours and initially it was more stressful than the banking job I left. I was fortunate that my husband invested in the company, so at least I didn’t have the worry about a bank chasing me for loan repayments.

“What's been the key to making it work? Having confidence in my idea, not being afraid of hard work or long hours and just having the stubborn belief I could make it happen."

Family fortune

“Having a supportive family who understand the business and are happy to help out during peak times has also been invaluable. Having their objective opinions on a range of matters has also been good for my business.

“What key lessons have I learnt? If you have belief and self-confidence you can do it. That doesn’t mean trying to do everything yourself. Get other people to help you – if it saves you time and money – why not? Create a strong team around you that you can trust – accountant, suppliers, website designers, PR and marketing people, delivery company, etc. Get a mentor, too – someone you can bounce ideas off or ‘tell you how it really is’. Harness the full power of technology and realise what a powerful marketing tool online social media has become. Learn from your mistakes, too, but don’t be afraid to make them.”

Christianne’s top three tips

  • “As Winston Churchill said: ‘Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense’.”
  • “Respond to all enquiries quickly and professionally. You never know where it may lead.”
  • “Make sure you have backup childcare or work out in advance how you are going to run your business around the demands of being a mum.”

This case study was first published in December 2010.

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