We caught up with Steph Douglas, Founder of the gifting website, Don’t Buy Her Flowers, to hear about her experience of starting her own business as a new mum. From the bizarre ‘new mum’ gift she received that helped to spark the idea for her business, to her top tips for other mums thinking of doing the same, here’s what the gifting guru had to say…WATCH ON IGTV HERE
I have three kids and I had my first son in 2010 and I remember being sent loads of bunches of flowers. This was my first experience of having a baby and I just felt so overwhelmed, you feel overwhelmed with every baby, but definitely with that first one.
I was leaky and weepy and I just remember that these bunches of flowers just kept arriving. Now I know friends and colleagues meant well by these, but it just struck me as a really bizarre gift, especially as flowers need looked after. You have enough to contend with in caring for your new baby, without having to worry about looking after all these flowers too.
That’s where the idea came from, I thought there has to be something that is a little more thoughtful and personal that offers some TLC, like creams, pillow sprays or even gin and tonics if you’re at that stage! So, I started sending my friends jiffy bags filled with little personal gifts and a note when they had their babies – things like ‘you’ve got this!’ or ‘it will get better!’, the things you need to hear. I did go back to work after my first baby and then I had my second, so it wasn’t until 2014 when I decided to start the business.
We started off small and focused only on gifts for new mums, but quickly we got a lot of feedback saying I want to send this as a birthday gift or a get well soon gift, so we slowly started to cover other occasions too. Today there’s so many reasons people are wanting to send gifts, especially with Covid-19, so we’re constantly expanding the range, but it has taken some time to get to this stage, it didn’t just happen straight away.
I actually started out by creating a blog. I had just gone back to work after having a baby and I felt a bit lost and not quite myself. I found going back to work a really positive experience as it was something familiar, I knew where to get lunch, I knew where the toilets were and that was all quite comforting for me. Back then starting a business felt like a really massive thing, so I decided to start off with the blog and I started writing about motherhood and relationships – warts and all, including the rage and the hormones I was experiencing! There’s a lot of honest discussion about this now, but back then it was all about how being a mum is wonderful and the negatives never really got talked about.
The blog was a really starting point for me with the business as it gave me confidence, I thought if I can do this and create a website from scratch then I can get going with my business idea. I launched the blog in the February, quit my job in May and started the business in November, so it really was the thing that got me going. I’d built up a great following with lots of supportive mums, so this was a great starting point for the business. Looking back I feel like it was all about taking small steps, as I soon realised there was so much to consider, from the website, the products and the packaging, to photography and couriers. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you try to do everything in one go, so for me it was all about steppingstones and concentrating on one thing at a time. I did have two kids to look after at the same time, after all!
I did write things down in the beginning but I didn’t have any experience of writing a business plan, so I was really learning as I went. There were areas I felt more confident in such as marketing because of the blog and my previous career, but when it came to the finance side of things and budgeting, I didn’t know where to start. I read a book by the founders of Not on the High Street about how to build a business from your kitchen table and that was super helpful. It literally included a step by step guide on how to put your business plan together, so I found myself following that. I would definitely recommend seeking out books like this as they can be so helpful.
We self-funded the business and I ran it myself from home. It was all done out of my spare room, with the kids chucked in bunk beds and all spare space used to store stock. To get it off the ground we put in £13,000 and that covered everything, from the website to the stock. We then put everything that we made back into the business. My overheads were low because I didn’t have a team, it was just me for the first nine months and then after that I had friends coming into my house to help pack. It’s now been six years since we first started and we’ve doubled the business every year and this year has actually been off the charts crazy, which is really great.
Mother’s Day is one of our biggest days of the year and this year it was huge for us, as not only was it just as lockdown was coming into play, meaning many people weren’t going to get to see their mums in person, but our products were also featured on Lorraine, which sent the website into meltdown. While this was great, we were worried about how we were going to fulfil orders, especially as many suppliers started to close down and stock levels were low, but we managed to do it in the end. We’ve been very lucky in the fact that orders have continued to increase every month since then, as many people look for personalised gifts to send to family and friends to show they are thinking of them from afar. Obviously, it’s meant some huge changes for us in terms of keeping our staff safe and ensuring we are abiding by the Covid-19 regulations, but we’ve followed the guidance and so far we’ve been very lucky in the fact that the business has not been negatively affected.
It makes me nervous that so many women want to start their own business, but they don’t take anything out in terms of the other things on their plate. If we’re honest, they still do the majority at home, they still do most of the emotional labour, they might still be the one that makes sure that family and friends get a birthday card, and it’s just too much. You can’t just chuck ‘oh, and I’ll start a business!’ in there and expect it all to be okay, something’s got to give. Starting a business is all consuming and you need to be able to focus on it. This will mean leaning on your partner and having some really open and honest conversations if they’re not pulling their weight. I remember sitting on the sofa crying at 11pm as I’d just finished working after putting the kids to bed and I realised I hadn’t done the food shop and my husband said ‘Well, I’ll do it’. It was then that I realised I couldn’t do everything, and I had to let go of the reigns. I think that’s why a lot less women do go on to start their own business or they give up at an early stage.
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