Work Matters: Christabel Saul

Christabel Saul is the founder of the The Mother Maker, a curated online marketplace celebrating and supporting creative mothers.

Why does work matter to you?

As a mother, work matters to me because it brings freedom and  a sense of purpose outside the home. More importantly for me at the moment it’s giving me a creative outlet and an enormous amount of drive and personal achievement. After many years of being a stay at home mum, I realised how much I enjoyed working. I have always had a strong work ethic and would want my kids to have that too. Of course, money would be nice and some security that comes with that but that’s not why work matters to me. It’s about setting an example to the future generation. I want to show my kids that it can be just as important for the mother to provide for her family financially and that dad too can share in the family duties. Aside from being your bread and butter, finding work that you enjoy can be a source of happiness, fulfillment and an outlet for your creativity.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Waking up HAPPY. I know that I have found professional success when I have found something I love doing. Success in financial terms would be great too. But that will come when you love what you do and work hard enough at it.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

Oh I have so many project ideas. I am a bit of a dreamer really and a crazy woman who tries to do too much at once. But I would love to work on curating a coffee table book and collaborate with makers, designers, artists and photographers or a series of children’s books would be lovely too. I would also love to work on a series of exhibitions which I am quietly planning for 2018. I would love to also see next year be ‘a year of collaborations’ and put my design and illustration skills to use. Perhaps create a homewares, accessories or childrenswear collection under The Mother Maker brand.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I have been so lucky with most of my jobs. At the age of 18 I took on a role as an assistant stylist which I thought was the coolest thing ever at the time and felt like I was following my dreams of working in fashion. It was a shame because despite my eagerness to learn and contribute, my boss was a bit of a dick. It did make life pretty miserable at the time. It was such a competitive environment and I spent a lot of my early years offering free work.

What did that experience teach you?

It taught me how important it is to be humble and kind to others and that egos don’t belong in any workplace. If you are kind and supportive to those around you, people will respect that. It also taught me to be more confident, and to be confident of your own self-worth.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

I have always had a hard time with self promotion and being ‘proud’ of myself.  I guess my entire career journey  is something I am proud of and the skills I have taken away with me across all areas of business. I worked for a long time as a freelance costume designer and stylist and never quite felt like I got the big break or spent long enough getting that dream job on that multi-million pound production. I did however make the decision to have kids so plans for a career in Hollywood were put to the side. But I think my proudest moment would be launching The Mother Maker. If it wasn’t for having the kids I would never have found my dream job. I wanted something that would allow me to choose the hours in which I can work and the hours I can spend with my kids. Working freelance as a designer was great but I was inevitably staying late on set and coming home tired and exhausted and putting my family under pressure.  I also wanted something that would allow me the opportunity to work with other creatives bonding over the mayhem that is motherhood, school pick ups, order deadlines and I now get the chance to work with all these amazing mums who understand what it’s like to work flexibly . So after almost two years of loose planning and debating whether or not to go for it, in November of 2017 I finally launched themothermaker.com. An online marketplace and events company that sells a carefully curated selection of products made by independent mum run brands and artists. We also run workshops, markets and exhibitions to promote the work of these incredible mums.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

Going back, I wish I was more informed about how important it is to find something that you love doing. I don’t know who I would have sought career advice from. I spent too long doing jobs in my early 20s without too much of a guidance on what my goals were. I would have loved a mentor who taught me this early on and how important it is to set goals for yourself. Oh and a fortune teller would have been ace too. Someone who could have given us 80s kids  an insight into the future and how it would affect the way we work. Times have changed so much since my 10th grade careers advice class. Technology has changed the landscape in the workplace and the sheer volume of information we are able to share. I mean as a business owner, if  I don’t know how to do something, I can just google it or post it on social media. I went to university but never finished my degree which I used to regret, but Google has taught me a lot.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

That’s a tough one because there are so many inspiring women out there. Suzie de Rohan Wilner is the CEO of one of my favourite fashion labels TOAST and a celebrator of the arts. I met her earlier this year, and I love how she merges her love of art and literature with fashion. She’s an inspiration. Especially as she is a mum of two and a creative who has become a pioneer in business too. She also gave me the most profound advice #makeeverymomentcount which is our hashtag and it’s about acknowledging that the time you have with your children is precious and time that you won’t get back. Another one would have to be Holly Tucker. Her continuing support of small businesses is incredible and would love to pick her brain one day.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women

Find a mentor. Take as much advice as possible from them. Don’t try and fit into a ‘box’ created by our society. Don’t just try and find a ‘job’ for the sake of it. Think about the lifestyle you want, your goals in life, and the things you are passionate about. Oh and always put yourself out there for new opportunities. You never know what may happen.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what

The Mother Maker is a pretty big jump and for me is the beginning of a whole new career path. Throughout my time at fashion design school it was always my biggest dream to launch my own fashion and accessories label. But if i was to take a completely different career path, (which I can see myself doing in the very distant future when I am a little older and wiser) I would love to do something helping other people. I would love to be a Doula and maybe specialise in hypno-birthing and learn these skills. I would love to give women the ability to fight their fears, and to find the strength to have an empowering and beautiful birth. I was petrified of the idea of giving birth in the lead up to my first child being born and the whole experience was terrifying and scarred me for life. I almost lost my life and suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that was only diagnosed afterwards. It was only until I met Joy Horner from Glastonbury, a private midwife and amazing woman who gave me the skills and strength and knowledge to have two very beautiful home births. It’s something that I feel is important to every mother, as it’s the beginning of their journey into motherhood. It’s a rite of passage for both mother and child. Joy ultimately unearthed an inner confidence and strength and I was able to knock back my fears, believe in myself and trust that I could do anything I put my mind to. That has ultimately shaped me as a mother, a wife and a woman striving for a career.  I would love to give this gift to another mum to be.

Work Matters: Vicki Smith

Tell us about yourself

I’m Vicki, I’m married to Chris and we have three children, Millie (4), Arthur (2) and Oscar (7 months). We live in Kent and I spend my daytimes as primary carer for the children. But in the evenings, I jump on the laptop and my work comes to life!

Tell us about your career story to date

It’s been varied! I left uni in 2005 and went straight into a graduate job in an investment bank – I just caught the end of the high rolling, big spending, pre-crash boom. It was fun. After about five years, I switched to the private equity world and continued my career in a male-dominated, high pressure environment. I absolutely loved the energy of the financial services industry. It is such a fast paced, dynamic environment and the adrenaline of pressure and stress made me feel alive. I always imagined I would be a career woman, but then Millie was born and everything changed.

Since becoming a mum, I have launched two businesses which fit around my primary role as a mother and full-time carer for the kids. My first business launched just over two years ago – I bought a baby and toddler class franchise after Arthur was born and we now have over 500 children attending classes every week across south-east London, Bromley and Bexley. My second business launched a few weeks ago For the Love of Mum is an online store selling practical but stylish products for mums.

for the love of mum

I was inspired to create For the Love of Mum whilst breastfeeding Oscar. I didn’t like the way my body felt; or that I had no control over when or how long I would next sleep, or that I struggled to get off the sofa and play with our older children. But I had a neon pink pouch which I carried everywhere with me, stuffed full of breastfeeding pads – this pouch used to make me smile, it reminded me of who I was and am. It made me think, that at a time when you are struggling to feel like yourself – the way you look, the clothes you’re wearing, the way you feel – perhaps surrounding yourself with practical products that reflect your pre-baby, independent style could make you feel better and more yourself. So I set about searching for products that were style-led and on-trend but also useful and practical. And so For the Love of Mum was born.

How has motherhood changed your professional identity?

Gosh – in every way! I always expected to be a career women, in the traditional sense. My husband and I had always dreamt and hoped to have a family, but those plans always included some form of childcare that would allow me to return to work. So it was a total surprise when Millie was born and it broke my heart to leave her at home – no-one expected me to be a stay at home mum.

Becoming a mum changed me in every possible way. So it was a huge leap to resign from my job after Arthur was born and commit to being the primary career. Having said that, I still had a work ethic and ambition that I needed to fulfil. I’m very proud of the two businesses I am building and how they both fit alongside looking after the kids – you’ll find me logging onto the laptop every evening once the kids are asleep.

Why does work matter to you?

I was bought up to believe women and men are equals. That women can achieve anything they set their targets on and certainly match anything a man can do. I have a deep-seated work ethic and personal ambition to work and create some form of independent income. But since having children, I’m very passionate about the work I do – hoping to support and nurture new mums, helping them to feel good and have confidence and belief in themselves.

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t know! At the moment I am following my nose, seeing where life experiences take and inspire me. My time to work is very limited and I want to enjoy these precious years with the children at home. But I’m also aware that as the children get older and spend more time at school, I will be looking to work more, challenge myself and see what I can create. So lets see…

Work Matters: Emma Paton

Emma Paton is a London based blogger at Finlay Fox, a kids and mums fashion and lifestyle blog. She also works alongside Ashlyn Gibson as Website Partner for creative family lifestyle store Olive Loves Alfie.

Why does work matter to you?

I had worked in fashion since leaving university (many moons ago) and have always loved the challenge of ‘working it all out’ in buying roles where often the training wasn’t very good and it was all about learning on the job. Plus I have always liked to be kept busy and I’ve always been a committed hard worker. Since having my second child I left my 9-5 buying role to seek more flexible working through my blog and as an online web partner with Olive Loves Alfie. Work still matters as I enjoy the creativity and stimulation it brings and I think its important that my children see a strong work ethic from both parents.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

It used to be money, happiness and career development but I would now say (post kids) it is flexibility, working with decent people who have a similar work ethic and creativity (sorry more than three words!).

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

I’ve always wanted to do my own kidswear range of Finlay Fox unisex clothing (…watch this space!). I’d also love to work with someone like Anna from Mother Pukka. There are so many fab brands I would love to collaborate with too – too many to list!

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Probably working in a bar in Corfu, Greece in the summer holiday during university.

What did that experience teach you?

Aside from how to drink Long Island Ice Teas every night (!) – to try and have fun at work and some basic marketing skills but also that I’m not cut out to work in a bar!

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

Probably being promoted to Senior Buyer quite quickly after coming back from maternity leave after having Finn. But also starting my blog whilst still holding a full-time job.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

I would loved to have had some career advice for my blog when I started a couple of years ago as I really went in completely blind. I got some fab advice from blogger Susie Verill more recently and only wish I had had advice from other bloggers before I started. I’m now trying to host monthly blogger meet ups so we can all support and advise each other.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

I love what The Step Up Club are doing at the moment – instilling confidence and self belief. I am really keen to attend some of their networking events soon. I also admire Johanna from Raising Women who shares stories of like-minded women and I also really respect blogger Alison Perry who has just bought out a fab range of Podcasts with some interesting and inspiring mums – always good to listen to when you’re after some inspiration and motivation!

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women

Work hard, get as much work experience and make as many contacts as you can. You never know what it may lead to. Also lean in to those promotions! I hope flexible working will be more standard practice for the next generation.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I would love to be a photographer or a stylist. At least my blog allows me to dabble in some of this at a very basic level! I’ve also loved the idea of doing some more interiors based work.


finlayfox.com
instagram.com/finlay_fox

Niki Groom: Work Matters

Niki Groom, AKA Miss Magpie Fashion Spy, is an award winning fashion, beauty, food and lifestyle illustrator based in Bristol. Her passion for colour, print, trends and a background in fashion design informs her artwork and blog. I love the way Niki showcases a diverse range of female body imagery within her illustrations. She positively celebrates ‘real’ body shapes, sizes, disabilities and skin colours in a truly inclusive way.

Why does work matter to you?

There are times in the past when I’ve been in jobs I didn’t like and I craved a different direction, and if I’m honest on those occasions work was just about money and about climbing the ladder without really thinking why. But I’ve now managed to make my passion my job, and as a result it’s become part of my life. The things I like to do in my private life (such as travel, museums, cinema) all feed in to my work – it’s all intertwined. I can’t imagine not working, I certainly don’t think I’ll ever retire.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Freedom, creativity, money.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

I’d love to do range of clothing for a brand with my illustrations printed on to fabric. I was a fashion designer for years so it would combine all of my skills. I used to have a list of dream clients and I got to work with all of them and that taught me a lot. For me now it’s not about the brand, it’s about the people who work for the brand and how they are to work with. I don’t hold any brands high on a pedestal anymore (apart from Dries Van Noten!).

More than anything I would like to continue my work with Clinique, they are such a brilliant team to collaborate with and I hope that my opportunities with them will continue to develop.

I’m also always up for a challenge, so something totally new and a risk would appeal. I hosted Instagram Live on the Boden feed once whilst illustrating at the same time, it was great fun and I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

niki_groom_photo
Photo: Remco Merbis: merbis.com

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first job after graduating with a Fashion Design Degree was as a receptionist for a company called RMC (Ready Made Concrete). It might sound like an edgy street brand, but sadly they just sold concrete.

What did that experience teach you?

I don’t have a passion for concrete, but sometimes you have to leave your ego at home and focus on paying the bills.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

My window display for Accessorize went worldwide, it’s still the biggest project of my career and it was so exciting to see photos coming in from all over the world.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

I wouldn’t change anything to be honest, I’m not one for looking back.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

Oh I have many! Gill Button, who is @buttonfruit on Instagram is one. She was a commercial illustrator for years she is now an artist, and her work is incredible. Then Helen Downie @unskilledworker who started painting aged 50 and has just done a range with Gucci. The thing that marks these two out for me is that they are also nice people. Both will chat with me on Instagram even though we have never met. I find them both very inspiring women and I feel excited by their success. I don’t quite know what path I’m on at the moment, but they inspire me to just be myself and do what feels right.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women?

Always be professional and diplomatic in the way that you communicate, even if it takes a whole day to write a response to an email. On, and don’t work for free.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I’m currently considering doing voice overs! I get so many comments about my voice on Instagram Stories and so I’m thinking it might be something to investigate to earn some cash.


missmagpiefashionspy.com
instagram.com/miss_magpie_spy

Work Matters: Alice Judge-Talbot

Alice Judge-Talbot is a blogger, Telegraph columnist and digital marketing consultant. I first became aware of Alice after reading her brilliantly titled article ‘We Are Not Sodding Mumpreneurs‘. I knew instantly she was my kind of woman. Her blog morethantoast.org is a wonderful insight into family life as a working single parent. I love Alice’s honest, self-effacing approach to writing about her own experiences, which she shares so candidly I feel like I know her. Also, Alice is also something of a rare breed in the world of ‘mummy-bloggers’ – someone you can actually admire for her style and sparkle because she manages to convey authenticity in its true sense (not the contrived version increasingly displayed on social media). If you don’t already follow her then I suggest you remedy that immediately.

Why does work matter to you?

On a practical level I’m a single mum, so the sole breadwinner (and only adult!) in my household: work is pretty important for our survival. Knowing that the livelihood of my two kids and I rests solely on me used to be terrifying but I now find it empowering. It definitely keeps me motivated. Work otherwise is the one thing that keeps me sane. Like many I know I found the entry into motherhood tough to handle, and I love that I have a purpose and motivation away from my kids.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Waking up happy.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

Good question! I’m lucky enough to work for Waitrose on a regular basis, and they’re one of my favourite brands in the world. I pinch myself that I get paid to create recipes and write for them – dream come true. I’ve been working on a book for the last five years and it finally seems to be coming together. The day I sell that will definitely be a peak.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I’ve always wanted to work in some capacity online, ever since I got the internet at the age of 14. But back when I started my career 13 years ago these jobs (unless they were in web design) were really hard to come by. So I started my office-based work in recruitment, which remains the toughest job I’ve ever done.

What did that experience teach you?

Resilience! Working in any kind of sales you have to have a thick skin, and recruitment helped me develop one. Now, I’m never scared of a difficult phone call or tough client meeting – they will never be as hard as the sales calls of my early twenties.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

Running the award-winning digital marketing campaign for the release of Harper Lee’s book, Go Set a Watchman. It was such hard work but a really wonderful product to help launch, and my campaign led to record-breaking sales of the book for HarperCollins. That was pretty cool.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

To be honest, I absolutely adore Hillary Clinton and think she is so inspirational when it comes to promoting women in the workplace. I was lucky enough to see her speak recently, and if I could seek career advice from one person it would be her.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

It’s very inspiring to see mothers who are breaking the mould and creating the new wave of entrepreneurs: doing something they love around their kids and making money from it. There are too many to count: Gemma of Mutha.Hood, Steph of Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Hayley from Southwood Social Hub. I love seeing such brilliant women around me excel and succeed, it really spurs me on.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women

Never give up on your dreams! Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I really don’t know what else I’d do. I really enjoy my career and it’s diversified naturally with the wants and needs of my family (and me!). The only other thing I wanted to consistently do was be in Hollyoaks, so we’ll see if they come calling 😉

Work Matters: Anna Cascarina

Anna is the founder of Little Flea, a website dedicated to profiling cool kids brands and shops. Anna also produces the unique Little Flea Magazine, a online showcase for these brands that includes photographic shoots, trend pages and interviews.

Why does work matter to you?

I suppose it’s down to needing a creative outlet and wanting to work. I worked intermittently when the kids were young but when they were both full-time at school, it was important for me to start earning again. Plus I think it’s important for my girls to see that their mum can do other things other than be their slave!

Describe in three words what professional success means to you

Flexibility, happiness, money!

What would be your dream job or project?

I don’t think I could go back to working for someone else now but I’d love to collaborate with a high-end photographer/videographer to create and style kids fashion films.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Working in a box packing factory.

What did that experience teach you?

To work hard to achieve my goals and nothing is beneath you!

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

My 10 issues of Little Flea Magazine as its a massive achievement for a one man band.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

I would probably listen a bit more to my lecturers at The London College of Fashion as they knew what they were talking about.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

I do love Sophia Amoruso founder of Nasty Gal and also Michelle Obama – she’s incredible.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women?

Try not to compare to others. It’s tough not to but everyone is on their own journey.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

Yes, I would love my own fashion line. I know exactly what it would be like. Maybe one day, who knows.


Photo credit: Sharon Copper (sharoncooper.co.uk).

Finding a work-life balance

Luisa Sanders is a social media manager and blogger who is passionate about giving mums the confidence to forge new careers or go it alone after having children. Having taken a career break of over 18 months after having her first son, Luisa took the plunge into the world of freelance, working for a variety of organisations including Netmums and English Heritage. Since 2013, Luisa has worked for Aardman Animations as a social media manager. She also writes a blog, Bristol Bargainista. Here she shares her story and explains why she feels becoming a mother has given her more confidence and made her more productive.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve never followed what you’d call a ‘solid’ career path! I had literally no idea what I was going to do with my life when I left university and in all honesty I felt pretty overwhelmed by the idea of navigating the world of work. I’ve worked in everything from publishing to gaming, but my career before kids didn’t really fulfil me. I can see with hindsight that I was often marking time in work – just filling the days and looking forward to the next pay cheque without really pushing out for more. I knew that writing was the thing I loved best about my job but I often felt frustrated by the creative limitations of working for a big organisation. By the time I’d become pregnant with my first child, I’d started doing a little bit of freelance writing on the side and realised that this was ‘my thing’.

That was almost 14 years ago and today I’m in a much better place professionally. Having children has without doubt focused me in terms of career. It hasn’t been easy – I took a break of over 18 months after having my first child, plus we moved from London to Bristol in that time, but becoming a mother gave me a new-found confidence and determination to carve out a freelance career. I never wanted to be the mother who was out at work from dawn till dusk, missing the nativity play and never seeing her children, so I become absolutely focused on making an income in a way that suited our new family dynamic.

luisa sanders family

How to you balance the demands of children and work?

I’m one of those annoying people who has managed to find a lovely employer who does their best to offer family-friendly, flexible hours. I’m constantly astounded by the lack of value society places on mothers and that organisations can’t see that they’re missing out on a huge talent pool by not offering flexible working. Personally, having children has made me much more productive at work – I fit in what I used to do in a five-day week into much less time. I think there’s a lot of time wasted in unnecessary meetings, hanging around the water cooler or simply faffing about when you have more time at your disposal. I don’t mean to denigrate those full-timers without kids but I do think you value a good employer much more when you’re a working parent; I never take sick days, am always punctual and pack as much into my days as possible as I know how lucky I am – it’s a deal that works in everyone’s favour.

In the early days, I had moments of wondering how I was going to make it all work – there were a lot of early morning starts, working at 6am before the kids woke up and then picking things up again when they were in bed. I’ve worked many weekends and have taken my lap-top on family holidays, but that’s the deal you make when you go freelance – I was happy to do those unorthodox hours to be around for my children when they were little.

What are your tips for mums trying to get back into work?

I won’t lie to you – I found the journey back to work challenging, exhausting and bewildering. I felt as if the landscape had totally changed in the time I was away, plus I only returned back to ‘proper’ work when I was on the cusp of turning 40. Rocking up to Aardman for my first day at work, I’ll admit I had a wobble; how was I, a middle aged mum, going to bring any relevance and insight to my new social media job?

But you’ve got to shut down that inner monologue and remember all the things you do, as a mum, bring to the table: resilience, patience, problem solving, time management and real life experience, to name just a few. I became a much more competent person after having children, something I reminded myself of frequently when I was feeling unsure of my abilities. That and the fact that I’d pushed a baby out and that no job interview or stressful work situation could ever be as life changing or important as that.

Writing my blog helped me to learn some great digital skills and help me find my voice – I wholeheartedly recommend this as a way to explore your creativity or hone your writing skills if writing is something you love. While I’m not a natural networker and suffer with anxiety, I learnt to put myself out there. I connected with numerous people and companies in Bristol; some I never heard from again, but some become clients I’ve enjoyed a long-standing relationship with.

I’ve also always been honest about the fact that being a mum comes first with me. Interestingly, in the interview for my first job post having children, I was asked what my proudest achievement was to date. I answered ‘having my son’ and immediately wondered if I’d just committed career suicide. But I got the job and it was – I was informed by employer afterwards – my honesty and obvious dedication to my family that got me the job. Those employers DO exist but you need to work hard to find them. So do your research, send out those emails and keep going – you can make motherhood and work work for you – good luck.

Career journey: Lydia Mansi

Meet Lydia Mansi, a digital marketing consultant and mother of two young boys, on a journey to make a career out of her love of writing. Lydia started out working as a magazine editor and now runs her own consultancy business.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve always been single-minded (bar a brief flirtation with wanting to be fashion designer, aged 14) I have always wanted to be a writer. Age eight, growing up by the sea in Devon, I asked my head teacher to borrow the school photocopier and proceeded to create a ‘school magazine’. I drew all my own pictures (and made up most of my own stories) and sold each weekly edition in the playgroup for 20p. And so the obsession was born.

Fast-forward 10 years and I was still hell-bent on a media career. I did an intern stint at Glamour (shadowing the beauty editor and fashion team) although I spent most of my time sorting coat hangers in the fashion cupboard and fact checking the shopping pages, it just cemented for me how magical print media is.

So, with sights now set on not only media but London too, I solely applied to Goldsmiths College to do a Media and Communications degree. Call it teenage arrogance, or simply that I was driven, but my parents and teachers desperately tried to suggest a ‘Plan B’. Thankfully, due to my bloody mindedness and genuine fear of being told ‘I told you so,’ I got in.

The Goldsmith years

Early Noughties was pre-gentrification of Goldsmiths College, there were no minor Royals, no Curzon cinema – just a lot of asymmetrical hair cuts and a fair bit of pretentious art-student fashion. Those black and white chequered halls literally vibrated with creativity. Just being a part of it made me feel like anything I wanted to be was in my grasp. I wrote, studied photography, painted – it was the most expressive and creative I have ever been. It’s weird when I think I studied media at a time when there was no social media, no smartphones or apps. I had to trek to the library if I wanted to check my emails – now my whole livelihood is built on digital media.

So, my single-mindedness took a little kink in the road age 21. I had graduated, wanted to stay in London and needed a job. I was heartbroken and despondent so, for a reason that is still unclear to me now, I applied to be a recruitment consultant at an investment-banking agency in the city. I was hilariously hopeless. I knew nothing about the industry but I had a blast – drinking champagne at the top of the gherkin and flouncing about in power suits and a bold lippie. I remember walking across London Bridge every morning amidst a sea of grey suits in my emerald green coat and thinking ‘I really don’t fit in here’.

Move into publishing

Thankfully, just as I could feel my soul (and creativity) slowly dying a uni friend mentioned she might be able to get me a role in the publishing house she was working at. Bingo. I started off on the ad-sales desk but was soon making myself indispensable to the editorial team – as my mother always reassured me at the time ‘be helpful, polite and eager, it will pay off’. I remember sourcing ice tongs on the King’s Road one winter’s night at 7pm for one editor and thinking ‘it better pay off soon’. One editorial assistant opening later and I was in. My first genuine editorial, paid role. I still feel really fortunate that my editor, Kate Crockett was incredible. Forget The Devil Wears Prada, I have worked with some of the most empowering, supportive, inspiring women in my media career – she took time to make me a better writer, gave me interesting, meaty commissions (not just the shopping pages) and really nurtured my career.

Over five years I gradually worked my way up through the ranks to assistant editor, health and beauty editor and then magazine editor at 26. I launched a new title in a recession and went on to relaunch a failing title in the publishing house’s stable. Although a challenging time, I think it made me more business savvy and rather than being ‘all about the art’, I now really love getting my teeth into the budgets, pagination and the business end of the industry, which has surprised me.

The future is digital

With marriage and motherhood came a move back to Devon, I had no immediate plans to carve out a media career back in the south-west but after 18 months I got the itch and began working for a digital health brand start-up in Bristol as their content director.

Digital was a whole new game for me. I was overseeing marketing and editorial content for both the corporate and consumer sides of the brand and it was a steep learning curve, as was juggling motherhood and a challenging new career. I’m not sure we can ever get the balance right as working mums (or feel like we have!). But I am immensely proud of the fact that I am raising my two boys with the example of a strong, working mother who does something she is passionate about to provide for them.

Starting my own consultancy this year has been my biggest learning curve yet. It finally felt like the right time, after 15 years in the media industry. I felt comfortable that I had something to offer and that what I do is of value. This was a massive milestone for me, to feel confident enough to go it alone and be a one-woman brand. In marketing, especially digital, there are a lot of people using a lot of technical terms to try and hoodwink businesses and brands into thinking they need to pay big bucks to ‘make their mark online’. They don’t. I want to simplify digital marketing and work with independent brands to help them build their customer relationships in a natural, authentic way and stand out in a crowded marketplace, creatively.

More than a mummy blogger

Who said you had to stick to one field of expertise in your career? Certainly not Helen Farmer, a freelance writer, editor, voice over artist and family celebrant. Originally from the UK, Helen lives in Dubai with her family and writes an award-winning blog called The Mothership. She writes about the highs (and lows) of being a working parent living abroad. Helen shares her career story and proves that being a mum needn’t restrict your career options.

Tell us about yourself

I knew from age 14 which degree I wanted to do, and tailored all my education options and weekend jobs to getting on it: a Broadcast Journalism course at the University of Leeds, where all of the tutors were current BBC employees, and work experience took place at the same studios where Countdown was filmed. It was competitive to get on, and even more so once I was there, with stressful projects and my fellow students frequently in tears in our ‘newsroom’ (this is back in the day when we felt lucky to have a room with internet access). I quickly realised that this wasn’t for me, and my first job was in print, working on a small magazine in Northumberland where I was both writing features and selling ads. I learnt a lot about both disciplines – fast. Afterwards came a stint in PR and marketing, working for one of my property clients. Then came a move to the Middle East age 24. In truth, it was a choice between moving abroad and moving to London – and Bahrain scared me less than the capital. Classic Northerner!

I worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency before moving to Dubai with a rather regrettable ex. Thankfully, while the relationship didn’t last, the UAE has been a fantastic place for my career. For three years I worked for a guidebook publisher, writing and editing books for expats all over the world, before launching their website. Next came three years as deputy editor on an entertainment magazine, where we worked hard, but enjoyed the best the city had to offer, from concerts to dining, plus interviewing visiting celebrities and reviewing hotels all over the world. I stayed with the same publisher and was promoted to editor of a new magazine, one I was able to be instrumental in creating, that’s all about normal life in an extraordinary place. We supported small businesses, sought out inspirational people and created a really feel-good title that I’m immensely proud of to this day.

And somewhere in there I met my husband and got pregnant with my first daughter and starting blogging, launching a website called The Mothership. I went part-time when she was a year old, then a few months later decided to go freelance, focusing on the blog, writing for other titles, working as a voiceover artist and start training as a family celebrant, allowing me to create and conduct wedding blessings and baby naming ceremonies. Something of an eclectic mix.

Helen also works as a wedding celebrant.

It’s been a year since I went freelance, and I wouldn’t change a thing (apart from the unreliability of payment). My blog has been nominated for (and won) awards, I’ve written for some of my favourite magazines, and I’m loving my work as a celebrant. It also allows me more time with my toddler and newborn baby. Yes, it’s chaotic, and there’s always something for me to be doing, but it’s working.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

I’ve always written, so starting The Mothership was really just a way for me to deal with the newness and weirdness of being a mum. What has followed, however, has been fantastic, and one of my favourite parts is the social media community I’ve built – I’m all about those ‘me too’ moments in parenthood, the ones that make us feel less alone and less mad. That it’s okay to admit that you don’t love every second. Digital technology has also been really helpful for the celebrant side, from brides connecting with me on Instagram to having Skype meetings with couples from all over the world.

What are you tips for managing a multi-faceted career?

I love a routine, so after nursery drop off at 8am, the mornings are for work, then it’s pick-up, and more work during naps, and then it’s family time. I usually meet brides via Skype or in the evenings, then weddings take place in the afternoons – the first ceremony I did was a month after giving birth, and my mum was in the hotel lobby with the baby in case I needed to breastfeed her!


Helen is following…

Anna Whitehouse AKA Mother Pukka: we met in Dubai (her husband was my editor) and we all became friends. I really admire how she’s using her platform to promote flexible working in the UK, and doing it with a sense of humour. And I really respect her transparency when it comes to working with brands and doing sponsored posts. She’s a breath of fresh air – and I can’t wait to see her at a wedding in September. Mummy bloggers gone wild…

I did a yoga class with Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn) last year, and it changed the way I think about exercise. She’s truly inspirational, and has made me feel less self-conscious about being the biggest girl in the gym. Her Instagram feed is full of laughter and advice, and I’ve started doing her Every Body Yoga video classes via an app called Cody.


Helen’s work

themothershipdxb.com
instagram.com/themothershipdxb
facebook.com/themothershipdxb

Empowering women to succeed in business

Meet Jessica Rogers, a professional coach who helps women who run their own businesses. She shares her career story, coaching tips and suggests some great women to follow.

Tell us about yourself

I started my career in marketing children’s entertainment brands and went on to manage well-known toy brands such as Star Wars and Transformers. I liked my job to an extent and I was successful it but I always felt like there was something missing, it never felt quite right.

When I had my first child, whilst negotiating my return to corporate work, I started seeing a Life Coach, it was through this process that I decided to do some coaching training as self-development. After my first month I realised that I loved it and I was good at it, I had found the ‘thing’ I had been missing for a long time. So I quit my job and threw myself into the training. I started my coaching business working with women returnees in large businesses as that is what I knew and I felt well qualified to help these women.

Now, I coach women who own and run small businesses that they are looking to upscale. We work together to clearly identify what they want to achieve and the practical steps they need to take to make it happen. I also provide interactive workshops and coaching sessions for women returnees as part of the TechPixies programme.

I’ve also always had a yearning to work with young people – I started off coaching and mentoring unemployed young people on a south-east London housing estate. Over the years I have coached young people in and out of education, now I do project work for a local group of colleges working with students who have been identified as being “at risk”. This work is really important to me as I feel that giving young people the space that coaching provides can set them on a positive path of self-awareness and taking personal responsibility for their future life and career.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

When I first started coaching nine years ago I saw most of my clients in person, partly because I went to see them in their place of work but also because some people felt uncomfortable about not being able to see me. Now, whilst I still do a lot of phone coaching I also coach by Skype and FaceTime, which has meant I have a wider range of clients in a wide range of locations.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with social media, I love the connectedness it brings and I love finding new people to engage with, but I hate putting myself out there. When I ditch the fear and do it I love what happens but I have some blocks around it that I am working on!

What are your top coaching tips for women?

  • Be true to yourself – always: don’t waste time comparing yourself to others – “plow your own furrow”.
  • Trust your gut: if something doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t despite how attractive others may want you to think it is.
  • Surround yourself with the right people: those who inspire you to aim higher and who have your back.

Jessica is following…

Jenny Garrett: I have known Jenny for about four years – we met on Twitter! Over the years she has been my coach and I have taken her self-development courses and attended her Happenista retreat. Whenever I have any contact with her she never fails to inspire me with her lovely manner and wise words.

The Step Up Club: I love how these two women give positive useful tips for everyday life in a stylish and accessible way.

Life According to Her: The vibe and no nonsense tips from Ahyiana in this feed really resonate with me.


Jessica’s work 

jessicavrogers.co.uk
instagram.com/jessicavrogers
twitter.com/JessicaRogers76