BY MELISSA CARTER (GUEST WRITER)
We have asked Melissa to share her top tips on running a small business whilst also being a parent to her (almost) one year old River.
RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS
I absolutely hate having time off- which is both a great thing and a terrible thing when you’re a self employed person. Life can be chaotic and unpredictable, and it can also be quiet and slow.
Both myself and my partner are self-employed, and have been throughout our entire careers- he’s a singer turned cruise director, and I’m a performer, performing arts teacher, and examiner (amongst other things- I told you it’s chaotic). So as you can imagine, covid has absolutely FUCKED us. All our relevant industries have been decimated, and the performance and cruising industries have been left out to dry with little to no support, and no plan in place to return any time soon. We get our hopes up, just to have them dashed again by new variants, restrictions, and lockdowns. Le sigh.
Enter River, my son, 6 days before lockdown 1.0 (his timing is impeccable), and we were quietly nervy to say the least. But Robert was due to return to the ship in May, and I’d be on maternity until October anyway, and *surely* this will all blow over by then? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. So as it goes, we’ve not had even a sniff of work in over A YEAR, and we now have a dependent. Talk about all your chickens coming home to roost. So, I did what I do best. I rolled up my sleeves, made a plan, and I got the fuck to work.
And thus, my second baby was born. I created a small range of clothes for babies, kids, and their parents to twin! A gender neutral, simple and classic set of designs, easy to style, and comfortable to wear. Up until this point, I had struggled to find clothes that *truly* hit all of those essential points for me- so I did it myself. I used the following I had gained in starting my blog, and started a tiny little shop- F*ck! I’m a Parent: The Store. After a few months and a rebrand, I’ve settled on River & Six.
Now running a business is much like running a family. There are schedules to stick to, people to please, and caring so damn much about the product that you wonder how you’ll ever have space in your brain for anything again. It’s late nights and early starts, mess and stress, and exhilarating, anxiety inducing, and personal. Your heart bursts when orders come in, and sinks when they don’t. Every bit of your spare time becomes consumed with thoughts and decisions, like new products, which form of marketing you’ll try, how much money you need, and how you can crack a new market. But really (even though you know you are), you’ll keep wondering if you’re good enough. And running a business *alongside* a family- phew! The hours in the day just seem to evaporate, don’t they? You can’t take annual leave when you’re the only employee, you can’t take a sick day when the work you’re creating is feeding your family. You’re going to feel guilty about spending too much time with one and not enough with the other.
I’m by no means an expert, but this is a small list of things that have helped me keep my head above water…
Outsource where you can
This is a big one. Just because you can do it yourself, doesn’t mean you have to. If you can afford to, get someone on board to take on one of your jobs, be that production, design, accounting, or even sending a few Insta stories here there and everywhere. I utilise a local business where I live to help with production (another boy mama as well, girls supporting girls), and that allows me time to focus on designing, website management, and social media.
Ask for help
Get your followers sharing, liking, commenting, saving your posts! It doesn’t cost them anything, and it can really help with your marketing. Instagram especially is incredibly fickle with its ever changing algorithm, and it drives small business owners up the wall- but engagement from fans and customers provides a real boost. Also, practical help as well- I’m forever sending Robert out to the post office, or to grab me more labels. Burning out doesn’t make us Superwoman- asking for help can be the difference between a good day and a bad day, for both your business and your family.
Multitask like a boss
Instead of making a specific trip to the post office, hold off until it can tie in with a nap. Rather than spending 40 minutes in the kitchen doing dinner, dump a load of stuff in a slow cooker that morning, and use the time to play with your kid, or reply to emails. Use the shit out of your playpen or jumperoo, and don’t feel bad about sticking Little Baby Bum on while you get something done. (see attached photo of River stuck in his pen while I answer emails!) Work out where you can streamline anything that takes up time, and give it a go! I also try to get ahead of myself, lining up posts a few days ahead that can be fired out without too much thought.
Don’t feel bad
Everyone is different. Don’t look at another business and wonder how they’re managing so well, when you feel stretched so thin. And certainly don’t take any idiotic posts from MLM ‘business owners’ remarking that we ‘all have the same hours in a day, how we choose to use them determines our success’. Bollocks to that (but that’s a discussion for another time). I know even day to day that my circumstances change, so just take each one as it comes, and don’t expect too much of anything. And as soon as social media starts to get in your head, put your phone away for a little while.
Sometimes, something is going to have to take a backseat. When I relaunched the shop under the new name and design, I also released a new collection along with it. This took up a lot of my time and required a lot of concentration, so much like if my job took me out to an office, Robert jumped on parenting duties so I could crack on. And when River was teething and clingy, the shop just simply had to wait. My personal account has fallen into the realm of micro-influencer, so I’m working double on getting likes and engagement now, and sometimes a product review or promotion has a time frame. It can feel like I’m juggling a lot, but compartmentalising and prioritising (even though as a type B person I’m quite shit at both) has just about kept me afloat.
Know when to say no
Sometimes, it can just simply wait. Don’t feel obliged to reply to a customer at 9pm, just because the baby is asleep and you’ve got the time. Allow yourself to rest, and set boundaries for yourself- this is your world and it’s your rules. If you don’t take care of yourself, the rest can’t fall into place.
The balancing act is Cirque du Soleil level, especially when it feels like there is so much at stake. But I would encourage anyone with an idea they believe in to give it a good go. It can be thrilling and incredibly rewarding, whether it’s a hobby turned tiny crafting empire, or a service that you offer.
Are you currently running a small business?
YOU CAN FIND MELISSA ON;
PERSONAL INSTAGRAM: I AM MELTEASER
SHOP INSTAGRAM: RIVER & SIX