Talk about multitasking: it’s been reported that “Mumpreneurs“, a word that describes business-running mums who are also raising children under the age of 18, are generating around £7bn for the UK economy each year. Not only that, but by 2025, this has been predicted to rise to £9.5bn, with a whopping 217,600 jobs created on the side. Not too shabby, especially as many of us struggle to text while walking – let alone remember to file a confirmation statement, dial into a conference call, and pick up the kids from nursery at the same time.
Lisa Forde, Director of The Card Gallery, like many Mumpreneurs, is a multitasking guru. Not only is she a bona fide Mumpreneur Award winner, she has been working on her online shop since its conception in 2004 alongside raising two children. Everything in her range of bespoke invitations and stationery is entirely designed and made in Britain available via two websites, The Card Gallery and Tree of Hearts. We caught up with Lisa to find out how she manages to balance her business and her family commitments.
As a mumpreneur, how do you manage to juggle having children and being a business owner?
I won’t pretend it’s easy, as there isn’t really an ‘off’ button to running your own business. Being a business owner certainly gives more flexibility than working for someone else; I’ve been able to attend every special event that my boys have been involved in, class assemblies, sports days, and when they’re poorly I can be there for them.
The compromise is that I must work on evenings and weekends to make up time when the juggle doesn’t quite go to plan. Today has been a perfect example of this. My childcare plans went pear-shaped, which gave me time to take the boys to the park after school, which was lovely, but my day’s work wasn’t complete, so I’m now working late on a Friday evening, and completing other tasks which I’d originally planned for earlier in the day.
Having less time to give to my business since having children has helped to focus my attention on what I feel are the most important business tasks. Time management is something I’m always striving to improve upon and whilst my children are younger, my children and business will probably always be a juggling act!
Have you always had an entrepreneurial mindset?
Yes! I was always looking for opportunities from a young age and always wanting to gain experience in different business departments, as I felt it would be useful later in life. When I studied a degree and had a year’s work placement, I worked for free in many departments at Birmingham Airport; this gave me a fantastic insight into how a business works and how departments interlink. Working for free meant that many departmental managers were willing to share lots of business insights, which massively helped when I set up The Card Gallery.
How long have you been in business now?
Almost fourteen years. We started up in June 2004.
What was the most daunting thing about setting up your company?
I was very fortunate that I’d gained a management degree, plus an MBA, and had worked across many departments and organisations during my career before starting The Card Gallery. I had gained lots of experience in Marketing, Product Buying, and Customer Services, to name just a few. My husband is an accountant, so he was able to help with lots of the initial stages of incorporating a business, registering for VAT, and that kind of thing. The most daunting aspect was trying to work out how to best steer the business. I launched The Card Gallery when the internet was just starting to boom and there were so many channels and opportunities to consider. Not knowing the best way to go and risking all my own money with each move I made was a little bit scary!
What does an average work day look like for you?
I have two young children, so mornings begin with the school run (or should I say dash!) and I arrive in the office at 9 am.
Each day I allocate time to check if things are running smoothly in our Customer Services, Operations, and Sales and Marketing Departments. I check that both our staff and customers are happy, and help with any queries. Even though we’ve been going for almost fourteen years there are always queries that we haven’t come across before!
The main part of each day is spent working ‘on’ The Card Gallery, rather than working ‘in’ the business. At various times along our journey I’ve become too involved with the day-to-day running of the business, and now need to give more emphasis to long-term planning and strategic thinking. This ensures we keep up with a changing marketplace, with our customers always at the forefront of our thinking. It also ensures that our team are happy and have job security.
What has been your proudest achievement as a business thus far?
Last year we moved into bigger premises – this was a hugely proud moment for me! We now run The Card Gallery from a wonderful 16th Century Grade II listed building in the centre of my hometown, Bridgnorth, a historic market town. Our new premises ooze charm and character and have a quaint courtyard and riverside setting. We now have much more space to grow into and happily share lots of quirky corners of our new home, as well as our products, via social media.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone considering setting up their own company?
If you have a passion then go for it! Setting up a business is not for the faint-hearted – it’s hard work, requires lots of time and commitment, and there’s no ‘silver-bullet’ which will take you to your desert island, so passion helps a lot when you’re questioning whether starting a business was the right decision. That said, there are lots of advantages – you can put your own stamp on the world, you are in control of your business, and this can be a vehicle to take you to wherever you want to go.
What’s next on the horizon?
Moving into new premises has provided us with the space we needed to grow our business to the next level, so that will be our focus over the coming years. We’re working on promoting The Card Gallery and Tree of Hearts Wedding Stationery both locally and on a national level. We’re also working hard to ensure we’re keeping up with customer needs, changing buyer behaviours, and ongoing customer trends. It hasn’t been an easy ride but we’re at a very positive point along our business pathway!
Setting up your own business like Lisa did is easier than you think. Just have a browse of the articles in our help centre for more advice on getting started, or go ahead and apply for the 2017 Entrepreneur Award to win a £1,000 business grant and once-in-a-lifetime startup support from The Formations Company and Barclays Business.