Kerri Lister from Addlestone in Surrey warns that, from the outside, a parent running a flexible online company can seem like they are just “playing” at business. But she says that the reality involves a lot of hard graft and a commitment to working anti-social hours: sending emails at midnight, updating websites during mealtimes and tweeting at the school gates before the kids come out.
With two successful businesses on the go in BuyStudentArt.co.uk and Mama To Me, and two young children to look after, Kerri says that her chosen career provides a unique set of circumstances that only other parents in the same position can really understand. Of starting up on her own for the first time in 2011, she says,
“I had always wanted to be my own boss and I used redundancy from my previous project management role as an opportunity to start BuyStudentArt. My son was three at the time so having an online business allowed me to work around him and his needs. I’ve now also got a three month old girl, so work is done during every available nap while my son is at school – or in the evening when they are tucked up in bed.”
When Kerri came across the Get Mentoring scheme, she saw it as an opportunity to give something back to the business world and help others to build their own successful enterprises. Having experienced the benefit of mentoring first hand, Kerri believes that the Get Mentoring scheme can be of great value to start-ups and growing businesses across the UK:
“I think it’s an amazing initiative. If people have the experience and the time to give, then I’d even say that this should be mandatory. I was fortunate enough to be mentored by a businesswoman who ran her own marketing agency. Learning from her – and taking comfort from the fact that she had managed to get to where she was while also raising three children – helped me to develop and pursue my own ambitions. People make so many mistakes during the early stages, myself included, but having someone else to help think things through and lend their experience makes it much more efficient.”
There is camaraderie between entrepreneurs, particularly parent entrepreneurs, according to Kerri, which makes the building of a company easier. And she sees Get Mentoring as a great way to tap into the experience and support of successful businessmen and women through a formalised network. Kerri explains that her current business partnership developed through just such a relationship via Twitter:
“I met my business partner on Mama To Me through tweeting. We were soon speaking weekly as a kind of dual mentoring situation, sharing ideas and offering different perspectives to each other. Things just developed from there.”
With a project management background, Kerri takes a very analytical approach to new businesses and she believes that one of her key strengths is in being able to break each day or month’s tasks down into manageable chunks, as well as company details such as budget and timelines. She says her own business success is built on the ability to prioritise, manage time and – just as importantly – the support of an understanding partner.
Now that she’s completed the online training, Kerri is looking forward to working with her first business. She says,
“ It can be very lonely being in business on your own, especially if you are running it around children. I would love to think that I could help mentees get through those tough early stages and believe in themselves. That’s what I hope to achieve as a volunteer enterprise mentor.”