Sam Willoughby has turned her ‘kitchen table’ business with an investment of just £150 into one with a turnover of £100,000 within 3 years. Now she has 3 business awards and employs 15 other Mums – also working at home, flexibly around their family commitments.
Sam lives in Bramley, Hampshire for 9 years with her husband and daughter Alice, 4. When Alice was born Sam worked in Reading as a Project Manager but her employer refused to discuss a flexible return to work. Sam resigned her position and knew she had to make her own flexible career.
Sam’s “light bulb” moment was when she realised that there was a gap that she could fill – how did you find out what was on in your local area to take your baby to?
Using her own experience with yell.com, Sam founded the company What’s On 4 and launched www.whatson4littleones.co.uk in Hampshire in March 2006 followed by www.whatson4schoolkids.co.uk in March 2008 and www.whatson4kidsparties.co.uk in November 2008.
The websites now attract more than 26,000 visitors a month, has over 1 million searches a year and many large companies are spending large amounts advertising on her websites. Organix and Whole Earth Foods are the well-known brands that sponsor Sam’s websites and Whole Earth are including www.whatson4schoolkids.co.uk on their product packaging in 2009.
In 2007 www.whatson4littleones.co.uk won two awards, the Hantsweb Special Interest Website 2007 and Inspire07 E-business of the Year. Sam was also named Practical Parenting magazine’s Business Parent of the Year 2007.
Sam has received a huge amount of publicity for her company in national and regional publications and on regional TV and radio. In particular the www.whatson4littleones.co.uk 2009 Awards have attracted Prima Baby Magazine as the awards media partner and the awards presentation is at the Bambino baby show in Harrogate hosted by Alice Beer with Mini IQ as the prize sponsor. Sam is also regularly asked to comment on ‘Mumpreneurs’ and has recently contributed to two books covering this topic. Not only has Sam founded a flexible career for herself but she also employs 15 Mums that work flexible hours from home. Sam has given two of these talented women a flexible career running all aspects of the two latest websites. It is very important to Sam that she can do this given her own negative experience with an inflexible employer.
Sam has always supported local communities and continues to give free advertising to community groups and contributes regularly to local charities such as committee-lead pre-schools, particularly important to Sam as she volunteered on the committee of her daughter’s pre-school for 3 years.
When asked why she believes the business has been so successful Sam says “Sticking to my principles has meant that I never lose track of why I do this, I wanted a job that challenged me but also I could fit around my little girl. I’ve now been able to give this opportunity to other Mums and given something back to local communities that help Mums so much when their children are young. ”
“After years in the corporate world I had very clear ideas of how I wanted my business to be. I didn’t want the layers of management, the ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach to everything and I wanted to be able to make things happen very quickly. I also wanted to be very proud of what I’d done knowing that I always acted with integrity and honesty. Running the business has not been easy at times but being my own boss is the best thing I’ve ever done! I hope my story inspires other Mums to go for it and make a huge difference to their lives and the lives of their family.”