Small biz parents

A life in publishing

“Various times it has crossed my mind that it’s kind of simpler to have a job, but I have a two year old son. Even though it’s a challenge to have a toddler at home when I’m working, I don’t want to leave at 7am and come back at 9pm.”

Michael Lommel runs his own publishing company, and helps other businesses with their internet marketing.

Running a village deli

Drew Wilkinson’s dream is to run a floating restaurant in the Mediterranean.  He studied boat design in Cornwall, worked in restaurants from Greece to Australia, and he was "hoping to set off on a food odyssey and find an exotic life in wonderful far off places".
So why does he sound so pleased to be running a delicatessen in the landlocked village where he spent his childhood, with three kids, and married to someone he grew up with?

Becoming recognized as an expert

While looking after her two small children, Lillian Bridges knew she wanted to finish writing her book.

“I took a class at UCLA on how to write a non-fiction book."

"The teacher said, make yourself an expert in the eyes of the publisher. I said, I don't feel like an expert.”

“He said, well how long have you done faces? I said, well since I was five. He just burst out laughing and said, okay Lillian, if you're not an expert nobody is - go teach a class. I said, what?”

Making time for family by working for herself

It was when she had her first baby that Mary Madeline Day decided to work for herself.

“It was the US laws of maternity leave. I disagree that six weeks is enough to be home with the baby. When we decided to start a family, I also decided I’m going to be home, so that’s how it all started.”

Back then, Mary Madeline was a graphic artist, and initially she freelanced. “We lived up in Illinois and I actually had a lot of freelance work. It was perfect for me because with the baby I could create my own schedule basically.”

"Life balance is a myth"

Balancing baby and business can be tough to do, and Michelle McCullough doesn't pull any punches when she describes how hard she found it trying to do it all:

I learned this the hard way. Perhaps you can relate. I had baby #2 while I was running 3 businesses from home. When you’re a solo entrepreneur there’s no such thing as “maternity leave”. Sure, I had sent a bunch of tasks to my assistant, and outsourced some projects, but I had to get back into the swing of things really quick.

Balancing baby and business

I tried continuing to run my own business after I had a baby, and it didn't really work out.

That's not to say that it wouldn't for all businesses but mine was at the time a one-woman affair which couldn't really be run by anyone else, probably a little like being freelance.

I wanted to do both: to look after my baby in the early months and to keep the company afloat.

I managed to eek this incompatible way of working for a few months before the baby won and I made the company dormant.

Going freelance as a copywriter and PR consultant

It was becoming a mum that got Josie Fitzhugh started as her own boss: “I was heading up a regional office of a big PR company in the UK and when I went on maternity leave I decided not to go back. I became a freelancer, ticking along.”

But it was a sadder family development in her family that helped to bring her and her business across the world, from the UK to New Zealand.

“My mum died very suddenly about ten years ago and that gave us a jolt. We are not immortal. It got us thinking about what we were going to do.”

Getting innovative with landscape design

Lindsay Rothwell’s background is in arts writing and editing but now her creativity is coming out in a more tangible realm.

Having children, and moving from London to San Francisco’s Bay Area, threw her established working life up in the air.

“I think if only one thing had changed, I don’t know that I would have entirely changed industries from the art world to landscape design."

“My hope at the time was to go fully freelance as an art writer, and had we stayed in London, that is what I would have done."

A family business building cars

Ida Tristram used to be a teacher, but now she makes cars for a living.

Replicas of classic sports cars, to be precise. She can sell you the whole car, or the ingredients you need to build one yourself.

It’s a career change that a makes a little more sense when she tells me that her husband Scott used to do fabrication work on yachts.

“One day a guy who owned a car-making business brought his yacht to Scott, and he was headhunted basically for a job at the company.”

A family firm of architects

In 2004 Brian O’Reilly had been working as an architect for 12 years and was a director in a practice with 12-14 people.  With his wife, also an architect, “we decided, when our first child was born, we’d try to do something to get more control of our working lives.”
“It can become frustrating working for other people.”  He’d had experiences of designing something and “other people taking the credit for it, because it suits the business better.”

Sustainable self-employment in a small village

I spoke to Gordon while I looked out over the urban rooftops of Elephant & Castle, and he gazed out over fresh Scottish fields.  Well, as best he could see them through the rain obviously.
In the early 90s, Gordon was made redundant from his job down south, and “was so irritated and annoyed with having worked for such crap companies that I swore I was never going to work for anybody again.”

Leaving teaching to sell art and antiques

Ten years ago Dawn Birch-James was teaching languages. Listening to her now, and hearing all the drive and enthusiasm that she clearly throws into her collection of businesses, it’s hard to imagine her vigour and energy ever having been contained within the bureaucracy of a school.

“Well I was reaching the big 40 and I thought to myself, do I want to I stay in this profession? Plus the fact that I’d just got pregnant with my second child.”

Setting up a mobile carwashing business

Steven Williams set up his car washing business a year ago.  He washes 5-10 cars each weekend.  I meet him on a chilly October Sunday morning under a railway arch, as he washes a big removals van, and it looks like hard work.
This is the first time he’s worked for himself, and he’s fitting it around his day job at a garage, where he picks up, washes, and drops off customers’ cars that are being serviced.

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