You may or may not have noticed but I’ve been a little (OK, a lot) absent from my blog and social media lately. In the last six months my freelance work has really taken off and I’ve simply been unable to keep up with Social Butterflies. I started the website to create an online platform to inspire women in their professional lives and hosted two events to create a real life experience offline. It was (and still is) my passion project – so much so that it inspired me to take the plunge and become self-employed. But one thing I hadn’t fully appreciated before was the amount of work, energy and commitment needed to maintain a consistent online presence and build an online community (hats off to all the full-time bloggers and influencers!). I realise this a tad ironic given that I advise clients on digital marketing, but actually immersing yourself in it on a personal level gives you a whole different perspective!
Also, I have a personal confession to make: I became a bit fatigued with the whole Insta-Influencer-World. Now, I’m not knocking the positive side of community and campaigning – two of my favourite accounts champion this ethos (@doingitforthekids and @motherpukka). But here’s the thing – you can have too much of the same thing, and let’s be honest as Instagram has become bigger and bigger over the last couple of years so has the proliferation of trendy ‘themed accounts’ aimed at women. If I see one more post stating ‘Community over Competition’ or ‘Empowered Women Empower Women’ I may choke on my bagel. I never desired to be in the ‘in crowd’ so I suppose I took a step back and watched from a far.
So, true to its original purpose but inline with my newly established freelance business I’m going to review and redesign the Social Butterflies website and work out how I can merge all the great content I’ve created collaboratively with other women alongside my own business. I hope it will be a creative hub of inspiration that showcases female talent, shares useful information and helps to grow my business profile. Hopefully you’ll stick around to see the rebrand and redesign!
Cate Hamilton is the founder of Babel Babies, a company which runs multilingual music lessons from birth to Key Stage 2. After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English and Modern Languages, Cate worked in Paris and then in various jobs before becoming an English and French teacher at a secondary school in Glasgow. She now lives in Cheltenham with her husband and three children. I asked Cate about her experiences, plans for the future and who has inspired her to succeed in business.
How did the idea for Babel Babies come about?
After I had my first baby in 2010 I realised that babies are incredible at learning languages from birth, which was very inspiring after spending quite a few years trying to convince teenagers in Glasgow that French wasn’t a total waste of their time. At six weeks old my little boy was copying me saying ‘hello’ and I was speaking to him in French sometimes, but felt a bit strange doing that in case I confused him. Plus I also speak Italian and Portuguese, so I wondered if I should introduce all of them. I started reading up on bilingualism and multilingualism, and at the same time I was discussing with a good friend from university which languages she would teach her new baby as she speaks Russian, German and Arabic. We decided to sing songs to our boys in lots of languages, keeping a blog of our experiments, and our NCT friends joined us too. After a few months our group outgrew my lounge and I decided not to go back to teaching in schools, but to see how Babel Babies might work as a business. We hired a room once a week in a pub, encouraged people to come and sing in many languages and stay for coffee, and it really took off. The combination of our musical approach and research into language acquisition is equally as effective for adults and children, and very different to how we learned languages in school: it’s a little language revolution!
What are your plans for the business in 2018?
After six years of working with families and young children, I’ve realised that the adults love learning the songs in different languages for themselves, as much as they appreciate the opportunity to start languages early with their children. This year I am recruiting a team of language revolutionaries to expand our sessions across Gloucestershire and Bristol, extending our age range from birth up to Key Stage 2 in schools, and introduce lifelong-learning sessions for adults and training for teachers too. For me it’s very important that Babel Babies avoids becoming yet another franchised children’s business at this stage of our development. We are all working together to create new materials, in a way that only teachers can – it’s an explosion of energy and creativity. I also want to offer a truly flexible work opportunity for highly qualified education professionals, who want to build up their hours of work alongside their other commitments, including their families. So, expect lots of new social events with a language twist – languages are for talking, after all.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring business women?
Firstly, I think it’s OK to pivot. For a while I thought franchising quickly was going to be a good plan, but actually it made me very unhappy and since I started the business to fulfil a need in my own family, it was no good going off in a direction that brought no joy. Change of tack, and we are all so much happier. Secondly, surround yourself by positive people who champion what you are doing, and who really get you and the way your brain works. I’m collaborating with some other incredible business women who I’ve met through networking events locally and nationally. Women supporting women is an amazing thing, and if you find your crowd, you can really raise each other up.
Who inspires you in the world of business?
I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs who are trying to make a difference to the world, whether on a small or large-scale. So I love the communities that Kate Starkey and Hayley Southwood have created with CheltenhamMaman and Southwood Social Hub. There is a lot of love and inspiration in their new approach to networking groups. Instagram is a riot of colourful and inspiring businesses, and one that really resonates with me is Mother Pukka because I love Anna’s honesty and her #flexappeal campaign is close to my heart. I’m also eternally grateful to my Dad for his steady business insight: sometimes I can get caught up in this week’s drama, and he helps me see how in six months/two years it’ll all pan out if I make choice A or choice B now. It’s good to take the long view sometimes, and not sweat the small stuff, which as a tired mamma of three, can be a useful reminder!
I met Jenni Retourné, founder of Willowberry natural skincare, last year at a Southwood Social Hub dinner in Cheltenham but I’d already been using her Nutrient Boost Cleansing Balm for a while. I’d been looking for product that would cleanse my skin without drying it out and used natural ingredients, plus it meant I was supporting a small business. I asked Jenni to share her business story – it’s sure to inspire anyone thinking of starting up on their own.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’ve worked in the beauty industry for nearly 15 years – I started off in journalism at trade magazine Pure Beauty, first as Editorial Assistant then quickly moved up the ranks to Assistant Editor then Editor. I eventually left and set up my own marketing company, specialising in blog PR campaigns and copywriting for beauty brands. This was a success from the beginning and I ran this for about seven years.
But having worked with so many beauty business owners over the years, I would always think ‘I want to do what you’re doing’. So eventually I decided to just go for it and create my own natural skincare brand, Willowberry. I’ve always been about living your best life, rather than a safe life! I spent 3.5 years developing it while I ran my marketing consultancy, then in July 2017 it was finally ready to launch and I closed the marketing business. Since then, it has been a whirlwind as I work hard to grow the brand. I’ve been blown away by the customer, expert and press reviews we’ve received – it really makes it all worthwhile.
How did the idea for Willowberry come about?
It was a natural process that happened over a long time – I don’t remember one defining lightbulb moment. I wish I could! It’s like my brand’s tagline ‘Your Skin’s Wellbeing’. That really defined what the brand was all about; helping to nurture the wellbeing of your skin, for a healthy, radiant complexion. How do I not remember that moment happening?! But it really was a gradual effect as the process took shape – my interests, research and product development all naturally evolving into the concept of your skin’s wellbeing, rather than a lightbulb moment for a marketing concept. Actually, I like it better that way. It’s a more honest approach.
My interest in natural skincare grew over time as I trialled hundreds of beauty products throughout my career – I began to notice that it was the natural products that made a real difference to my (then) irritated, dry skin. Plus, it was the natural products that would help improve the condition of my skin long-term, rather than just providing a short-term effect after the product was first applied to the skin. It was when I used a pure rosehip oil that I really realised that natural was for me – that’s why rosehip is a star ingredient in the Willowberry Nutrient Boost skincare range. It is such an incredible, powerful ingredient for the skin.
As I entered my 30s (I’m 36 now), I began to care much more about my health and wellbeing, and so this naturally had an impact on what Willowberry stood for. Good skin comes from taking consistent care of your body from the outside in and the inside out, so skincare, health and wellbeing are naturally intertwined. So I wanted to load my skincare with nutrients to nurture the skin from the outside in, just as you would feed your body with nutrients to nurture it from the inside out. Even though I am getting older, my skin is in better health than ever.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
I have learnt so much in the seven short months since launch. I naively thought that because I had already run my own business and because I already work in the beauty industry that I had it all sussed. But creating and building a brand is such a different process to providing a marketing service like I offered before, so it has been a huge learning curve. Creating and building a brand is a big old beast that you have to nurture and handle with great care!
Having said that, I am so pleased that my entire career history has led to this, because it has helped to create a strong foundation for the brand. I feel like this is exactly where I am meant to be. I really enjoy the journey of the brand that I am creating, rather than just thinking – ‘I’ll be happy once I’ve achieved X’. Even the hairy scary moments – it’s what make the good times feel great and you look back on the tough moments and feel proud that you kept on fighting.
What lessons have you learnt?
It is so important to create a solid foundation for the brand rather than chasing the easy wins that could be detrimental to the brand later on.
Always work with integrity and follow your gut – this is something I have always done and it really does pay off.
Know exactly what is happening with the finances in your business (if numbers aren’t your thing, you need to make it your thing!) – just because you have cash in the bank doesn’t mean you are making profit, so you need to know your numbers inside out.
Cash flow is king to be able to move your business forward.
Always put your customer first.
Make sure you are working ‘on’ your business not ‘in’ your business, so that you are leading the business down the path you want to take it, rather than it leading you. It is so easy to spend a couple of years working hard on tasks that keep you busy in your business but isn’t necessarily driving it forward, only to look back and realise once it’s too late.
I have a gorgeous three year old little girl so time is always of the essence, so I have learnt to prioritise tasks and have a laser focus to get stuff done.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. I am a member of Southwood Social Hub and it is an incredible community of amazing women running their own businesses. Everyone is at different stages in their business and we all support each other and lift each other up. When you’re single-handedly running your own business these are the people that become your team, your tribe.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business woman?
Hone your idea, make a plan, then get started. It might seem like you have a mountain to climb, but you’ll never reach the top if you don’t start walking. Baby steps, and suddenly one day you will find yourself there. And it’s a darned good feeling. I’d rather try and fail than to never have tried at all.
Influencer marketing can often feel like a confusing minefield, it is increasingly, however, a huge aspect of digital marketing and one which should never be underestimated. As an independent brand who has seen the real and huge benefits it can offer, I wanted to bring you my top tips for working with influencers.
I am Gabi Cox, the founder of Chroma Stationery, an online business proving colour loving personalised and branded stationery for both individuals through my website and in bulk to fellow brands and businesses. Chroma is all about creating bespoke and affordable stationery that truly reflects the personality of you or your business.
I established Chroma Stationery whilst in my final year of university. It was a uni project and after putting hundreds of hours, countless all-nighters and a lot of stress into the brand, after graduating, I didn’t want to let it go. I decided to take all the work I’d created and launch the business ‘for real’, running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise the initial funding I needed to afford my embossing machine and the first 1,000 notebooks. Since November 2014 I have sold to individual customers across 28 countries and in bulk to brands including ITV, Max Factor, Boots and American Airlines. The brand has grown from strength to strength with new team members, an office space and a lot of new products.
One strategy which has been fundamental from day one has been our work with influencers. I started this with very little background knowledge or idea of how it worked but over the past 3.5 years have established an influencer marketing strategy which works; with social media and YouTube mentions from the likes of Zoella, Lily Pebbles and Louise Pentland.
TOP TIPS: INFLUENCER MARKETING
Plan The amount of planning you put in before implementing your influencer strategy will directly effect how successful it is. Just some of the things you should consider include:
Micro vs major influencers? It is easy to send out some samples or stock to all the top influencers, the ones with millions of followers. But if they and their audience don’t fit with your brand, it will be a waste of time. Instead, opt for micro influencers who reflect your own target audience. Often these influencers, although don’t have millions of followers, do have a very loyal and engaged audience.
Focus on engagement not followers With the ability to buy followers, this can no longer be an accurate representation of someones success or real reach. Looking at a posts engagement (comments, likes etc) will show you how many people actually engage with an influencers work. It shouldn’t just be a numbers game but also about the quality of the engagement.
Know their audience Knowing the audience of your ideal influencer is crucial and shouldn’t be underestimated. Always do your research. Sending out your new leather purses to a vegan influencer is not going to be a good fit. Make sure that your brand aligns itself with the influencers you reach out to; this is so important to you both and helps to ensure a great partnership.
Build sustainable relationships Working with an influencer should never be about getting as much as you can from them, for as little as possible. It’s about building sustainable working relationships between two businesses.
What is your budget? There are two ways to utilise influencer marketing, paid and unpaid. Paid is more of a collaborative option, working together with a person to create content that promote your brand. Unpaid is where you send an influencer products for free, in the hopes or with an agreement to post about them. Knowing your budget and where this might limit you is key before getting started.
Sending something for free? Don’t expect anything. You are not paying the influencer for their time or effort, you therefore aren’t really in a position to demand content. You can work hard to create a product they’ll love, send it at a great time, cross your fingers and hope they love it enough to mention it (Hey Zoella!) but you can’t expect anything for free or be annoyed if they don’t post.
Approach an influencer as equal, fellow business person Bloggers and Youtubers get a lot of hard press, with some not seeing the value, time or effort it takes to do the work they do. As a brand or business you should always work and interact with an influencer as a fellow, equal businessperson. You are looking to create lasting partnerships and working relationships not quick business wins.
The importance of personalisation This comes down to both product and interaction. Sending a product which has a personalised touch or shows that extra effort has gone into it can make a lot of difference. With regards to interaction, do not blanket send out the same email or Insta message, copy and pasted to everyone you’d like to work with. Each interaction should be unique, thought out and on brand.
By doing your research and following just a few simple steps, you can really utilise & work with influencers for mutual benefit.
A trade mark is your business identifier. It makes you stand out from the crowd of other businesses offering similar products/services. It can be many different things, usually it would be your brand name, product name, your logo, but it could also be the shape of your product, or even the musical jingle you use (think of the Intel sound). Anything that uniquely identifies your business/product/service; that your customers associate only with you and your business. It gives them the guarantee that they know what to expect when they see your trade mark. It’s how you know you’re buying your favourite coffee, or avoiding the restaurant chain that gave your friend food-poisoning.
2. Why do I need to register my trade mark?
Lots of business owners believe that having their domain name registered, a company name registered with Companies House, and a Facebook page is the same as brand protection. It isn’t. Those things give you some rights in the name you have chosen, but not much more than the paper they’re written on (literally).
Registering your trade mark gives you certain enhanced rights that you don’t get so easily with reputation-based unregistered rights, including the assumed right to use the trade mark.
It also gives you provides you with a tangible asset for your business. It is something you are then able to sell, to license, even to mortgage if you need to. It gives you certainty which in turn gives key people, like investors, certainty. You may have seen Dragon’s Den and noticed that one of the first questions a potential investee is asked is what intellectual property protection they have in place.
It also makes sure that you have protection across the whole country equally. So you can prevent those pesky copycats setting up in John O’Groats just as easily as preventing the people living next door.
3. How do you protect a trade mark?
In the UK, and in most other countries, you need to:
Know what you’re protecting (is it a word, a logo, is it in colour etc)
Know what goods/services you are going to provide and list them specifically
Know which “Class(es)” those goods/services are categorised in
Know who is going to own the trade mark, as an asset of a business it might be you personally, jointly with your business partner(s), a company, a specialist IP holding company, or your Granny.
Have the money to pay the fees.
Once you have the above sorted, you file an application with the government office, in the UK this is the UK Intellectual Property Office. They will then review the application and check it meets their requirements. If it does, it will be published for opposition purposes – this allows other people a couple of months to object to your application if they want to. Assuming no one opposes the application, the government office will send you a registration certificate and you will be the proud owner of a registered trade mark.
The whole process takes about four months if the application progresses without a hitch. Once the trade mark is registered the protection dates from the date you filed the application.
4. How much does it cost and is it worth it?
Using a professional will mean that you incur professional fees. Just like using an accountant, web developer etc. As with all professional services, the fees vary depending on the quality and complexity of the advice, the size of the firm you use etc.
On top of any professional fees, the UK government charges £170 for a trade mark application in one “class” of goods or services and £50 for each extra class. Classes are an administrative tool that the government office uses to identify what business sector(s) you intend to operate in. Most trade marks cover 1-3 classes.
In return for your fee, they process your application and if all goes well they issue a registration certificate. Your trade mark is valid for 10 years. Realistically most trade mark applications using a mid-priced professional, will cost less than £1,000 to register. That works out at less than £100 a year for the protection. Probably less than you’ll spend on stationery each year? I would definitely say it’s worthwhile.
5. Trading overseas
If you trade overseas at all, you should consider protecting your trade mark in all the countries you trade in, preferably before you start trading there. This includes overseas stockists and distributors (if you trade wholesale goods for example). It also should include your country of manufacture if that’s not the UK, especially if that’s where your trade mark is applied (e.g. textile goods made in Turkey or China). Trade mark rights are territorial, so having protection in one country is not sufficient to protect you in other countries. Your trade mark advisor can help you work out which countries to cover, and come up with a cost-effective strategy for protecting the trade mark where you need it.
If you have any questions, or would like further advice or assistance in protecting your trade marks, please feel free to get in touch with Clare. She offers a free 30-minute phone consultation which can be booked by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also lots of information available on her website: stanmoreip.com.
You’ve probably heard the terms bitcoin and blockchain but have no idea what they mean. Don’t worry, when I met up with Helen Disney, founder of Unblocked Events, I had to politely ask her explain it to me (really simply). In layman’s terms bitcoin is a digital currency and blockchain is a public ledger listing all bitcoin transactions. Helen is a female entrepreneur in an industry dominated by men, but she’s on a mission to make blockchain technology accessible for a non-technical business audience with her new company Unblocked Events, which is a hub for events, education and information.
Tell us about your career and how you became interested in blockchain technology
My career has been largely based around influencing ideas and generating public debates. I started off working for a think tank in Westminster, looking at how to reform public services like the NHS, education and welfare to try to make them more responsive to their users. I then used that experience to go into journalism as a leader writer for The Times and a contributor to other newspapers and magazines. I wrote about everything from pension reform to the MMR jab, drug courts and the ‘Metric Martyr‘. After leaving The Times I took the leap into launching my first business which was a pan-European hub connecting think tanks and policy institutes. But after I had my children I started to crave a change into something new so I took a break from being a full-time CEO to think about what I wanted to do next. Into this gap, fell an opportunity to work on content and fundraising for a major European conference about the digital currency, bitcoin. It was during that project that I first started learning about what blockchain was and becoming excited about its innovative potential.
Can you explain to the uninitiated what blockchain is and what it can do?
Blockchain is the technology that underlies digital currencies like bitcoin. But it’s also more than that. You can think of a blockchain as a bit like a gigantic secure, decentralised database – imagine a Google spreadsheet shared by multiple users all able to access an accurate, real-time shared version of the information. This is useful because it allows many different sorts of innovations and improvements in existing business operations, but also opens up the chance for completely new business models. Imagine, for example, that you could access a hotel room using a smart key and never need to check in at the front desk or that you could trade excess energy from your solar panels automatically with local neighbours who need it and earn money from doing so, or that charities could automate responses to humanitarian crises and get money or supplies directly into the hands of those who need it at the touch of a button. All of these applications will become possible thanks to blockchain in combination with other new technologies like smart devices and smart contracts.
What prompted you to setup Unblocked Events and what are your plans for the future?
Three years after first learning about bitcoin, I founded Unblocked Events to share my learning and connect with other professionals wanting to gain an accessible understanding of this technology and build the new business services of the future. I felt that I had experienced a steep learning curve, as someone who is neither a programmer nor a financier and that most events out there about blockchain were aimed at these two groups. I see blockchain as too important not to be talked about at a level that the so-called average person can understand. By creating Unblocked I am building a wider community of interest in blockchain outside of simply financial services and acting as a bridge between the technical and non-technical worlds. Blockchain has a variety of applications in different sectors from healthcare, to energy, to philanthropy, to provenance of goods and so on. To me, it makes more sense to bring in real world examples and help people to understand what this technology can do for them, rather than getting overly bogged down in jargon.
Which women in business inspire you?
I’m particularly inspired by women who are pioneering in traditionally male-dominated fields, especially those who are honest about the difficulties of managing a personal and professional life, and having an online presence in the era of trolling. I tend to prefer Twitter for technology and political news and Instagram more for the creative side of life.
In tech, I follow Meltem Demirors who is an expert in the digital currency and blockchain field.
Healthcare Unblocked Event: 13 October in London. It will look at how blockchain is set to transform healthcare in a whole variety of ways from improving the integrity of clinical trials, to changing the way healthcare insurance operates and allowing us to take charge of our own medical data.
I attended Blogtacular last weekend (a blogging and online conference in London). Rather than write a blog post detailing my thoughts on the event I thought it would be fun (and a good way to test out new skills) to try my hand at recording a Podcast. I used the Opinion App on my phone, so bear with the quality. I think it sounds OK and it goes to show what you can do with mobile technology these days (record, edit, overlay music and share).
The Step Up Club is a fresh, new voice in the women’s career conversation. We are here to celebrate all women – whatever your job. The two of us sit at either ends of the creative/corporate spectrum: we know that it’s just as valid to aspire to career contentment, as it is to want to become your company’s next CEO. We are the authors of the newest women’s career manual: Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day. Through our stylish events, online content and newsletter, our aim is to make women feel empowered, boost their skill set and broaden their network to really love their work and life.
Phanella is a former lawyer and banker who retrained as an executive career coach, working (alongside The Step Up Club) on women’s leadership and diversity with all kind of big companies as well as individuals. Alice is a former fashion features editor at The Times, Marie Claire and Red, who alongside The Step Up Club continues to write freelance for many of the broadsheets and glossies. Between us we have five children and live in North West London.
How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?
Getting our message out there has definitely been enabled by social media and digital technology. Our book, of course, exists offline and contains a huge body of content, career workouts and advice. But without our blog and social feeds, it would be that much more difficult to get the more personal element of support out to our community of women – many of whom can’t make it to our events in person. We are working on a full online programme to reach and connect these women, but in the meantime we rely on these other channels to have an impact.
It is hard, when Instagram and similar feeds are bursting with edited images of life perfection from all corners of the world. It takes a mind of steel to remain completely unmoved by this – but as we say at the start of our book, finding success (and when we talk about success, we do so with a view to all facets of life) is about celebrating our own uniqueness and not allowing ourselves to have the lives of others impressed upon us negatively. Sure, it’s brilliant if other women inspire us to reach our own goals, but it is also important that we stay true to our own beliefs and values, which is why we spend a lot of time helping readers (and attendees at our events) unearth theirs. We like to refer to values as the hashtags of our lives: we can’t get away from social media, but we can let it help us guide us towards our own success.
What are your confidence building tips for women in business?
We feel passionately that confidence is an integral part of career success, fulfilment and enjoyment. Confidence turns our thoughts into actions, it is the emotional driver that we hold within ourselves and women do tend to struggle more acutely with confidence levels. Why? Because our internal thoughts, the ones that make us empathetic, kind, unique and brilliant, also have the capacity to hold us down. Who hasn’t succumbed to the voice inside their heads that says we aren’t good enough, or that that other person is much more capable? Of course, everyone has these thoughts but when we allow them to feel comfortable within our heads – when we let the proverbial devil dwell for too long – it has a negative impact on how we feel, how we function and in turn, how others respond to us too.
Confidence is not innate, which means that we all have the capacity to change our internal rhetoric and in turn, build our confidence. Also, in our book, we explore fully the practical tips that you can employ to also improve your confidence levels from the outside in. Neither will happen overnight, but if you can break the negative belief cycles that dictate your thoughts, and implement some positive physical changes – standing bigger, speaking more slowly and taking the time to really listening, all of us can become a more confident, self-assured version of your current self.
Finally, we believe that each of us is uniquely brilliant. We each have our own unique definition of success and if we play to that – no one else’s – then we will feel more confident about our careers.
Alice and Phanella are following…
Style Me Sunday: We love Nat’s no bullshit message, incredible sense of style and massive smile. She is gorgeous inside and out. We are especially loving her Friday finger slot.
Cherry Healey: We’ve both been watching Cherry on TV for years and she brings the same sense of humour, openness and honesty to her social feed and in real life.
We send out a weekly newsletter with loads of career advice, our latest blog posts, first dibs on our event tickets – they often sell out here first – and (coming soon) discounts on our favourite work related brands. At the moment we’re giving away an exclusive excerpt from our book that WILL help readers define their personal success when they sign up. Just follow this link: bit.ly/SuccessGiveaway.
Meet Claire Greville, a Digital Mums graduate who has since set up her own social media consultancy Greville Social in Bristol. Claire studied Accounting and Finance at university and had a successful career working in higher education, before making the difficult decision to take redundancy after they were unable to accommodate her flexible working request (sound familiar?). So with no idea of what she was going to do, but with a bit of time to reflect on what kind of job would suit her and her family, Claire stumbled across a Digital Mums Facebook advert, and the rest (as they say) is history.
Why did you choose Digital Mums and what was it like doing the course?
Funnily enough, I found Digital Mums through Facebook (I understand now that it was a cleverly targeted advert!). I was scrolling through my feed one afternoon in October 2015, when I spotted the details. It seemed almost too good to be true as it was exactly what I had been looking for – flexible, rewarding work which I could do from home. I immediately checked out their website and the course sounded really interesting, so I emailed for more information. I did lots of research about Digital Mums in the meantime, but I was getting more and more excited as I thought about it. I loved social media, and the prospect of being able to work for a business as part of the training was very appealing. I decided to apply, and a few weeks later, I was offered a video interview for a place on the course. I was quite nervous but I really needn’t have been. Nikki (one of the co-founders, pictured on the left below) was lovely, and before I knew it, I’d been offered a place on the Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme starting in January 2016.
The course itself was a fantastic but very intense experience. It was 20 weeks long, but run over six months, in order to accommodate some of the school holidays. The ‘live learning’ aspect was brilliant. I was paired with a business from the very first week of the course, and I was able to apply everything I learned each week straightaway, which meant that I retained all of the information I was taking in (and there was a lot!). It was also a great way to learn about managing clients and their expectations.
Every student is put into a peer group with five other mums, and my group ‘The Katherine Ryans’, was such a fantastic support. We spoke every week of the course, through Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, and I’m still in touch with them now. The course finished at the end of June and there was a scary final report to hand in, but I passed with flying colours. I took a few weeks off over the summer before starting work for a small digital agency based in London. I did that for a couple of months, but quickly realised that I would prefer to work for my own clients, so I set up my own social media consultancy, Greville Social.
I currently have three clients, all of whom I work for remotely. I still provide social media consultancy to the lovely business that I trained with: Cambridge Academic Performance. I’m just about to start running a new Facebook campaign for Green Ginger Design, a fantastic web designer based in East London. And I’m currently managing Facebook and Instagram for Eye Heroes, a small charity who are campaigning to prevent avoidable blindness in the UK. I’ve also recently been selected as a mentor for Digital Mums, working 1:1 to support another mum through the course and beyond.
My work/life balance is now exactly what I could only dream of two years ago. Gone are the ridiculously early morning starts, and the stressful commute. I now have time to walk my sons to school every day, before I settle down to work in my home office. I do most of my work during school hours, and all of my clients are happy for me to work remotely, keeping in touch with them via phone, video calls, and email. As my work is so flexible, I even have time to do a little bit of volunteering in the local area, helping out at my sons’ school, and also running a local community group’s Facebook page.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing a Digital Mums course?
Make sure you’re absolutely committed to doing the course. It will take over your life for six months and you need to be prepared to put the hours in every single week. It’s not something that you can do half-heartedly as you need to keep up with each week’s tasks and assignments. There isn’t time to fall behind, and the deadlines are strict.
I was fortunate that both my children were at school when I started the course so I studied during the day, but there were plenty of mums on the course with younger children. Just think about how you’ll manage to find the time to study as well as look after the kids. And don’t worry if you haven’t studied anything new for a long time – all the other mums will be equally as nervous as you are. But the support you will receive from your peers and Digital Mums both during the course and afterwards will increase your confidence ten-fold.
The support from the #DMCollective (Digital Mums graduates) continues to astound me every day, and I feel genuinely honoured to be part of such a talented and inspirational group of women. If you’re a mum looking to change your work/life balance, then I highly recommend the Digital Mums course.
What are your top social media tips for small businesses?
Be selective: you don’t have to be on every platform. It’s far better to do two platforms well, than five poorly. Work out where your target audience is hanging out, and focus your time and efforts there.
Be consistent: establish a tone of voice and stick to it. Turn up every day – post at the same frequency, preferably at the same times, so that your followers know what to expect from you.
Be social: it is called social media after all! Don’t just promote yourself. Take an interest in others, join in conversations, and you’ll start to build relationships, which will pay off in the long run.
Claire is following…
Mother Pukka: such an awesome inspiring lady who champions the Digital Mums #workthatworks movement. I love watching her Instagram stories.
Jools Oliver: is effortlessly stylish, and the sneak peeks into her life with Jamie and her five gorgeous children are fascinating.
Talented Ladies Club: I love their mixture of motivational quotes and practical advice, as well as inspirational stories about working mothers.
Meet Jenny Raymond, founder of Mamazou, an online parenting community for ‘practically imperfect parents’. She has experienced the usual highs and lows of setting up a business, but receiving industry recognition and being able to work flexibly around her daughter makes it all worthwhile.
Tell us about yourself
I have always been a Londoner and I’m the middle of three children. I live in north-west London and have been married for almost six years. We have a gorgeous 3.5 year old daughter and hope to have another one in the future.
I was never a fan of school and I left education after my A-Levels to try and earn money. At 17, I thought that was a much better deal than going off to University. I started off in the recruitment industry as a receptionist for a while and then moved up to a compliance officer in the medical recruitment sector.
After two years there I moved onto bigger and better things and landed a career in the private banking world – I worked my way up and was there for almost six years. From there I moved to a family run business and now work in the accounts team whilst running Mamazou and being a full-time mum. I’m fortunate enough to work from home.
For those who don’t know, Mamazou is a community dedicated to supporting #perfectlyimperfectparents around the world. It offers access to forums, blogs, giveaways, discount codes, a shop and much more. The idea was born when I was pregnant with my daughter and I was searching for some advice online. Some of the parenting forums I came across were bitchy and judgemental and left me feeling isolated. It was then when I had my light bulb moment and I’ve been preaching positive vibes and tolerance on Mamazou since.
Mamazou launched originally in December 2014 but went quiet after a few months because the IT company I invested in went into liquidation. I’d lost everything I had worked towards and it was heartbreaking. But thanks to support from my family and friends, I pushed myself to give it one more go and re-launched in spring last year. So I like to say it’s only really a year old!
How has digital technology and social media has changed the way you work?
Digital technology changes all the time but in some ways it has made life so much easier. In other ways it has made it very difficult as it has impacted society hugely and not in a positive way. When it comes to social media, I under-estimated the amount of time you need to spend on social media when building up a company that relies on it! Whilst I love it, it can be exceptionally overwhelming and it’s important to take a break from to reset at times. I’m very grateful for social media though, because without it I don’t think the business would be as successful as it is now. It is great for getting content out there, networking with people, gaining friendships, developing relationship, marketing and being more visible.
What are you top tips for building a successful online community?
Connect. Get to know your audience, be authentic and let them see the ‘real’ you. Engage with your community and be honest. I really believe that when you show who you are (vulnerability included) that your words will resonate with others and relationships will be built.
Meghan Markle: I was so upset when I found out she was shutting The Tig. Some of her posts were exceptionally inspiring and motivating, I love her quotes and I always loved reading about her humanitarian work.