Fran's Business Series
Phoebe my eldest daughter is 5 and a half, the business turned 4 in May (although it’s nearly 5 years since we first had the idea) and Margot just turned 3. Once you do that math you realize that I was crazy enough to start our business in the middle of my childbearing years. A little more math for you, Matilda (Jo’s eldest) is 6 in September and Florence and Charles were three in February. It’s safe to say we have been busy.
I am regularly asked why I started a business while my children were young and “how did you do it”. I know lots of mothers start thinking about it, especially when maternity leave is coming to an end, so I wanted to share a little of our journey. Warts and all.
When the idea of Franjo’s Kitchen first started, I didn’t really have a long-term strategy. At the time I was on maternity leave from my job that I loved and I had every intention of heading back to work (which I did). But I also have always had an entrepreneurial bend and I could see the potential and opportunity of what we were creating. Put simply, we couldn’t not do it.
If I knew then what I know now, I think I probably would have spent a little more time figuring out what our longer-term goals were – apparently worldwide domination isn’t enough – you need to have a clear direction of how to get there!
The first few years were REALLY stressful. We didn’t make enough money to have anyone to help us, and we weren’t paying ourselves (we have only been paying ourselves an absolutely minuscule amount of money the last 12 months and that’s not every week!). We were juggling pregnancies, sick toddlers and other jobs. Let alone some other stressful life stuff.
I won’t sugar coat it. It was really hard. Really hard. With the birth of Margot I suffered from postnatal depression and anxiety and I think the stress of trying to “do it all” really played its part there. I will always feel some guilt and sadness about the early days with Margot.
But then you fast forward to now, we have a small growing business, with a great team behind us. We have pretty amazing work-life balance all things considering, I get to drop off and collect my children from school, have Margot two days a week and don’t have to worry about annual leave, school holidays and sick leave. I feel very lucky.
If I was to give myself, or anyone else advice for starting a business during these years I could probably sum it up as follows:
- Have a great support network. Both our husbands were and are incredibly supportive of us. We couldn’t do it without them.
- Outsource as much as you can, cleaners, nannies, accounts – you can’t do it all. You really can’t.
- Try to carve out your own balance. This has taken us a few years to figure out, but it’s so important. We aren’t brain surgeons. It’s important to exercise, read, spend time with friends and enjoy life. It can all wait.
- Be protective of your down time. It’s so easy to work all hours, and we did initially, especially with the schedules babies demand. But that leads to stress, anxiety and never switching off. Schedule work and then forget it outside those hours.
- It’s not a race. Do it at your own pace. Creating a sustainable profitable business takes time. Lots of time. Don’t give up but also be realistic. Have other income sources if necessary to get you through those early years.
- Also, it’s actually impossible to work and look after children at the same time. You owe it to them, yourself and the business to have someone else look after them while you work, or work while they sleep. It’s not fair on anyone to try to juggle work and kids at the same time.
My next post in Fran's Business Series will be on how we manage our partnership. Please feel free to shoot us an e-mail if you have any specific queries, we love helping other mums in business!