A job + a passion

Sotiria Spantidea is one of a growing number of women who are working full time while building up their own business.

Sotiria Spantidea is one of a growing number of women who are working full time while building up their own business.

Sotiria has worked as an IT consultant in the City for the last 13 years, but has long wanted to set up her own business. She just never knew what that business would be until she had her first child. She was shopping online when she spotted a gap in the market for quality products for children, whether toys, fabrics or wallpaper. “I found things I liked, but they were all in different places,” she says. “I thought it would be good to bring together all the nice things I had found after lots of research.”

That was in 2009. It was not, however, until her second maternity leave two years later that she registered her company Butterfly Occasions and started attending trade shows, built a website and created flyers. She returned to work three days a week, but that only lasted six months before she moved to a different full-time job in the City. During that six-month period, she had time to do some work on setting up the business.

She says she doesn’t consider her business to be work. “It’s more like my passion,” she says.  So how does she manage running her business and working full time? Unless she is working from home, she has a commute of around two hours to work each way when she deals with emails. She has her business phone redirected to her mobile and can call back people in her breaks. She also has a mum she knows from the school run working part time during the day. The woman and her husband used to run their own business in France and has a background in PR.

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When Sotiria gets home at around 7pm she gets her children to bed and then works till about midnight. She also works on the business at weekends, but she realises she cannot keep that up every day and needs to rest. “It’s important to get some rest. You’re not productive when you are very tired and don’t have any energy for the family,” she says. “It’s a question of balance and you have to use your own judgement.” Her husband is very supportive and helps out with the children at weekends and also gives her some good advice since he also set up his own business.

Beyond the comfort zone

She keeps some of the smaller items she sells, like toys, in her spare bedroom, but for bigger items, like furniture, she works with suppliers in Europe, sending orders to them to dispatch.

The hardest thing so far has been moving from her “comfort zone” of doing research to getting the business off the ground. “It’s quite daunting and new,” she says. “It’s a different industry from the one I know. I have never worked in retail or commerce or dealt with things like customer satisfaction.”

Her goal is to build the business so that she can eventually work full time on it. She already has customers outside the UK, for instance, in the United Arab Emirates, and wants to expand to other countries. Currently she can only deliver in the UK, but has been able to deliver privately to the UAE.

The business is very young, given that she only launched her website weeks before Christmas after spending months building relationships with her suppliers. Even though she is working round the clock at the moment, her aim is to eventually be able to spend more time with her children. “That’s more important to me than work,” she says.


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