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: Claire Lowe

Tell us about yourself

I’m Claire Lowe a mixed media jewellery designer maker based in Exmouth, Devon. We relocated to Devon from London with our three children just under a year ago and have no regrets, living 10 minutes from the beach and the Exe estuary means we have such beautiful surroundings on our door step, the pace of life is much more suited to us and our family.

I studied for a degree in silversmithing, jewellery and allied crafts and graduated in 2005, the course was fantastic and in a great location at the top of brick lane in London. The course allowed me to experiment with a lot of different materials and processes and this is where I learnt to use resin which is a liquid plastic which sets once mixed.

Tell us about your business – how did it all begin?

After graduating I continued to make jewellery and set up my business progressing my graduate jewellery into a more main stream collection. This range of jewellery was based around tea. I used tea as material and an inspiration, pieces were made with silver and resin and the tea leaves were cast inside the resin with either a clear or white finish. The tea collection is still in production and quite often gets selected for exhibitions with a tea theme.

The business has grown and paused for each baby as they’ve come along but the beauty of making jewellery is I can pick it up and put it down around nap times, school runs and once the children are in bed. During the short pauses of making I really missed the physical process of making, being a maker is a huge part of who I am. During my degree I took a short teaching course to enable me to share my skills and teach others jewellery making. Over the years I have taught a variety of jewellery courses to adults and children.

What do you make and what inspires you?

The process of making inspires new designs and allows me to experiment and create new ideas and pieces, currently I am making a collection which focuses on 3 colours and a specific set of shapes. The mustard collection combines the colour palette of mustard yellow, white and grey resin with silver and oxidised silver. The teardrop shape leads on from the collaborative pieces made between myself and another jeweller. This collection is sold through art gallery shops, independent jewellery galleries/shops and online.

The business continues to grow as my designs develop and go in different directions new and exciting opportunities come my way, It’s really exciting to get a new outlet for my jewellery or to apply for an event and be accepted. Getting an invitation to take part in a specific exhibition is really rewarding too. I really enjoy having a brief to work towards so sometimes it’s good to apply for an exhibition with a theme which will then take my work in a new direction. As the children gown and I have more time to make I hope to take on more opportunities and teach more. Getting away from the studio is always healthy and I try to meet up with other makers and exhibit at crafts fairs so I can interact with the people who buy my jewellery.

In the past I have collaborated with a few other makers. I made a collection of Jewellery with Emma from Olive Rose Jewellery for a collaborative exhibition at Unit Twelve Gallery. Emma is a textiles jeweller so we combined her textiles with silver and resin to make a small collection of pieces. I have also worked with another textiles based maker who used escape and evade maps to make a range of homeware items, I made a collection of jewellery including earrings, cuff links and pendants. I would certainly be happy to work with more makers in the future to form collaborative pieces. I quite often tailor a collection around a stockist if they have a set colour palette in mind or their space would suit a certain collection of my designs.

clairelowejewellery.bigcartel.com

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: 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).

Find your inner goddess

Meet Lizzie Astin, the creator and founder of The Goddess Body Formula, a 12 week transformation programme for busy women.

Tell us about yourself

I started my career in recruitment, working long hours, sitting on my bum, drinking too much and eating badly. Seven years into my career, aged 29 I was dissatisfied and frustrated I decided to chuck it all in and re-qualify as a Personal Trainer. I started my business in 2015 at a mainstream gym and very quickly developed a reputation for getting the best from clients with fun sessions and an inspiring attitude.

lizzie aston

By 2016 I had carved a niche as a Transformation Coach, working only with women who really wanted to overhaul their physical health. I started to develop the foundations that would later become the ‘Goddess Body Formula Programme’. In 2017 I moved to a private studio in Bristol, I launched the online version of the The Goddess Body Formula and rapidly built a new client base of women who were all going through major transitions: divorce, babies, marriage or milestone birthdays.

What motivated you to start your business?

I started my business in 2014 for two reasons: I wanted to do something that mattered and truly made a difference and I wanted to do something that allowed me the opportunity to choose to live life on my terms.

Having lost 15% body fat and three stone I went through a serious transformation. But it wasn’t just my body that changed, everything changed. I actually cared about myself for the first time in a long time and I started to make empowering decisions. I gained weight because I didn’t care enough not to, I ate crap, drank too much and didn’t exercise. At first it was my changing physically appearance that provoked me into changing my habits, but that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t stick to anything and I didn’t know how to undo all the damage. In 2012 my mum was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly I did know what to do. I made it my mission to live as the best version of myself, starting with my body. I became fascinated with mindset and personal development and started to apply these principles to physical training – the results were incredible.

When I was angry, I worked out, when I was sad, I worked out, when I was happy, I worked out. I had an outlet – an empowering habit and I was addicted. My new-found passion allowed me to be a better person for her. Not being comfortable in my own skin had consumed me, made me selfish, snappy, fragile and self-absorbed, now I felt vibrant, energetic, strong, I had faith and belief.

In 2013, I quit my job and qualified as a Level 3 Personal Trainer. I didn’t really have a clue about running a business but I figured if I brought the same enthusiasm to my clients that I had for my own training and I gave them the benefit of my experience then things would change for them too, and they did.

lizzie astin

I spent two years working in a gym, business was flying but I was exhausted, delivering 30 hours of one-to-one training, fitting in my own workouts and all the planning outside of the gym was too much, the level of service was in danger of being compromised. I knew for me to carry on serving at that level the business model had to change. I moved to a private studio and the Goddess Body Formula online was born. The programme gives all the practical advice, mindset, nutrition, workouts and support I give, but it is delivered remotely and can be done from the comfort of your own home. I still work with clients one-to-one, but space is limited.

I built the majority of the online content for my programme whilst down in Cornwall caring for my mum full-time during the final four months of my mum’s life. The cancer got her, she never gave up and I won’t either. I came back to Bristol in April 2017 and moved into the new studio, taking on just a few clients and giving myself time to heal too. I work with up to 10 clients face to face at a time and take on 2-4 new clients each month. In addition to formally launching the Goddess Body Formula online I will also be launching my podcast which will be a combination of tools, tips, insights, stories and interviews to support and guide your journey to a happy and healthy body for life.

How are you embracing social media to grow your business?

Instagram is hugely popular in the fitness industry and it is very possible to develop a huge following using this platform alone. However, I have my misgivings about it! I do not deny that aesthetics are a big motivator for many and can be empowering, however, to focus solely on that misses the point and can create feelings of low self-worth. I am all for a bit of body ‘inspo’, but I want to make it inspiring for the right reasons, there are too many fitness models with low body fat, fake boobs and fake lips. I use Instagram to share the journey, to encourage my followers to fall in love with the process and show case the results I have helped my clients achieve.

Facebook is a great tool and they are always developing the platform for business owners. I have a private Facebook group called the Goddess Body Community which is a safe place for me to share my own journey and the journey my clients are on. In this group I offer practical advice as well as theories and stories that inspire and motivate my members. I use my business page to advertise, my focus has always been on offering value, mainly through blogging. I share practical information demonstrating how to simplify eating for weight loss, and I share my own personal experiences to allow my audience to engage with me on a more personal level, it’s important to understand the journey that helps you to achieve the result.


Lizzie is following…

mollie sapp

Molly Sapp: she has really helped me from to understand the ways I have previously limited myself, how to overcome money mindset issues and in no uncertain terms cut through the BS. They didn’t teach us how to run a business in school, there are load of coaches out there but Molly’s messaging speaks very clearly to me and where I am at right now!

emily skye

Emily Skye: she has an amazing body and she has a great training style that I know works, but more importantly she teaches great mindset principles, she is authentic about the challenges she has faced and honest about the reality of the effect of pregnancy on her body, it’s refreshing to see!


Lizzie’s work

Meet-up with Kate Starkey (CheltenhamMaman)

On Monday 20th November we had the second Social Butterflies meet-up with guest speaker Kate Starkey, founder of CheltenhamMaman, the online platform and events business for parents. Kate’s business is going from strength to strength and she has won two awards recognising her achievements: UK Blog Award winner in the 2017 Parenting category and Digital Woman of the Year at the Gloucestershire Women of the Year Awards 2017. Who better to discuss business, the power of social media and represent the South-West?

The event was hosted by me, Amy White, founder of Social Butterflies, a website and online community committed to celebrating and connecting women seeking professional inspiration and wanting to expand their career horizons. We talked about running a business, digital marketing, social media and the tricky balance of being the face of your own brand. Below are photos from the evening, taken by Bristol based photographer Jessica Siggers, AKA @porthjess.

Pursuing a creative passion

Meet Vanessa Dennett, owner of The Simpson Sisters, a small business which runs creative workshops in relaxed and collaborative settings in Bristol and North Somerset. Like many women, Vanessa put her career ambitions on hold whilst raising her children, but now she is finally able to pursue her passion and showcase her creative talent through her blog and the workshops she runs.

Tell us about yourself 

I grew up in a small village in North Somerset and had a pretty idyllic early childhood. I went to the village primary school and then onto the local comprehensive where the idyll ended. I became pretty unmotivated and much more interested in horses and boys than anything academic. I was however considered bright enough to be studying the sciences at O-level and consequently wasn’t allowed to continue with the more creative subjects which I enjoyed.

Vanessa Dennett

Suffice to say that I was not successful at O-level, and after an unhappy start at a new school for A-levels I persuaded my parents to let me leave and go to secretarial college instead. I never particularly wanted to become a secretary, rather it seemed a good escape route. A couple of years temping and travelling persuaded me that office life was not for me and I applied for nurse training because I liked people and didn’t have sufficient qualifications to do anything else medical. It’s fair to say I could have given these decisions a little more consideration!

The following years were spent nursing and, following a knee injury, in various medically oriented sales and admin jobs – I recruited Australian nurses for the UK and sold plaster casts amongst other things! During this time I met my husband and we have lived and travelled around the world as he has pursued his career. Australia, Germany, South Africa, Belgium and Sweden have all been home at various times.

Since the birth of our two daughters I have explored a number of potential careers, largely based upon what I could fit around the demands of caring for children while living overseas without any established network and a husband who travelled. I drew upon my secretarial skills typing at home in the evenings, my knowledge of anatomy as a massage therapist and my sewing skills as a technician in a school’s textiles department, but nothing left me feeling very fulfilled or enthusiastic.

How did the idea for your business come about?

While living in Belgium I was offered the opportunity to participate in a pilot online coaching programme by a friend establishing her business. I finally spent a bit of time thinking about who I am, my skills and my interests and concluded that what I would really like to do would be ‘something creative with other people’. At this point we moved again twice in short succession and I put these thoughts on hold. We returned to the UK and I found a job almost next door at St Peter’s Hospice where I helped manage their hospice based volunteers on a short-term contract. At the end of this contract I again felt the frustration and entrapment that I have so often experienced in office environments, and much as I love the hospice I looked again at the outcome of the coaching programme and thought “I just have to try something, anything, more creative”. It was at this point that several threads began to weave together.

simpsons workshops

  • While overseas we had bought a small disused barn from my parents when they downsized from our family home and I had begun to blog very sporadically about the project, simply as a personal record and a way of family seeing what was going on. I had great intentions but too many moves got in the way and I never really got going.
  • While at the hospice I undertook a Digital Mums social media management course in order to up-skill a bit and with the notion that this type of flexible working might suit me. During the course I attended an Instagram workshop at The Forge with Emily Quinton and was introduced to Makelight and the online world of creatives which had somehow been a secret to me until then.
  • Originally a Simpson, I thought that The Simpson Sisters would make a great name for a business. Though I wasn’t sure what business I could possibly run I had bought the domain name a few years ago.
  • Attending creative workshops of all sorts, from cake decorating to pottery, watercolours and stage make-up has been how I have met some of my best friends in various locations over the years and I have spent many happy hours learning new skills in this way.

It suddenly occurred to me that workshops were just exactly doing something creative with other people and that I could either keep attending them, or I could start running them. Being interested in so many different creative pursuits it seemed to me that collaborating with others would be a really great way to do this.

It has taken me a while to nail exactly what it is that I’ve been creating, but I’ve loved finding my way over the last year and can now confidently tell people that The Simpson Sisters is a small creative business whose aims are to encourage and enable creativity by offering a variety of creative workshops in a warm, friendly and relaxed environment, and by providing a small attractive venue for other creatives to use for similar purposes. I love sharing my home with people and workshop days are my absolute favourites. In fact, I’m teaching my first sewing workshop in September and have often wondered how different my life might have been if I had pursued textiles as a subject at school!

How are you embracing social media?

Social media has been a huge learning curve for me over the last 18 months, I didn’t even have an Instagram account until last year and had never tweeted until then either! However, it has proved a wonderful resource and I have benefitted enormously from so many of the lovely people I have met online. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are where I’m found regularly and although I sometimes find three platforms challenging I believe that they each offer something quite different to me. I would love to grow my audiences and have worked hard to improve my photography to this end.


Vanessa is following…

me and orla

Me and Orla : I love Sarah’s honesty and no nonsense approach, her Hashtag Authentic podcast has been one of my favourites.

simple and season

Simple and Season: I had followed Kayte’s blog for a while and jumped at the chance to hear her speak at Blogtacular. I was not disappointed and found her marketing advice invaluable.

makelight

Makelight: without some of Emily and Stef’s courses I would never have pursued Instagram, updated my website or begun sending a newsletter.


Vanessa’s work…

thesimpsonsisters.co.uk
eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-simpson-sisters-11355703362
instagram.com/simpsonsisters

Mother of all tribes

Meet Danni McCabe, owner of Mama Tribe, a fantastic hub of information for mums all over the UK. It’s a curated business directory listing everything from retail brands selling covetable products, to groups which host events and small businesses offering a range of services. Plus it also features regular articles from women on a range of topics including motherhood and digital marketing advice (as a regular contributor I’m proud to be part of the tribe). The concept was born out of a passion for the social media scene and a desire to find a better work-life balance.

Tell us about your career to date

I left London nine years ago and moved to the Cotswolds with my husband to start a family, but continued to commute to work in London until I went on maternity leave. Our eldest boy, Monroe is now seven.

There was no option for me to work remotely and with no family on hand to help, it would mean leaving our baby in nursery and wrap around care for up to 12 hours a day. So I chose not to return to my job as manager of a health club and instead went about setting up my first business.

Sadly, that business came to a very unexpected end! After just a few years trading, there was a fire in the flat above my bridal boutique. It took them 16 months to repair the building and the effect on my business, my ability to trade from a temporary office space was detrimental, so I had to closedown.

It’s not all bad though, firstly it gave us the time to go through IVF and after three rounds, I managed to get pregnant with our second little miracle boy Lorne, who is now two. Secondly I realized that the retail business I had created didn’t offer me as much flexibility as I’d hoped. So that’s when the idea for Mama Tribe started to develop.

What sparked the idea of Mama Tribe?

During the newborn days whilst feeding my second son, I started following different bloggers and became addicted to Instagram. I become aware of the number of women choosing or finding they were unable to return to work after having a baby because of the effects it had on their family life. Instead, they were choosing to go it alone and putting their years of experience and skills into new business ideas that they could create from home or around their family.

In many ways this isn’t a new phenomenon, women have been setting up their own small businesses for years, but what did seem different, was the way in which social media, in particular Instagram, was allowing these businesses to market themselves in a professional manner from their kitchen tables.

Via Instagram I became aware of these women in business and was drawn to their creative brands. I wanted to support them, buy from them and promote them. I became a brand rep for a number of the brands and became more involved in the Insta-shop community.

My attention then turned to the new type of business networking groups. The first one I came across was Mothers Meeting, set up by Jenny Scott in London, running motivational workshops, sharing advice, resources and inspiration.

Being based in the Cotswolds, as an ex London girl, I felt out of this loop and unable to access this network. I was just about to set up my own local version, when I found out about other groups setting up across the UK. Other business orientated women felt the same as me, they wanted access to this type of network and community.

So that’s when I came up with the idea to create a national hub, a directory dedicated to this new community. That was unique in its effort to profile all of these new groups, but also listed all of the Insta-Shops I’d grown to love and other businesses set up by women. I was a mother with a baby whilst all of this was developing, but I felt there needed to be a resource for future new mums to tap in to, to find out all about and connect with like minded, business savvy women.

What are your aspirations are for the business?

On the website you can find independent brands and businesses set up by women or for women, with a focus on supporting women that are mamas or hope to be. As more people hear about Mama Tribe, the community will grow, the directories will expand and so will the opportunities to network, support, collaborate and promote each other. Together we can become a strong, talented workforce of women raising our tribes.

How do you manage juggling a business with being a mum to two young children?

It’s exhausting, sometimes frustrating and stressful, but I love it! I love the flexibility, I like that I choose when I want to work, go to the park, or chill out at home and watch a movie with my boys. I’m learning to manage my own anxieties and the pressure I put on myself. I work hard (anyone that knows me, knows my brain doesn’t stop) so for me, my focus is to switch off and give myself time off with my boys. Things like housework have become less of a priority or concern. I got a cleaner, so the house is clean and the mess is just toys, dumped clothes and shoes mainly. I’ve come to realise it’s not worth worrying about.


Danni is following…

I follow so many inspirational women online, it’s hard to narrow it down. I have over 130 businesses involved so far, but it’s growing daily and I’m so proud of all the talented women that are part of the tribe. However, there is one lady that does stand out to me and that’s Anna AKA Mother Pukka. She is followed by thousands because she is honest, motivating, inspiring and very funny. She has a way with words and poetically portrays the truth, the real highs and lows of motherhood, whilst passionately campaigning for flexible work opportunities for parents. If you’re not already following her, then do.


mamatribe.uk
facebook.com/mamatribeuk
instagram.com/mamatribeuk
twitter.com/mamatribeuk

Meet-up with Hayley Southwood

On Wednesday 5th July I hosted an event at The Forge, owned by Silke Lloyd (pictured right) in Bristol with businesswoman Hayley Southwood (pictured centre). The evening was an informal talk and opportunity for local women to make new business connections. Hayley inspired us all with her career story – the highs and lows. I wanted the event to feel informal and intimate and everyone was encouraged to ask questions. We then tried ‘speed networking’, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds! The idea was for everyone to make three new connections over the course of 15 minutes, and it worked surprisingly well.

I was lucky enough to work with local Bristol suppliers to provide products for the event: soft drinks from Bristol artisan producer Lovely Drinks; goody bags from Amphora Aromatics; and a selection of teas from Pukka Herbs. I worked with lettering artist Ellen Waldren and screen print artist Stephanie Orr from Flat 102 to produce limited edition tote bags. I also commissioned Bristol poet Tatterhood to write a poem which summed up the spirit of Social Butterflies.

It was the culmination of a journey I’ve been on for the past six months and it was lovely to share the experience with so many wonderful women. I started this website initially for two reasons: to connect with like-minded women who felt passionately about fulfilling their career ambitions after becoming mothers; and as a way of showcasing my digital skills in preparation for going freelance. What I hadn’t bargained for along the way is that it would become much more than that. It has become a community, a platform to showcase inspirational women and share our knowledge and experience. The best journeys take you to an unexpected destination and I’m happily embracing the twists and turns.

I’ve had my confidence lifted and my aspirations raised by connecting with these women online, but what’s made it really special has been creating an opportunity for those women to meet in real life. Social media is a powerful thing and its possibilities are truly empowering, but nothing beats the human touch and last week’s event proved that there is a real appetite for people to meet, chat (and drink fizzy). I’ll keep you posted of future events, but for now I hope you enjoy looking through the photos captured by my photographer friend Jessica Siggers (@porthjess).

 

Demystifying the blockchain

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.

In politics, I love the ever-ballsy Jess Phillips MP.

On Instagram l I follow Type Tasting which was founded by my friend Sarah Hyndman.


Helen’s work

unblockedevents.com
facebook.com/UnblockedEvents
twitter.com/unblockedevents

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.