Scaling up

Wendy Shand of Tots to Travel has written an e-book to help mums scaling up their businesses.

Wendy Shand was one of the first wave of so-called mumpreneurs around nine years ago when she set up her business Tots to Travel from home while bringing up her children.

Her eldest children were one and two and a half at the time and she says she was just “dipping her toe” in the water. Her start-up was very lean and built up slowly with her working around her children and subsequently having another one.

Since then she has written lots of articles about starting up a business from home with children.

Now she feels there is a gap in the market for a book on scaling up a business once you have got through the start-up phase. “There are different experiences and challenges when you start moving out of the kitchen and employing staff,” she says, having gone through the process herself with her child-friendly holiday villa business.

Partly the gap in the market for her new free e-book, The Mother of Invention: taking your mumpreneur idea to big brand business and beyond, is due to a total change in attitudes to mums running a business and a big boom in the numbers doing so.

“In the early days I remember sitting in a mums group saying I was starting a business and there was a sea of faces looking like I was mad, but now surveys show up to 80% of mums would like to set up their own business. There’s been a huge change of mindset,” says Wendy.

She feels there is a lot of advice and support for people starting up their own businesses. That includes accountancy, legal and PR firms who can give advice and help on an outsourced basis. Many of those firms are run themselves by mums who understand the different issues ‘mumpreneurs’ face that set them apart from average business owners. “Mums are supporting other mums and are happy to work the kind of strange hours that sometimes involve working around children,” she laughs. “It’s a way of working that has a different vibe,” she says.

She found one of the hardest things about scaling up was hiring staff. “It is such a leap of faith,” she says. “It’s a big move when you stop outsourcing and start hiring people in an office environment.” In fact, every phase in a business’ growth “forces you to grow up a bit”, she says.

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“It’s a bit like having a child. You get to weaning then potty training and so on. It’s nail biting stuff and you will make some mistakes. You might hire people and realised a few days in that it was a gross error and it takes a few months to correct it. But once you’ve done it you learn and next time you’re more prepared. HR situations are challenging. As a mum I tend to take a nurturing approach, but how many chances do you give people and when do you make it more formal? You can be understanding, but at the end of the day there does come a point where you think that you are not a charity. The risk you are taking as a business owner is hugely profound.”

Another big challenge is financing the business and devising a plan for growth. Scaling up a business when you are undercapitalised is very hard, says Wendy. Costs go up and it can be more difficult to manage them. “Areas like marketing are hard. It’s hard to know if you are investing wisely and getting a return on your investment. People who start up businesses are often good at the vision stuff, but they have not necessarily got a keen eye on the numbers and spreadsheets.”

She says it’s vital to get the right support and mentorship to guide a business to the next level. “It tends to be a bit of a zig zagging road at the best of times,” she says. “You make a lot of it up as you go along, but it’s important to get the kind of expertise you need and you need to ask the right questions and be persistently curious. It also helps to be slightly obsessive and to keep at things rather than let them go.”

*To download Wendy’s free e-book, click here.

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