New baby new business -talk to new parents 18.10.14

So why would you want to set up your own business?
Yes indeed, why would anyone and why do you feel the need to do it after recently becoming a parent? You must be mad?
Well not necessarily there may be many reasons.

It might be:

• You have always wanted to be your own boss and now is a good a time as any.
• As much as you love your baby you feel you will go mad if this is all you do
• You have a unique business idea and now is the perfect time to implement it
• You are wanting more work life balance with your child and your work.
or it could be as simple as
• You just need to do something for you!

I think it is really important that you have “something for you” – I think I felt that having a child or two I just went from being Emma, a senior art director handling big budgets and people listening to what I thought to “Mummy Emma” wiping bums and snotty noses and nobody listening to anything I said.

When I first went into business and met other start ups I could not believe the number of women I spoke to who used the word CONFIDENCE or lack of it. It was like an aliment had popped out when your baby does ( regardless of a natural birth or C section) but many MANY strong , independently minded women after having a baby felt cursed by lack of confidence. This is why I think it is cool to have some thing for you.

I would love to say that having your business and taking it out into the world that you receive a magic want from HMRC that takes the Lack of confidence away. But it’s not true. You just have to work through it. The more you do the better you feel, I think we all feel like a fraud sometimes, and it’s not just women either. I guess you just have to pretend that you are the person you want to be go out and be ballsy, put on a smile and get on with it.

I digress, so you have your baby and a fab business idea, what do you now do and when do you do it?
The first thing you do is learn how to manage your time. I can not stress how important this is. And the best time is when baby sleeps you can get on and focus.
If your baby doesn’t sleep – well that could be a problem – I remember having Fred in a bouncy chair at my feet and I was bouncing him to sleep with my left foot asthough he were the pedal on an old singer sewing machine. It wasn’t ideal but it did allow me to get on the computer for an hour at the kitchen table. Result
I really wouldn’t recommend sitting at the computer, baby in one hand, typing with the other – it will just get both of you frustrated. He/she will cry which will make you want to cry. The best time to seriously think and work is when your baby is happy. The DVD Baby Einstein was played quite a bit when Scarlet was little I have to admit it and I know my friends owe some of their success to cbeebies, but we did find time for music class and the park. So have time with baby and have time to you.
If you have toddlers or preschool kids then sort out something and if you can make it regular.
You can always pay – put them in nursery for a day or so but that is expensive. Try a kid swap with someone from your anti natal class. Have two kids one after noon each week etc. it might be a mental but it could also be nice too . I can’t stress enough if you’re serious about what you do, you will do it better if you are not feeling guilty about spending time with your nippa.

So in the best case scenario, baby is asleep or round a friends and you have two maybe three hours to yourself so USE THIS TIME WELL.
I know how tempting it can be to just put a wash on or do the washing up. If you have toddlers your house is probably a mess- leave it. Don’t tidy up or think you will spend ten minutes doing your online grocery shop – it will inevitably take longer than you think and before you know it you have checked a few emails clocked in to see what your neighbour is up to on Face book and the time will have flitted away.

Make a list or a mental note of things you can do when baby is awake and what is best to do at night. If you work form home you need to be disciplined. Move to a room where you won’t be tempted to do other things.

So to the helpful stuff
• Plan your time – we do things that are we can split up tasks: things we need to do and things that we would like to do. It is important that we spend time doing tasks that are relevant and need to be done straight away. Guess what we tend to spend the most time doing? Precisely.

Keep a work diary along side your family diary so you can plan time around what is happening with your kids – I know this sounds basic but as your kids get bigger they will be doing more and more activities and it is always good to know which hours are yours.
Then:

• Research you market
Look for others with similar ides and trial them
What makes your idea better?
Get to know your market and your audience .
If there is a similar product or idea out there already – admire them- follow them on face book and twitter and then find a point of difference that you can do but they do not.

• Are you selling a product or a service?
• Ask yourself do I need qualifications of certifications testing ?– How do you get them do you need insurance? conform to EU or British standards – look into it, and work out the cost and the time it will take to acquire them.

• Do a SWOT test on your bus idea Strengths , Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I can talk about this another time but it is a really simple way of assessing things.

• Get some one else a close friend you have share your business thoughts with to do it for you too. It will be interesting what good things they see in you that you don’t see in yourself.

• Friends and family are great for sound boarding a new idea, but they can also be the worst as they love you and are proud of you so they will always say they think it’s great.

• Ask yourself what you want from your business?

How much time do you want to spend on it? What do you expect to get back from it, how much money do you want to earn?
• Set yourself a goal. It can be a monthly one, or a five year plan.

You might to earn enough money to go on holiday once a year and that is fine.
You might have the best idea for a non alcoholic margeritta and want to sell it to Coco Cola in 5 years time – what ever you want from your business is your choice. You don’t need to have a million pound company to be happy – just do what you want to do.
BUT DO WRITE IT DOWN. Or summarise it in a picture and print it or draw it and pin it to your wall to remind you.

I have to say that I say all these things in full knowledge that these were things I never did at the beginning and I wish I knew what I do now – I basically jumped in at the deep and treaded water – which is one way of doing it but really I think not the best.

• So all these sorted you need to think MONEY
How much will you need to set up? How are you going to make what you expect to and when will you get it? So really do what I never did at the beginning and build a business plan and start to think about cash flow- don’t just throw a load of money at it and hope for the best! Hu hum.

I have to say that there are lots of government schemes for start ups
https://www.gov.uk/start-up-loans
Where you can get up to 15K if I remember rightly and also have access to a load of advice.

Virgin offer a Start up loans scheme and give you a free mentor too which is fantastic A mentor Is a great idea.

There is also the SEIS, Seed Enterprise, Investment, Scheme where you can raise up to £150 K, get tax back or is tax exempt and it is backed by the government which means there is less risk to the investor.

The princes trust
and Federation of Small Business where last year 70% of their members got funding and investments.

• Trade Mark your product and name, logo?
Your probably all ready have a super catchy name – so find a good IP lawyer and trade mark it. Believe me if you are serious about your company or brand a few hundred pound spent here will save you hours of messing around later on! You might think you have the most innovate name that no one will ever have it – you will be surprised! There is a company own it www.own-it.org/ that can help in these situaltions

• Give your company a mission statement
Rockabye-Baby have a manifesto which is “ enough if the mainstream cute we want bright and bold colours that reflect the joy and creativity with in every child and their rock star qualities too”.

• Summarise what you stand for in three words
We stand for FUN FASHION and ATTITUDE.

• Have your 1 minute elevator pitch
“We design and make cool baby clothes that have a musical theme and are made to make parents smile. They are from 0-10 years and loud and proud and come packed in record sleeves.” You never know who you might bump into in a lift.

• Think of WHY you do or make, not what you do or MAKE – it will give people a reason to support you and share these WHY reasons with you to become loyal customers.

One of my favourite brands is Tom’s shoes that found a village in India where children can only go to school if they have shoes. The majority are too poor so with Tom’s shoes every time you buy a pair they donate a pair to a child in the village.

• Write all this down.
In six months or six years time so much will have happened you will forget. Document why you are doing this and what you want and where you are going.

Then armed with these missions and plans forget your lack of confidence, shu away your inhibitions and get out there and do it.
You may need a plethora of things, staff, investment, a desk but what you need first and foremost is a positive out look an true self belief. It works wonders.

and if you are still eager for info read this 8 top tips from Rob Law founder of Trunki.
https://www.enterprisenation.com/blog/posts/8-tips-from-trunki-founder-on-how-to-succeed-in-business
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Where did the Summer go?

Blimey oh Riley it’s been a while since I last blogged – what a busy Summer. The last time I was tapping away at the keyboard we were in the thick of it on the countdown to the HOUSE OF FRASER competition, and that was back in May! As you can probably tell, (as the posts stopped) it all got too much to blog daily and work an 11 hour stint every day for a fortnight. I moved over to Face Book for the updates and no doubt you saw the news there but for any one who didn’t it was a brilliant experience. We sold lots of our lovely clothes and met great people. It was a ride – and although we didn’t win the top super dooper prize we did win “THE PEOPLE”S CHOICE AWARD”. Yippee.
To celebrate we had a small gathering of everyone who helped, including all the kids and parents who came down to hold the mini protest in Oxford street – The only time they would be allowed to shout and scream their way around a London Department store. With a “what do we want ? Rockabye-baby – when do we want it? Now” Super Fun with knobs on!!!

Summer came and went in a blink of a sunshaded eye, and here we are mid way through September already. You might remember in February we had a meeting with River Island well…….. last week we supplied them their very first order and it is now up online and looking good. riverisland.website We are hoping its going to go really well and we are delighted with this new relationship and hope it goes from strength to strength. So far they are stocked only online but who knows maybe they will be on a high street near you soon.

Another great relationship was made over the summer as we supplied Baby Brands direct they were voted the “BEST RETAILER” in the NURSERY INDUSTRY AWARDS and we supplied them with their new line in baby apparel. So we are hoping this will introduce our range to a whole new audience , let us hope they love it as much as we do.

We also took our brand back to it’s Dutch Roots and supplied a new shop in the Netherlands Hip and Klein if you have a moment have a look at their site it is really cool.
They were one of the first suppliers of the new Who’s your daddy Tees and the rocktastic range with the re-issued “Drums” and “Anarchy” etc which are going down a storm and, as you requested now go up to a size 8-10 years so there is no excuses for your older kids not looking as cool as your wee nippers. check out the range here

We were at the alternative trade Fair London Edge last week with the new range and met some great new people and brands including Freddies of pinewood super demin with a fab 50’s Theme. Nicky Rockets does a great range of tee’s for curvy women that come with a free eyepatch – coolio. If you are looking for retro cosmetics look no more my love as we met the lovely girls at Le Keux Cosmetics with their vintage lip Paint and Eye Liner and finally we just have to mention the Pin up Academy where you can pop in for a pin up style makeover – if that’s your thing then this will be too.

Summer also had us a tweet from Cherry Healey and we made a new addition to our packaging with an alliance with Tuck Tuck retro sweets and the ever so lovely Lisa cherry Lips Gomm. Now whenever you order an item from our site you will get a free packet of retro sweets. It’s sweet to be nice.

As you may well know Rockabye was inspired by my first baby Scarlet Tallula, she is the little baby with a safety pin on every garment, well two weeks ago my muse turned ten! We had a great treasure hunt party hiding clues, (and finding them) in Bread rolls in the local Darvells bakers and in packets of loom bands in the art shop and all over town before heading home to eat a Monster High Doll Birthday cake. See the picture below – its not a great piece of art but hey I am a busy lady and I didn’t know that you couldn’t paint with food colouring did I?
If you want the clues for your own Berko Treasure hunt I will happily send them to you too.

Date for your Diary 18th October where I will be having a stall in Carmenta life in Berkhamsted if you want to pop by and see our lovely stuff and maybe buy a gift or two.
Bye for now and keep on Rockin’ Emma

Progressive preschool

Progressive preschool

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Emma with on award on her boob. what else?

Emma with on award on her boob. what else?

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COUNTDOWN TO HOF – Friday and glad of it.

So it’s 10 Days To Go until the HOF and there is still a bundle of work to do. Everyday it gets a little closer and one job is completed to make room for another.
The only thing keeping me going is that it is Friday an as I had the baby fair last weekend I intend to spend a day doing not much tomorrow. Loving the Friday feeling. Friday Friday Friday Friday

Today’s track of the day is Friday I’m in love by the Cure

View todays diary

COUNTDOWN TO HOF – the madness is levelled

Day 13 and all is good – I’ve been out of the office all day at HOF in Oxford Street London for our day of staff training. I was away from the madness of the office and the never ending to do list and I actually had a really nice time. All positive vibes, and I am sending them out to you. So the track for today is Petula Clark – with Downtown, or DOON TOON as any good Gordie would tell you. (Although I am not a Geordie, I’m from up the road in Middlesbrough, but still its a great pronunciation non the less).

“Petula Clark Down Town”>PETULA CLARK DOWN TOWN

TO VIEW THE VIDEO DIARY CLICK ON THS LINKMovie on 2014-04-29 at 18.24

COUNTDOWN TO H.O.F the madness begins

Well another week passes and I am still alive – just.
Last week was utterly bonkers as we count down to the House of Fraser experience things get a little crazy.
For the next 14 days I am going to leave you a song for the day which sums my state of mind and the general well being of the office. So prepare for some action.

Last week was testing and things can only get better, Monday being a bank holiday weekend we started to tear up the garden and partially build a gazebo – only the weather wasn’t kind and we ran out of time – so hence we are living and working in a bit more mess than is normal – not to worry.
My husband flew off on business for 6 days leaving me with no child care for the weekend which was the Baby and Toddler show in Blue Water Kent.

The Great retail Revival and House of Fraser POP At HOF was kicking off with a whole lot of paperwork. With staff rotas, training days, stock to be sorted etc etc. Plus we have marketing events to plan and book, anyway enough work to keep us out of trouble, plus there is the rest of the business to run and we have the amazing whos’s your Daddy tee’s in production which needs over seeing too. (but they will be worth it)
I spent Monday evening planning the weeks work and allocating tasks only on Tuesday morning to have both my staff call in sick (and one is on holiday). At the beginning of four weddings and a funeral the film starts with the’ F’ word repeated about 10 times – that was my verbal start to Tuesday.

All worked out well though, the marketing plan that I had been mulling over on twenty bits of paper materialised into a plan (thanks Rach my lovely neighbour for your help). Staff rota was written, hair stylist booked. Simon Sparks hairstylist to the Berkhamsted stars is going to be creating Rock and Roll hair do’s for kids in store over the two weeks and we have some other suprises too but I am keeping those secret for now!!!
Wednesday we sorted stock for HOF and for the Baby and Toddler Show in Kent, packed the car only for the battery to be dead on Thursday morning when I was about to drive to KENT. I got going but two miles down the M25 found out my bonnet was flapping and had to stop to shut it properly and on the way back after setting up in super speedy time I got caught in a five hour Traffic jam.

Friday at the B&T show trading was great and I met loads of people and told them all about HOF and people got very excited and promised to blog about Rockabye and POP at HOF – so don’t forget. Saturday was weird as metal pole in the stand opposite me fell down and all I saw was a four year old girl and a bloody head so I stepped in with my newly acquired first aid skills and kept her calm until the medic came – which took forever. She was absolutely fine, but her parents were shook up – not a good way to end the day, So Sunday evening 9pm kids are collected from friends houses where they had been living over the weekend and all is well if not a little pooped.

Today in the office we have boxes galore and cars to be unloaded and xls sheets that should have gone out last week mounting up and life well is a little crazy – what a perfect link to my “14 days to HOF and 14 songs” to sum up the feeling. So please put your hands together as we embrace the madness together with Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd2B6SjMh_w
and if you want to see the video diary Movie on 2014-04-28 at 15.05
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House of Fraser and The Great Retail Revival

Wow what a month, I can hardly believe that I am still standing in the whirlwind that seems to have hit Rockabye this month, but no complaints it’s all good.
First of all we started to supply another beautiful site called the Burp boutique http://www.burpboutique.com/ and the lovely Kate (the owner) did a fabulous Q and A with me – which to say was cobbled together (in the rushed way us working mothers do things occasionally) – if I do say so myself it reads rather well. You can view it here. http://www.burpboutique.com/blogs/burp_adventures
Kate has a fabulous blog by the way and no doubt you will loose 20 minutes reading on and on.

The other rather wonderful thing that happened to us is that we entered a competition with the UK established High Street store, House of Fraser and The Great Retail Revival http://www.thegreatretailrevival.org./ and guess what, we only got through to the finals!!!

After receiving an email invite from a friend of mine – we entered the competition with only two days left until the closing date. We had to submit a three minute video about our company.
(click here to have a look)
Two days later we found out we had got through to the final 20. For the next part we had three days to get together a fifteen minute “Dragons Den” pitch presentation to five heads of The Great Retail Revival:
The panel of Judges were:
Nigel Oddy – COO, House of Fraser
James Hibbert- A Founder of The Great Retail Revival and Owner of Dress2kill
Liz Houghton- Owner of womenswear brand, Mint Velvet
Katy Young – Beauty editor, The Telegraph,
Anna Murphy, Editor, Stella Magazine. the Telegraph.

The pitch was the most nervous day I have had since I took my driving test – but it seems they liked it as I was delighted to find out I was through to the final ten. From the ten brands chosen I feel the quality and originality of the products is amazing and I am honoured to be involved. It feel fab to get this far but now the fun really starts.

So what next? I hear you ask, and what does the winner get?
Well our clothes and the other “winner’s clobber” go on sale online on the 8th May and in store at House of Fraser in Oxford Street on the 12th May. The brand with the best sales over this two week period wins a years concession in House of Fraser.
You can check out all the other contestants and more about the competition on the link below. I think it is going to be great.
http://www.thegreatretailrevival.org./competition.html
So anyone who wants to support me and the team come down to HOUSE OF FRASER on Oxford Street and buy one.
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The advantages of working from home

Now I know it’s not everyone’s cuppa green tea – working from home. And I am the first to admit that it really is not always easy. You have to be super focused and have to ignore the pile of washing up or a full clothes basket when you should be calling your customers or planning the next years cash flow.

There are often times when I wish I could go into a nice clean office and leave the mess and the kids behind, do my job, get paid and feel part of the minimalist furniture. Instead I commute to shed 66, my rather beautiful, green shed 20 meters from my back door.

On a normal day I drop children at school for 8.30am occasionally go into town – to do the weekly shopping or send out orders at the post office and rush back to Shed 66 for 9.30am when the other members of the Rockabye staff come to play, I mean work.

Two days a week I look after other people kids after school so they can look after mine the other two days and Fridays I finish at 3.00pm ready to have time with my kids. Seeing as though they are the reason I set up this business it seems only right that I get to spend some time with them.

Anyway, although all the advantages around school are obvious and I know I have my cake and eat it too, but there are the disadvantages too. The first one being that I never have in between time between having my work head on and being a mother – I am often in the middle of a call or a webinar or something when kids walk in and I have to carry on as normal – even though I am signing them with my eyebrows to leave the biscuit jar alone – like that would ever work.

One minute I am trying to chase a dept, getting a new design off to print or sending a last minute email the next minute I am in the kitchen cooking tea and doing homework – there never is any transitional time that I think as adults we all need to get into the mindset of the next role.

On Monday though I have to say that I had this whole working from home malarkey down to a fine art and I really did see the advantages of working from home.

Melda my long term office assistant left a week or so ago and Suzie was starting on the tenth March – great I thought Monday morning, new staff, all good. What I had failed to plan in though was that it was my son – Fred’s 5th birthday that day – and we decided to have a party after school for 14 school friends.

Now in our house birthdays are a big deal – balloons and bunting are up – pile of present s – parties oh and I have to MAKE a cake – we are not allowed to buy one – the thing was that I had ran out of icing sugar the night before and so when I woke up on Monday morning nothing was ready – I had a list and a plan and a baked empty very boring chocolate cake but no fancy batman Lego cake – no way.

Suzie started at 10 and after a quick shop at 8.45 I was knee deep in black sugar icing and cake crumbs and scouting round the Lego box looking for Bat Man’s head and the lamp post ( as you do ).
Lucky my husband Simon was off work .and as a good planner does written a to do list . It looked something like this:

• Get toilet roll tubes form craft drawer for batman monoculars
• Put party ring biscuits on strings for washing line game
• Hide bats in the garden
• Find gold coins
• Plant magic beanstalks – get soil in yog pots (14)
• Get wellie for puss in boots -wellie throwing
• Flour and bowl for Goldilocks porridge game
You get the idea.

I also had a spread sheet of activities left over from Scarlet’s party a few years ago, so I scrubbed out Dr Who and put in favourite Characters and.. voila – I almost felt organised.
I had party bags and labels done and pass the parcel wrapped – I was wearing my superwoman knickers with style today.

At 9.50 I had battled with the Lego men (and women – blimey that are feisty) made a Batman guitar Lego cake – filled it with chocolate butter icing and love and went to wash my hands. As Suzie would be arriving any minute I gave Simon the job of sticking Smarties to the bottom of the cake just to complete it, job done.

Suzie, as she would be on her first day, was right on time and she came in to the house to say hello and I made her a cup of tea, as we were walking up the garden path to the shed said she said “ oh I like the guitar cake isn’t your husband amazing?”
I was absolutely speechless – work like a nutter and then someone else comes in and takes all the credit – now there’s a life lesson. Anyway Suzie had a first day of figuring things out, I popped back to the house ensuring that the Smarties were stuck to the cake to a high enough standard and that Simon was working his way down the crazy list and then went back to training Suzie and everything ran like a dream.

I collected Fred at three and the fun began. Biscuits were chomped from the washing line, gold coins were found in the grass and magic bean stalks planted. And guess what – when it was time to sing Happy Birthday we made one little five year old boy very happy indeed.

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