Hello and welcome back to another week of Mama You Can, a series started to started to share inspirational stories of Mama’s who have changed career direction, started their own business or negotiated a more flexible role to fit in with family life.
There was a little break last week from the usual Mama You Can as we hit the milestone of 20 Mama’s who had shared their story so I wanted to do a summary of the best tips I have read over the last 20 weeks. If you missed it, don’t worry here is a link to the top 20 tips for starting your own business, it’s well worth a read!
Back to this week’s Mama You Can series and we welcome Nicci, who alongside her sister started the business Stuffel. I love the story so do have a read and check out their amazing business afterwards.
Mama You Can: Nicci from Stuffel
Hi. My name is Nicci, and I have four young kids (two of whom are covering me in stickers as I type).
I started Stuffel with my sister several years ago, when my youngest was one, and we juggle it between the school runs and her ‘proper’ job in marketing.
When my twins arrived I couldn’t imagine returning to my previous job – working in radio up in central London. I really missed the camaraderie, (not to mention having a pay-packet!) but there didn’t seem to be time in the day to wash all the babygros, let alone find the headspace to work through a client’s strategy. If I’m totally honest, I also think I would have felt far too jealous leaving them with someone else – funny little leaky bundles of squawky mayhem that they were.
I realised that I was incredibly fortunate to be able to take time away from work financially, and chucked myself into every music group and farm trip going. A couple of years, and two more children later, life started to take on a more even keel. My youngest, Elliot, was one when Suzie and I started pulling together the idea of Stuffel.
All of our kids have been huge Lego fans, so clearing the thousands of tiny blocks spread across our floors each day became a big annoyance. Stuffel bags spread wide so that toys can be rummaged through, but have a drawstring to pull everything back up again – meaning that toys with small pieces can be scooped up and cleared away in seconds. We were aware of similar drawstring bags that had been around when we were young, but felt we could design and make them to a higher spec. This Lego-mare is a universal problem for parents, so the decision to get the bags manufactured to sell felt like an obvious one.
I’m honestly not sure how or why we thought we’d have the time or energy to pull it off – probably a combination of more of the kids by now at school, plus lower expectations about how much else we can achieve (I am far less worried about the state of the playroom, or how often I serve up fish fingers than I used to be!).
The turning point for Suzie came when she completed a ‘My Project Me’ course with ‘Mama Motivator’ Kelly Pietrangeli – www.myprojectme.com. Kelly’s ethos is that a happy mum equals a happy home, and that it is essential that mums carve out time for themselves. Kelly taught us to break down tasks into ten-minute chunks, which is often all we’d have before being needed by a child again, and taught us to prioritise our time better. Suddenly setting up our own business didn’t seem insurmountable.
I suspect it is rarely the ‘right’ time to start a business (just as it is rarely the ‘right’ time to have a baby!); my advice would be to take a first little step, followed by another, and see where the next step leads.
In many ways it is easier to take the plunge than ever before: the web has allowed a flexibility and access that would have been inconceivable a few years ago. With my trusty laptop on hand I can pay suppliers in Staffordshire or liaise with customers in Japan, all from the school gates or kitchen table.
The web has also opened up a huge network of mums in a similar boat, wearing matching life-jackets and weathering the same storms! We have been amazed just how many bright, brilliant and collaborative women we are meeting daily via our work on Stuffel. It can really help to tap into this vast group for information-sharing and support.
It obviously helps to start in a market that you understand – for us we are putting our bags through extreme product-testing ourselves at home, and feel that we have a good understanding of what the customers are after. I took the sample of the Stuffel Mini (a smaller version of the original bag for on-the-go play) away with us last summer, and having put it through it’s paces on plane tables, on hotels beds and in cafes, it was so exciting to come home and get the product out to market.
And perhaps that biggest thing is to get the support of your other half. My husband has stepped up and helped with all the other life admin so that we can make a go of Stuffel, and is the one who picks up the pieces when a ball is dropped.
I’m secretly quite proud of what we have created with Stuffel, and find myself doing a little happy dance when a fresh batch of bags arrives from the factory, or we post an order out to a far-flung country. However, there are NEVER enough hours in the day, and it is frustrating to know that we could be achieving a great deal more with more time. In the early days everything was done whilst bouncing a toddler under each arm – calls could only last the length of a Peppa Pig episode, and once a 4 pint bottle of milk got upturned over some fresh fabric samples. Elliot used to trawl his mucky blanket around trade shows with us. But thankfully I have finally learnt to compartmentalise – concentrating on the kids when I am with them, and knuckling down to work swiftly when the opportunity arises. The hope is that as the family grows, so can Stuffel.
Life is, of course, bonkers. But that’s sort of how I like it. I also love that our bags help other mums save time.
Here’s to Mamas that Can, Mamas that Have Done, and Mamas that Might Do One Day. Good luck all!
Visit www.stuffel.co.uk to shop or get in touch.
Mama You Can will be back next Thursday, until then why not read some of the other stories…
- Mama You Can: Kelly Pike
- Mama You Can: Julie Clabby
- Mama You Can: Claudette Anderson
- Mama You Can: The Baby Service
- Mama You Can: Property Potential Surrey
- Mama You Can: Lylia Rose
- Mama You Can: Amy Blackwood photography
- Mama You Can: Sunita from Lucky things blog
- Mama You Can: Jess Haworth
- Mama You Can: Claire Gillespie
- Mama You Can: Sarah Pool
- Mama You Can: Jo Harris
- Mama You Can: Laura Hollinger
- Mama You Can: Bridget from Bridie by the sea
- Mama You Can: Lisa from What2buy4kids
- Mama You Can: Kathryn from Best Day Ever Party Shop
- Mama You Can: Clare Murthy
- Mama You Can: Fiona Crossman
- Mama You Can: Amanda from Bundles & Bunches
- Mama You Can: Jo Mackay