Meet the Hertfordshire mumpreneurs

Juggling a business and a family is no mean feat. Michelle Rosenberg talks to three mumpreneurs about how they are successfully doing just that...

Angie Coates

ANGIE Coates, 45, lives in Harpenden and is the brains behind Monkey Music which offers music classes for babies and young children.A busy mother of five daughters aged between five and 19, Angie was originally a musician.

‘When my first daughter Millie was born I tried to find suitable baby music classes for us to attend. I didn’t find any, so I decided to create my own curriculum which introduced music to very young children. I also wanted to choose the hours that I worked so they fitted around my new family.’

Monkey Music was the first group of its kind when it was established in London in 1993. Angie quickly discovered that running a business is a full time commitment.

‘Just because you work when you choose it doesn’t mean that you work any less than full time hours. As a working mum, in the early days of running a business, the reality is that you are often working late in the evenings when the children are in bed and you have to work very hard at creating a space for your personal life.’

The family moved out of London looking for open green spaces, easy parking and good schools and found all three in Harpenden, with the added bonus of Angie’s family living locally.

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‘I go to London every week and often visit franchisees around the country, but I always come home and think how lucky we are to live in Harpenden where it is so family friendly. This has a very direct knock-on effect to my business as I know my family is happy.’

There are now 51 Monkey Music franchises around the country and over 130 teachers delivering the progressive Monkey Music curricula to more than 15,000 babies and young children every week.

Angie’s five-year plan is to double the size of the company. So far things are going according to plan with three new franchisees for Birmingham, Glasgow and Surrey.

And as for her own little monkeys at home, Angie is confident she’s sending out positive vibes about being a working mum and counts herself lucky to have a supportive husband.

‘He’s very creative and incredibly insightful, which on the down side means he can also be quite critical. So I choose the moment carefully when I ask for his opinion!’

Her biggest professional challenge is not having enough hours in the day to get everything done.

‘Personally, it’s almost impossible to get a date in the family diary when everyone is free to go on holiday together!’

Angie’s advice to you:

‘Consider buying a franchise! Unless you are 100% set on starting your own business from scratch, a franchise is a great way to run your own working life whilst being nurtured by someone who can offer you support and experience, which it would take years to learn and a significant amount of money to fund.’

Sarah Whale

SARAH Whale, 41, lives in Berkhamsted with three children under the age of 10. She’s perfectly positioned about entrepreneurial mums receiving a sporting chance.

Managing Director of, to date she’s invested around �25k in the business, which offers comprehensive information and advice to inspire families in Hertfordshire to get sporty.

Formally an accountant for 13 years, Sarah chose to leave the corporate world and in 2006 she established a pre-school football activity franchise (Little Kickers) in South West Herts, which led to her idea for My Sports Contact.

‘Having spoken to thousands of my customers I recognised that whilst there is a proportion of the population who are sporty and well-informed, there are also people who don’t know where to start or what they should be looking for.

‘There’s something out there for everyone, be it high energy or relaxing, competitive or social, individual or team. My Sports Contact helps give these groups inspiration and information.’

Turnover is limited, as she’s still building traffic to the website and Sarah is the only permanent member of staff, having outsourced her IT, brand, PR, marketing and SEO (search engine optimisation) requirements.

When it comes to the often-mentioned work life balance, Sarah knows she’s lucky. ‘I am able to take my older children Freddie and Annie to school, pick them up and be there for them for whenever they need me. This is really important to me.

‘I have some childcare for Nathan but time I have to devote to my business is not as much as I would ideally like. I have no family nearby to help and find it very hard. I’m lucky to have a network of friends who are very supportive – I’d be lost without them.’

Sarah says that not having to commute into London is a distinct advantage as it avoids high rail fares and problems with the trains.And as for family support? ‘My husband, Simon, is re-training to be a primary school teacher so we face a lot of change as a family but he remains very committed to the business and is passionate about the concept.

‘Freddie and Annie regularly ask me how it’s going and motivate me by saying “20 more Facebook ‘likes’ Mum and you can have a Belgian bun!” It’s good for them to understand that you need to work hard to get what you want and the fact that I’m promoting family sport is a perfect message for them.’

Sarah’s advice to you:

‘Be resilient. Work out your financial and operational timelines and goals thoroughly – then expect to achieve half the revenue anticipated in twice the time. Join some networking groups to give and receive support – it will really help.’

Wendy Holroyd

ST Albans-based face painter and mother-of-four Wendy Holroyd, 40, offers temporary tattoos and face and body painting for both adult and children’s events.

‘Adults love face painting!’ she enthuses. ‘I always knew that I wanted to do something artistic, but had no idea I would be able to make a career from face and body art.

‘Around 10 years ago, I went on a mission to ‘find myself’. I read lots of alternative books and listened to countless CDs. One in particular really inspired me. It was all about changing your life and doing something career-wise that you really love. I already had a small set of face paints and a friend asked me to paint at her son’s birthday party. It snowballed from that moment on with other parents at the party asking me if I would paint for their children.’

Wendy’s start up costs were very low, just enough for paints and brushes. ‘Time was the most costly thing,’ she remembers. ‘I’d practice every single evening until the early hours of the morning with a pot of paint and a brush.’

Most of her work is now through word of mouth and she’s just taken on her first apprentice. After making a slight loss in her first year of trading, profits have steadily increased year after year.

‘All mums work!’ says Wendy on the subject of ‘mumpreneurs’. ‘They just don’t always get the recognition with a monthly pay check. It can be a tough choice to go out to work when the kids are little, but it’s not always an option to stay home. I was lucky to find a career I loved after my children were babies. They still need me, even my oldest daughter who’s now 21. I’m incredibly proud to be a working mum, doing the things I love and I know my children are proud of me too.’

Whilst she does do some work in London, she admits to hating driving there. ‘It’s so incredibly aggressive,’ she says. ‘Hertfordshire is a great place to work in and from; far less busy than the city! It’s also an affluent area which is important in the work I do. The economic downturn hasn’t affected me at all. I’ve been incredibly lucky. If anything, my business has grown year to year and is getting stronger every day.’

Wendy is currently working on a DVD to sell on her website, a book for professional painters and is developing her own range of brushes. Oh, and in her ‘spare time’, she paints the odd mural. All in all, her business paints quite the picture.

Wendy’s advice to you:

‘Go for it! I think it’s great to show your children that you can work for yourself and there are huge benefits in doing so. Just go through all the details with a fine-toothed comb first – and then some! Try to offer your work in exchange for advertising or whatever else your business needs – it’s a good way to get what you want without having to fork out loads of cash. Oh, and love what you do with a passion!’

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