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Kate Saunders from Newbury in West Berkshire has seen her business, Blackberry Cottage, go from strength to strength since it was formed in 2011. Delivering “cakes with secret ingredients”, the business offers children and adults the chance to enjoy sweet treats that also contribute to their 5-a-day.

Although she has been in business with Blackberry Cottage for less than two years, Kate is no stranger to running her own enterprises, having left employment to retrain as a sports massage practitioner and set up her own Sports Injury Clinic in 2000. Asked about her eventful career background, Kate says,

“The day before I got married I took redundancy, left full-time paid work and went part-time as a PA whilst I was retraining. I always knew I wanted to be self-employed so I could work around my children. I didn’t see myself as a stay at home mum, but I wanted the flexibility to be around for them when they needed me. I’ve been a sports masseur for 12 years now and in that time I’ve worked with Olympic and Paralympic athletes.”

It was through conversations with her clients that Kate had the idea for Blackberry Cottage. Regularly hearing from parents who complained about their children’s reluctance to eat vegetables, Kate had the answer that many of these parents were looking for:

“One of my friends was getting really upset, meal-times were getting fraught, and she asked me what she should do. I made some spinach brownies for her, even though people thought it was a crazy idea and no child would eat them. But I knew the recipes were good and when the kids not only wolfed them down but asked for more, the proof was literally in the pudding. I set up Blackberry Cottage from there. I didn’t actively set out to build another business – it was hard enough doing it with the first one – but after being coerced into making more and more brownies I decided I should give it a go.”

With two businesses running side-by-side, Kate has clearly got plenty of knowledge and experience to share with a new business owner. Asked why she wanted to become a mentor, Kate says,

“There are so many people who have great ideas, and not sure where to start. If they have a mentor who can listen to them, understand their business and ask the right questions it might give them the confidence to start up. To me that is such a great achievement.”

As a Mumpreneur, and someone familiar with juggling work commitments with family, Kate thinks that parent entrepreneurs face a particularly tough challenge when establishing a business – something she can identify with herself:

“There is always so much going on in your mind when starting up – new ideas, lots of questions and a real buzz – and that’s hard when you have to take phone calls whilst bouncing a child on your lap. I think the support of a mentor is really helpful, even if it’s just having empathy with a business owner and letting them know that they aren’t alone. I remember feeling like things were getting out of control at times, but I was fortunate to have my husband there to talk through our next steps and set goals that were achievable. ”

Kate believes that being able to go for a coffee with her husband and discuss business matters is still vital to her today, despite all her experience. If he hadn't been there to lend an ear she is sure that she would have needed another mentor to act as a sounding board.

While she’s keen to stress how challenging those early days as a start-up can be for people wanting to maintain a work–life balance, Kate has proved herself that, with the right support network, it is possible to have your cake and eat it.

Posted on by getadmin | Posted in Case Studies, Get Mentoring Monthly