Sara Guiel – The Mumpreneurs Networking Club
Our Businesswoman of the Month is one of the co-founders of The Mumpreneurs Networking Club, Sara Guiel. Sara and her business partner Nicky Chisolm, who have five children between them, set up The MNC because they were frustrated at how most traditional networking clubs did not take working mum’s busy schedules into account.
Would you mind giving us a brief explanation of what your business is and when you launched it?
The Mumpreneurs Networking Club is a business membership Club that provides networking opportunities at meetings, in different locations once a month. They take place in term time and after school drop off. We are a business support organisation for Mumpreneurs that are starting up, building or establishing their businesses. We launched officially, after running successful pilots, in 2011.
What made you want to start this particular business?
As family women with 5 children between us we found it very frustrating that access to traditional networking was almost impossible! Traditional business networking takes places usually at the most difficult times for a Mumpreneur who runs her business alongside raising her family. Typically, we found that old school networking meetings were over breakfast (which in my house is PE kit finding hour) or over cocktails (in my house homework supervision/bathtime hour), so we decided to break with the established norms and do something that worked for Mumpreneurs.
Last month, we recorded our 20,000th visit to one of our meetings – so I’d say we’ve plugged a hole!
What do you think it takes to succeed in business?
It’s a number of factors that combine to create a successful entrepreneur and business. A combination of passion, creativity , consistency and support. You’ll need to be prepared for very hard work – entrepreneurship is no picnic, and getting the support to do that is crucial if you are a family woman as the unexpected can crop up at any time, usually when you need it least,to throw you off track!
To succeed you must be prepared to upskill, delegate and be brave! If something isn’t working or producing the results you want then you need to rethink. And of course, talking to people – find mentors, suppliers , customers and your team by talking and networking!
What is the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
Don’t give up! They say the darkest hour comes before the dawn and this has been absolutely true for us! You’ve got to keep on, keeping on, albeit with adjustments, tweaking and refinements.
What do you think it is about you that enabled you to turn an idea into a business?
It was a need to work around our families for both of us, there just wasn’t that opportunity out there so we had to create it! We were prepared to work hard and were driven by our vision of providing entrepreneurial mums with the same opportunities to build their businesses as the traditional world.
If you were starting all over again tomorrow, what are the top 3 rules you would follow?
1.Do your research, know the need and what the solution is and what people will pay for that solution.
2.Know your numbers – always! Your churn rate, your gross profit, number of customers, turnover etc.
3.Put the hours in – be prepared to work hard, albeit flexibly.
What difficulties did you experience setting up your business and what has got you through the tough times?
The perception of the term Mumpreneurs five years ago was very different to what it is now! It used to cause no end of controversy – not always unwelcome controversy, as we do love a good debate, but faced with a world unprepared to accept a new economic and dynamic force the going could get tough! Remembering our motivation for starting up and being very clear about our ‘why’ always saw us through.
Looking back now, would you have done anything differently?
I think we both agree that we would have delegated sooner. We love working with our HQ team now but in the early days we tried to do it all ourselves! It can be hard to let go of some of the tasks but, if you’re just not skilled in the bookkeeping area, pay someone who is! If you hate and procrastinate over your newsletter, find someone who loves the wordy thing!
Starting a business can be all consuming. As a mum, what are your tips for dealing with the struggles of balancing work and family life?
Boundaries! Be clear about when you are working and when you are not. Set an email auto responder with your availability on it. When you are with the kids or caring for a relative turn off your phone or you will find that little Johnny has poured bolognaise over baby Boo and you’ve accidentally dropped your mobile in the spaghetti while talking to possibly your biggest client ever! Consider using a call handling service. With the advent of social media and technology you can set the work routine, so set your boundaries and stick to them!
What have been the ups and downs of creating a business with a friend, and what advice would you give to someone who is going into business with someone else?
The ups are brilliant as you get to share your successes with someone who helped create it! If you’re thinking about partnering with someone in business, be clear about each person’s responsibilities, who does what and when – what are the expectations?
If one person has a new born are they going to work less hours – is this agreeable? What if someone has a family crisis – can they just stop for a while without it causing resentment? And when there is a disaster or work related boob, what’s the procedure for handling this? Can you put it down to experience and laugh? Even if it costs? Make sure you have these very frank discussions and put expectations in a written agreement.
Do you have (or did you have) a mentor and when you need advice, who do you talk to?
We have several people we trust and admire to turn to for accountability and advice.
What are your plans for the future?
2017 is shaping up to be huge! Our network is expanding in 2017. With new group launches planned and a new website, we will be able to provide the support and networking opportunities the nation’s Mumpreneurs need to cement their place as a truly flexible and dynamic economic force.
Do you have any specific tips for anyone wanting to start a similar/new business?
Do your research! Is there a call for the service you want to offer? Decide how will you do things differently to what is already on offer. Be realistic about timescales – if you want to start a family friendly service are you aware of the local term times? Don’t expect people to find you, just because you’re there – get out networking and find them !