Tell us about your family
I have a modern blended family… my husband Tristan, 38 and I have been together for 7 years. We already had children when we met so now we have 4 children between us Lewis, 12; Alliyah, 11; Verity, 8 and Jessica 7. This means that sometimes we have a houseful of four children and at other times we can have any other combination. The logistics can be complicated but we are very laid back. The week days are quite fragmented and we might all eat dinner at separate times but at the weekends we always have family dinners and movie nights to ensure we get quality family time together.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
Before I set up Blackberry Cottage Consultancy I was a primary school teacher but I was frustrated that I could only help one class of children each year. I wanted to reach out to more children and more parents. I also wanted to learn as much as I could about learning and teaching but teacher development courses were either non-existent or really poor in content. I knew that I had important messages and a natural ability to teach and help people and I needed to get my voice out there! It was a slow process making the transition, I reduced my teaching to part time but this put financial strain on me. I didn’t really know what I was doing setting up a business and I nearly had to turn back after the first year.
When did you launch?
Blackberry Cottage Consultancy was launched on 25th December (!) 2010.
How did you get started?
My first steps were to approach some educational magazines with some articles I had written giving my viewpoint on some educational topics. The articles were published and had a really positive response. This gave me confidence to move forwards. Then I took a specialist teacher trainer course to be able to train teachers in systematic synthetic phonics and was contracted by a training company to deliver training to schools across the UK and internationally. Then I went onto Companies House and registered as a limited company – just like that!
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business
Running your own business is hugely satisfying and enables you to have really flexible hours that fit around your family needs.
What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business
The thing I least enjoy is the stress about needing to constantly generate income! I am working on some passive products and have now got a bank of regular clients but every single aspect of your business requires your constant attention. It means very long hours, sometimes needing to be very confident in seeking out and pursuing opportunities.
What has worked well about your business?
I have greatly enjoyed learning how to do things like website management, marketing, PR and social media management. I am totally hands on and this means I get the reward of receiving positive feedback regularly.
What’s been your biggest business mistake? How did you deal with it?
My biggest business mistake was being too excited in the early days and rushing into spending money on things in haste that I didn’t really need – new technology, expert reports, expensive but ineffective coaching. However I don’t regret this because I learnt a lot from this mistake and now am much more careful.
How do you fit in work with the family? Is your partner supportive of your business?
I have learnt that there is no point in me trying to get too much done during office hours as I get totally distracted by housework, the gym, running around after children, cooking, answering emails. So I have learnt to relax more during the daytimes and to really knuckle under at 8pm each night when the children are in bed to get a solid 4 hours of focus work achieved. Tristan is very supportive of my business when I have secured a good contract or made a high level of sales and he admires what I am doing but he finds it frustrating if I have a dry month.
Are you working towards a financial goal for your business?
I don’t have set financial goal for my business but I have started working with a new business coach and we are starting to look at being more focused on financial goals. This is smething I would like to be more in control of but I worry about setting unrealistic goals and then feeling rubbish if I don’t achieve them.
Would you ever give up your business to do something else?
No but I do look at developing different arms of my business. I used to feel that I was spreading myself too thin as I do too many things… write for publishers, train teachers in schools, sell online workshops to parents and teachers, run live events. My topics are quite varied too from spelling to wellbeing. I ‘ve learnt now that this is just ‘me’ and if one strand of the business is quiet I can focus on another – this also stops me from getting bored!
Do you have an exit strategy?
No although I am working on putting all of my training programs into online workshop formats and books, and developing my YouTube TV channel so that I can step back from my business if I need to but people can still access my content.
Have you had your ‘I’ve made it’ moment? Tell us about it. If not when do you think it will come
My ‘I’ve made it’ moment came when I was commissioned to go to Cyprus and run a week long training program for a group of primary schools. I kicked the week off with a huge seminar day. I stood on the stage with a microphone and talked to 250 teachers for the whole day. Standing on that stage with all those people listening to me was a phenomenal feeling (as well as terrifying).
Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
In five years’ time I would like to feel totally on top of all aspects of the business including having financial goals that I am hitting. I would like to secure my expert status by being known worldwide as ‘the Supernanny of Education’. I would like to have a series of parenting and education books available to buy in hardcopy from bookshops.
Sign up to my free enewsletter (on my site) and follow me on social media to keep up to date with heaps of special offers and freebies