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Rise of the mumpreneurs: Surrey women an inspiration

PUBLISHED: 15:24 10 June 2013 | UPDATED: 06:04 08 March 2015

Vickie and Elisa

Vickie and Elisa

Archant

These women gave up high-profile jobs to have children but now they're back and running their own companies. Dubbed the mumpreneurs, they are the inspiration every new mum needs

Vickie Bryars (left), 42, and Elisa Everitt, 41, founded Scooterearz, makers of waterproof mitts, which attach to the handlebars of children’s scooters

Business: Scooterearz

Founded: September 2009

Previous jobs: Elisa worked for a global recruitment and personnel management firm. Vickie was at Toshiba

Based: From their homes in Weybridge

Children: Between the pair, seven children ranging in ages from four to 11

Turnover: In the next three years they hope to reach £250,000 per year

Staff: None

What was your inspiration?

Vickie: We were walking the children on their scooters to school on one of those freezing mornings. The kids had forgotten their gloves and were, of course, complaining all the way to school that their hands were cold. We dropped the kids off and headed home for a warm drink and a brainstorm! After making some samples, we realised we had a unique idea.

How did you get started?

We used to set a little aside every month to help get everything set up but then had to borrow a rather large amount when it came to mass producing Scooterearz. Elisa’s husband, Jon, funded our first order via his own company, Benross Golf, with a loan of £25,000. We were able to pay it back within the first three months of trading.

Who did you go to for advice?

Initially, we went to Elisa’s husband Jon (and still do). He set up Benross Golf himself so has managed to help us every step of the way.

Secrets of success?

Listen to your customers! If you don’t, you won’t succeed! It was also great that the leading brand of children’s scooters, Micro Scooters, asked us to design some Scooterearz exclusively for them – we’re now in their catalogue.

What do your partners think?

We are both very lucky and have supportive husbands. We regularly turn to Jon for business advice – it’s like having our own Dragon!

What’s being a mumpreneur like?

You get some moments when you have a deadline to work towards combined with playdates, after-school activities and kids screaming for tea! But it somehow always works out if you are prepared to work around your children. This might involve getting up at 5am (especially if you are dealing with customers in different countries) or staying up until midnight to get something done!

***

Cara Sayers is 41 and founder of SnoozeShade, makers of sleep and sun covers for baby buggies. SnoozeShade has won multiple parenting awards and is now sold in a number of High Street stores

Business: SnoozeShade

Founded: July 2008

Previous job: Events director for CMP Media (now UBM plc)

Based: Walton-on-Thames

Children: Holly (5)

Turnover: £230,000 last year and expanding into the US this year

Staff: A network of freelancers, mainly other mums, based in Surrey, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire

 

What was your inspiration?

I was annoyed there wasn’t anything small and neat enough to have with me when my baby daughter Holly needed a nap. I used to hang things over the pram and they’d often blow off or fall under the wheels. And so, the idea for SnoozeShade was born!

 

How did you get started?

I used £30,000 of my own money. I had worked for a friend before I had my daughter and she paid me (late!) in one big lump sum. Now we are distributed in 20 countries, and you can find us in John Lewis, Mothercare, Boots and the JoJo Maman Bebe catalogue.

Who did you go to for advice?

I found people already in the industry to be the most helpful resource. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions as I had never been in retail or manufacturing and I had no idea what I was doing. You have to learn where it’s worth investing in advice and where you can get by asking around.

Secrets of success?

Long hours, hard work and a solid product.

What does your partner think?

My husband has contributed a lot of time to my business and is very proud of what I’ve achieved.

What’s being a mumpreneur like?

It’s been hard setting up a business that needs a lot of my attention and time as well as being a full-time mother. I wish sometimes I hadn’t beaten myself up so much when I wasn’t with Holly. My advice to people in the same boat is invest in time. Get someone to look after your child (be it a nursery, nanny or family) and give yourself time to concentrate. I tried to look after Holly and the business and never felt I was giving either my full attention.

 

***

Amanda Seabrook is 39 and the founder of Workpond, an online recruitment marketplace that helps new businesses find experienced professionals who don’t want to work full-time

Business: Workpond

Founded: October 2011

Previous job: Amanda was an investment analyst for ABN Asset Management

Based: Three days a week in business incubator, SETsquared, at Surrey Research Park, Guildford, and two days from home just outside of Farnham

Children: William (9), Annabel (7) and George (3)

Turnover: They didn’t charge until last year, while building a candidate base, but hope to reach around £1m by 2016

Staff: Amanda plus two other mothers who live in Farnham

 

What was your inspiration?

When I had William, I spent a lot of time with other mothers talking about what we would do when we went back to work. The common feeling was that we all wanted to work in what we were trained to do, but to be able to balance this with seeing our children grow up. I knew there must be a demand from businesses for all these highly talented women and their wasted skills. I decided what was needed was an online marketplace.

How did you get started?

Luckily, I saved my final bonus and had kept it as a nest egg.

 

Who did you go to for advice?

Friends, mothers at the school gate, their husbands, family members... I talked to everyone I could and they were all amazingly supportive and helpful. I am part of a business incubator, SETsquared, at the Surrey Research Park in Guildford and, as well as providing office space, they offer invaluable mentoring advice.

Secret of success?

Persistence. Things always take longer, are harder and more expensive than you imagine. You just can’t give up.

What does your partner think?

He is very supportive. As I am not drawing a salary, he supports us financially, which has enabled me to set up the business.

What’s being a mumpreneur like?

What is hard about starting your own business is running multiple departments single-handedly and having to pretend that you have everything covered. Networking is hard – events are often in the mornings or evenings when I want to be a mother.

 

***

Rebecca Newenham is 41 and founder of Get Ahead VA, a team of virtual assistants that support small businesses and individuals remotely. Get Ahead VA has been voted the second most loved VA business in the country through the Best Of… business directory

Business: Get Ahead VA

Founded: 2010

Previous job: Buyer for Sainsbury’s at their head office in London

Based: In a garden office at home in Guildford

Children: Three daughters, Isabelle (11), Aimee (9) and Robyn (7)

Turnover: On track for a turnover of £150,000 next year. Plans to extend geographically with a target of £500,000 in three years Staff: Ten VAs and five others (website guru, blogger, accountant etc). All are freelance and most are mothers themselves. One VA is based in Australia, which gives them 24-hour coverage

 

What was your inspiration?

I always knew I wanted to own and run my own business. I came across the term virtual assistant, which is quite an established concept in the US, and found a course run by two hugely successful UK-based VAs. It went from there and Get Ahead VA was born.

How did you get started?

The set-up costs were minimal. I bought a second-hand laptop and we already had a printer. My husband Martin and I decided on the name, I bought the website domain, paid a friend’s husband to design my logo and another friend based in the US launched my first website.

Who did you go to for advice?

As well as the initial course I attended, I am a member of the Entrepreneur’s Circle. This monthly meeting has been a great opportunity to share and ask for advice in a safe environment. I also have an amazing business coach who I meet fortnightly. She helps to keep me on the straight and narrow!

Secrets of success?

Understanding our customer requirements, then making the right connections. I pride myself on being a fantastic matchmaker!

What does your partner think?

Martin contributes loads. He is hugely supportive, very proud and looking to retire on the success of Get Ahead in the longer term, so no pressure.

What’s being a mumpreneur like?

Setting up and running Get Ahead VA has been really empowering but it never leaves me. My girls call my iPhone my fourth child, which can be frustrating at times. But we all benefit from this flexible working as I can do the school run, go to school plays and watch netball matches. It just means juggling my diary.

***

 

 

Karen Skidmore is 43 and founder of The Web Tech Club, which guides small businesses through internet marketing and teaches them how best to set up their websites, newsletters and social media

 

Business: The Web Tech Club

Founded: September 4, 2004

Previous job: Business director for an international recruitment firm

Based: From home in Hindhead

Children: Jodie (13) and Harvey (11)

Turnover: The aim over the next few years is to hold a steady turnover of £55,000 to £70,000

 

Staff: Three virtual assistants at any one time. One in Texas, a local one who manages events and her PA based in Kent

What was your inspiration?

I originally started as a life coach. After four months, I started focusing my time on marketing. I started teaching people how to blog and set up their e-mail newsletters and this is where The Web Tech Club was born.

How did you get started?

I started with nothing more than my three months notice. My husband was working, so there was no pressure to bring in money for the first few months. The nursery bills were covered and I set up everything on a zero budget. I only spent money on my business when I got paid.

Who did you go to for advice?

I didn’t, which is probably why I made all the rookie mistakes. To be honest, the business advice back in 2004 was rubbish!

Secrets of success?

My first success was my e-mail newsletter. In 2004, receiving an e-mail newsletter was still a novelty and people looked forward to getting them. You need to know that you are the one person responsible for everything. Too many people think that someone out there owes them success and this is just not true.

What does your partner think?

My husband has always been supportive, but he works in London and I have sole responsibility for getting our children to and from school, making sure they do their homework and cooking supper. I don’t think he had any idea what my business was until he was at home for a few months between jobs. I used the time to publish my first book and he took over most of the school runs. He even proof-read my book, which was when he finally fully understood what I did.

What’s being a mumpreneur like?

It was pretty tough four years ago when I lost my dad to cancer. My parents lived in Devon so I spent the best part of the 18 months he was ill driving back and forth. It was a horrible time but I was so thankful I had a business that allowed me to spend the time with my parents. It would have been almost impossible otherwise.

***

 

Have you launched your own business? Escaped the rat race? Hate the term mumpreneur?! Share your thoughts with us at facebook.com/SurreyLife, twitter.com/SurreyLife or via e-mail at editor@surreylife.co.uk

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