Mumpreneur Profile: Sarah of Families Recommend Limited

Name of Business:

Families Recommend Limited

Your Name and Age:

Sarah Sharp, 36

Tell us about your family:

My name is Sarah, married to Lee and we have Thomas our 2 year old son.

We live just outside of Newcastle upon Tyne.

What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?

When I came up with the idea for I was on maternity leave and also on a short break holiday in North Yorkshire.  We were visiting a small market town (I won’t name which one) and when looking for a place to eat, we were given some very bad treatment by a particular venue because we had a baby with us.  We thought wouldn’t it be nice to find recommendations from other families about places that were tried and tested and suitable for families to go to.  Hence the idea of Families Recommend was born!

When did you launch?

We set up the business in 2008 but didn’t launch the website until April 2009 – we are just about to celebrate our first birthday.

How did you get started?

I talked to a web designer locally to get a feeling about what could and couldn’t be done with a website and took it from there.  Along the way we took advice from Business Link and solicitors and received some funding through the North East England Innovation Centre to help kick start the business.

What research did you do before launching?

I spent quite a lot of time researching what family websites were out there and also talking to families about what they wanted.  That’s why it took so long from setting up the business to the site going live, I wanted the site to be and look just right!

How have you funded the business?

Through our own savings and the support of the North East England Innovation Centre (NEEIC).

How do you promote your business?  What has worked best?

So far it has been through word of mouth, email, flyers and networking.

Networking has brought the best opportunities and is something which I truly enjoy, getting out there and meeting so many amazing business people.  I am a member of the Newcastle Business Mums network and have met so many inspirational Mumpreneurs who are juggling family life with a business through this arena.

What has worked well about your business?

That the site is receiving lots of visitors and recommendations everyday.  We’ve obviously done something right – as visitors are returning time and again.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?  How have you dealt with it?

I still work part time (three days per week) and fitting the business around this and family life is a real challenge.  My son also has health issues which means I also have to fit it around hospital appointments too.  But the work gets done because if you are passionate about something, time in the evenings after work / music group or a trip to the park is not a great issue.

How do you fit in work with the family?

We set up my husband and I agreed that the business would not take precedence over family life and this is something I’ve tried desperately to stick to.  We have a set timetable for when specific business activities occur, such as Mondays when Thomas is at nursery I dedicate that time to the business, and once Thomas is in bed in the evening I dedicate time there too.  On a Saturday, Lee takes Thomas to visit his parents, so that time is often business focused.  And on a Sunday, we have full family day where the business only comes into our mind if we visit somewhere that we think should be recommended to others and put on the website.

What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?

Promoting a website and getting people to visit it, takes time.  There’s no quick fix in getting your website known and visible to the search engines, it just takes lots of hard work and patience.  But don’t be put off, it may take time but the skills I’ve developed over the last year will serve me well in the future (from website design, marketing, networking, presentation and search engine optimisation).  My other tip would be – don’t think you can do it all yourself, take advice and use the experts to deliver services you need.  It’ll same you time and money in the long term.

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