Instead of becoming a successful businesswoman, which has seen me franchising my model across Yorkshire and beyond, my maternity-leave hobby may well have stayed just that, a hobby.
After graduating from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Estate Management, I joined the Valuation Office Agency and worked as a chartered surveyor for five years. It was a great job, and my employer was really good to me.
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In fact, if it wasn’t for them and their flexibility, life would have been extremely difficult as my husband was in the military, and we moved around a lot.
I’d been away from my home town of Harrogate for 12 years, and when my husband left the Army, and I fell pregnant, we made a decision to move back. Being new to motherhood and a ‘stranger’ to parenting in Harrogate, I had a lot of questions, but who could I turn to for answers?
In those days Facebook groups were few and far in between, but I was inspired by one I came across in Oxford, and set up one of my own. During a conversation with my own mum, I told her what I was doing, and she came up with the name for it, ‘Mumbler’.
I was loving being a mum and running Mumbler. My ‘office’ was my kitchen table and I could do all my ‘work’ around my daughter’s routines. However, with maternity leave coming to an end I investigated childcare options and I discovered almost all of my salary would be swallowed up by nursery fees.
With that in mind, I wondered if I could make a living from my hobby?
From just a handful of mums with young children at the start, Mumbler began to snowball. Within the first year it had reached 1,000 members, and its audience wasn’t just mums, but dads, grandparents and carers too. Parents were using the group to chat and support each other, but local businesses were beginning to see the benefits as well.
They soon realised that a recommendation on Mumbler meant an increase in business. But at the same time as it was starting to really take off doubts began to creep in.
I knew nothing about setting up and running a business, so how could I succeed? It was classic “imposter syndrome”.
Fortunately, my husband was incredibly supportive. He could see just how much potential there was with Mumbler and how hard I was working on it – snatching every hour I could – during nap times and after I’d put my kids to bed.
I became the master of “networking” while I was out and about with my daughters. The community that I had developed was fantastic and so we decided to personally invest our hard-earned savings as a loan to build the business and so I invested in a website. It was built by a local developer whom I still use to today and was a success from day one.
Within three months I’d repaid my initial investment.
Yes, I have made mistakes along the way, and I have learned from them. If advice was offered I took it – from my bank which was providing a mentor through its business growth scheme, to taking full advantage of LEP schemes. And the more I learned, the doubts got fewer.
This year, Mumbler is ten years old. I’m proud to say the model I created as a hobby during maternity leave in 2011 has been such a success, and there are now 19 Mumbler franchises.
I’m eyeing growth again, this time with the North West, as well as my old stomping ground of Oxford, on my horizon.
And as for the doubts? Yes, they still come back from time to time, but the imposter syndrome – that’s long gone.
Sally Haslewood is the founder of Mumbler