All this week on Netmums we will be bringing you inspiring posts from Mums around the UK who, after having children, began new careers from their kitchen tables. Kicking off our small business week is Sophie from Halo Lifestyle photography. Here’s her story.
After spending 18 years working in the heady world of TV advertising, I was really looking forward to becoming a SAHM when my first son was born in 2003. I relished the freedom and threw myself whole-heartedly into the role of SAHM, attending toddler groups and music sessions every week. I had a large network of friends and life was good. By the time my second son came along in 2006, I was starting to get “itchy feet” I longed to do something more, but as my primary concern was (and still is!) the children, I knew it would have to mean a career change as the long hours and client entertaining of my old job were not complimentary to parenthood.
My criteria for working seemed impossible. I needed flexibility, the ability to work from home and of course, the potential to make money. This seemed very unlikely from an employee perspective, so I decided to start my own business.
Then I had my big idea.
A few years ago, after being accosted in the shopping mall, I took the kids to a portrait studio, where after a “fun” (contrived) hour we were shipped out and called back a week later to look at the results of our photo shoot. The images were nice, against a white background but oh so expensive. The sales patter was dire. We were made to feel that unless we spent thousands on our photographs then we didn’t love our kids. We left with a canvas (£800) that was fraying within 6 months and of course, no chance for a refund.
There was of course, a problem, I wasn’t a photographer!
After interviewing 2 or 3 photographers with the idea of going into a partnership I was despairing. Nobody had the same vision or passion to change things and I didn’t want to do things by half.
Then, one day at toddler group, I got chatting to Miriam who was one of the volunteers. Lo and behold, she was a photographer of 20 years and was struggling to get her business up and running since arriving in the UK from NZ. I took her business card, checked out her website and emailed her that night. The next day, she came to mine for coffee and we instinctively knew that we were the perfect fit as our respective skill sets were complimentary.
Our next challenge was financial. Miriam had no money to put into the business and I only had £500. This went entirely onto the logistics of setting up the business, registering it with an accountant, sales samples and business cards. Our families roped in to help us with Miriam husband building us easels and mine working on financial strategy. To this day, my mum still does our books.
Within four weeks I had booked us into an event and we were away! That day we made £6k by the time the shoots had been processed.
In the early days, we also attended Business Link in London (a free government initiative) which was a godsend. From this, I put us forward for mentoring which from thousands of applicants, we were successful. This proved invaluable as meant that we were being questioned every step of the way regarding our business plan. We did this for a 3 and 5 year forecast and still revert back regularly to this.
Our business is now approaching 3 years old. We are in profit, growing and expanding. Whilst it has been the hardest thing we have ever done, it has also been incredibly rewarding both financially and career wise. The hours are long and often exhausting, but as we both fit this around our children it really is the perfect job. It can be difficult to balance parenting with working but if you have the “big idea” I say go for it!
Sophie is the founder of www.halolifestyle.com
She also blogs at www.superamazingmum.com and tweets @superamazingmum. Halo were recently featured in Vogue magazine.
Find loads of top tips, information and advice about working for yourself over on Netmums. To get you started we have a page of top tips for Mumpreneuers and ideas on how to turn your hobby into a business.