My first ever blog post! Be gentle with me, don't judge. Instead of a long winded "About Me" page I thought I'd simply tell you the story of how I got to be where I am today.
So here it goes...
I actually stumbled into a digital career after University. I had no idea what I wanted to do after my “business degree” (whatever that means). I was offered a job at a local printing business, and because I’d done a "business degree" they thought they’d let me launch their printing services online (a 21 year old just out of uni, with no clue. Were they mad!?!).
I actually did a pretty good job and it pathed the way for my digital career, it gave me a direction.
I had multiple digital jobs (never really fully knowing what I was doing), but got my big break at the Tesco head office (where I met my now husband.. ahhh). From then on I learned quickly that I wanted to be part of the design process of a website, I wanted to get behind the psychology of what drives people and how they interact with it, so after numerous roles and positions I quickly went straight to contracting in User Experience design. I moved to Madrid for 6 months and basically went from knowing nothing, to being thrown in at the deep end as a contractor, in the heart of Madrid, with rooms full of people, speaking only Spanish (I do not speak Spanish).
I was living the contracting high life and then BOOM I got married and became immediately pregnant with our little boy Toby.
Now, I absolutely adored being pregnant with Toby. I had no problems with the pregnancy, everything was dreamy and I decided that I would love to be a stay-at-home mum. In fact, I longed for it and I couldn’t think of anything worse than this endless hustle of having to find contract after contract and working for someone else. I finished the last day of my last contract before Toby was born and I actually had a “I am never going to work again” celebration. I was ready, I was ready for the stay-at-home mum lifestyle.
And then my beautiful baby boy was born. And my gosh did I love him, I loved him more than anything.
...it wasn’t what I had expected. I was immediately depressed. I put it down to the bad treatment I received at the hospital, but I know now that It was post natal depression. I was a relatively young mum (in this day and age) at 26 and no one else around me was having children yet, so I felt alone. I felt alone and so so lost. And, do you know what? I don’t mind talking about it. This surprises people, it makes people feel uncomfortable. Even now, where we're all shouted at on social media to “talk about our feelings” and “ not hide”. It seems that every time I tell someone that I had it they look uncomfortable and want me to change the subject.
I knew pretty quickly that the stay-at-home life was not going to be for me. It got to the point where I wanted some semblance of my old life back. I wanted adult company again, and I wanted to use my brain. I was extremely lucky to be able to go back to the agency I had worked for whilst pregnant, and they allowed me to work 3 or 4 days.
It was perfect, it was flexible, but I realise now how lucky I actually was.
When my second child Poppy came along, I was in a completely different place. I embraced it, I already loved being a parent and I loved it even more when she joined the family. This time I could really see myself being a stay-at-home mum...but we needed my extra income, and so soon enough our thoughts turned back to me finding a job again.
This time though, I had a nearly 4 year old ready to start school AND a baby, so the childcare equation just stepped up a notch. How on earth could I hold down a 4 day a week job in London when my son needed to go to nursery for only 3 hours!?! And within months he would need dropping off at 8:45am and picking up at 3:15pm. It seemed more and more obvious why people, at this point, just give up work.
I reached out to my network and I was told “you stand no chance of getting anything under 4 days, and even that will be a stretch”. I was so lost and confused wondering what I should do and trying to navigate the intricate web of childcare, but once I again, I was lucky and managed to find a 3 day a week opportunity.
I arranged a breakfast club, an after school club, a childminder and my mum to cover all the childcare. I honestly near enough needed a spreadsheet to keep track of it. I was happy with my decision and I was on my way.
One day a friend at school told me how their daughter escaped the gates of the after-school club and ran into the carpark. The same day another friend told me how her husband picked up their son from after-school club, but that he walked in and picked him up without speaking to a single member of staff. He could have been anyone, he could have been a stranger!
Well, this affected me beyond belief. I went home and cried, I was distraught. I had hit rock bottom with my guilt. How can I be leaving my son in that kind of care just so that I can work for some extra money? How can I feel that he’s safe when that can happen?
So in that same moment, I decided to quit my job and take him out of that situation.
What happened next
I couldn’t just be a stay-at-home mum, I knew that and I know that still. I have too much energy and too many ideas, I’m restless and I need something to focus on (I mean I nearly set my heart on starting a cross-stitch business!!). I didn’t want to have to start sacrificing things our family love doing – holidays, trips out, clubs, activities etc. So I needed a new way to make extra income whilst at the same time not missing out on the school run and spending more quality time with my kids. My desire was to make money but not be away from the kids all of the time.
There's an unbelievable network of entrepreneurial women in my local town. It's a buzzing hub of different businesses, from crafts and calligraphy to photography and copy-writing. I saw all of these amazing women hussling and building their businesses and i thought..
I want a bit of that!
I could do that too! What can I do? There HAS to be something. I can't craft anything like some of these ladies do, I love photography but i'm not a pro, i'm not in finance and i'm not sporty. Ok, what do I like? What do I enjoy? PARTIES!
Et voila! Peanut & Pop was born - my very own little kids party supplies business.
Selling piñatas was not all it was cracked up to be...
I was lost again. I had no idea where to start. I spent about 12 weeks just googling everything. From how to set up suppliers and delivery operations, to where do I source cardboard boxes and packaging paraphernalia. By the time I was 3 months in, I had a spare room full of stock, i'd spent about £5,000 on "stuff" and I had a shiny beautiful website (that i'd created).
I was full of enthusiasm and excitement. I even managed to garner 1,200 instagram followers through incessant following and liking on anyone and everyone. But, what happened?
But I have 1,200 followers, and my friends all say it's amazing. This is what I kept telling myself. It will get better, I just need to give it time. Well, to cut a long story short..
I won't go into all of the detail as to why I stopped, but something wasn't working. My heart wasn't completely in it, I had a lot of personal stuff going on, so after 6 short months I may have had a lovely website, but I had barely anything to show for it (apart from an amazing new network of friends and boss mummas!)
I went back to contracting.
I managed to persuade my Mum to look after my son after school, so no more after school cub worry, but I was pinned back down to a job. In my spare time I carried on networking locally and I started talking more about the job i've ACTUALLY been doing for 10 years... the thing I do them i'm contracting, the thing I know. The thing i'm actually good at.
And then BAM it hit me
It was right in front of me the entire time. These amazing women had these great businesses, but almost all were struggling with digital in one way or another. So I started talking more about my actual skills, and it worked. People wanted to know how to improve their websites. These small businesses wanted to understand why they weren't getting the conversion they desired out of their sites.
So what was my plan?
I decided to educate myself some more and I completed a digital marketing course. I learnt so much, and paired with my skills I decided that I had to help these people. I decided that i'm going to help these people that are just like me. People that are desperate for their own business to take off so they can have that stay-at-home with the kids lifestyle whilst still bringing in an amazing wage.
I am determined to help all of those amazingly skilled flexible working mums who just dream of having freedom from the 9-5 (be that 1 day or 5 days a week working for someone else). And I want to teach them that it takes more than just an amazing website. User Experience Design transcends just the website experience. It's about the entire experience, and it's my mission now to share everything I have learnt.