Friday, 22 May 2015

Ten things I learnt from Workfest


Last week I went to the Workfest conference, an annual event organised by Mumsnet. I was thrilled to have won a free ticket (thanks Mumsnet!) so got up extra early on Saturday morning to attend the one-day event in London. I was really excited at the thought of spending the whole day listening to successful and inspiring people. I have been thinking about a return to part-time work and thought this day would give me a much needed insight into juggling a successful career with having children. I had been tweeting a few other attendees before the event and we all met up at the start which was really nice otherwise I wouldn’t have known anyone! Twitter always helps :)

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 guilt 

Jo 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 baby

Shami 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 top

I 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 business

Eileen 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 yourself

You 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 day

Spending 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 :)

Mums' DaysclairejustineFizzy Peaches
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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20 comments

  1. I would love to go to one of these events, sounds like you learnt so many get things :)

    Thanks for joining us at the weekend blog hop..

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    1. Thanks very much. I definitely recommend it, so many inspiring people were there :)

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  2. Thank you for sharing. Just started my first truly work-from-home job. I always wanted to be at home for my children so feel very lucky to have this chance.

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    1. Thanks very much. Oh congratulations on your new working from home job, that's great :)

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  3. I know a lot about this subject, as my mother worked from home so she could take care of me while working. Is harder, but sometimes is the only option. Good luck with your business x

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  4. Sounds like an inspirational event. Sometimes it's very hard to see amidst the daily chaos why we juggle so many things. But I wouldn't have it any other way. My top tip would be put in clear barriers for work-time/ family time maybe have some buffer days to leave you flexible. Shame Jo Swinson lost her seat and is no longer an MP, she is a voice that should have stayed in Westminster.

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    1. Thanks very much Claire, and good advice on the barriers between work/home life. Buffer days are crucial aren't they, everything seems to take longer than I think at the moment! :)

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  5. Sounds like such an amazing event. I love these types of things – even though I am stuck working full time for an employer right now, I dream of having it all differently and I find it so inspiring to read stuff like this! So glad you had a fab day, well done on winning the ticket and thanks for sharing what you learnt from the day! Like I say, I work full time and Zach is in nursery two days a week and with my mum for the other three. I hate it but it’s necessary so I just deal with it then best I can! We just do what we have to don’t we? I will keep dreaming though!

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    1. Thanks Lisa! It's definitely good to dream or else we wouldn't have ambitions and looks what happens when people are truly determined like all those at workfest. You're lucky that you have your mum nearby who can help with childcare though. I wonder what career you dream about? :) xx

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  6. This sounds like such a great event - I do wish there were more of these style events a bit further north!
    My husband and I run our own advertising business, I blog and freelance on the side. We have two daughters ages 7 and 2 so childcare can be a juggle - I work in little chunks of time and I must admit some weeks are more successful than others. My youngest will get her free nursery places in September so I know the time is coming when I will be able to plan my time better - having said that I'm going to miss having her at home more too!
    Xx
    #TheList

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Wow, it sounds like you are juggling a lot but so interesting to hear how you do it all! I can completely relate to nursery. I will miss my little boy being there but will be able to work more. Good luck with balancing everything :)

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  7. Sounds like a great event. It is true that the journey's never smooth. Such a roller coaster ride.
    I also think that having children has made me a much better person at work.
    #TheList

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    1. Thanks for the comment, so true about the journey never being smooth. Good to hear what others think :)

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  8. I'd love to go to one of these, well done on winning a ticket! Looks like an informative day. Buckets of self-belief, loads of hard work and an understanding that it is unlikely to be smooth seem like the top tips xxx #TheList

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    1. Thanks very much Leigh. It was a very inspiring day :)

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  9. Sounds like a great event and very inspiring. Thanks so much for linking up to #TheList x

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    1. Thanks very much, great to link up again :)

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  10. Sounds like a really great event - I love going to things like this as I always come away so inspired!

    Lyndsay | Fizzy Peaches

    p.s Thanks for linking your post up to the #LifestyleLinkup! Hopefully see you back there next week!

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    1. Thanks Lyndsay, it was so inspiring! Great to link up, feel free to remind me whenever your linky is up :)

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