Rise of the mumpreneur

The Bespoke Verse team, with Joanna Miller front and centre

The Bespoke Verse team, with Joanna Miller front and centre - Credit: Archant

Getting the children ready for school and making business decisions - all before morning coffee, the mumpreneurs are on the rise. Ethanie Jackson Turner meets Herts’ mothers juggling families and their own businesses

Julia Obrart and her family

Julia Obrart and her family - Credit: Archant

Mothers keeping one eye on their children and the other on their business have become a phenomenon so well recognised that the term ‘mumpreneur’ entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011. Now there are mumpreneur awards and an online directory, and here in Hertfordshire there are many mothers with young children running successful independent businesses – making a strong presence in the start-up sector.

‘Before I had my children I was a business development manager for a London charity called Craft Central,’ says Berkhamsted’s Claire Gillespie, mother of two young boys and the founder of Oglee Poglee, a children’s craft kit and craft party business.

‘Returning to work in London after I had my sons wasn’t financially viable, and although I loved my job I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mum.’

With a passion for glasswork and missing the creative sector, Gillespie craved an output. ‘As the boys started to get a bit older, I found that I had a bit more free time and so I began making small plans and gathering ideas – starting with just one creative workshop a week, which I ran while the boys were at school and pre-school. I would drop the children off and then run really fast to the church hall to set everything up, do the one-hour workshop, tidy away and then run to collect the boys. It was always very rushed but worth it.’

Amy Cooper, founder of The Paper Emporium

Amy Cooper, founder of The Paper Emporium - Credit: Archant

From small beginnings in 2012, Gillespie has grown the business from running creative workshops to creating a range of craft boxes, kits for children to make their own creations, and has an online home at notonthehighstreet.com

She says that running her own business has given her the freedom to work the hours that suit her and her family. She adds, ‘ I also enjoy being my own boss, making my own decisions and choosing my own path.’

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For Julia Obrart, with 11 years’ retail experience, children’s online clothing company Little Beau Chic, based in Radlett, was a simple concept. ‘I would struggle to find trendy, more individual items of clothing on the high street at reasonable prices, and then often left frustrated having bought an outfit only to see other kids wearing the same thing,’ she says. ‘Pair that with the ever-increasing difficulty of shopping with the children and the idea for our online boutique was born.’

Working around the kids’ needs and school is a must with mumpreneurs, which can mean unusual working patterns, Obrart says. ‘I have had to be prepared to make changes and be flexible, and work unsociable hours,’ she explains, ‘Working when the kids are asleep – constantly taking the laptop to bed.’

Claire Gillespie - her Oglee Poglee craft kits for children developed out of running workshops

Claire Gillespie - her Oglee Poglee craft kits for children developed out of running workshops - Credit: Archant

Poetry loving ex-English literature teacher Joanna Miller is three years into her business, Bespoke Verse, which creates ‘witty and wonderful’ poetry prints as well as personalised ones for special occasions.

The Potten End company was named Most Promising New Business at the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce Awards and Miller’s creations are stocked in John Lewis, notonthehighstreet.com and Paperchase.

‘The aim of setting up Bespoke Verse was to be able to be around before and after school and I am still managing to do that - just!’ she says.

Employing a group of mums who work part-time during school hours, Miller says she focuses on quality: ‘I worked hard on building a good quality brand – getting great photographs and sourcing recommended suppliers. I have worked full-time on my venture, seven days a week for nearly three years. It’s not easy.’

For Miller, the turning point of her business was when she employed a business mentor. ‘She helped me to add a shop to my website and gave me a network of contacts and colleagues that I value very much,’ she says.

Like many, Amy Cooper’s business venture, the Paper Emporium, arose from family life. The Berkhamsted designer says, ‘I had gone back to work after having our first son, Max. Unfortunately he became unwell and when diagnosed at 18 months with a Mannose-binding lectin deficiency, which affects the immune system, my husband and I decided that I should leave work to be there for him. Around this time lots of our friends were getting married and my creative director husband Andy was designing their invitations.’

With Cooper sharing opinions on her husband’s creative work, it wasn’t long before she started coming up with her own designs for weddings. ‘Things have just organically developed since then, developing my work and opening my online shop in 2013,’ she says. ‘The shop now offers garlands, prints, wedding stationery, greeting cards, and a bespoke design service.

‘I had enough work that I could justify officially becoming self-employed with my own business, and Max was doing much better.’

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