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When you become a mother your world flips upside down. Your whole identity – which for so many of us is based on our careers – is removed from our core, and we’re expected to adapt to a new and foreign persona: MUM.
For me I remember this entry into motherhood being incredibly jarring. I went from ‘having it all’ – a Marketing management job at Vice.com, a professional reputation, a team, fancy event invites – to responsibility for one tiny mewling person who did nothing but confuse me. You can’t rationalise a baby with a spreadsheet, and with no quarterly review or pay rises I found it hard to know how well I was doing in my new job.
Re-entering the workforce didn’t help. In the new role of Mum I couldn’t work 60 hour weeks and consequently didn’t feel like I was doing well at home OR at work. I missed my children and constantly felt guilty for rushing out of another meeting so I wouldn’t miss pickup, or dropping the kids off at a 7am childminder for a client breakfast.
Which is why self-employment is the only option for me and so many women I know. Sometimes, to ensure all your needs are met, you just have to set your own agenda. And that can be impossible working for someone else.
One of the most important things for me on my self-employment journey is the other successful self-employed women around me. They’re inspiring, uplifting, and it’s always motivating to see people you admire doing well. Which is why I’ve decided to share these women with you and launch Work That Works, a series of interviews that delves into these wonderful women and their companies.
First up is Laura from Hero of Stockbridge, a business that started off as a concept store in Hampshire and rapidly grew to an online shop as well as a thriving hub for workshops (think flower crown making and calligraphy). Laura has crafted a gorgeous brand that centres on making women feel good, an undeniably successful business that this year expanded to include Big Small Business, a conference for entrepreneurs incepted by Laura alongside Monica from The Elgin Avenue. Oh, and she’s also a busy mum of three gorgeous children.
I was delighted to chat to Laura about the Work That Works for her…
What was the ‘trigger’ that led to you opening Hero? Have you always wanted to launch your own boutique?
The main trigger was a sense of curiosity I had about seeing if I was capable of running my own business. I had always had a natural interest in fashion and lifestyle and how the things we buy can elevate our lives. I started a blog about a year before I opened Hero and loved the sense of connecting with people and sharing my taste and ideas on life with others.
I had also been a stay at home mum for six years which, all truth told, I did not enjoy. It’s bloody hard work!! I felt I had lost all sense of identity, in fact I didn’t really know who I was anymore and didn’t feel like I had anything to offer anyone.
Starting the blog and then opening the shop gave me the confidence to think I was actually ok at something and it’s just gone from there. Opening my own shop was never part of the big dream, I feel it is just how my dream manifested itself at that time. I wouldn’t change a thing.
You’re not just a bricks-and-mortar shop, but an online store and a fledgling community for other entrepreneurs. How do you juggle all this along with raising your family?
There are times when it’s really hard. When the children get sick, school holidays and when you have an important meeting the next day but you have to concentrate on making a Victorian costume or help with the homework. I’ve stopped looking at creating any form of balance, I think you can spend longer obsessing about it than achieving it. So now I just look at it all as one. I combine all the different areas of my life by setting clear expectations with everyone I work with. I also have an amazing team at Hero who can run things swimmingly without me being there all of the time. And a fantastic support network of family and friends who I can rely on. Work isn’t really work for me, it’s just a way of life.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up early and get an hour before the rest of the house wakes up. I use this time for aligning my day and getting outside (if it’s not raining). A walk round the garden is all it takes just to take in the silence. Then it’s back to business, getting children ready and out the door. I spend most of time now working on the business and not as much in it but I’m alway popping in to the shop and seeing what’s going on and there really is nothing like speaking to customers for knowing how your business is going! School pick up soon comes around and then I do my best to spend the next few hours with the children. Feeding them, homework, getting them to bed. Then it’s back to the emails and tackling anything I didn’t get done during the day. On days when I have Jack (my 10month old) I try and combine a bit of work with meeting friends or doing things that are bit more fun.
Who else inspires you in the world of business?
I recently met Kristina Karlsson (founder of Kikki.K) at the Big Small Business conference and she was incredible. An amazing business, a family and a truly mindful approach to life and work.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
Just start. Don’t wait for perfection or for everything to fall into place because it won’t ever happen. Take little steps and dream big.
I love to see women championing other business owners and entrepreneurs, and Big Small Business seems like a fantastic way to do that. How did the first event go?
Big Small Business is an incredible community of like-minded creatives, entrepreneurs and dream chasers and we couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who came along and shared their goals and plans for their business and showed us so much appreciation. It was AMAZING! What really made it for me, was the response that we had from people who attended.
The speakers were all people who had business under five years old and everyone could relate to them. The room was buzzing, people were sharing their stories with each other and it was such an amazing feeling to be amongst these people who had created this community that we set out to find.
What I love about the face to face workshops and conferences that we run is that it makes it all so much more real. Something you can’t really get from a digital platform, the human interaction.
What’s next in 2017 for Hero, BSB and Laura?
I’m full of ideas at the moment and have some big dreams for Hero and BSB and hope to grow these business and connect with more people who want to start their own business. Who know’s, there might even be more Heros popping up across the country…!
You can shop at Hero in-store in Stockbridge or online here. Thanks, Laura!