I just wanted to report back on the Mumpreneurs Meetup which I organised for the Tower Hamlets Mums Business Club. It was hosted by the excellent Ping Pong Dim Sum in Appold Street, who as usual gave us their lovely Private Dining Room ( I can’t sing their praises enough, they provided lovely flower teas for the mumpreneurs and they really do their best to help groups like ours).
Our first speaker was Leanne dal Santo from Smartbags. Leanne gave up a safe corporate career as an accountant to start her business after being inspired by a visit to Australia where she found out about eco friendly non woven polypropylene bags. These are made using much less toxic processes than normal plastic bags and are reusable and fully recyclable. Leanne approached the company who were importing them in Australia and set up a handshake deal to start up her own site in the UK and import the bags from the manufacturers in China (who work from an independently audited factory and ship rather than using air freight). As she had manufacturers and designs all ready to go, Leanne’s start up costs were low. Leanne works with her husband, who focuses on sales, giving her time to concentrate on PR, strategy and design. She also has two children, and has to juggle a lot! She has lots of tips for mumpreneurs wanting to follow in her footsteps:
- Know your competitors
- Focus on sales and target your audience
- Being green is not always enough, you need to look at cost as well
- Packaging is really important for your products: make sure it’s sustainable
- Communicate with your customers: don’t forget to stay in touch!
- At some point you are going to have to pick up your phone and ring potential customers! Don’t be shy!
- Outsource the things you can’t do well to give you time on the things you do do well
- It makes life easier if you don’t hold stock!
Our second speaker was Hannah McHalick from Oh Baby London. Hannah was a graphic designer for 15 years but was on maternity leave without pay when she had the idea for Oh Baby London. She designed her babygrows (including the fabulous “Inside for 9 Months”) and came up with the company name – and designed the catalogue – while pregnant. Hannah didn’t get start up funding and just went for her idea, getting samples made up and taking them around baby shops to get whole sale orders. Her brother-in-law designed her website and she started taking orders – and getting press – right away. She was offered her shop premises two years later through the workshop where Hannah was based. However, her shop and website weren’t initially Hannah’s main priority, she was focused on wholesale orders. After a near-disaster where an order wasn’t produced in time for a big wholesale customer, Hannah realised it was time to grow the retail side of her business and switched to retailing. Her turnover was the same, but her profit was much larger. It also meant she has more than one route to market.
Hannah’s tips for mumpreneurs:
- Have some money before you start, so you don’t run out in a crisis!
- Constantly monitor everything you are doing
- If something goes wrong, try to see the positive side
- It’s really important to believe in what you are doing, and keep your eye on the prize
- Know where you are going and how to get there
- Wear blinkers: be aware of your own route and don’t spend too much time looking sideways at your competitors
- Don’t ignore scary stuff; learn to love spreadsheets and profit and loss forecasts and be aware of your cashflow
- Remember to relax and look after your health and your mind: yoga and running are both recommended by Hannah
- Switch off when it’s time to pick up the kids
We had some great mumpreneurs attending the talks, including Jennifer Robertson from Scamp Baby Gifts, who makes gorgeous embroidered and personalised pictures for babies (you can follow her on Twitter too ), and Samantha McCulloch from Virtually Optimized, who offers virtual PA services for stressed mumpreneurs like me! We also had several lovely ladies who are thinking over ideas for their new businesses (including one with a nine month old baby, and one with an eight week old baby, our youngest networker yet!) and hope to add their links when they launch. All agreed that it was an inspirational event, and we hope to meet again during Business Mum Week with advice about PR, SEO and social media.