The Workfest programme offered advice and tips about balancing childcare with work, kickstarting your career post kids, guidance on taking your career to the next level, flexible working, start-up success stories, how to use social media effectively, CV guidance and more! The day was divided into panel sessions, one to ones, lots of mingling and interaction, a delicious lunch, a chance to have your CV analysed and a professional photo taken. There were so many amazing woman talking at the event including Shami Chakrabati from Liberty; Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet; Annabel Karmel, MBE; Jo Swinson, MP and Michelle Mone, CEO & Founder of Ultimo.
The day was much more than I had hoped. I was and still am in awe with some of the speakers and gained so much positive energy that I could run a marathon afterwards, or maybe just a run around the park! There were so many bits of useful advice that would take several posts to write it all down but here are the main things I learnt from the day.
Ten things I learnt from Workfest
1. Juggling childcare and work is challenging but doable
I’m sure many parents wonder what the right balance is in terms of work, life and childcare so I was really interested to hear different views. Some felt their life and work was completely integrated whereas others made a clear division between work and home. Even some of the most successful women work at home with their children by their sides. Advice on juggling work and children included setting up a little activity area where they can play and you can work (if working from home), gaining support around you from family, friends and the local community and looking at positions/companies that offer flexible working. If needed, employ extra help at home where necessary. Karen Blackett, from Mediacom was proud to say she is a single mum who has a male nanny, and has turned her garage into a gym so she can spend more time at home.
2. Every mother feels guiltJo Swinson, MP made a good point that every mother will feel guilty when leaving their child, especially when they start crying, but usually as soon as you are gone the crying stops and the child is absolutely fine. I know this feeling well and now that my little boy is nearly two and has been looked after by so many people I feel a lot more confident and at ease about leaving him if I do return to work. Shami Chakrabati from Liberty said when she first hired a cleaner she felt guilty for doing so but if it’s within your means then hiring extra help can be very beneficial and we shouldn't feel bad as none of us are super-mums, as much as we’d all like to be!
3. Confidence grows after having a babyShami Chakrabati said that she felt empowered after having a child, She said it adds a level of richness to your identity and you have joined a special club, that of becoming a parent and raising a child gave her more confidence to aim high. I couldn’t agree more, becoming a parent makes you realise exactly what you want out of life.
4. The controversy over the term ‘Mumpreneur’I wasn’t aware of the controversy surrounding the term ‘Mumpreneur’. Some really dislike the word, wondering why a feminised version of ‘entrepreneur’ is needed, which many still prefer. I’ve read a couple of articles recently on the topic with one pointing out that you would never hear a term such as ‘Dadpreneur’ so why feel the need to include ‘mum’ in the title. I know many mums who are proud to use the title though and I think the term is quite catchy but do we really need to combine being a mum with our work/business?
5. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Usually when I see truly successful people, I tend to think their rise to the top has been a steady one. Perhaps they were in the right place at the right time or their upbringing allowed them to network in privileged circles. Well, listening to some of the speakers I quickly realised this wasn’t the case at all. I was really touched listening to Annabel Karmel, MBE talking about her first baby tragically dying at three months. She went on to be a hugely successful author and expert on baby food and nutrition but even she has seen new ventures fail. Michelle Mone, CEO & Founder of Ultimo, who I knew very little about prior to the event, grew up in a poor area in Glasgow. Her brother died at an early age and she was determined to be a successful business women. She fought her way to the top but even then she nearly had to file for bankruptcy when her marriage collapsed!
6. It can be a long haul to get to the topI was amazed to hear that it can sometimes takes years to get a business off the ground. Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts made no profits in the first six years of starting the company. She told us a funny story about an overseas businessman wanting to invest millions of pounds into the company on the condition that she step down and someone else become the CEO! Justine refused the proposal believing in herself and Mumsnet too much and the rest is history.
7. Tips for starting a businessEileen Burbidge from Passion Capital said when it comes to investing into companies her decision is mainly based on the people behind the idea and not the idea itself! She said you have to be passionate with a strong motivation. If someone comes to her and says they want to prove their ex boss wrong she can see how determined these people are and that’s usually a good reason to invest in them. Justine Roberts said have a plan but be prepared to change direction. Look at the outcomes and feedback from as many people as possible and make changes where needed. James Dearsley from the Digital Marketing Bureau gave the advice of finding your own niche and working with that. Once you have found your niche then find the niche of that niche!
8. Pros and cons of going solo
Going alone, either as starting your own business or as a freelancer means you have a career you love, autonomy, the satisfaction of being your own boss and making all the final decisions, an intense gratification and your career becomes addictive. The cons are that it can be a very lonely place because at the beginning it is likely to be just you working alone and you will have no one else to share the burden with should things go wrong. On top of that friends and family might not be supportive or understand your idea. People may even discourage you from your idea and you may lose relationships as a result along the way. A way to combat these things would be having a co-founder or creating a network with other freelancers in the area.
9. The power of believing in yourselfYou need to believe in yourself and your idea otherwise no one else will! If you do your dreams could become reality! :)
10. My overall conclusion from the daySpending a day listening to the most determined and inspirational people nearly made my head explode with ideas and adrenaline! Starting a business and building it up into a success is no mean feat. Listening to so many different stories made me realise how driven some people are, aiming high and reaching high. Every single speaker I saw that day had reached that point through hard work, juggling life and work and, of course, the power of self belief.
Do you freelance or own your own business? What advice would you give? How do you juggle work with childcare. Would love to hear your views :)