I hope you are enjoying reading the Belles in Business series as much as I am enjoying writing about it.
I am super excited to have the lovely Steph from Don't Buy Her Flowers gracing these pages. Having met at one of the awesome Mothers Meetings, a mere week after she launched her business, her friendly nature and wonderful energy made me feel like I’d known her forever. Her business is the most genius idea. Read on to find out all about it.
HI STEPH. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
I’m 34, married to Doug and we have two children – Buster (4) and Mabel (2). I’ve been described as having ‘infectious enthusiasm’ which I think is a good thing…I wish I had the brazen confidence I had as a kid. My mum used to say ‘open a fridge door and she’ll start performing’ (due to the light, not the lure of food). That said, I met up with some friends recently and a photo of me dancing on a table emerged after, so perhaps I’m not so different. I blame the Prosecco. I’m a massive believer in Sisterhood and I write a blog called Sisterhood (and all that). The more we’re honest about how we feel – about relationships and careers and motherhood - the better chance we have of being able to laugh at some of the ridiculous situations and emotions we go through and feel a lot less lonely. I am very lucky to have some amazing, supportive and hilarious women in my life. I have five siblings and always thought I’d have at least four children, but turns out having babies can be quite hard – on your body, your relationships and your mental state, so we’ll see!
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START DON'T BUY HER FLOWERS? TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?
I started the business in November 2014, selling thoughtful gift packages for new mums that offer some TLC because frankly they deserve it. The aim of the packages is to encourage Mum to take 10 minutes to herself or with her partner. The most popular package is the Care Package, which contains tea, flapjack, truffles, a magazine and a scarf. We teamed up with COOK food so their vouchers can be added to any of our packages, so you can give new parents good food they don’t have to prepare delivered to their door.
When I had my babies I was given lots of flowers – kind friends and family wanted to send congratulations and flowers are the go-to gift. They were lovely, but I had more than I knew what to do with (or than I had vases for) and in hindsight, giving someone another thing to care for when they’re putting more love and energy in to something than they’ve ever done before is a bit crackers. I since did some research and 96% of new mums are given flowers, most more than 3 bunches. The idea of Don’t Buy Her Flowers felt really strong and it also came at a time when I was finding the return to work and commute in to London a juggle. I wanted to find a way of doing something I am really passionate about that would also give me flexibility to work around the kids and it all started to fit together.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND DON'T BUY HER FLOWERS?
The main inspiration probably came from how tough I found those first months after having a baby; it was totally unexpected. I’m reasonably bright, I had a good husband, I’d held some babies before…what could be so hard? I think most women find themselves in a fog for a while. No-one finds it easy but there’s often a perception that everyone else is finding it easier than you when you’re ‘in’ it. We re-emerge, but you don’t know that at the time and it can feel quite lonely. When friends had babies I sent them little packages of stuff for them and left food on their doorstep if they lived nearby and they all sent the loveliest thank you messages, overwhelmed that someone had thought of them. I suppose in someone sending something that is thoughtful and gives some TLC rather than just a nice gift it communicates that they know it’s tough, which is really powerful. The idea developed from there.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM HAVING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
The biggest learning that I wasn’t expecting is that the mental side of running a business is the most challenging. Forget late nights and the logistics of managing a business – if you’ve worked in pressured environments and you’ve managed people and projects, you’ve done all that. Staying cool, not worrying about the next piece of coverage or sale and never doubting what you’re doing takes a strong nerve and you need to have complete belief in what you’re doing because although you’re not supposed to take anything in business personally, it feels very personal.
I LOVE HEARING STORIES OF WOMEN BALANCING BUSINESS WITH MOTHERHOOD. HOW DO YOU DO IT AND WHAT'S YOUR TOP TIP FOR ASPIRING BUSINESS WOMEN?
Oh god – it’s still so new and I largely feel like I’m frantically leaping from one thing to another, compiling an endless to-do list. I definitely haven’t got it ‘cracked’! I think a top tip would be to be kind to yourself. Something’s got to give because starting a business is all-consuming. You won’t be able to do everything you did before and run a business, so maybe the house will look a bit less tidy, or you get a cleaner, or your partner steps in to do more, or all of the above! And THEN you need to not beat yourself up about any of that. Also, having superb family, friends and a partner that remind you of all this when you feel like you’re sinking is a huge help.
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS?
I’ve got so many ideas about where it could go and one of the toughest things I’m finding at the moment is that I didn’t start Don’t Buy Her Flowers to be completely absent from family life and there’s only so much I can do. I have to remind myself that I only have childcare for three days so for this period – while they’re young – I’ve got to remember that I set the pace. My aim is to have flexibility, to be able to do the pick up when they go to school, to do something I’m passionate about and use my brain and all the things I’ve learned through my career prior to now. It’s a long-term plan. Sometimes when you hear success stories from other people you think ‘oh I need to work harder, do more’ but chances are, those people have worked for years before they’ve reached the success levels you’re seeing. And if I’m not enjoying it, I may as well be working for someone else and just taking a nice salary.
DESCRIBE WHAT A TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR LIFE LOOKS LIKE?
On a work day, everyone is up anytime from 6am (sadly) and I tussle the kids to nursery, go to the gym (I had a prolapsed disc in the summer so this is something I can’t skip as I’m a bit screwed if I’m bed-ridden!) and then spend most of the day in the office, formerly known as our spare room. I pack up orders first, and the rest of the day is a juggle of checking and ordering stock, paying invoices, promoting the business and looking for marketing opportunities, and interviews like this! The day flies and there’s always a to-do list for the next day. I work most evenings to stay on top of orders and enquiries – it’s not something you can leave for a few days, especially as a new business, but I am working on how I stay focused on the non-work days to get the essentials done but not lose hours in front of the laptop. It’s a steep learning curve, but I already know I wouldn’t want it any other way.