A lift when you are down
A smile when you frown
Friendship, this is how I summarise
On that note of friendship, we have this week’s ‘Me to Be’ mum. Presenting the very talented and hardworking mum of three, Aimee Foster. She has a 5 year old daughter, a 6 month old son and an angel baby. She is the co-founder of Mum Amie, www.mumamie.com. Their mission is to create strong friendships for happier and healthier mums. Mums can sign up for free and be matched with other mums in their area. Especially when you become a mum, you need that friend or those friends whom you can share anything and everything. From nappies to careers, your setbacks to triumphs, moments of joy to moments of lousiness, you can share and let your heart out to that special friend. That’s the reason I liked the concept of Mum Amie.
I asked Aimee about her business and how she is managing it while looking after three children. And she gave her very personal take on ‘starting her own business’. I thought it was heartfelt and a lot of us could be inspired from it. Over to Aimee. Please read on…
Lessons Learnt From Starting My Own Business
When I had my first daughter, I decided to give up my job as an Immigration Officer to stay home and look after her. I was lucky to have some savings to fall back on, I wanted to be a stay at home mum and I really didn’t enjoy my job. So, for me the decision was an easy one.
Fast forward nearly three years and my husband and I decided that it had come to the point that we would soon need some extra income. I looked into part time office jobs, but with the extortionate cost of childcare there would be no point me working at all. The only other option was to find some work I could do from home.
Having always worked as a civil servant, I had no business experience whatsoever. I had always wanted to run my own business but had no idea what to do or how to go about it. Over the past two years I have had a fairly unsuccessful venture in direct selling, have run a successful and enjoyable franchise as an event organiser for Baby & Children’s Market and have just set up a meet-a-mum website called Mum Amie.
The learning curve has been a steep one. Here are some things I’ve discovered along the way (and wish I’d known in the first place):
1) You have to LOVE what you do:
This may sound obvious but actually I think many people overlook the fact that how they feel about the product or service they provide will have a big impact on how successful they are. This is especially true if you choose to sign up with a direct selling company (e.g. Avon, Tropic, Scentsy, Usborne etc.) When I signed up with such a company to sell a product, I liked the product I was selling but I didn’t love it. I could live without it. I wasn’t passionate about it and consequently I found it difficult to sell it. I soon learnt from the Facebook group set up for other consultants of the same company that the majority were not earning much and the ones that were receiving a high level of commission were those that were obsessed with the product. You could tell that it was all they talked about, all the time to everyone they met. I also realised that the only way to make good money out of this kind of work was to recruit a large team. Unfortunately, I no interest in building a team. I felt that I would be a bit of a fraud if I offered to sponsor someone and help them with their direct selling journey when mine hadn’t really taken off at all. The result was that my direct selling adventure was over soon after it started. However, I do now know many people that are successful with direct selling and their success is down to the fact that they genuinely believe that they could not live without their chosen product and they want to share this with everyone they meet.
2) Research, research, research! And more research….
I have always been one to see an opportunity, think ‘wow that looks great’ and jump in feet first. Another reason my direct selling journey ended so abruptly is because I didn’t research the whole idea enough in the first place. My next business venture was buying a franchise of Baby & Children’s Market to run local events. This has turned out to be profitable, successful and I really enjoy it. I’m glad to say that I researched this opportunity much more thoroughly before I signed up. I talked at length to the franchisor (who is lovely and happily answered all of my questions), attended a few events to check them out for myself and gave myself time to think it through. If you will have a sponsor or franchisor, make sure they will be supportive and that they actually care if you succeed. The Baby & Children’s Market franchisors are the most helpful people you will ever meet and always go out of their way to help their franchisees. This has been so important in helping me run my franchise well. If you are thinking of selling a product or service you need to make sure you really research it, research your target market and get to know the product/service inside out. Speak to people who are already doing the same thing and also try and find some people who used to do the same thing and find out why they gave it up. Make a list of your skills and think about whether your skills are suited to the task at hand. I am not a sales person and so selling a product was not for me (sounds obvious but when I signed up for direct selling I thought the product would sell itself. Trust me, this will never happen and don’t believe anyone that tells you it will!) But I do have great organisational skills (I am the to-do list queen!) and am therefore much better suited to promoting and organising events. Give yourself lots of thinking time – if you still want to start the business after lots of research and many weeks of careful deliberation then you will be more likely to succeed at it.
3) Find a business mentor:
When my friend, Gemma, and I decided to create Mum Amie we were both totally out of our depth. Neither of us had ever done anything vaguely similar. Our website is designed to help mums find other mum friends by matching their online profiles for compatibility (similar to the way a dating site operates). The technical part of creating the website was the job of the web designers but we were left with the mammoth task of how to promote it nationally. We decided it would be a good idea to find a business mentor, someone who had experience of running a successful website. Luckily, we found Debbie from Motivating Mum who has experience of running more than one successful website! She gave us loads of fantastic advice – things we would never have thought of by ourselves. It was also nice to run our ideas and concerns past someone who has been there. She introduced us to some companies that were interested in affiliate advertising on our website and gave us many essential tips on how to use social media for business. I would urge anyone starting a business to find a mentor who has experience in the same industry and can guide them along the way.
4) You will need support so make sure it is in place before you start your business:
In my case, I literally couldn’t run my Baby & Children’s Markets without my husband. While I can do all of the promotion and admin for each event alone, on the day of the event I need my husband there to help set up the tables, chairs and help me run the event. I also need his emotional support as the day of the event can be quite stressful, especially when I am worrying that no one is going to turn up (that has never happened yet thankfully!) If you need help from family with childcare at certain times make sure this is arranged before you start. It is also important to have the emotional support of someone close to you because you will need encouragement and someone to bounce ideas off. Find a champion, someone that will encourage you, support you and provide you with constructive criticism. Don’t bother talking about your business to ‘nay-sayers’ who proffer nothing but negativity. Everyone will have an opinion and you need to decipher the opinions that count from those that don’t!
5) Appreciate that working from home isn’t all plain sailing:
Many business opportunities are sold as being fool proof because you can work around your family, choose your hours and be totally flexible. While it is true that there are many advantages to working from home (not having to pay for childcare was my main motivating factor) there are also many disadvantages. School holidays (in my case pre-school holidays) are extremely tricky. My businesses don’t stop during the pre-school holidays and so I am left with the unenviable task of juggling my 4 year old daughter’s needs and my businesses’ needs. Along with this comes a huge dollop of guilt – especially when I am answering phone calls and emails while trying to play with my daughter. I have learnt to accept that I am not superwoman. If I have to spend a morning on my laptop while my daughter amuses herself in order to be able to spend the afternoon in the park with her then so be it. I am doing my best, that’s all I can do right? I have ceased beating myself up about things, for example if I don’t have time to cook a proper meal in the evening. The other disadvantage of working for yourself is sickness. If you are sick, no one is going to cover your work for you. I found this out the hard way after a recent spell in hospital. I had to cancel a couple of my events because there was no-one else to do the promotional work for me.
6) You need to learn how to use social media for business:
Learning to effectively use social media to market your business is essential. Not only is it a relatively cheap way to advertise and find leads, I have found it to be far more successful than other marketing avenues I have gone down. I’m not saying that social media should be your only marketing tool (you should use a variety of methods) but I do think it’s important to learn how to use it properly. In most cases social media is free and/or very inexpensive to use for marketing so why wouldn’t you learn how to use it to your advantage? I see many small businesses on Facebook making the same mistakes over and over again. These mistakes could be easily avoided if they took the time to research how to use their Facebook business page. The same goes for Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest etc. Your business mentor should be able to help you with this (if they can’t, find another one!) There is also a wealth of free information online about how to use social media for business.There are also contributors such as Social Media Examiner, Jon Loomer, Amy Porterfield and Mari Smith who share valuable information for free (in the form of blog posts and webinars). There is a lot of information out there and it takes time to read and digest it all but believe me, it is worth doing.
7) You will need to step out of your comfort zone:
I never actually want to go to networking events. I’m quite shy around people I don’t know and I hate public speaking. But I have forced myself to go to many such events and always come away having met tons of useful contacts and feeling very smug that I made myself go. Whatever you choose to do business wise, there will certainly be times when you will need to step out of your comfort zone. Your success depends on you – you can either force yourself to do something that you don’t really want to do or you can convince yourself that it’s ok if you don’t do it this one time. Those who are successful are those that (cliché alert) feel the fear and do it anyway.
8) You will not make money straight away:
Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t make money straight away. If you are expecting big bucks from the outset you will be disappointed. Running a business takes a lot of work and expenditure before you start seeing results. For me it has been a long hard slog involving late nights and weekends on the laptop, hours spent trudging around in the rain and snow delivering leaflets and many, many sleepless nights. But if you love what you are doing, you will stick at it and the rewards (when they come) make it all worthwhile. Don’t compare yourself to others and give your business time, time and more time. If you are determined enough you will succeed.
A friend posted this on her Facebook profile page recently and I have to share it because it is so true (even if the grammar is a bit off).
Thank you very much Aimee for sharing your journey with us. I loved knowing you and writing about you and I hope readers have enjoyed reading about you. I wish you all the very best! Please do visit her at www.mumamie.com and let me know your thoughts.
Here’s wishing you all a very happy christmas and a fabulous new year!