Hello Helen, tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do, how old are your children and what happens with your kids when you are at work?
I run Messy Me, a company selling stylish, wipe clean accessories for babies and toddlers – predominantly to help with weaning and messy play. I set up the business when my children were three, six and eight. They are now nine, 13 and 15 and are all at school whilst I am working. I work school hours and often in the evenings once I’ve finished ferrying children around to various activities. In the holidays, I juggle working some of the day (often early morning and late at night) and spending time with them.
1. One word to describe how being a WoMo makes you feel?
Lucky – to have the opportunity to run my own business whilst bringing up my children. It’s really not that long since this would have been unheard of for women.
2. What’s the funniest experience you have had juggling kids and work?
I recall organising a playdate for my daughter Florence when she was about four. They were happily playing, so I sneaked off for a few minutes to send a couple of emails. I suddenly realised all had gone very quiet. I rushed upstairs to find the girls playing with my foundation – they were covered in it...They were quickly bundled into the bath before school pick up!
3. What is the one piece of advice you could offer another WoMo?
Enjoy a little bit of ‘me time’. Running your own business can be all consuming. There is always something which needs doing or you want to finish. Making time to switch off is so important to avoid overwhelm.
4. What’s the least amount of sleep you’ve gone to work on and how did you cope?
Florence was a dreadful sleeper when she was little, so in the early days of my business, I was often working after very interrupted nights. I found it so difficult to focus and everything took three times as long - my brain just wouldn’t work properly. Lots of coffee and occasional breaks in the fresh air helped.
5. What have you learned about yourself as a WoMo?
Not to be so hard on myself or take everything to heart. When I started out, I often felt frustrated because my business wasn’t growing as fast I had hoped it would and I took every failure or setback personally. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, celebrate my achievements and focus on building the business in a way which feels sustainable for me and my family.
6. If you had a working mother’s anthem or mantra, what would it be?
Do what feels right for you and your family.
7. What is your guilty pleasure to combat WoMo guilt the best?
Guilty pleasure – I don’t feel guilty about it at all – but if I do have to work longer than anticipated, particularly in school holidays – I’ll take the children to the cinema or out for supper or out for a hot chocolate to make up for not being around as much as expected. This means we all get to spend time together as a family too.
8. Would you rather be dealing with a tantrum or presenting in a board meeting?
Presenting in a board meeting – I’ve dealt with so many tantrums over the years – I’m past that now!
9. If you asked your child / children what your job is, what would they say?
“She runs Messy Me. They sell pretty cushions for high chairs, mats and other things for when babies are messy.”
10. What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you became a WoMo?
I wish I had known how much juggling is involved in running your own business and how busy it can be. But maybe if I had known that I would never have experienced how rewarding it is too.
11. To date, what has been your best WoMo achievement?
My biggest achievement was definitely turning my idea into reality and then into a viable business. Designing a range of products, sourcing fabrics, finding manufacturers took a lot of commitment, time and belief in my vision and my abilities, and I am very proud of what I have achieved.
12. What do you want to teach your kids about working mothers?
I have two daughters and a son. I want them all to understand they have the potential to do whatever they choose to do, if they put them minds to it, as long as they work hard and believe in themselves.
Helen Hibberd, founder of Messy Me, a baby and kids messy play and weaning company.