Today we welcome Liz Weston to the blog … Liz Weston is known as a “bit of a guru”, supreme networker and all round “smart northern bird”. She was recently awarded a “Future 100 Award 2010” for her socially entrepreneurial business the New Baby Guides. Liz is keen on the “pay it forward” concept and encourages her clients to do this wherever they can. We asked her to tell us more about herself and her business.
Who are you?
I’m Liz Weston aka @cambridgemummy, married to Richard and we have two lovely boys – Elliott, who is 4 in February 2011, and William, who is 2 ½. I work around 50 hours a week (ish) and Richard does “daddy daycare”. He’s a qualified electrician and when the boys are at preschool together two mornings a week, he often works doing local jobs.
What do you do?
I do three things.
My first business was launching the New Baby Guides. (http://www.westoncommunications.org.uk/news/?p=441) They are A5 publications which are given out by midwives at NHS Maternity Units in late pregnancy or at point of birth. I got started with the help of the Head of Midwifery at my local hospital. She then recommended me on to all the other Heads of Midwifery across East Anglia and the business grew quickly from there on in. We now go to more than 104,000 families annually and have donated £16K to NHS Maternity Units to date. The Guides will go online shortly and will be are the backbone of what we do.
My second business was the Young Families Bump Baby and Toddler Shows. (http://www.youngfamilies.co.uk/) They differ from the usual baby shows in that the money from the door goes to NHS Maternity Units, who attend on the day and promote the show with us. We have exclusive contracts to do this with them and they fit nicely with the New Baby Guides. I do this in partnership with a friend and it works really well.
My third business is Weston Communications (http://www.westoncommunications.org.uk/) which provides new baby, maternity, family and baby product businesses with marketing, communications and public relations support. We have worked on projects for all sorts of organisations from big places like John Lewis, to small local businesses like Lucy Baynes and her Small print fingerprint jewellery business. We also have some contracts which work well for us as they help us to grow the business and make a wider impact.
When did you establish your business?
In January 2009.
What do you love about working for yourself?
Is there anything you do not like about working for yourself?
Professionally, I don’t like it when people don’t pay for my services. As a small business we have cash flow to manage just like anyone else. Thankfully we have only had it twice, and most people are great at paying.
I don’t know. I’ve not been asked that one before! I’ll think about it… I would have had more faith in myself in the early days. I would not have listened to my “but what if” side of my mind, as it was very counter productive. I work hard to manage it even today, when I’ve made so much progress..
What advice would you give to a Mum considering starting her own business?
I am asked this one regularly. And what I have to say on it is not what people want to hear.
An established business does not come easily. (If you are going into business for disposable income, you can ignore this bit and move on). If you are going into business to make money that will make a difference to your family, you need to accept that you won’t be going to as many coffee groups or social things for at least 18 months. It’s nigh on impossible to “have it all”, all day long, every day.
Embrace it like the new discipline that it needs to be. Commit yourself to working at every single opportunity even if it means missing out on your social life. I found that hard to do and now, I’m able to find a bit more of a middle ground which is great, but I did have to shut myself away and work every single night for months on end to get things going.
Put a third of your profit away each and every single month to pay your tax and NI. I have seen so many self employed people fail on this most basic of accountancy practices. It bewilders me! Every month we transfer the profit, VAT, and tax into an account so it’s there for the end of the year when I take my dividend. Before you take a dividend, make sure you’ve left enough money in the business to pay for the next 6 months of tax up front…