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      JOURNAL — Mumpreneur

      | 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. 

      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Julia of Julia Ferrari Web Design |

      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Julia of Julia Ferrari Web Design |

      Julia and I have never actually met in person. We became acquainted virtually through being members of the online business platform, The Robora. We can easily relate to one another as we both created new ventures during our respective maternity leaves. And accessing help to build our respective businesses, was the reason that we both joined the platform. Since meeting, despite being in very different fields, we have followed and supported each others progress with interest.

      In a recent Instagram post, Julia reflected on all that she's learnt and achieved in the year since her son was born. I found the summary so insightful, and inspirational, that in addition to the Q&A with her featured below, I feel I must also share the content of the post here:

      'I had no idea all the things I could learn in a year. Yesterday was my son's 1st birthday and the reason I talk about him is because he was my main motivation to start my own business, Julia Ferrari Web Design. He was the one who gave me the courage to get out of my comfort zone and discover new things.

      In one year I learnt a lot about babies, development, feeding, sleeping, crying and all that obvious things. But I also learnt about myself and my own emotions. 

      I learnt, and continue to keep learning, how to run my own business. I learnt how challenging it is to work as freelancer. I learnt to celebrate every little win.
      I also learnt how important is to take some time off, and yesterday I had a day off with my son.'

      Julia Ferrari Web Design LOMIE Cub & Pudding

      Hi Julia! Please tell me a little about yourself and your background
      .
      I’m an Argentinean who landed in London six years ago trying to work in what I love, web design. I love travelling and discovering new places and cultures. One of the things that I like most about living here is that it is much easier, and more affordable, to travel. My first year in London was really challenging, I had to improve my English, find a job in my field and make new friends. But I surpassed all the obstacles and made London my home. I have to say that I’m a summer girl and one of things that makes me suffer is the cold weather and the lack of sun.

       

      Becoming a mother was the motivation behind creating your own business. Please tell us a little about the transition to becoming your own boss and the benefits and challenges of this new way of working?

      Last year I become a mum to Agustin. My partner and I are among the many parents who don’t have any relatives close by who can help with childcare, so for me the best option was to go for more flexibility with my work. When my son was born and during my maternity leave I started to focus on freelance work and setting up my own business.

      When my son was just 3 weeks old I signed up for Annie Ridout’s online course “Become your own boss”. I have to say that the first months I was working very slowly, but at least there was the unexpected luck that my son was a good sleeper. In February of this year I decided to start pushing harder and started to work on a proper plan to grow my business. This was followed by a few intense months of hard work. A couple of weeks ago (during June 2020) I sent my resignation letter so now I am truly a freelancer.

      Having flexible hours, seeing as I have a baby to take care of, is a huge benefit and I don’t miss commuting to work at all. The first challenge was about mindset. I have always been very confident about my work and meeting my clients’ expectation, but I was not sure how to make my business more visible and have enough flow of work. I’m also a shy person so networking is something that really throws me outside from my comfort zone, however I have also realised that this is a common experience.

      Julia Ferrari Web Design

       

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

      Ethics and sustainability are part of my personal values and they are mixed with what I do. I feel very lucky that I work with people who love what they do. I feel very comfortable working with them and we share the same values.

       

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

      That is a difficult one, but when I was in my previous job I developed a website in a new platform, Drupal, which required a lot of learning and work. In general, now I have started feeling proud about setting up my own business. I have learnt so many things, and have worked so hard, so I feel very proud when I see positive results.

       

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

      COVID has had a positive impact in my work in a way. Firstly, I have had more demand of work, because many people are now looking for an online alternative for their businesses. In addition to this, as my partner has started working from home it allows me to have more help with childcare and I can have more time to focus on my work. 

       

      As a mother, what do you look for in baby and children’s clothing? What other brands would you recommend for new mothers?

      I don’t buy many clothes for Agustin but when I do, I try to look for independent shops and small business brands. I love colourful patterns. Some brands that I can recommend, aside from LOMIE, are Little Green Radicals, Piccalilly and Cub & Pudding. Agustin is wearing Cub & Pudding leggings and romper, with LOMIE Scarf Bibs, in the images below.

      LOMIE Scarf Bibs 

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

      From my personal experience, I think is important to invest in some coaching to guide you on setting up your business, getting clients and setting the right mindset!

      Be patient. Sometimes it may feel like a rollercoaster, but you learn to celebrate every win.

      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Helen of Snugg Yoga |

      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Helen of Snugg Yoga |

      Helen and I met at baby yoga a couple of years back when our children were just teeny, and despite having an awkward first lunch date - where one went to The ‘Bakehouse’, the other went to The Little ‘Brickhouse’, both thinking we’d been stood up and ending up lunching solo - we’ve continued to be great friends. Above shows a snap of Helen with her daughter during a LOMIE Scarf Bib photoshoot. We are dying to get the kids together again after what seems like an eternity in lockdown.⠀

      The admiration I have for Helen is immense. Not only is she is a great mum, but whilst also working full time she has trained to become a yoga teacher, of which she now teaches as her side hustle Snugg Yoga (give her a follow of Insta at @snuggyoga). She has a very calm, yet witty, character and is such great company to be around. But it’s her incredible strength, resilience and desire to give back which I admire the most. 

      Helen story is emotional, but also extremely heartwarming. She’s truly an inspirational woman and has been helping people through lockdown relieve anxiety and build community though free, or PWYC (Pay What You Can) classes through lockdown. I was so happy when she kindly agreed to take part in the LOMIE ‘A Woman’s Work Q&A’ to share her journey. 

       

       

      Hi Helen! Please tell me a little about yourself and the motivation behind training to become a yoga instructor.
      My bio says I am a mummy, yoga and meditation teacher and I love being with my family, disco music, baking and the great outdoors, but there is much more to it than that. In the first couple of months of me giving birth, my mum, hero and best friend was diagnosed with cancer. Even though she suffered for a further six months, it was the day she told me that she had cancer that I lost her, her mind sort of went and it was only by teaching her meditation and gentle yoga, mindfulness and Qi Gong techniques that I was able to calm her and get her back for a few minutes. The meditation would include beautiful memories that we had from my childhood, such as a beach in Cornwall and gardens.

      The yoga helped her to move at a time when she was confined to her bed, and sometimes she would call me in the middle of the night asking for me to meditate with her, and, although I had been practicing yoga for twenty years it was this that gave me the drive to become a teacher. I wanted to use this skill to work with others and their families going through what my mum and our family went through. As always my mum was my inspiration and now my daughter is my inspiration. 


      As a mother, how are you finding balancing motherhood, work and yoga teaching?
      Haha, I love it but I am exhausted. I give myself little treats - an afternoon nap when my little one is asleep, and an evening glass of red wine with my husband when she has gone to bed! We also love going on adventures in the countryside and mummy-daughter baking to disco dj sets - we are both a big fan of Nile Rodgers and Chic and the kitchen is slowly starting to turn into our disco space - neon lights, diner chairs and a disco ball are planned! A lot of what we bake is foraged from our garden - raspberries, grapes, elderflowers, rosemary, mint, lavender, blueberries, strawberries - you name it we have grown it, picked it and baked and discoed with it.

      Whilst everyone is still asleep, I get up at 5am, go for a run, take part in a pre-recorded online yoga class - usually with a Yoga space in Bali, and plan my own yoga or meditation class - I always bring something new into each class and take inspiration from everything from Power Yoga, Yin Yoga and meditation to Capoeira, Qi Gong and mindfulness. 

      I schedule my own classes at a time when my husband isn’t working so he can take the fort or when my daughter is asleep (so lots of evening or pre-recorded classes). Work entails liaising with charities, fundraising, designing and putting out marketing and my website and creating more classes - all of that fits into the gaps!


      Does ethics and sustainability come into play at all with what you do? 
      Absolutely. Yoga has unfortunately gained a reputation of being expensive, exclusive and physically unattainable (“I can’t put my legs behind my head!”). When I set out to become a yoga and meditation teacher my primary goal was to provide free classes for people in palliative care. I am excited to be talking to a Refugee charity and a hospice about putting together free one to one classes for their service users. Teaching classes outside of that has just been a sweet bonus.

      The message behind Snugg Yoga is that it is: 

      • Affordable - free or PWYC (Pay What You Can) with donations going to a diverse range of charities.
      • Inclusive - everyone is welcome, working with charities has not only allowed me to raise much needed funds for charities in need, particularly during lockdown (Stonebridge City Farm, When You Wish Upon A Star, PASIC, Forever Stars, ) but it has also enabled me to invite the service users and staff of those charities to attend the classes free of charge (Refugee Roots, The Black LGBTQIA+ Therapy Fund, Nottingham Women’s Centre, Nottinghamshire Hospice, Macmillan Cancer, Notts Hospitals Charity and PANDAS) this has really helped Snugg Yoga to achieve a more diverse audience - this is something that will persist and I won’t rest until I have a class that has true representation.
      • Attainable, fun and soothing - I have always said that in a Snugg Yoga class it is highly likely that I’ll be one of the first to topple and that I am learning right alongside my students and will never stop learning, I offer modifications for those who want to go more or less challenging, the classes are great fun and not too serious and they offer a sense of calming and community to help to relieve anxiety.

      Sustainability is an interesting one, and a message that I want to focus on once I go back to teaching again in real life - in parks or a sustainable space with ethically sourced equipment and refreshments. I’m on it! 


      Tell me about a particular highlight you’ve had with Snugg Yoga? What are you most proud of?
      I have been really fortunate and had some incredible opportunities since being in isolation including working with Asylum seekers and refugees and providing lessons for charity festivals, a particular highlight was receiving a letter from someone who said that their Snugg Yoga class was a lifeline, offering them something to look forward to at a time when they felt highly anxious, upset and stressed. I also felt privileged to be able to offer free yoga and meditation for NHS staff and other key workers - they have given so much and just being able to help them in any way has been rewarding.

       

      Has COVID-19 impacted on your business / your way of working at all?
      Completely, I have gone from teaching in studios and to businesses in their workspaces to teaching wholly online. The people attending my classes have changed too. At the start the goal was fitness and general wellbeing, but once COVID-19 hit a lot of people wanted to join to not only ease their anxiety but also to be a part of a community at a time when many felt isolated. That is why it was important for me to offer classes for free for the first three months of lockdown and then on a PWYCan basis (with 10% going to a nominated charity each week) after those first three months.

      All the charities I have worked with have been affected during lockdown and the charity classes, which in the first three months, delivered free yoga with a donation encouraged to a different charity each week, have been really popular - my biggest class had 33 people sign up! It is through these charities that I have taken part in online festivals (Forever Stars) Refugee Week (Refugee Roots), delivered chair yoga and mindfulness for carehomes and private one to one online classes.

      As lockdown extends I'm continuing to offer classes on a PWYC basis as I cannot justify charging regular prices when so many people have been furloughed or let go and I wouldn’t want to. It is so much more important that people attend the classes than be missed because they couldn’t afford the class. Everyone is welcome regardless.

      Credit: Angela Shepherd (@angela_luci_shepherd)


      What advice would you give for other mothers who are considering starting their own business?
      I haven’t met a mother yet who doesn’t realise how special she really is. So I would say value yourself. This is advice that is, of course, easier said than done, but there are ways in which you may be able do this:

      • Find free courses to enhance your education, to give you the confidence to speak up (Open University has lots of great online courses such as starting your own business). 
      • Don’t apologise for wanting to speak up, try and avoid starting an email with ‘no worries if not but…’, and don’t undersell yourself for fear of asking seeming too cheeky.
      • Make diversity a value for your company, don’t be afraid to change your opinion when faced with new information and finally value and support community. When I first started to grow, my outreach goal was growing my social media channels, but my most loyal customers are those on my own doorstep, people from local businesses and charities that I have worked with who now join my classes every week. 





      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Textile Artist Debbie Smyth |

      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Textile Artist Debbie Smyth |

      'A Woman's Work' is a LOMIE Q&A series with inspirational women, often mothers, whom I've met throughout the years and have made an impression on me. It's such an honour to be able to share their stories with you. Today we speak with Debbie Smyth, a textile artist who's travelled the world for her work, creating large scale thread art pieces (often live) for the likes of New York Times, Hermes and Instagram, to name but a few.  

      Debbie and I became acquainted a number of years back when I was director of design for an interior textiles manufacturer, and have since followed each others careers with interest. Debbie's work is incredibly intricate and when I first saw it, it blew my mind. Not only does the final piece make an incredible impact, but it's also the high levels of planning, followed by the execution which is involved that makes her work truly mesmerising. An incredibly talented lady. In this Q&A we learn more about Debbie's craft and career, how her partner joined to support her business and, now as a recent mother, how the two of them share both work and parenting duties for their gorgeous son Rigby.

       

      Hi Debbie! Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to specialise in textile art and, in particular, thread art.

      Textiles have always been a passion; I suppose, a second nature. I don't ever remember not being able to sew; it was something I learnt at a very young age. My mother always mended our clothes so I learnt the basics early and I was constantly altering my clothes as a teenager. When deciding what career path to take when leaving school, the two choices I whittled it down to were going to Art College or studying biomedical engineering. I decided to go do an art foundation course to help make my mind up.

      It wasn't until I did my foundation course that I really discovered what was achievable through textiles, sewing didn't just have to be functional, and I fell in love with this way of creating art. I then moved to West Wales to study; graduating in 2008 with a BA (Hons) degree in Contemporary Textiles.

      Having specialised in textiles, I liked the concept of using the integral materials of the discipline, yet in an unorthodox way. I am textile artist most identifiable by my statement thread drawings. My process is very material led. I look at thread as a drawing medium; how the thread falls or knots, often dictates my next step. Achieving complex shading and tactile surface patterns by pushing the expected scope and application of my chosen materials; I established my studio practice in 2009, and have worked on an extremely diverse range of projects spanning large scale hotel installations, event art, corporate interiors, illustration, gallery installations and smaller bespoke pieces.

      My partner Zac has come onboard in more recent years due to the scale and magnitude of some of the projects we have taken on across the globe. Our unusual style and distinctive approach has garnered deserved attention; commissioned by major companies including Ellesse, The New York Times, Sony, Adidas, Instagram, Continental, Four Seasons Hotel group, Mercedes Benz and Hermes to name a few. 

       

       

      You’ve recently become a mother, and are just getting back into creating again. How are you finding balancing your craft with motherhood?

      Myself and Zac worked on very physically demanding projects right up until I was 8 months pregnant. By doing so, we saved up, allowing us both to take 4 months maternity/paternity leave together. We eased ourselves back in slowly, sharing the workload & took on our first project as a trio when Rigby was 4 months old; an event in Dublin, producing an interactive live art event piece over the course of a few days. Part of the reason we were willing to take on this project was due to my family being in Ireland. Rigby got to go sightseeing in Dublin with his Granny & Auntie, whilst we cracked on with the job in hand. I took regular breastfeeding breaks and we made it work.

      We’ve been selective with the projects we have taken on since being pregnant & having Rigby. In recent years, we’ve been incredibly fortunate that our craft has taken us around the world. However we have had to limit the projects, which involve travel & long hours as it’s not so easy these days. Not only because travelling and working with a baby is tricky but also COVID-19 has stopped us in our tracks recently.

      So instead, our focus has been on more studio based work where we can set the schedule and hours in the comfort of our own space; allowing much more flexibility to juggle parenting & business. We have had to adapt how we work; I take care of managing, admin and design & my partner undertakes the majority of the fabrication. It’s a massive balancing act; we juggle caring for Rigby between us so we share the workload. It has taken a bit of fine-tuning to figure out a system, but we are finding a rhythm. We are also currently renovating our house so lots of juggling going on.

      We count ourselves very lucky that we both spend precious time with Rigby; both getting to witness those everyday moments and the big milestones. The toothy grin at bedtime or the first steps. This is the real magic that makes the rest of it happen!

      Debbie & Rigby in LOMIE Scarf Bib

       

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

      Sustainability is something we would like to address further within our practice as one can always do more however when working to clients brief it is sometimes hard to implement our own values. We use recycled/sustainable thread ranges by Gutermann & Coats when possible. If we create work that is fabricated for an event, and could potentially only have a short life span, we make suggestions to give the piece more longevity. Usually by designing it in such a way that following the event it can be transported to a new home to be displayed permanently.

      We love working on sustainability-centered projects. For example, last year we created a series of artworks for Coats using and celebrating their Ecoverde thread, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.

       

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

      This is a really difficult question. I suppose an aspect I find very satisfying is the final unveil of a piece that has been years in the making. So much work goes on behind the scenes that people don’t realise; months of back and forth between ourselves and the clients, countless presentations, numerous rejected designs, amending and tweaking compositions, laborious hours of planning and prep work, multiple site visits and inspections and long hours installing on site. Months and months and months of work that finally leads to what we had all this time been working towards, a monumental artwork and a happy client. This elated feeling was had when we completed a ‘Fleeting’, a 10m x 2.5m piece now permanently installed at 10 Fleet Place, London. Inwardly and outwardly the reflections and distortions of the curved glass façade mirror and echo the motion of the life of 10 Fleet Place; distorting the perception of the city and blurring lines of brilliant light streaks; echoing nuances of it’s environment whilst capturing ‘a fleeting moment’ of a city constantly in flux.

      Feeting by Debbie Smyth

      A very contrasting highlight was a very special art residency we undertook at Folio Daan, Taipei from Oct – Dec 2017. Over the course of 3 months, we worked at a much slower pace allowing ourselves to be completely immersed in the Taiwanese culture, we documented our journey through the people we met. Each character in the FOLIO X FUBON series represents a significant aspect of our Taipei impression. From the language barrier and what we learnt to the everyday customs and weather. Expressing how we adapted to a new culture, and absorbed the environment. These 3 works are now permanently installed at Folio Daan Hotel, Taipei.

      Debbie Smyth

       

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

      We didn’t have any projects which involved intensive travel lined up, so luckily, that aspect of our practice was not affected. Our focus has been on more studio based projects since having Rigby which fortunately has swung in our favour as it has meant we have been able to continue to work in isolation at our studio during lockdown.

      We quoted on quite a few projects at the beginning of the year which have been postponed or cancelled. Although we have not been massively immediately impacted, I think this is only the beginning.... The sector we work in will have a tough few years ahead, I’m sure.

       

      As a mother, what do you look for in baby and children’s clothing? What other brands would you recommend for new mothers.

      Longevity is a big thing for me; I often buy clothes that are too big, and roll up the sleeves or cuffs... they grow so fast & I love a baggy-chic baba!

      I go for pre-loved if I can; I buy a lot from charity shops & a local second hand kids shop, in particular – KIDS STUFF @stroudkidsstuff.

      If I do buy new, I try to but from small independent makers & shops...
      Aside from LOMIE, here’s a few brands and shops I have made some recent baby purchases from...

      @marmalade_sky @hapsnordic @aciubaba @thelittlewoodenpeg @we.are.pop @magnusmakesthree @wornbylittles @cissywears @lilyandfred @wemightbetiny

      Rigby in LOMIE

       

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

      Take care of yourself...if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of your family or run a business. It’s very easy to burn yourself out by putting too much pressure on yourself.

      After settling into mama hood, I found a rhythm to our days & was able to schedule in set times to focus on business. I try to make sure that I am fully present during the time I am with my baby; this allows me to be in a more focused state when working, rather than trying to juggle several tasks at once, which really stresses me out. Focus is something I have really struggled with getting back since becoming a mama so I try to be really strict with my time, which helps.

      It helps that my partner and I share parenting and business, meaning that neither of us gets too fed up.... that often!?!