From start-up to pick-up

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Start up to pick upImagine earning money, doing something you're passionate about and still being able to squeeze in the school run... what's not to like? Barclays talks to one mum who has made it happen. Emma Dandy from Nettleden in Hertfordshire has three boys, aged eight, six and four. Last year she set up La Cremerie, a business sourcing and selling artisan cheeses.

 

These are her top tips on juggling a new business with being an in-demand parent.

Top tips for balancing business and home life

Get your family's backing

When I told my husband my business idea for selling artisan cheeses, he said, "Great idea. Go for it." His confidence made me confident I could do it. When I told the boys they were excited too, especially my eldest, who loves cheese. Now he tastes all my stock and tells me what he thinks of it. The business is very much a family affair.

Remember – it's intense at the start

Life becomes more expensive when you have a family and you want to start earning money as quickly as possible. But you have to invest time researching your business idea before you put money into it. From coming up with the idea of La Cremerie to actually launching took six intense months. In that time I had to learn the financial, legal and marketing aspects of running a start-up.

I did a free business course via Business Link a brilliant, government-funded site that has loads of free advice about owning a business. Then I spent ages doing market research, literally getting out on the street and talking to people to see if I had a potential market. Plus, I had to source and negotiate with suppliers, design a website, work out the hours I could give to the business, organise the house and decide where to store the stock (a fridge donated by my neighbours). I decided I wanted to start really small and I just put £3,000 of my own money into the venture, for stock and a bit of advertising. But however much money you put in at the start, the important thing is to do your research before splashing any cash.

Prepare to feel torn

I have a diary in which I put family commitments and work deadlines and I try to absolutely stick to it. But inevitably there are times when you have to do something for the kids that falls into normal 'work' time and vice versa. Recently, my youngest son's teacher rang me to say that he was saying a prayer at a Thanksgiving service. I knew he'd want me to be there, so I stopped work, went and made the hours up later.

Don't combine work and play

I work from 9am to 2pm. My clients know those are my hours and don't expect me to answer calls or emails after 2pm. Once I've picked the kids up from school it's 'mum time'. But I haven't always got that right. One afternoon the boys were home and all playing quietly upstairs, so I thought I'd quickly answer a few extra work emails. When I did finally go upstairs it was to find my middle son, painting his brother's duvet with an acrylic paint set. Lesson learned - don't try and work and play at the same time.

Use emails, not phone

I try and do the vast bulk of communicating with customers via email and through the online store, rather than by phone. When you use email you don't necessarily expect an immediate response, whereas if I wasn't there to answer the phone, it would seem less professional. When the boys are at school, I'll then work through the emails methodically, rather than having a hotchpotch of missed phone calls.

Have a wide support network

Every mum who works knows how hard it is when your kids fall ill. You have to be around to look after them or have someone around who can step in and help you. So if you're starting your own business, start it in an area where you have good friends and neighbours. That way you know there's help if there's an emergency.

Barclays offers more information and free advice on starting up your own business.

Head to Barclays on Mumsnet for lots more:

  • Expert information on starting your own business
  • Family budgeting and saving tips
  • Money-saving videos and inspiring start-up videos

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Last updated: 23-May-2013 at 12:20 PM