Kate Starkey is the woman behind CheltenhamMaman – a website that not only publishes articles and information for the trendy mums of Cheltenham and the surrounding Cotswolds, it also connects them by hosting a range of live events. It’s hard to believe Kate only started the company last year and its appeal is growing rapidly. Recent notable events have included the book launch of Clemmie Hooper’s ‘How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out’ (@mother_of_daughters). It’s inspiring to hear the back story to a business which from the outside might appear effortlessly glamourous. Clearly a lot of hard work goes into producing the content and running the events, so with that in mind we asked Kate to share her story and explain what it’s really like to run an online business whilst juggling family life.
Tell us about yourself
My journey to a career in journalism was rudely interrupted by the surprise (but ever so wonderful) arrival of my first child at the tender age of 20 swiftly followed by his brother just eighteen months later. I spent the next decade working my way up the career ladder as a multi tasker and manager in the NHS before trading it all in again for a new baby and the search for a life that needs to work around my family. I needed a way to make staying at home work financially and in the middle of one of those long nights you have far too many of with a newborn I came up with my big idea. I launched CheltenhamMaman a blogzine and events site for the super cool Mums of glorious Gloucestershire in June of 2016 and I’ve been trying to keep up with it ever since.
How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?
It’s not just changed the way I work – it has enabled it. I firmly believe that a business like mine wouldn’t have had a place without social media. My social media platforms are really the foundations on which the main site, the blog and the events are built upon.
Having been a new mum before the digital revolution I can state first hand that the likes of Instagram and Facebook have completely transformed my pregnancy, childbirth and mothering experience. That first year of motherhood is one of the most lonely times a woman can experience and stepping into a virtual world that connects you with other Mums who have had just as little sleep and are feeling just as overwhelmed as you is so empowering.
But of course there’s a flip side. Lots of mums out there have built up rock solid relationships via their mobile phones with people they have no intention of ever meeting in the flesh. That’s where I come in – I provide opportunities for Mums to build on these virtual communities, get outside, get some fresh air and feel better about themselves on and offline.
What advice would you give to aspiring business women?
- If your business is based online be prepared to spend a lot of time sat behind your laptop and be open to finding more sociable ways to do that and also to control it as you’re never far away from work and it can end up taking control of your life. Your website is your shop front so make sure it is well presented at all times. Spend money on a decent logo and web theme and schedule a monthly reminder to edit your ‘about’ page and read all of your content. It’s really easy to spot a site that’s not cared for and refreshed.
- You’ll be in one of two camps and will either spend time fussing over every image and every article or you’ll be a little more decisive like me and just publish it and see where it goes. Always make sure you test out the pathways that you are shouting about on social media – don’t tell your audience to click on this link if it’s not going to land on the right page – as an end user there is nothing more likely to make you switch off.
- On the events front you need to be fairly ballsy as the costs for venues and catering can be really high and the day you release tickets is always terrifying. I invited Mother Pukka (above) to be my main speaker at my launch event before I had any followers at all at a time when I was really undecided about the site and where it was headed. I told myself that if she accepted my invitation to speak it was destined to be and I would just get on with making it work. She did and so did I!
- It’s also worth remembering that events are seriously labour intensive and I guarantee that you will work harder and earn less than you did in your old day job – its’ easy to watch other people doing it and think it’s all glamour and huge profit margins – not true! If things go wrong there’s no-one to hide behind and every hiccup eats in to any profit you might have built in (which is your reward!) When the Scummy Mummies came to Cheltenham for a sell out evening of comedy the lift to the venue broke and at midnight it was just me and the sound man lugging the staging and PA equipment down a spiral staircase. More recently I hosted Clemmie Hooper (@mother_of_daughters) as part of her book tour and included a copy of her book in the ticket price. Two days before the event there was still no sign of the books and that was nobody’s problem but mine.
- On the flip side it’s great to be the one that is bringing together groups of women who have so much in common. You can feel the collective sigh of relief in Cheltenham right now from mums who are so pleased that at last they have somewhere to congregate and just be themselves free from judgment and restrictions to behave a certain way just because they are mums.
Locally I’m loving following Dee Campling (@deecampling). She’s a Cheltenham mum of three too but is busy showing us all how to get the cool back into our homes when the children are a little older and we have fewer sticky fingers to contend with. Dee and I are hoping to work together later in the year on an interiors workshops for Mums at one of our favourite design inspired venues, No 38, The Park.
I’m forever inspired by Nicola Redman, aka @life_of_pea on Instagram. I followed her first pregnancy journey with her son Winter Wolfe (who passed away after just one day in her arms) whilst pregnant with my baby daughter. I’m inspired by how much good she has brought about as a result of her suffering and I was further inspired to launch a charity of the month initiative on the site. You can read Pea’s story in our interview here.
I also have a massive Insta crush (along with half of the UK) on Clemmie Hooper (@mother_of_daughters) and sitting alongside her at our event was one of the greatest CheltenhamMaman days to date. Sometimes you meet your Insta crushes only to realise they’re not as genuine as they come across online. Not so with Clemmie – she is a warm, open and honest person so to all those that follow her and eagerly await the next instalment in the Hooper household (rest assured) she’s a goody.
Things are definitely busier than ever at CheltenhamMaman HQ. We now host monthly MumBoss club events for freelance Mums to meet and network and learn something new at each event. We’re developing Maman Moon Meets where we celebrate ourselves at a health or wellbeing event once a month under the light of the full moon. We’re constantly striving to bring fascinating mothers to Cheltenham to share their stories and we’re also looking at events where we can all just let our hair down together for no reason at all – no justification needed. Add that to our weekly Push It Real Good walks in Pittville Park with private antenatal provider The Bump to Baby Chapter and we’re pretty busy really – as are the mums of Cheltenham now!
On the blue sky front we’re just about ready to roll out a franchise for anyone out there looking at developing something similar in their area.