Hello! I am a mum to two year old Clara and an English teacher. As the basic principal of both is to put others first and not dwell too often on the sound of your own voice, I knew starting my own business was going to be a challenge. I would have to speak up, speak out and self-promote. Scary stuff! Initially, I cringed at the thought of asking friends and family to ‘share’ posts and road test the Roly Poly Pillow, but I knew this feeling would pale in comparison to being able to work for myself, see more of my daughter and create an innovative product I wholly believe in and that will make night time that little bit easier for parents and toddlers.
The journey over the past few months has been wonderful and challenging. From wading through strange codes on the gov.uk website to navigating my way through the mine-field of textiles and British Standard codes, I have honestly loved every minute and can’t wait to start selling the Roly Poly Pillow. What this blog is about though, is how I have managed to complete a many number of tasks myself; I thought it would be great to share the areas I have been able to master/plod through. I had so many people tell me what I needed to pay for and have help with but, actually, there is a vast amount you can do yourself. It just takes a little time and planning.
My first experience of this was to apply for a Trademark. To say I was daunted would be an understatement. This was proper, business territory and I had heard tales of endless months of deliberating and thousands of pounds being spent on succeeding to gain a Trademark. Could I do it myself?
With my limited teacher budget, I didn’t have much of a choice so I started looking online at how to deal with these all important little letters that I needed to have next to Roly Poly Pillow. As it turned out, it wasn’t all that bad:
· A few websites to read through;
· A couple of calls to the incredibly helpful people at gov.uk;
· A catalogue of other trade mark names to check through (this was the slightly tedious part but wine made it fairly tolerable…scroll, sip, scroll, sip. We’re going on a trade mark hunt, we’re going to find a good one…);
· Oh, and a warning to my partner that we were about to spend £200 on two tiny letters TM . Who said size doesn’t matter?
Completing the Trademark was the first hurdle. The next big undertaking was to gather my things, wrap up my (then) one year old and head off to sunny London for the Mums Enterprise Business Roadshow. Having been part of this hugely inspiring and optimism-fuelled group for a while, I was desperate to get to the roadshow which promised stalls of expertise, meetings with like-minded mums and talks from professional women interested in aiding the start-up industry. Mums Enterprise Roadshow was founded by Lindsey Fish and Lucy Chaplin and it is an amazing platform to encourage and help mums consider the alternative to 9-5 work. It’s an empowering concept which seeks to enable mums to be part of the business economy. And so, I knew I would find inspiration and ways forward at the 2017 London event.
Nevertheless, it was still a daunting prospect as I needed help with quite a few things and also had to keep a toddler entertained at a busy convention. It all started surprisingly well until I realised that, once I arrived at Angel, I had brought our non-collapsible buggy (Angel is the deepest underground station; it represents a metaphor in this story, something of a nemesis). I reassured myself that it would be fine; I had applied for my own trade-mark for goodness sake, so I could do this. With my toddler securely in her seat and a very kind gentleman standing in front of the buggy to stop it falling down the escalator (I think that’s what he was doing, maybe he was blocked), I started the ascent. Up, up and away!
A sweaty eternity and few heart palpitations later, we reached the top and started wandering towards The Business Design centre. An assembly of mums with buggies wheeled their way through the shiny glass doors, mostly looking very surprised that they were being welcomed with open arms into a place of business, the antithesis of ‘normal’ treatment, which is usually a contemptuous glare down at the child-in-buggy throwing bread sticks on the floor.
Once inside and past the very nice security team (yes, I am still going on about how friendly they were which is possibly sad as it highlights how mums with buggies are treated on a day to day basis), Willy Wonka’s business factory awaited with people who wanted to chat, help and share their expertise. It was busier than I had expected which at first made me doubt myself ever so slightly as I realised there were a lot of people excited to start their own business. However, I then reminded myself that the mum-led businesses generate well over £7 billion for the UK economy and that this level of ambition, hard-work and success can only be a fantastic thing to be around.
Having noted the stands I wanted to visit the night before, I dutifully made my way round to each one, sucking advice like a leech and absorbing constructive criticism like a sponge. Once again, something that had seemed pretty daunting actually ignited new ideas, forced a re-think of planning and spawned a whole new level of confidence as I realised my product was actually possible. My daughter had a great time too, even climbing on stage with a key speaker, the amazing Nicola Huelin, and taking in all the positive energy in. She doesn’t know it yet but she was involved in something very special: mums doing it for themselves, designing their own lives and forging their own ways of working.
Reflecting on these experiences, I’m reminded that size does matter. The small things matter. The seemingly minor tasks of completing a Trademark and attending a convention have resulted in much greater results than I ever could have imagined.
Up, up and away!