Tell us your name and a bit about your family? When did you become a Mum and to whom?
Hello, my name is Jo and I live in Bristol with my husband and three small children, Emelia, Henry and baby Bonnie. I first became a Mum in late 2011 and most recently just 4 months ago – our home is quite lively just now!
What’s your business called?
My business is Piccolo Gifts – Piccolo means “little” in Italian. Little gifts for little people – making beautiful spaces and delighted little faces.
Can you describe it in one sentence?
Piccolo Gifts focuses on finding children’s gorgeous dual purpose gifts for play and display – carefully chosen toys, stationery and decor that are fun filled, colourful, decorative and great for learning – no more hiding lovely toys and gifts away in the toy box – our gifts make a child’s special space even more perfect than before.
When did you become a Mumpreneur and what inspired you?
I launched Piccolo Gifts in May 2014 while on maternity leave with Henry. It’s hard to pinpoint what inspired me as it was and is so many things – experience managing and growing other people’s businesses, the potential to have a flexible ‘wrap around’ job with a young family, seeing other successful business people who have made their dream a reality…there are so many inspirations I couldn’t begin to name them all.
How did you fund your start up?
I began Piccolo Gifts very frugally – my brother works in website creation and an E-commerce platform was another string to his portfolio bow so thankfully he manages this side of the business.
I used some savings for my initial stock rather than a loan… to avoid being tied to repayments and the pressure of interest and debt so it has been another challenge of the experience to grow as organically as possible while dabbling in paid advertising to see what works best. As I had a young baby and a toddler I really didn’t want too much financial pressure and overheads so that if I needed to slow down or press pause, I could without worrying about repayments.
How do you manage working around your children?
It’s a big (possible THE biggest) challenge of the business – a lot of Mums feel the guilt factor and a lot of business owners know that finding the off switch is tricky when the business is your own.
I often feel conflicted between the balance of my attention on parenting and Piccolo…it’s a juggle. Emelia and Henry have mornings at preschool and Bonnie has naps so I try to capitalise on that time – when they’re here I’m Mum…when they’re at school / asleep I put my business hat on. It’s never that black and white though – there are overlaps and it’s a real struggle sometimes. My business is all about family and children – including mine! It’s easy to become a bit blinkered because there is always so much and so many things to do but I’m not superhuman and my kids know that, I like to keep it real.
Can you describe a typical day, what tasks do you have to get done, how do you manage your time?
I wake (am woken) far too early, we get ready and have breakfast before I browse emails while getting ready for the school run. I get order updates and process any orders that have popped up overnight. I have a 10 am cut off for daily dispatch so I can get going to the post office and send parcels as quickly as possible to happy little people. I love to package and present beautifully and it takes me ages because I’m a perfectionist but the thought of a happy customer getting a gorgeously gift wrapped present is really special for me – I love getting customer feedback and it almost always mentions the packaging! When orders have been dispatched it’s all about admin – reordering, sourcing products, accounts, records. It’s taken me a while to get used to this as it isn’t fun or interesting but it saves a mammoth job at the end and a few minutes a day is so worthwhile.
I’m still new to all of the day to day details of growing a business and the online world changes so fast – I am learning every day, sometimes without realizing but also by reading business Blogs and Elearning.
What challenges have you faced in your business and how have you overcome them?
Challenges are a constant – some are wonderful and others more difficult to navigate.
Social media marketing has been a big learning curve. I’d say I’m a bit of a novice and still gaining confidence on these platforms and it has always felt like I was putting myself “out there” which didn’t come naturally. I was given some great advice which was simply – be yourself, don’t pretend to be bigger, funnier, more experienced…. People like to buy from people… and being myself is what makes my business unique because I choose the gifts that I would love to give and receive and I hope others will too!
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you”. Dr Seuss.
The constant learning, the work / life balance, the ongoing effort to drive website traffic and let the world know that Piccolo Gifts is here, it’s all a challenge and there is always so much more that I could be doing if only there were more hours (and I didn’t have 4 very lovely distractions). A big challenge for me and many others I’m sure is the guilt factor…. Having a business does often feel a little selfish, it’s my outlet, my other identity and my sanctuary too, it’s also a huge pressure sometimes.
What’s the best thing about being Mumpreneur?
One of the best things about being a Mum and in business is the community and support among like minded people in similar situations. I don’t always ‘put myself out there’ so being a mother has given me something in common with a lot of new people who are doing all sorts of wonderful things – I have made some great news friends in recent years. Engineering work around my family life is really helpful and I have designed a business that is child related so it’s helpful to be a mum and have an insight into children’s wants and needs (my three have acquired quite a few toys too!). It’s so special to be working around living our lives and that privilege isn’t lost on me…my children gave me the confidence to take this leap, my maternity leave was an opportunity and each day I get to experience the family as well as my own business so it’s the best of both.
What are your plans for the future?
My business plans are to continue to increase the variety of toys and nursery décor – incorporating lighting, cushions, decorative, colourful and textured garlands, new brands and all sorts of gorgeousness to enrich a child’s special environment.
Personally, to hone business processes and become more efficient so there is less leakage into family time, to keep learning professionally and personally and to make the most of this precious time… Emelia starts her school career in September and Henry will begin the following year – it’s all going so fast.
What advice would you give for someone just starting out in business?
A few bits of advice …. Firstly of course – be yourself! Secondly, get a mentor, they are not always who you might expect but they are invaluable and a great sounding board. Finally, be SMART and I mean NLP SMART – spend time doing your business plans and SMART objectives to the smallest minutiae NLP style where you literally document every detail for your goals, this will help you decide whether your venture is viable, whether it’s worth the risk and most importantly whether it is the right choice for you and your family.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I have learned so much over the last couple of years – more than ever before both professionally and personally, the main thing is to just go for it if the opportunity arises to become your own boss. It’s essential to do some planning, especially if you require funding, but you will never be able to plan it all and if you try to, chances are you will just never get started. When you take the first step, the journey really begins and whether it succeeds or fails you will learn so much along the way it’s never going to be a waste of your time and energy.