In December 2007 I left my position in a Central London recruitment firm work to go on 12 months maternity leave.
The economy at the time was still booming and 2007 had been a particularly bumper year for me. As result I left a positive firm with a positive outlook and generous maternity pay.
What a difference 12 months makes. I guess the first ripples where evident the before I left when Northern Rock became the fist UK bank to suffer a bank run.
The realisation was beginning to dawn on the financial sector that significant proportions of their investments were tied up in the US sub-prime mortgage market. As house prices began to fall, the number of delinquencies and foreclosures increased.
The investment already valued at their predicted worth upon fruition, had now become toxic debt.
In September 2008 Lehman Brother collapsed and the rest is history. It is easy to forget when discussing macro-economics the effect on real people and each person has their own story. Being away from work over this whole period and somewhat isolated meant the contrast for me was quite dramatic upon my return.
Doom and gloom
Half the workforce was gone having been made redundant already and hardly any of our clients were hiring. Those that were hiring were being carefully guarded by the handful of people left. An air of doom, gloom and despair had descended upon my former happy, buzzing place of work.
It actually came as a blessed relief when I was made redundant
I think my return to work was always doomed to failure. I was not happy about leaving my son in nursery for three full days a week and after spending every waking hour with him I was missing him terribly, business was slow, moral was low and my heart wasn’t in it.
With so little commission in a commission based job once you took the nursery fees and train fares into London into account I was barely making minimum wage. I have to ask myself was it really worth not seeing my son three days weeks for a few hundred pounds a month?
It actually came as a blessed relief when I was made redundant. My husband and I have been to a music festival a few days before and agreed since I was so unhappy that I was going to quit soon anyway.
As it was I came away with a small redundancy package to help ease the pain, although there is always slight feeling of rejection even though it was the most desirable outcome!
I fell into starting my own business almost by accident. My husband had contacted one of his old friends in HR on my behalf months before to enquire about vacancies.
At the time they weren’t hiring and so we forgot all about it. Months later this friends contacted my husband and said that they had a vacancy for me to work on not realising I had been made redundant.
I had a PC, a little money for advertising and an office in the spare room at home so thought why not. I decided I would go for it and try to fill the vacancy. I was not on the only person working on the vacancy and was up against some other much bigger firms with bigger advertising budgets than I had. Against the odds I managed to fill the vacancy.
The money from this enabled me to invest in a website, better advertising and money to put my son into childcare on an ad hoc basis. I decided to ring round a few contacts many of whom I had a great relationship with and have become friends with.
I began to gather vacancies here and there and even started to get recommended to people. Don’t get me wrong I’m hardly Adecco or Office Angels but I was able to start my own business without any sales calls just based on existing relationships and my reputation.
I have a handful of client whom I can really focus my attention on when vacancies arise. My oldest has started school and I have flexible childcare arrangements for my youngest son so for me it is the perfect arrangement.
At this stage I don’t need to go out looking for new business, existing clients and recommendations keep me busy and during quiet spells I am able to spend more time with my children.
I really enjoy being self-employed and once all my children are of school age I intend to be more pro-active with new business. I do have a new project I have been working on.
This concept came about as a result of being a Mum and something I’m quite passionate about. My husbands brother lives with is family in the US and as a result my mother-in-law is in the US several time a year.
Since we had the boys she kept bringing back loads of gorgeous children’s clothes, some makes I’d heard of such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein etc but the best stuff in my opinions was made by Carters and OshKosh.
Search as I might I could not find any of these clothes in the UK . I was convinced a UK market would love them as I do.
I did my sums worked out the cost of importing the clothes and whilst my profit margins are tight I found I could sell these clothes to a UK market at reasonable prices. Once I’d found some sources and worked out the costings I created my own online shop.
My main challenge at the moment is that Carters and OshKosh clothes are still relatively unknown in the UK, despite the fact they are huge in the US; Carter’s sell 10 items of clothing for every child born in the US.
I appreciate building up the business is going to be slow because of the lack of brand awareness in the UK, but unlike a lot of online businesses that rely on their Google Search engine rankings to pick up new customers, I am banking on building up repeat business. I know once people make a purchase and see and feel the quality of the clothes I will get lots of repeat business and following of loyal customers.