Lindsey Fish is the founder of Mums Enterprise Roadshow. The idea was born from her own experiences of becoming a mum and launching her own corporate event management agency, Little Fish Event Management Ltd instead of returning as a Marketing Manager in the city after maternity leave. Here are her five top tips for planning a business while on your maternity leave:
- Numbers and ££ – look at all your options
This is all about how much money you need to make to survive, to pay your bills and I would suggested doing the maths for every scenario. About 5-6 months into my maternity leave I started to do the maths. How much money would it be to a) return to work b) return for 3 or 4 days c) get a local part-time job out of the city d) what about being self-employed?
After all my calculations were done it ended up looking like I would be working my socks off and it just wouldn’t be worth it. I’d have to put Molly into childcare from 7-7 and after all other bills were paid I would be left with only £600 of my own from quite a nice salary, it would be even less if I could my days down to 4. So that was when I seriously started looking into working for myself and I had my target which was to earn this £600 per month which was totally achievable.
- Write thoughts on paper
An idea has to start somewhere and the first thing to do is to get it from being a thought or an idea and put it onto paper. This could be in whatever form you want. A diary, a blog, just a scrap bit of paper with notes. Whatever it takes to get your idea somewhere safe, to where the idea can be curated and nurtured.
You may have one idea or you may have 50. Put them down in a way you can clearly identify each one, clearly understand the train of thought so that it gives you something to work with. Nobody else has to read this, you can swear, scribble, include stick-men or anything else which just gets the idea out of your head. This is the time to write down your business ideas no matter how silly or daft to anybody else you’d think they are, so no holding back.
All of a sudden it all becomes more viable, you get a feeing that it could actually amount to something.
- Write your business plan
So now you are ready to seriously think about your business plans. It’s time write up your business ideas again but this time in a much more structured way and other people may see this one. There are lots of places you can find Business Plan templates from, Virgin Start-up have a lot of helpful resources including business plan templates.
Writing a business plan makes you think, it includes every step for you to actually create a viable business and it will form the basis of everything which happens next. Take it seriously and complete every step. Even the steps which you dislike.
As I am a marketer I actually also completed a Marketing Audit and Marketing Plan first as for me that helped create the vision of my business and I was comfortable with writing those plans and doing that research. I then moved onto my business plan which was something I hadn’t done before so was less confident about.
Remember business plans are working documents and will change and be adapted as you go, so don’t worry if there are gaps to begin with.
A really important part of this step is figuring out how much money you need to actually start the business and how long you need before you need to start to make money to carry on. I started Little Fish with only two months maternity salary so everything was done on shoestring. I only spent around £300 in my website and my brother is a graphic designer designer who did my logo and brand colours for me (before Lucy became my business partner). I only had two months after launching to secure a client else I may have had to consider looking for a ‘real job’. Thank fully I landed my first client job in that 2 months….phew!
So there will be an element of research in your business plan but I wanted to put this as a separate point as it relates specifically to market research. Testing your idea and your audience, and this really is crunch time. Is there really an audience or any customers for you and your idea?
I emailed local small to medium companies in Hertfordshire the link to my anonymous survey. (which I did via Surveymonkey). It was only short and asked various questions with the last one being ‘Would you consider hiring an event management company like the one I am planning to launch for you own event needs?’ I had a 30% yes and 70% no from only a handful of respondents. But to me 30% yes’ was enough to take the plunge.
For you this could be asking public in the streets, do the online survey, make a few calls. I really would always, always test your idea in some shape or form (friends and family don’t count) because without having an inkling or any feedback from your target audience, which you would have identified in your business plans, then you won’t know if you really have a viable business idea.
- Go for it
If you have the answers you need and are confident there is a market and space for you in it. You have done the planning, you know what it is going to cost you to get going. Then go for it. Don’t hesitate, don’t sit on the idea for weeks on end. Make a decision and go for it – start putting the wheels in motion. My to-do list after I had made my decision looked like this:
- Decide on a company name
- Write up my brand mission, vision and personality
- Brief my brother on my brand so he could create the logo and brand colours
- Start to write up a web wireframe and write the content for each page
- Start to write ‘content’ for my website which I would use to promote the website (help, tips and blogs)
- Set up a target sales list of the companies I wanted to target to sell too
- Start to compile a press list of target press I would send my launch press release too
- Create a sales presentation so I have something to take to meeting or send potential clients
It goes on…but you get the idea. To me this is and was all really fun stuff and it took me only a matter of 1-2 months to get it all done.
So there you have it
I launched Little Fish Event Management on 2nd June 2014. I started planning the Mums Enterprise Roadshows in March 2015 and I went through all of these steps before launching either of my ideas.
I am by no means a business expert but I think it always helps to share how others have done it and I hope sharing my way may help you in some small way if you are currently thinking about what to do after your maternity leave comes to an end.
If I could turn back the clock I would have certainly spoke to an accountant before setting up my business. I wish I had set up as a limited company right away, I setup in my first year as a Sole Trader which meant all the revenue I generated didn’t belong to my business. I have since set up as a limited company but it feels like that first year effort has been lost as Little Fish didn’t own that turnover. I am glad I did start on the VAT flat rate scheme from the get go. These are both things an accountant could have helped me with. Our event partner is My Accountant Friend but of course there are many out there.
The Mums Enterprise Roadshow is an event offering ambitious mums services, advice and opportunities whether you are wanting to re-train or refresh your skills, find more flexible work, start or grow an existing business.
Each event will be host to over 30 exhibiting companies at each, all of whom will be offering advice, services, work or business opportunities. There will be a selection of short 30 minute workshops for you to choose to attend along with live case studies and a Q&A panel from successful women who have been there and done it. Earlybird tickets are £35 plus booking fee and are on sale now. Tickets includes all your refreshments, buffet working lunch, access all areas, a comprehensive showguide and an awesome goody bag.
When & Where?
Attendance fee: Introductory offer of £35.00 per person plus booking fee.
All day refreshments, lunch, access all areas and goody bag
Purchase tickets, here: http://www.mumsenterprise.events/tickets