A couple of weeks ago we had one heck of a 7 days at Muklet towers. It started with an email from Vogue asking if I'd like to put an advertorial in their October issue, which would feature a handpicked selection of clothing, toys, accessories and furniture for children and babies. With only a day to decide whether to go for it, I called in a couple of favours and turned the little amateur photography I had into something workable. That issue has now just landed in your local newsagent if you want to check it out!
I also finally got round to posting on some local Facebook mummies groups. Now that I've got some products to sell (and more on the way), I'm shifting my focus to marketing and next month I'm getting the range professionally shot.
It’s all feeling very ‘chicken and egg’ as I grow the brand. I need sales to get the funds to move to the next step, but to grow the sales I need good marketing, photography, PR and so on. I've also been contacted by some kids’ magazines and a huge online store but have held off promoting myself through these routes as I was worried that my photos and press releases weren’t up to scratch. What I’ve now realized is that anyone who knows anything about small businesses can see past that. The people who have reached out to me have seen something unique and interesting in what I’m doing. So who cares if my first advert in Vogue is an iPhone shot of my youngest in our back garden! It's a start! That's my egg!
Now, the can of worms that is social media. Boy this is a biggie. As a new business there are all manner of marketing agencies trying to sell you their services, improve your SEO, manage your social media etc etc. To be honest I don't understand half the things they're offering! For now it's just me, myself and I getting this thing going. So I am trying to learn from how more experienced mumpreneurs are doing it, skim-reading the endless mailshots I get from online marketing services and trying to understand what type of posts at what time and on which form of social media get the most attention, interaction and most importantly sales.
One thing I've heard is that it's important to use each form of social media properly. I’ve noticed I have slightly different types of audiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and email subscribers. So I need to learn how to talk to each group. An article I read recently on 'What Katie Said' offers some great advice.
One tactic I have is to make use of the wonderful community I am part of. I live in Wandsworth, London, otherwise known as ‘Nappy Valley’ due to the huge number of young families living here (well, the children are young, obviously, but most of the parents I know were late starters and are hovering around the 40 mark). Not only have I been able to start my business off with a few fairs, but I can also tap into the local Facebook groups.
For each postcode there’s at least one Facebook group and some have separate groups just for buying and selling. On the whole these groups are hugely supportive and through them I’ve managed to find the best taxi firm to use whilst in labour, source a builder for my office pod, and even borrow a gazebo from a local mum for my fairs. But you do have to be careful. Some groups have strict rules about what you can post, how you post it, and when you can post and I completely understand why. It’s easy to see why they need to protect themselves from abuse by canny marketeers. But on the whole these mommas have your back, got a kid-tastrify or kid-conundrum or just need a decent painter to spruce up the crayon marks down the hallway, they are armed and ready with support and advice!
I’ve made what I'm sure won't be the last of some rookie errors, like including the wrong FB link (I'm www.facebook.com/mukletkids - miss off the ‘kids’ bit at the end and you’ll find yourself on the Facebook page of some bloke in California). My low the other week was getting my knuckles rapped by one FB group administrator for not offering the group exclusive access to a discount despite my best efforts to follow their rules.
Now, I have to confess it's a bit scary putting yourself out there on social media. Yes, I'm creating a kids’ brand, but I’m not anonymous, hiding behind it. I'm telling you guys all about it along the way and my personality is pretty much laid bare in the narrative on social media. And I want to do this. It's what I admire about blogs/ brands like Hurrah for Gin and selfish mother. They have very successfully philosophized, ranted and charted the things they love and loathe in a humorous monologue that you want to keep coming back to. At the other end of the spectrum are other momma bloggers that I follow and admire like Anine Bing. This is a highly polished, stylized lifestyle narrative, quite typical of a lot of the West Coast USA bloggers. I can only dream of looking and living that fabulously! I recently asked my hairdresser to give me a 'Bing choppy bob' but for now I like keeping it real and I hope that's what my readers enjoy, the warts ‘n’ all style of my tale.
So, how do I deal with the lows? Well, I try to surround myself with positive friends and other smart mumpreneurs. They’re a great sounding board, whether it's in the park while the kids throw themselves off the monkey bars, virtually over email or FB, or better still down the pub! So, as in the workplace (the real one that actually pays me money sometimes) I give myself chance to think things through and then work out how to respond. My heart kept telling me that the annoyed FB administrator’s tone wasn’t in-keeping with supporting fellow mommies busting a gut to start a small business, but I realized that if I want to play, I had to abide by their rules.
In the end I took a deep breath, went back to my troublesome message, and apologized for not posting appropriately. I explained that I’m juggling launching a business with entertaining two very active, chaotic-when-mummy-is-attempting-to-do-anything boys, and asked for advice on how to do it in the future. From the response I got, I think I’ve avoided being sent to the headmasters’ office as long as I do better next time!
So, until I can afford the business consultant, the social media team and the quarterly trips to an Ashram to ride out the lows, I shall simply grab my mini bottle of Prosecco in one hand, turn the radio up loud with the other, and as my sister-in-law said ‘follow Taylor Swift's advice and just shake it off!’