All this week we’ve been bringing you posts from Mums who decided to take their working lives into their own hands and ‘set up shop’ as it were. Today Merry tells how she, quite literally, did just that.
Buying a pack of Hama Beads actually altered my life! Purchasing an engaging hobby pack to do alongside my children turned into a germ of an idea to create educational kits of my own on a theme. I was a SAHM, home educating my children and desperate to have something to bring in some pin money and focus. With my friend Jax I built a fledging shop to sell my kits and some bead supplies. This was 2003 and in the days before you could unzip a ready made online store from a free download. Jax built me an order form and to our astonishment my kits and Hama Beads began to sell!
I managed to climb to the top of google for my main keyword with no SEO and no social networking (oh the days of that Internet!) Within a few weeks I was sending several parcels a day from my kitchen cupboard, packing them after bedtime and dashing to the post office. Within a year our new (4th) baby slept in a room surrounded by boxes of beads! My children learned their maths in the multiples that beads and boards and kits were delivered and it’s no joke that Fran could check off a delivery note accurately by the time she was 9 – a fantastic bit of work experience if a slightly unorthodox home education style.
My ethos was to always give my customers a speedy, honest and personal service, but as 2007 approached I was beginning to be overwhelmed. We had moved house to give the business more room and our 4th bedroom began to creak at the seams. Every wall was covered with racking and there were Hama Beads, Fimo and other craft ranges packed to the ceiling. I had a packing assistant, but I was beginning to have to compromise time with my children, which had not been the plan. Just as bad, my ability to communicate with my customers started to suffer as I tried to do all the work. The crunch came one Christmas when I found myself packing 200 parcels a night on my living room floor, with the children unable to reach the dining table in the morning. I had made my business too successful!
We looked for a unit and were lucky to find a place we are still in today.
It was still a stretch to manage everything and when we reached a point of having to consider selling up, we had our lucky break. My husband was offered voluntary redundancy and took over running the business, adding his organisational skills to my entrepreneurial (but haphazard!) spirit. With a redesign of our sites, which by now included a toy shop selling 4000 traditional toy lines thanks to a team of staff who work so hard on our behalf, we run a business we are proud of, giving a friendly, personalised service with a family feel to our customers while being utterly professional in our performance.
It’s been a tough road, especially with recession biting. Small business ownership gives wonderful flexibility but it will never make us millionaires and we value each customer deeply. It has given us is the ability to give our children the childhood we wanted for them, plenty of parent and family time as well as an understanding of work life. When the tragedy of losing our son hit us, we were able to take time to be together rather than rushing back to work, thanks to our staff who kept it running for us. And for me, now freed from the need to actually do the daily running of the shops, I’m able to get back to talking to customers, being with my children and creating resources online like www.beadmerrily.co.uk and www.simplecrafts.co.uk
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.
Don’t forget to check back each day this week for more inspiring stories of mums in business.