It’s always interesting to think about how you reached a certain point in your life. In this case the decision to take on a baby sensory franchise business. I certainly think that my background and the way I am lends’ itself well to this new undertaking, and the opportunity is one that I am genuinely excited about.
Straight out of university I went into a busy sales job with a large media and exhibitions company as part of their exhibition sales team. Having completed my degree in communications studies I knew that ultimately I wanted to go into a marketing role but my degree offered me a good level of employability and I felt sales experience would stand me in good stead. The fact that it happened to be a fairly lucrative way to fund a round-the-world backpacking trip was also something of a bonus at the tender age of 21….
I’ve not many people who don’t have a ball while backpacking and I was certainly no exception. I wandered happily around India, Asia, Australia and a good few other places in between, but eventually had to come home and plant my feet back on the ground.
I then moved into a marketing role with a shop-fittings manufacturer. I learned a huge amount here and it confirmed to me that I was happy doing something creative, busy and interesting but that I would, given the opportunity, like to specialise in the field of digital marketing. I decided to take on additional freelance projects to build up my experience in this field. I planned and delivered all of the digital elements of the UK marketing activity and helped to guide and mentor the global executives in all things online. All wonderful and very challenging but also quite time hungry.
I fell pregnant with Jacob our eldest and I made the decision that I wanted more balance in life with regards to work. To this end I built up my freelance work and ran a digital consulting business. Although it offered me some flexibility I was still finding it difficult to juggle family life with deadlines and client commitments. Peaks and troughs of work made planning childcare hard and knowing that number two was on the way didn’t help matters.
After Benjamin our second was born with a serious heart defect needing immediate and life-saving surgery it really gave our family the opportunity to evaluate what we wanted in life. I wanted to be there for the boys and not trying to juggle everything all the time. At that point I didn’t know what that would look like but while I waited to have an epiphany I happily carried on with life as a mum.
As a mum, I want to give me children the best start in life and having taken Jacob to every baby class under the sun, I wanted to do at least one or two classed with Benjamin as well. My favourite class and the one that I desperately wanted to do again second time around was Baby Sensory. It was special and I really believe that Jacob got a lot from it, so I signed up. After a few months my class leader told me she was recruiting for a new class leader so I had an interview and got the job! Regular class hours doing something sociable, creative and of benefit to lots of gorgeous babies, what wasn’t to love and it fitted in brilliantly around family life.
An opportunity to take on my own franchise area came up and I started doing some more research, the area the business, the financial opportunity and I decided that it was something that I could really make a success of. I had experience with the business as a client and a class leader and had the skills to set up and market the business in my own area. By taking on my own area I would have full autonomy to run classes where (within my territory) and at whatever time I decided. I could also take on other class leader to run classes for me so could build up the business to an extent that it would replace my old salary, without impacting on family life.
At this point I started to look at how I could fund the business. Although the franchise costs are incredibly reasonable we didn’t have sufficient funds in our family war chest to cover the full cost of set up and running so I looked around and found Startup Direct, a government backed initiative to help support and mentor those looking to start their own business. Fantastic!
Although I have lots of knowledge about sales and marketing as a potential sole trader I felt that the mentoring aspect of the offer would be incredibly valuable. Although the franchise model offers support in terms of access to systems and a centralised marketing resource and online community, it doesn’t specifically offer business assistance and having a sounding board and an alternative opinion on business decision is one that I will find very useful. The loan is incredibly flexible and is offered at a below market rate of interest and is simple and straightforward to apply for. The whole process took less than two weeks and I was surprised at the lack of red tape and hoops that I had anticipated jumping through. All in all I am one very happy lady and can now crack on with the really important job of launching my business.
I am also going to be working with other StartupDirect business to offer advice on digital marketing, something I was flattered to become involved with. As a mentor I look forward to helping fledgling business build their online presence and support others as I have been supported and cannot praise Startup Direct enough for helping me to get off the ground. Watch this space!