Sheena Woods, 31, is mum to Siobhan, 3, and 18-month old Brannon. She is also the owner of award-winning MaByLand (www.mabyland.com), an online baby store selling handmade baby products.
Like many mums, when Sheena started her family, she knew she would not go back to working for her employer, and she set about starting her own business so that she could also make money while watching her children grow.
Sheena tells Motherswhowork.co.uk how she has managed to combine the two – and how she has managed to grow her business with the children coming to the office with her!
What work did you do before you set up your company?
Performance Executive at Serco Docklands
How did you fund the business?
Personal savings and loan
Profit in first year
What was the motivating factor for staring your own business?
MaByLand is a simple idea, I wanted to combine both my passions together; children and business. I decided it to be a baby business as I wanted to use my own insight and motherhood experience to design products that truly tailor to what modern parents need. Having my own two babies gave me the perfect platform to trial my own products and by talking to other mums in my local mummy focus groups, they helped further confirm my ideas as well as bring new ideas to the table. My aim is to let new parents know that it doesn’t have to be daunting to have children and things can be made easier than they thought.
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
The most enjoyable part of this journey by far has been being able to meet parents and parents-to be face-to-face during our Public Baby Shows. This is what MaByLand is all about, â€œSharing Our Experienceâ€. It is so exciting and especially rewarding to see firsthand parents choosing our products over the well known baby brands. The shows always give us a lift and extra boost in confidence. The shows confirm that we have fantastic products that parents want and need, they give us an insight into what the future holds.
Running a business can be a mixed bag sometimes. What have been you highs and lows so far?
The biggest challenge to date would be promoting our brand within the huge and competitive nursery market. My business start-up has been much slower than most other companies due to my motherhood commitment, and this had an impact on the promoting of our brand.
It takes lots of patience and lots of trial and error, however we are only at the start of the journey and we have already been recognised and acknowledged for our quality products.
Our biggest achievements have been our awards. We’ve been awarded the Practical Preschool Bronze Award and finalist in Practical Parenting Best Carrier category for Trek Snuggle Carrier; the Bizzibaby Gold Award for Floral Double Bottle Bag; the Bizziebaby Bronze Award for Trek Baby Carrier; the Bizzibaby Silver Award and finalist in Practical Parenting Best changing bag category for Changing Bag Set; finalist in Practical Parenting for Floral Changing mat; the Mummyz Words Amazing Award for both our Baby Carrier and Changing Bag set; and Child Care Products of the Year 2010 by Insight magazine. In addition to this, I was also award highly commended Entrepreneur of the Year in Merton; Top 100 mumpreneurs in the UK and finalist in Best Sales Woman of the Year.
MaByLand’s journey has had its difficulties too, as any start-up company would understand. It was impossible to relax, especially when I had a new born, a toddler, and a business to run, which became very full on as it was 24/7. Although it was tough, my little one smiley faces, their first words, would always lift my heart and made it all worthwhile. It goes to show that family is the most important part of my life.
How have you managed to stay on top of your career with the demands of motherhood while running a business?
Although I’m a career minded women, I see family as the most important part of my life. I started my family at the same time as setting up MaByLand. Luckily I fell pregnant twice, and by becoming a Mumpreneur I was fortunate enough to be flexible with my time spent with them. Their first few years are particularly precious to me, so I insisted that I had them close to me, and they’d come with me to the office. Once my first daughter had reached two years old I finally sent her to nursery that better suits her developmental needs. My second son who is 1 years old still comes with me to the office everyday.
Although it can be tricky at times to combine both my family and work together in one place, when I look at the bigger picture, my little ones are growing up so fast and I feel that there isn’t much time until they start school. I’d rather have them close to me now and treasure these first years as they are irreplaceable to me. I didn’t want to have any regrets, so I feel that the business could always have waited. But luckily for me, I have found the perfect routine where I take my daughter to nursery, walk to work with my son, work and play in the office, collect my daughter in the afternoon, go home and start working again in the evening after they have gone to bed.
How has running your business impacted on your relationship with your partner and children?
The relationship with my partner has undoubtedly taken a little setback during the initial months of having babies as well as businesses, however our love has never felt stronger during this period either.
With both of my children growing so quickly, I have learnt to organise my time better and therefore improving the relationship with both my partner and children.
Any tips for expectant mums, or mothers who feel that you can’t have a successful career and a happy family life at the same time?
If I were to give advice to another mum who is thinking of setting up her own business, I would say be prepared for it, times will be tough, there will be highs and lows, it will feel like a roller-coaster ride. But just remember what a great achievement it is already to have children, and believe in yourself as we can achieve a lot more than we thought!