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      JOURNAL

      | A Woman's Work: A Q&A with Julia Wetzel of marketing consultancy JDW |

      | A Woman's Work: A Q&A with Julia Wetzel of marketing consultancy JDW |

      Hi Julia! Please tell me a little about yourself and your background.

      I’m Julia, originally from Germany and now live with my husband and our two young children in South East London.

      After studying Clothing and Textile Technology in Germany I made the move to Auckland, New Zealand to live with the boy (now husband) I had met during my gap year in Sydney. After a five year stint on the other side of the world, we settled in London about ten years ago.

      I wanted to be closer to my family and enjoy all of what Europe has to offer. This plan obviously didn’t account for Brexit or Covid and I very much hope that I can get off this island at least once this year.

      I run JDW Marketing Consultancy that brings big-brand strategies to independent and creative businesses.

      How did JDW come about and what are the benefits and challenges of being your own boss?

      I founded JDW about a year after my second maternity leave. I loved working in the design industry, I had a great team at Tom Dixon, met a lot of interesting people along the way and got to travel. However, I wanted and needed more flexibility in my working week and felt it was the right time to finally have a go at setting up my own business.

      One of the biggest benefits is that I can make my own rules and work in a way that allows me to be present for my kids. My Mum is a physiotherapist and her practice was part of our house. I grew up with her being around in the day and I always wanted the same for my own family. This is not to say that it doesn’t come with its own challenges. Due to the nature of my husband’s job, he can’t contribute to any of the childcare during the week so when something doesn’t go to plan, it’s on me.

      Working for myself has made me more confident in my own abilities, skills and knowledge. It has taken me a while to work out exactly what my offering is and the way I want to work with people. Now that I do, so much of my work is creative, inspiring and fun.

      Does ethics and / or sustainability come into play at all with what you do?

      I believe in quality over quantity and making considered choices for myself and my family whenever I can. This is not always possible and I certainly don’t claim to be perfect!

      I believe in quality as an investment. I am interested to understand how things are made and where they come from.

      Both of those beliefs do translate into my work. There is no need to follow every single trend, try every single marketing tool available or constantly be switched on.

      In my view, once you understand what you stand for, have tested what works and what doesn’t it is much more sustainable and effective to do one thing at the time and do one thing well.

      Tell me about a particular highlight you’ve had with your work? What are you most proud of?

      I wouldn’t necessarily say that there is one particular highlight. What I am most proud of is that I set up my own business and that people decide to come and work with me because of me.

      No big brand name behind me, making the job easy for me. It’s down to me putting myself out there, continuously challenging myself, trusting my instincts and making the right decisions.


      Has COVID-19 impacted on your business / your way of working at all?

      Yes and no. I was working on a bigger project when the first lockdown happened in 2020 and due to the circumstances I ended up being involved longer than initially agreed. My husband was on furlough for about six months and took over the childcare. It made for a nice change.

      I assumed the end of 2020 would be quiet but that’s when things picked up again for me. I could feel that the mood turned more hopeful, people likely assumed there was an end in sight and started to invest in their business again.

      In terms of the way I work I’d say it feels more lonely at times with less real life client meetings, even more time spent at home than usual and no events to go. There is a lot less inspiration coming from the outside world which I struggle with at times.


      What’s one piece of advice that you’d give for other women, or mothers, who are tempted to start their own business?

      Ask for help. I notice how many women struggle with that. We are somehow conditioned to belief that we have failed unless we do it all on our own. It’s a dangerous concept.

      When work doesn’t equate to money it is easy to feel guilty about paying for childcare. At the early beginnings of JDW I did fit some of my work around my then one year old son but I soon realised how important it was to have long stretches of uninterrupted time to just think. And that simply isn’t possible with children who need or want your attention.

      I am going to squeeze a second piece of advice in - go out and meet people. Attend events, chat to people online or join an online community. Without the supportive, wonderful and creative people I have met along the way, my business would not be where it is today.


      Finally, you've previously spent some time living in New Zealand, what's one thing you loved and one thing you found surprising about living here?

      I loved how kind, friendly and open most New Zealanders are. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my husband was saying ‘hi’ to strangers on the street. That just wouldn’t happen in Germany.

      I made so many close friends who took me under their wing and introduced me to their friends. Maybe it’s due to its isolated location but there is a real sense of community and because of its size you constantly run into people you know. I loved that.

      New Zealand isn’t necessarily associated with design so I was surprised at how many small creative businesses there are. Most Kiwis travel and live overseas for a few years. Often, when they come back, they start their own thing, taking what they’ve seen and experienced and turning it into a new innovative idea.

       

      I can't recommend Julia more highly. Find out how she can help your small business with a Brainstorm Session by clicking the link below: 
      https://www.juliadwetzel.com/brainstorm

      Home is where your heart is...... but so challenging to physically get to during a pandemic.....

      Home is where your heart is...... but so challenging to physically get to during a pandemic.....

      We’d always planned to go back to New Zealand for my maternity leave with Malakai. We’d done the same when we had Maximilian - to introduce him to family and friends and have their support in the early months.

      But we never expected that it’d be quite so tough to get back this time around.

      Once upon a time it was the simple job of arranging baby's passport, booking flights, maybe an airport hotel the night before or airport transfers. Done, ready to go!

      But this time......

      Nothing. Has. Been. Easy. 

      Here are the series of challenges we’ve had to navigate to plan our journey back to NZ. Hopefully this post can help any Kiwis in the UK with young families who're also planning their journey home. Otherwise, just some insight into the many parts we've had to align and to what's been keeping us busy on top of everything else. 

      Challenge 1: Closed NZ Border + International Hubby

      Gone are the days of a 5 minute electronic travel application. With NZ’s borders being closed to non-NZ nationals, Stefan, who travels on a German passport, has had to apply for a Critical Purpose Visa (CPV) to be able to enter with us. Although relatively straightforward, it was still a time consuming task as needed to collate and provide detailed proof of our relationship. You also have a window to enter the country which, when you’ve got a baby’s passport to apply for, quarantine and flights to book, can be a bit stressful to ensure you’re going to be travelling within the said window......

      Challenge 2: Getting Malakai’s NZ Passport

      You need a birth certificate to be able to apply for a passport and you need passport details to be able to book MIQ (hotel quarantine) and flights to enter NZ.  Unfortunately there are COVID-related delays with registering births in the UK, and so this delays getting passport applications in. The London NZ Passport office has also closed due to COVID and passports are processed back in NZ with lengthy turn around times..... what’s not advertised on their website, and only offered after enquiring by email, is that ‘urgent’ services are still available in London with a guaranteed return within 10 working days (vs 4 week +). It’s an extra couple of hundred pound, from memory, but felt worth it in our case for the security!

      Challenge 3: Booking Managed Isolation & Quarantine (MIQ)

      On entering NZ from abroad, you need to complete a 14 day hotel quarantine before being granted access to the 'free world'. You need to ensure that you book a quarantine slot BEFORE you book your flights as (we're now aware) they're blimmin hard to get. It was before Christmas that I registered our family to get a slot, but the MIQ calendar wasn't visible - as to book as you need to input all family members passport details and we were still awaiting Malakais. On speaking to my auntie, who was also planning her return, she mentioned it was already booked up until March. March?! Fully booked three months out?!

      The feeling of being unable to get home, to be reunited with loved ones, is truly not a nice one.

      Many emails around the houses later, we were able to get the direction to remove Malakai from our booking to be able to successfully secure a slot. Mid-march. Yes! Although at that point it felt like an eternity away, it was a true celebratory moment. Once we received Malakai’s passport we were able to then add him back onto our voucher via a simple email request.

      Challenge 4: Booking Flights

      Now is not the time to look for the best deal through a third party search engine like Skyscanner. It's back to booking through travel agents, people who, when shite hits the fan e.g. new strains, cancelled flights, banned transit routes etc, are able to rebook you on an alternate route to get you home as planned. There’s a fine chap out in NZ, Tim Malone, who runs House of Travel (Albany). He specialises in getting Kiwis home at the moment and has ‘saved’ many people from being stranded in the country they're currently in. We’re feeling in safe hands to have booked through him.

      Challenge 5. Booking PCR COVID Test

      When the South African COVID strain appeared late last year, it was introduced that you needed to have a negative COVID test (within 72h of your first flight) to be able to 1) board your flight and 2) to enter NZ. There are a number of options to have the tests done across the UK (Boots, Express Test, your local airport etc) but they vary with regard to cost and processing times, and there've been a few stories of inconclusive results or results returning too late in the piece. So we've gone for what seems to be a very reliable mode - the Test & Rest option at the Sofitel Heathrow. Again, it's not the cheapest but it includes the hotel room for the night before your flight, testing and rapid result processing - which you're guaranteed to have before your flight.

       

      So here we are, self isolating in the Cotswold countryside, doing our best to remain COVID free. All that now remains is to continue to avoid contact with others and cross fingers and toes that all goes to plan from here!!

       Xx

      | A Woman's Work: A Q&A with Helen Fores of Spark Sensory |

      | A Woman's Work: A Q&A with Helen Fores of Spark Sensory |

      I met Helen through Baby Sparks baby sensory class - as she was the one leading it!

      The passion Helen has for neurological development through the senses and sensory play for babies really comes through in her classes and, due to her affable character, they easily became my favourite class to take Max along to. This was both for how much Max loved the activities and song, but also because of the catch ups and convos I could have with Helen and other parents.

      COVID has thrown a number of challenges Helen's way and her resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity has been an inspiration. Being a small business owner herself, she's been very supportive of LOMIE from the beginning and has been fantastic, particularly in, connecting us with local families and their babies for our product photography.

      Thanks so much Helen for taking the time to chat to us about your highs and lows. I hope that those reading will be equally inspired though learning about your story.

      Those who happen to be in the Nottinghamshire area can book Helen's classes here.

       

      Hi Helen! Please tell me a little about yourself and your background.

      Hello! I’m Helen, founder/owner of Spark Sensory and Baby Sparks sensory classes. Prior to launching my business I was a primary school teacher for 16 years across Nottingham. I’ve got two little boys; Charlie and Tommy, and a fur baby called Maxi. I think my obsession with creating the best baby and toddler sensory classes stems from a passion I have as an educationalist to support children from birth in their sensory and neurological development. I feel passionately that learning through play forms the building blocks for lifelong learning and it just feels an absolute privilege to spend time in that first precious year with new parents and their babies through their attendance at my classes.

      Helen Fores

       

      What is Sparks Sensory and Baby Sparks and what was the motivation behind setting them both up?

      Spark Sensory is the consultancy aspect of my business. My experience, knowledge and skills as a special needs teacher has enabled me to develop a consultancy role where I go into education settings, usually mainstream primaries, and offer training and ‘hands on’ work with staff and pupils on sensory integration practices for supporting pupils with additional needs. I also run conferences and provide remote support when required.

      Baby Sparks is quite literally, my baby! I deliver (with a small freelance team behind me) baby and toddler sensory classes across Nottingham. Every class is a full sensory workout for your baby and all that we do is based on up to date research and practice. The classes are fun, interactive, creative and developmentally appropriate at all levels for your little one. Prior to lockdown, we were delivering 15 classes across 4 days in West Bridgford, Keyworth, Beeston and Sherwood.

      Baby Sparks Nottingham

       

      Does ethics and sustainability come into play at all with what you do? 

      From an ethics perspective; yes absolutely. When I founded my business I wrote a set of values that I used as a guide for any business decisions I made. These focused on aspects such as ‘what did I want my customer to experience as a consistent service from me?’ ‘What values do I want to promote with education staff when I deliver training to them?’ and ‘how can I ensure that the customers experience is of such a standard that I am able to maintain high levels of customer retention.’ I created a values statement which included things such as ‘always presume competence’ and ‘above and beyond’ with regard to the service I provide. It’s helped me from an ethics perspective to focus on high customer service as a driver for profitability rather than simply focusing on profitability as a value.

      Sustainability is a more difficult one. In terms of the equipment I use, the majority is repeat use with very few items being single use only. I am mindful of disposing of any items with batteries (sensory balls) in a responsible manner and I often buy new equipment from charity shops (preferring wooden toys over plastic for obvious reasons). AS I branch out and continue to develop the retail aspect of the business, use of recycled packaging and organic, Fairtrade baby grows and t-shirts will be a priority.  

       

      Tell me about a particular highlight you’ve had within your career? What are you most proud of?

      I still suffer daily with imposter syndrome, COVID-19 has at times pushed me to the point of wanting to walk away entirely. However, I am so very proud of my resilience throughout the last 4 months and have promised myself I will look back on this time in the not too distant future and be able to say that I acted responsibly and with the best interests of all my customers at the heart of my decision making. In terms of other highlights, it sounds cheesy but I actually love it when a customer leaves me at the end of their maternity leave and we have a chat about their journey through motherhood and how the classes have impacted positively on that. Those conversations are the best. Then when working in schools, the feedback I get from staff about the positive impact and how their work with pupils has changed for the better, that is priceless because its real lives that are being impacted. There’s amazing job satisfaction in knowing that.

       

       

      Given the types of classes you offer, COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines have impacted quite dramatically on your business. You've been very creative in developing a new way of working going forward? Please tell us about this.

      Yes, dramatic impact is definitely a good way to describe it. Throughout the height of lockdown (March – June), my turnover dropped by 90%. The school-based work had to be placed on the back burner, mainly because schools closed! However, I used this time to increase my consultancy impact in other ways. I took on a freelance contract writing course material (on autism, sensory needs and the primary classroom) for a large online education CPD provider. This has proven to open further doors as I have now also agreed to become an assessor for the same company and am now assessing people as they train to become teaching assistants. It seems like a good role to adopt whilst the world adjusts to the new normal... however long that might take.

      In terms of the baby and toddler classes; we moved to online content and again, in line with my values I wanted to ensure this was accessible to all for as long as it was financially possible to do so. I created a ‘pay what you can’ approach and the turnover allowed me to work for 10 weeks generating a very small income to keep Baby Sparks afloat. Then after a short 3 week furlough period, to allow me time away from the business to reflect and learn lessons, I decided to move to a Zoom model in June and July, to enable a more interactive experience for myself and my customers. As the social distancing measures continued to relax, a face-to-face outdoor model for classes was developed. Throughout July and August, myself and one of my lovely freelancers, Kat, delivered a range of socially distanced outdoor classes. These were so incredibly well received, we had an absolute blast! Now as we move into Autumn and the weather becomes more inclement, we are planning on a move back to indoor classes. We are hoping this will happen around the 14th September. Our provision has drastically changed; fewer resources, no movement, safe social distances at all times. But, our values and vision remains the same and given that I feel I have maintained integrity throughout COVID, I am certain that our lovely customers will follow us back indoors and engage with the newly adapted, COVID secure Baby Sparks provision that we are super close to launching.

       

       What’s one piece of advice that you’d give for other women or mothers who are considering starting their own business?

        Don’t underestimate your own abilities. It’s hard work but no one works harder than a mum on 4 hours sleep and 3 cups of coffee! And research, research, research! You’ve got to know your market, your customer and yourself really. Focus on the end game; think big, start small - but do start!

         

        Photo credits to @lucyewarnerphotography

        | Geriatric Mother & Proud |

        | Geriatric Mother & Proud |

        As a 7 month pregnant 37 year old woman, I am of 'advanced maternal age', or clinically classified as a 'geriatric mother'.

        As I gave birth to Max, our first born, at 35 years old this is not my first geriatric pregnancy, so it's not a new term to me and now I find it more comical than anything else. It was a somewhat different scenario however, when I first heard it. I was trying on maternity swimwear in a changing cubical and overheard two young girls discussing a 'geriatric' person they knew's pregnancy. What was this geriatric pregnancy business, I immediately got my phone out and googled....

        I can't deny it, on reading the description I did feel somewhat offended - ‘come on I know I’m old(er), but I’m not thaaaat old am I?!'

        There are a number of reasons as to why I didn't have children younger. I was at university in New Zealand completing my PhD until my late 20s, and then work opportunities took me across the world - firstly to France and then here to the UK. I had long term relationships during that time and once I reached my early 30s there were the comments from friends and family, asking when we were going to have children and one person even going as far as saying 'you shouldn't wait much longer'. 

        But it wasn't the right time, nor the right person and thank goodness no small humans were brought into the world during that time.

        I met my husband, and father to my children, Stefan, when I was 33. Until the day we met I'd never really bought into the whole soul mate bizzle. However, on meeting I knew immediately that I'd met my match, my life partner. And he felt exactly the same. We planned a future together, as adults and as equals, and I can't thank my lucky stars enough for not having settled earlier for anything but the best.

        Fortunately for us, we've not had any challenges with getting pregnant. In fact, it happened almost a little too quickly the first time, and I went through a period of mourning my G&Ts and red wine. Nights out just weren't the same without them....  

        It's no secret that there are different risks associated with being an older mother - a higher risk of diabetes, pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, miscarriage, and your baby having Down’s Syndrome. It can be lot to get your head, and heart, around. 

        But many friends my age have had their first children as a 'geriatric' without any issues and I've found that there are also significant benefits with having children later in life. Particularly for my hubby and I:

        • We’ve had time to grow as individuals and would hope that we both have greater emotional intelligence and stability 
        • We’ve had time to build our careers and have (somewhat) greater financial stability as to when we were younger
        • We’ve also had more than our fair share of ‘living’ (working, travelling, partying etc), so felt ready to transfer our energy into building a home and having a family.

        Although never having been an exceptionally maternal person myself, I always knew I wanted to have children. Having Max really has been the most incredible and exceptional experience. I love being his mum more than anything in the world and can't wait to meet his little brother. 

        Because of all the above, when having children as a 'geriatric', I really don’t feel I’ve lost anything of myself at all, only gained. 

        .... well apart from maybe sleep that is...... 

        | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Author & Entrepreneur Annie Ridout |

        | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Author & Entrepreneur Annie Ridout |

        Annie Ridout is a mother, journalist and author and has made quite the name for herself as an inspirational female entrepreneur. After creating the digital parenting and lifestyle platform, The Early Hour, Annie went on to launchannieridout.com selling online courses. Within a year she’d created a six-figure business! 
        I had been following Annie online for a while and loved her fresh, straight-talking approach. So when she launched The Robora, an online business platform to assist the growth of small businesses, I eagerly signed up. Below I speak with Annie about her journey and the benefits of being a parent and your own boss. I particularly love that, given the rapid success of her business, her hubby Rich quit his day job to join her in maintaining its growth. They now work and parent as equals, sharing both roles.

         

        Hi Annie! Please tell me a little about yourself and your background.
        I'm a writer (of books, articles and online courses), a business consultant and mum to three young kids. We live in east London.

        You’ve gone from working for others to starting your own business, that your husband is now also involved in. Please tell us about this transition and the benefits of this new way of working?
        I spent five years freelancing from home, while raising the kids, and making ends meet as a writer. But then last year, I launched an online course (on how to do your own PR) and it quickly sold out. I launched another, on becoming your own boss, and that one did too. Soon, I'd accidentally built a business around these courses. When my husband saw how quickly the business was growing, he decided to join me on it full-time, as marketing manager.

        Work-wise, it's been the best year of my life. We had our third baby last August, and have co-parented (rather than Rich leaving home at 8am and returning at 6pm, Monday-Friday). Now, the baby goes to him as happily as he does me. It was a different story with the other two kids, when they were babies.

        On the whole, we work very well together. We decide what needs to be prioritised and the person who needs to do that works, while the other looks after the kids. We are blunt, and sometimes quite rude, to each other - but it means less tiptoeing around, trying to soften the blow. I can't imagine we'll ever work for other people again. We'll grow this online business, while also pursuing other projects. Rich makes films, I write books. And running this business together means that once childcare resumes, we'll have time for both.

        Annie Ridout The Robora

        Does ethics and sustainability come into play at all with what you do? 

        Yes, in terms of how I treat the people I work with. And putting back in through charity initiatives. 

        Tell me about a particular highlight you’ve had within your career? What are you most proud of?
        Getting a book deal with my dream publishers (4th Estate) was a big deal. Being published in the Guardian for the first time. Growing a business that earns us enough to put money into savings and live the life we want with our three kids. And more recently, working with a group of women through The Robora - supporting them with their businesses. It has taught me a lot. I've loved it, and feel really proud of what they've achieved. 

        Has COVID-19 impacted on your business / your way of working at all?

        We operate entirely online, and work from home, so in that respect - no. We had the same panics as most business-owners, as lockdown began, about whether anyone would be spending money on our products and services. But as we help people to start and grow the online side of their business, we have been fine. Business has kind of boomed, in fact. I feel a certain amount of guilt about it, but I've also been donating a lot of money to Refuge, from the sales of my 'Become your own Boss' course. 

        As a mother, what do you look for in baby and children’s clothing? 
        My main value in life is 'comfort'. That runs through everything I do. And certainly, with kids' clothes, that's what I look for first. Nothing fussy, or superfluous: soft cotton that fits them well, and that they can move easily in. 
        LOMIE Scarf Bib_Purr-ple_Annie Ridout
        What’s one piece of advice that you’d give for other women or mothers who are considering starting their own business?
        I'd say the biggest barrier for women looking to start a business is confidence. So my advice would be: 'feel the fear and do it anyway'. But don't quit the day job until it's financially safe to do that. Test your product/service out alongside your job - maybe go freelance or part-time, if that's an option - and once you can see there's a market, go for it. Give it a shot. It will probably be the best career decision you ever make.