Your Name and Age: Ally Atkins (Alexandra Atkins). Age 35.
Tell us about your family: I am married with two daughters aged six and three. We live in Hertfordshire, just north of the M25. We moved from Central London when our oldest daughter was three because we needed a bigger house. Our oldest daughter (Maddy) is at school and youngest (Miranda) has recently started nursery.
I went to university to do a degree in Environmental Science. I then became an Environmental Consultant in Aberdeen and worked for consultancy specialising in oil and gas industry i.e. offshore oil rigs etc. I decided to move to London and I did very similar work there. I had my first daughter and assumed I’d go straight back to work and have a nanny but I couldn’t do it when I saw my daughter. I gave up working, which I found very hard because I’d always either studied or worked full time and Environmental consultancy was always my dream job. After a while, I found I couldn’t be without some form of work so looked in to something I could set up myself and would find exciting enough.
When did you launch?
How did you get started?
When I was expecting my first daughter, my family in America kept asking me when I was having a baby shower. They were having lots as my cousins both gave birth around a similar time to me. At first, I didn’t like the idea of it as it conjured up ideas of being very tacky and greedy with the present lists etc. After having my daughter I realised many new mums struggle with the birth, the first few weeks, months etc. It became apparent how important a support network was and how many mums needed one without knowing it. I thought baby showers were great for this side of things i.e. getting girlfriends together before the birth to celebrate becoming a mummy and share hints, tips and advice and getting that vital support network in place, as well as having a few girlie games and enjoying yummy baby themed cupcakes, etc.
What research did you do before launching?
I researched the market to see what it looked like. There was only one other company that I knew of when I started and they were doing baby showers the American way. I felt there was a gap that needed filling. I followed my instincts in terms of how I wanted a baby shower to be held and what I wanted to sell. I then held focus groups with parents to see their reaction to my idea, and they loved it! I decided I wanted to be the premier online resource for baby shower planning, baby shower accessories and baby gifts.
How have you funded the business?
I have used my own savings to set up The Ultimate Baby Shower company.
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
I have found that word of mouth has worked best; it is an incredible way to create new sales. I know that I have to offer a first class service in order for these recommendations to continue and that’s what I strive to do. I want to be known as a company that offers excellent customer service. We use Google and have worked hard to make The Ultimate Baby Shower appear on page one for common baby shower searches and we also use a PR agency.
What has worked well about your business?
We have created a point of difference. We have shown that you can hold a very British baby shower that is all about offering support and advice. Many mums seem afraid to admit they can find it hard but in reality it can be hard and I wanted to create The Ultimate Baby Shower to bring people together, be there for one another and have a laugh along the way. All of our baby showers are bespoke and suited to the mum’s personality; from the actual baby shower to the decorations and gifts. We know one different mums and hosts want different things and we make sure we also deliver what they want.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
When I set up the company, persuading people (friends and family mostly) that the business can work and that I’m sticking with it.
How do you fit in work with the family? It isn’t always easy. I organise my working life on a daily basis and prep for the next day the night before so I can prioritise the order in which I can do things. I fit around my daughters nursery and schooling and always do the school runs.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
There is now a lot of competition so it’s important to think about what makes you stand out.
Your website link:
If you can offer a discount or special promotion for Family Friendly Working readers, please write it here:
Every order placed will receive a free booklet ‘How to Throw a British baby shower’ and free baby shower games sheet. Please enter Family Friendly Working in the ‘how did you find us’ section.