Posted on April 12 2017
Sarah Tobin, Co-Owner of Young Hearts writes for Mums & Tots Magazine - Published January 2017.
Maternity leave…. the perfect time in life to chill out, relax and distress from the day job, enjoy all the amazing new-born snuggles you can get and have a total bingefest on Netflix! It’s also an amazing opportunity to step off the treadmill… and to really look at what you want from life. If you are like me and you have always had a niggle that you might like to do something for yourself like starting your own business, it can be an amazing opportunity to nurture a big idea you might have had for a very long time.
Ideas take time, research takes time, business plans take time, and for me Maternity leave has gifted me not only the most amazing little boy, but also the time to really make a life long dream come true.
The idea has been with me for such a long time, I live in Brighton with my husband and little boy Casper. My sister is based in Kildare. We have spoken every day on the phone for years, and about a year ago our conversations turned to dreaming about how and when we could make the dream of owning our little shop, a reality.
After three months of a lovely hazy love bubble with my baby, I felt ready to give this idea of ours energy, and in fact, I think by giving it my time and thoughts, it gave me such motivation to make it happen more than ever.
Both my sister Debbie and I love kids fashion, we are also Instagram stalkers, liking and sharing amazing designs from around the world with each other on a daily basis. We saw all of these amazing independent designers doing incredible things and we wanted to bring these brands to the Irish market, where we felt there was an appetite for something different.
Finding out who we were as a brand was the easy part. We wanted each and every product stocked in Young Hearts to be as unisex as possible, we wanted siblings to be able to share the products, we wanted to give parents confidence in what they were buying and how they were parenting, we wanted products to promote positivity and a sense of self worth (we have affirmation cards which help to give kids and parents confidence), but as well as all of that we wanted to buy many products that were produced ethically, in high quality factories, using organic or superb quality cottons and dyes. These are all issues we feel parents care about more and more.
I did the lion share of the work to start up the business as Maternity leave afforded me more time than my sister. The juggle is easy at the beginning, Casper slept a lot and was quiet as a mouse, so I could get the website built throughout the day, as he is got older, and the crawling has set in, I needed to be really focused with my time. Normally nap times are great opportunities for me to get back on email, and even now when he goes to bed at night I do a few hours to catch up on the day.
It may all sound like really hard work, but honestly when you are growing your own business it doesn’t feel like work, it’s an exciting new world!
When we launched on September 1st we were so nervous, but also so excited to see what people thought of our online shop! It was 6 months in the making so finally having customer feedback was fantastic. The community of mainly businesswomen in the childrenswear industry in Ireland and the UK, flung open their arms to us, and we are so grateful for the friends we have already made along this journey.
Now that we are up and running, for us its about growing our community of customers, and constantly trying to improve on what we do. We are adding new ranges to what we currently stock all of the time, and now we will have about 25 brands on the site offering something really different across children swear, nursery decor, toys, dress up, teepees, storage bags and greetings cards. We really hope people keep following our journey as our small business grows.
If you have had a dream to start a business, Maternity Leave can be an amazing opportunity to get started. Here are a few of my top tips:
Just do it. If you think you’ve a good idea and it is something you feel passionate about then go for it. Maternity leave provides the perfect opportunity to reassess what you want from life and test the waters with your idea. It would be much harder to do as a mum and working full/part time as well.
Focus, plan and set goals. It’s a great idea to get a business plan together so you don’t jump in completely blind. Look at the market, your competition, SWOT analysis, pricing strategy, costs, financial projections, and a cash flow for the upcoming three years. Set yourself some goals, some realistic and some wildly insane – you can reach for the stars! Also, think about what kind of brand you want – what it will say about you and your company. Remember to be yourself. People buy people. Often the brand is you – so let people know who you are!
Take all of the help you can get. Every hour to spend on your business is precious. When baby naps, or is in bed at night, get your laptop out. Have parents or grandparents take them for an hour or two (out of the house) – or you leave the house and take the laptop, get a change of scenery and have a nice coffee in a local cafe. I recommend employing some sort of sleep training technique as early as you can. I left that a bit late and it would have been so handy to just have put him down in the cot and gotten a bit of extra time while he settled himself off to sleep!
Employ help. Ask friends to read pages of your website or business plan – you’ll have seen it so many times you won’t see the mistakes. Get a babysitter, or put your child to nursery/child-minder for a few hours a week – a solid block of time is key to making good progress. Get family or friends to test products and give you their opinions.
Use free tools and apps to help keep organised and get things done on the move with Google Docs, Dropbox, Wetransfer, Shopify, Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, Xero accounting, If This Then That, Facebook Adverts Manager App, Instagram (enabling new analytics feature for businesses too), Snapchat and Twitter. For picture taking I use Camera Plus, and for editing VSCO and Instagram.
Contact your local Enterprise Board to see what resources they can provide e.g. they run small business courses, and have a variety of templates you can use and documents you can read.
Work hard but take breaks. What you put in you get out. So when you’re working, work fast and hard. Time is precious. Have a master to do list and throughout the week add to it so its ready when you get time to work and you can crack on quickly. Equally it is really important to take time off. Go out on a date, have quality time with the kids or watch a movie. Setting up a business can become all consuming and you can burn out, so make sure you take some time out to relax.
Let things go. It’s ok if you haven’t hovered in a week! As long as everyone’s being fed and clothes are being washed you’re doing enough. When you’re setting up a business that does become a big priority so you’ll have to let some smaller things slide. Don’t berate yourself; you can only do so much.
Turn off your phone. Once a day spend quality time with your baby or kids, without your phone in hand. They will appreciate your undivided attention and you will love the quality time too. It reduces the mum guilt you might feel for working when you know you’ve given them some really good playtime. It’s also great for you to take a break too. Switch off from your social and business life for a while. Debbie and I now have one hour an evening when we turn the phones off, for the same hour!
- Celebrate the wins. Every time you have a little success, celebrate! You need to feel and enjoy all the positivity you can. That positivity goes back into your motivation, energy and effort, helping you towards the next little win!