Linen at Home gave me a healthy work-life balance, says mum Jo Nichols
Mum-of-two Jo Nichols used to work in a job she liked, but the unconventional hours meant she and her husband found themselves providing alternate childcare, and missing out on family togetherness. Here, she tells Workingmums.co.uk how a direct selling opportunity transformed her family life.
Need for change
Jo was working part time as a retail manager - she'd worked in retail in shops and supermarkets all of her career - but the hours were unsociable and involved evenings and weekends. Her husband, Adam, also worked as a retail manager, and she felt the combination of both jobs wasn't good for their family. ''The hours are very flexible, but we found we were fitting the hours around each other and working opposite each other so we never got any family time all together with the children,'' says Jo, 33.
Jo began to hunt for a job which would allow her to work from home. She found an advertisement on the Workingmums.co.uk website seeking consultants for Linen at Home. ''What attracted me mainly was the fact that it was new,'' says Jo, ''but I knew the company providing the goods had been very well established for years.''
Jo, from Kedington, Suffolk, contacted Linen at Home in June last year and began working soon afterwards. She gave up her retail job in October, and now she concentrates on Linen at Home and alongside a part-time job in admininstration two days a week.
Linen at Home
Entrepreneur Roberta Jerram set up Linen at Home in 2009 to sell personalised, embroidered items, such as towels, bathrobes, cushions and bed clothes. The idea was to bring bed and bath linens and other soft furnishings into people's homes via a flexible, family-friendly party plan business. The firm which supplies the goods - Duncan Stewart Textiles - has been producing high class linen for over 30 years. At the outset, Jo paid £125 for her starter kit of two big holdall bags of cushions, bed linen and throws, and stationery, worth over £300, and she pays £10 per month for the website, www.linenathome.co.uk/jonichols, provided by the company.
''What's so great about Linen at Home is the support,'' says Jo. ''The online chat forum for consultants is incredible - we all help each other out and share ideas. As consultants, we're all in a business of our own but not on our own. And the beauty of it is that it's up to you how much time you want to invest in your business.
There are no targets with Linen At Home, so consultants determine their own number of parties. ''The only targets are the ones we set ourselves so there is no pressure 'from above' to achieve certain figures,'' says Jo, who is mum to three-year-old Livia and Lucas, 17 months. ''This is quite a point of difference from other party plan companies, I believe, so it's perfect for mums when they need to take a break during school holidays.''
Jo now sets herself a goal of two parties a week, because she's determined her venture will fit in with family life. At first she started off by asking family and friends to host her first parties in their homes and over time has met more people, widening her circle of contacts. This approach has worked well and word of mouth has led to more than 30 new party hosts and almost £8,000 sales in the first six months.
Jo's skills from retail have transferred well to her new working situation. ''I'd never done parties before and didn't know how comfortable I would feel about selling,'' she said, ''but in my job I was used to standing up and talking to people, and doing presentations, so that didn't faze me. Initially I didn't want to be too pushy at selling things, but I've found at a party when I pass around the items and let people feel them, the products tend to sell themselves.''
Jo is now a senior consultant with Linen at Home and is happy with her balance of work and home life. She says she has no plans to boost the number of parties she hosts at the moment, although she feels once the children are at school she may play a larger role in the recruitment of more consultants.
''I'm glad I decided to find a business I could do from home,'' says Jo. ''I'm satisfied with the income I make and it has transformed our family life.''