‘One part of my life was on fire and the other part was a bit meh’

Melissa Gauge from SpareMyTime talks to workingmums.co.uk about why having children made her more creative and more eager to learn – and how she is bringing together small businesses that want to scale and her flexible, outsourced workforce.

 

Melissa Gauge loved her job in the City, heading a retail capital markets team at an investment bank. “I was there from around 7.30am to 7pm, but I didn’t think twice about it as everyone was doing the same and I liked the people. I was running on adrenaline,” she says.

She went back for two years after having her son 11 years ago, sharing pick-up and drop-offs with her husband and negotiating an earlier leave time so she could be at nursery before it closed. But when she had her daughter two years later the logistics became harder and she started questioning her life choices.

It wasn’t that she wanted an easier life. Quite the opposite in fact. “When you have children it unleashes something creative in you,” she says. “That was unexpected. I started questioning if I was getting enough from my role for all the compromises I was making at home and the pressure that was putting on my relationship. It got to the point where I had stopped learning. Having children you are learning new things all the time and are constantly evolving and at work I was just cruising.  I was a little bit bored. One part of my life was on fire and the other part was a bit meh.”

Going solo

It was time to move on. Melissa left the City in 2016 and set up two companies. One was City-based and she co-founded it with two others and the other was an online platform – SpareMyTime – which aimed to provide small businesses with outsourced administrative support.

Melissa sold the City-based business 18 months later for a big profit. She felt she needed to put more into SpareMyTime as she could see its potential for small businesses which wanted to scale up but didn’t have the time and skills to do so. In 2017 her children were in school and she realised how many mums at the school gates had the skills that small businesses needed, but couldn’t often afford to go out to work due to high childcare costs.

She says being a mum is sometimes like a job, but one where you rarely get recognised for doing it well. “That’s really important for your sense of self esteem,” she says. “In that sense work can be a balancing factor.” She launched SpareMyTime officially in 2020 with a focus on administrative work. It now covers everything from marketing to bookkeeping. “What we are trying to do is to champion a model that can deliver high quality support without people having to be physically in the office,” she says.

She thinks businesses and prospective employees are more open to this approach since Covid and more willing to innovate. For some businesses it is about being more environmentally focused by cutting out unnecessary commuting. Others have tried to outsource help themselves, but found it challenging.

High quality skills

Melissa says SpareMyTime’s reputation for the quality of work it provides and for itself being a good employer is attracting businesses, particularly those which are looking to scale up. “They may not be able to attract the calibre of people we can through our flexible workforce. We can provide instant, high calibre support so they can focus on what they are good at. We can scale with them too,” says Melissa.

She adds that the company also mentors and advises small businesses on the kind of support they need, including using automation effectively. She is looking now to potentially diversify into HR administrative support too.

Like many of its clients, SpareMyTime has grown fairly quickly itself and is now a team of 22. That growth has meant it has had to put some structures in place, for instance, to ensure everyone doesn’t take holidays at the same time. That provides more transparency, and sits alongside other employee benefits. Melissa admits she continues to learn as the company grows and thinks that learning is the sign of a successful business.

For her it is about the quality of what SpareMyTime is offering. She says: “I’ve always been fascinated by business and I have created a business that I enjoy.”



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