Sophie from the night feed chats about how she set her business up after maternity leave. Part 2 Business case study

Hi! I’m Sophie, owner of the night feed. I’ve been selling personalised mother and baby merch, and other cool stuff since June 2017 and here’s how it all happened…

Teaching for 6 years in a special school was the best job in the world. Yes, it came with incredibly long working hours, a questionable work/life balance and a few meltdowns here and there, but I loved that job with every ounce of my being. Do I miss it? Yes! Do I regret resigning? Hell no!

I knew that I didn’t want to return to teaching after my maternity leave ended, and for me it was an easy decision to make. I knew that if I returned part time, I would not have been the teacher, or the mother that I wanted to be, so something had to give. Teaching is amazing, but it consumes you, and I knew that ‘part time’ would never really mean part time.

I wanted to set up my own business and actually set out with a totally different business idea to the night feed. I have a wonderful mother in law who happens to be a business coach, and she ran a course for women setting up businesses when my son Dexter was 4 months old, so the timing was perfect! With the help of friends and family caring for Dex, I escaped for a few hours each Friday for 10 weeks, and what I learnt on that course was totally inspiring and invaluable (the free coffee and Oreos didn’t go amiss either)!

I soon realised that my original business idea would mean I’d end up working full time, and defeat the point of leaving my teaching career behind to spend time with Dex, so I had a re-think. Maybe in a few years time I’ll revisit the original idea, watch this space!

So, the night feed was born. It hasn’t been easy, working hours are all over the place, and I’m spinning a good few plates. I get constant mum guilt for being on my phone replying to emails and customers, or keeping up with social media – but these are important tasks which help build my brand and I have to remind myself that I’m spending far more time with Dex than if I’d had returned to teaching. Starting up was costly, as I needed equipment and stock to print on, but there are some great 0% interest credit cards out there which are a huge help, so do shop around.

This last year has been blooming hard work and I’m still learning the ropes, but I’m enjoying being my own boss and learning lots of new skills (except accounting, seriously – does anyone like doing accounts? If so do they want to come and do mine)? I rely on family looking after Dex when they can and I tend to work when he’s in bed which means I’m pretty tired, but he’ll start attending nursery one day a week soon which will mean I can get loads more done. I’m a terrible ponderer (is that even a word?) so I’m learning to be strict with myself and ignore the housework, or that beautiful Instagram feed I want to distract myself with.

I’m really no guru, and I’m winging my way through this new adventure, but my top tips for anyone wanting to climb aboard the self-employed train are:

  • Get yourself on a course, talk or workshop about anything relating to business. Look out for free talks and events in your local area, these are often advertised on social media so keep your eyes peeled and be open minded about attending.
  • Network, network, network! I don’t just mean pay to go to loads of networking events here. I mean get yourself out and about meeting new people and start making links, wherever you can. I’ve met the most fantastic people at social events and have made some great friendships and business links this way. Talk about your business and tell people what you do, they’ll see you’re passionate and want to know more!
  • Nail social media! Ok, this is easier said than done with Facebook and Instagram constantly changing algorithms, but you really don’t need to be a super tech know-it-all to put decent stuff out there on social media. Post regularly, take good clean images and avoid getting too wordy.
  • Work out your values. (Confession time – I stole this one from the course I went on, but it’s a great place to start). Build your business around your core values, and do not compromise on these. Write them down and every now and then, check in on them and remind yourself what they are.
  • Take the leap, there probably is and isn’t a good time to set up a business (I told you I’m no guru), but there’s no time like the present, so believe in yourself and just go for it!

I look forward to seeing lots of you at The Parent and Baby Show next month, until then – come and say hi on Facebook or Instagram.

Sophie @ the night feed.