Welcome back to 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.
This week we hear from Danielle who started and runs OhSoBox, a beautiful Surrey based company. I’ll hand over to Danielle to tell her story.
Mama You Can: Danielle from OHSOBox
Why is it whenever I’m asked what I do, I never know in what order to say everything. If I could say it all at the same time I probably would. My name is Danielle, I’m a wife, a Mother and a small business owner (in the order they happened). My daughter Rose is three and my little boy Isaac is seven months old. My husband David runs his Design and Build business from our home in West Surrey, and the final member of our family is our ever loyal dog, Flo!
I’ve recently launched my small brand Ohso Box, offering curated gift boxes for parents and their little ones. Each product is sourced with care and selected for its design, style and function. In a nut shell, I spent a lot of time trying to find unique and special gifts for friends and family as they embarked on parenthood and found that there was a gap in the niche area of curated gifts, crafted and produced with passion and care. In 2018 I hope to add to our current range of baby boxes a Mum-to-be box and a Dad-to-be box as well as a Toddler box. I’ve got lots to keep me busy going forward.
Since my son was born this is what I’ve been working on. It’s been one big juggling act, making sure the kids are looked after, the dog is walked and this brand is launched before Christmas (my personal goal)! Ohso Box has been my third baby in a way, the thing that’s; kept me sane, my creative side ticking, my mind going and my way of ensuring that I continue to work (my choice).
Prior to my second pregnancy I worked at Nike for seven years, first as an EA and Events Manager, then finally as an Account Manager in Sales. I loved every minute. I worked with a brilliant team and Nike is known for having an amazing people and work culture. Opportunities were great, working in Soho was the best! But that aside, the downside to this great brand was something I only discovered once I’d had my daughter and my priorities changed, as they do when you become a parent. Part-time roles or flexible working was just not on their agenda. Once I’d started back at work the Mum guilt set in, and then to counterbalance that, when I left the office at 5pm every night with work still to do, the work guilt set in! I knew that this was not going to work for me and I couldn’t maintain this lifestyle. I know many parents that work full-time and I know lots of full-time Mums (not many Dad’s sadly) and whatever choice you make it’s not easy for anyone, but it’s a part of life that everyone has to make fit somehow.
When did you decide to change direction in your work life?
I’d always had in the back of my mind somewhere that I’d like to run my own business one day. I’ve always been an ideas person but never really followed through on any, until now. Deep down I knew that it was going to be a challenge coming back to full time work, but I wanted to give it my best shot and you never really know how you’re going to feel until it happens. I went back to work with an open mind, but I soon realised that my initial concerns were confirmed and I had to rethink things. This is when it all started to became real! Real in the way that if I wanted to see my babies for more than 30 minutes a day then things needed to change in my work life. This was the push I needed, and my kids were the motivation in actually helping me to think about what I could do next.
Was it a quick decision or something you thought about for a long time?
I spent the nine months of being back in full time work (my daughter attended a local nursery full time during this period) deciding what I was going to do. Eventually, I decided to enrol on the Digital Mums Social Media Campaign Manager Course. This was before I knew what road my business was going to take. This six month intense course was fundamentally the catalyst for me deciding to develop and launch Ohso Box. Before graduating I did very little social media, just a bit of personal posting here and there. On this course I learnt so much and realised how important the role of social media is for a Brand or Business. The Digital Mums crew teach you in a way that enables you to be at home with your kids and do your learning when it’s convenient for you, you also have a team of other Mums doing the course alongside you so it’s somewhat like being at work. Although its a tough course and not to be taken lightly, it’s do-able. It was only at the end of the course just before my son was born that I decided to take the bull by the horns and felt I knew enough to start developing my business idea.
How did you feel in the lead up to the decision?
To say that I was a bit anxious was putting it mildly. When you’ve worked for a company all your life and really enjoy working with people, going from that to working at home with only my baby and a dog for company and the odd ‘fist pump’ when something goes right, is a bit of a contrast. As well as all that, knowing that I’m putting my savings into something that I have no idea whether its going to work or not is very scary. My husband has been amazing and without his support I don’t know if I could have done it. I kept telling myself to ‘just do it’ (Nike will always be in my blood) and to keep plugging away in-between bottle feeds, nappy changes, dog walks, cuddles, drops offs and picks up at nursery. When that imposter syndrome or self doubt crept in, I’d face time my best friend or my sister and they would get me back on track. Or I’d think of the kids and what I want them to learn from my examples and life choices.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s been the most amazing decision of my life and I’ve loved every minute so far, because the reality is I missed work initially, the team banter, working in Soho, endless supplies of amazing coffee and great food minutes from my office, I miss the shops (my wallet doesn’t) and all those kinds of things, but the reality is I’m in a different phase of my life now and I’m getting used to being in semi-rural Surrey. It’s taken me a year to adjust to the idea of working for myself but I’m now starting to see the future and I’m getting really excited about it.
Now you have taken the plunge how are things going?
It’s early days. It takes time to build a brand piece by piece. I’m getting as much support and advice as I can as I’m learning too. I feel like I’ve accomplished quite a lot, but really the toughest part is yet to come. I’ve got to develop, grow, evolve, learn, fail (at some things no doubt) before I can really say its been a success. The most important part of all this for me is that I did what I set out to do. I’m right at the start of my journey but I’ve actually seen this idea through to launch and I’m here for my children when they need me. I hope that I make a success of my brand, I have so many ideas for it and I can’t wait to start working on them. But its about starting small, in a manageable way and growing from there. I’m a ‘wing it’ kinda girl and that means that we all fly by the seat of our pants most of the time. I’ve always tried and failed miserably to be Mrs Organised. I do get carried away and want to do everything NOW, but this journey has taught me to take things a bit slower and do things at a more manageable pace.
What advice would you give to other Mama’s who are thinking about making a change to their working life?
My advice would be this 1. Decide what’s most important to you as a parent, not as you were before kids, write them down and start thinking about how you’re going to achieve them. 2. Embark on learning something new, for me this was Social Media, its opened a lot of doors for me. 3. Don’t overthink and procrastinate a decision for too long, “just do it” because there is never the perfect time, especially when you have young children. And finally don’t listen too much to the little devil on your shoulder, learn to have a word with yourself or find someone who can get you back on track and give you that spur on that you sometimes need.
You can find all of the Mama You Can series here…
Thanks for reading and see you next week.