Mumpreneur Profile: Julie of Keepstakes

I set up KeepStakes when had just returned to my “proper” job as a Training Consultant after taking 10 months maternity leave to look after Finn (who was 1) and Jared (who was 3).

I did return to work between my pregnancies, however, I hoped it would be for a short time as I was keen to have a small age gap between my two children. Happily for me, and to the dismay of my manager, pregnancy two happened when I had been back at work for a month.  I managed to work July 2003 to June 2004, so I was an asset to the company for nearly a year between the boys, and actually quite enjoyed it, however I always knew I was finishing for another extended “holiday” and that kept me chirpy.

I really enjoyed spending my second maternity leave at home with my boys and my return to work the second time was not so buoyant.  For the few months in the run up to my return, I spent my evenings trying to hatch the perfect plan to work less hours and make money by doing something I really enjoyed.  I was realistic enough to realise that I wasn’t going to be able to replace my “proper job” salary overnight, but my aim was to start small and aim to make enough money to leave my job by the time Jared started school (which gave me a two year window).  I have always had this idealistic vision of me walking the boys up to school, going home and working on my business and then being able to go back and pick them up after school and take them to a wide range after school activities.

So in pursuit of this dream, I researched ways to become a WAHM.  My starting point was my obsession with selling stuff on Ebay.  Just old tat which had been lying around the house, but I was constantly amazed by the amount of money that I could generate from selling things that would have previously ended up in the bin.  The only problem with using Ebay as a sole income provider is that I ran out of things I don’t need.  A brief foray into buying goods to sell on for a profit ended rather disastrously with 7 massive boxes of greetings cards from Costco still sitting in the corner of my bedroom.  So my plan evolved into creating something that people would want to buy.

Step one was coming up with an idea.  I have always enjoyed ‘crafty’ things and I knew I wanted to make something.  Finn had recently been christened and a few friends had mentioned to me that they had struggled to find an unusual gift, so I started to make a list of personalised Christening/naming presents.

A friend told me about a fantastic Christening gift that she had received for her son’s Christening.  It was a homemade gift that comprised of a wooden chopping board, cut in half, with a stick nailed to it and an engraved plaque glued to the board.  The detail on the plaque was her son’s name and the date of his christening.  The wooden stake was designed to be placed in front of a newly planted tree to make the occasion.  I loved the sentiment of the gift and tried to find something similar on the internet.  Surprisingly, I could not find anything remotely like it so, with my friend’s approval, the business opportunity was born.

Setting up the business was step two.  I have another friend, Laura who has had a successful WAHM business for several years.  She was a major inspiration as she has a really successful business selling baby slings on the internet.  She manages to balance running her business and caring for her children (who are just slightly older than Jared and Finn) and is living proof that it is possible to be a ‘supermum’.  Laura has been my mentor and I have really benefited from her advice and experience as I have gone through the process of setting up my company.

Over the next few months I learned all about weatherproof metals, laser cutting, engraving, gift packaging, tax, data protection, website design and advertising. It was a very busy period and laterally coincided with my return to work, but it is amazing how I could always find a little bit of energy to do things for my own business and in June 2005 I officially launched the Keepstakes website.

I left my “day job”  in July 2007 and became pretty obsessed with making Keepstakes work and discussed it relentlessly with friends and family. It was through discussions with friends that the purpose of the gift expanded from solely baby related, to wider celebrations and memorials. It is equally suitable for celebrating a birth, wedding, significant birthday or the one that was a surprise to me, a few people have requested a plaque to mark the grave of a dead pet.

The enthusiasm I encountered for this product has kept me motivated to make these plaques more widely available.  The business is 5 years old now and is going from strength to strength.  I hope people like them, I am so happy that I realised my dream of picking my two wee boys up from school.  It would also be nice if I made a million, but nothing is more important that having enough time to appreciate the wonder of your children growing up and I am so grateful that I can be around to enjoy it.

I really feel like I am following a dream.  My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.  I have wanted to work flexibly since I got pregnant with Jared and it took more than two years to make it happen.  The ability to dream is one of the qualities possessed only by humans.  So dream, and put a deadline on it, make it a giant dream, a tiny one, an old one, a new one, a hobby related one, a change of life one, a stupid one, a stroke-of-genius one, or just whatever… just continue to dream on… then, just go and do it!

Oh and if you want to buy a gift for a special occasion….

You can visit my website at www.keepstakes.co.uk

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