"Mumpreneur" isn't one of my favourite words, but there's no denying that I must be one! Bringing Meelight from idea to prototype to market has been some journey, and in the last few weeks we've had some great PR in recognition of Meemoobaby's success as 1 of 100 Small Businesses included in the Small Business Saturday 2017 initiative. Small Business Saturday is a government backed national campaign which highlights small business success and encourages people to support small businesses like us.
There’s no denying that starting a business can be challenging, but with some hard work and dedication, we're living proof that it can happen!
Here's my top tips for starting up (and succeeding!)
with your own business:
Have a passion for what you want to do
Many successful businesses stem from personal experience. There's no point doing something you're just not into, purely for financial reward, so you must love what you do.
If you love what you do, you will want to invest your time to grow your business (and don't under estimate how much time you will need to do the job properly..!)
Research is invaluable
Impartial research is key in getting confirmation that there is a place for your product or service in the marketplace. Stay away from asking family and friends for feedback - they are likely to say what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear!
For Meelight we gathered much of our research from mum and baby groups, and when the results were so overwhelmingly positive, we had the confidence to approach key distributors and retailers for confirmation that Meelight really was viable as a product.
Ask for help if you need it and learn to juggle
You are not a super hero! It's just not possible to do absolutely everything in your business, nor is it healthy to think you can. Assess your core strengths (and weaknesses) and choose what you are going to 'farm out' to freelancers or experts. If you're a parent working from home, you will need to learn to juggle and compartmentalise, both physically and mentally; it takes practice and self-control to ensure the washing machine isn't on spin during that important skype, and that the kids don't get grumpy because you're not 100% there for them when they need you, but remember the more you plan and are organised, the easier life will be.
Get yourself out there and step away from the 'kitchen table bubble'
Join local networking, entrepreneurial groups (often on Facebook), for support, both business and also emotional!
Make use of seminars, courses and initiatives such as:
Small Business Saturday - https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com/
I even got to go to a small business event at 10 Downing Street!
The Business Centre at the British Library (they also hold many market research reports which you can view for free) - https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre
Your local DIT (Department for International Trade) representative, if you are thinking of exporting - https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-trade
Local government business advice and support schemes - https://www.gov.uk/business-finance-support
Enter local or national awards relevant to your particular area or speciality or general business - there are loads out there.
Self promote (subtly), network and believe in yourself
I'm not saying you tell all and sundry about your idea at every opportunity, (or people may start avoiding you!) but try to be positive and remember every person you talk to about your business venture is another potential customer or advisor. It's amazing how many of my local 'school gate' mums friends have helped out on our journey:
Our fantastic video was made by a local friend of a friend: https://www.carolinejonesphotography.com/
A few budding journos and PR friends have submitted material to the local press.
The husband of one of my daughter's old nursery friends is my (very patient!) mentor.
My product photography was done (on my kitchen table) by a dad in my daughter's class - (although he is more used to working with rock stars!): http://www.paulharries.com/
Believe in yourself and your go with your gut instinct
No matter how many 'experts' you consult, do not be tempted to waiver from your own gut instinct too often. In the early Meelight days, my gut was sometimes suppressed because I didn't think I knew enough about my product or market to overrule someone I thought to be more knowledgeable. But, in retrospect I should have followed my gut at certain points. Whatever decision you do make, even if it turns out to be 'wrong', make a note of why you made it at that particular time, so you can look back and justify why you did it, rather than beating yourself up about it!
Keep your eye on the goal and don't stray from your vision - it's your 'baby' after all!
Continual improvement - listen to reviews and feedback
Here at Meelight, we are constantly looking to improve our product. We listen to reviews, answer all emails personally, and work closely with our UK distributor Cheeky Rascals. Customer satisfaction is key and we always listen. The job is never done.
Have fun and try to keep a work life balance
This goes back to the passion - you're doing this because you love it, so enjoy the journey! There'll be highs and lows, but try to celebrate every milestone along the way and don't give up! There will be some points when you are working 24/7 and the work mountain seems unsurmountable, but always try to find time to chill, see friends, exercise and read a good book - that's when some of the best ideas happen!