Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Hints for Mumpreneurs*

What are the career options for a talented Mum who wants to work flexibly? There are part time jobs, but they are hard to come by unless you are negotiating down from a full time role. Some recruitment companies do specialise in flexible working such as Capability Jane but there is stiff competition for each vacancy.

Next there are working from home options. Antonia Chitty wrote an interesting blog about current scams recently. There are many home business targeted at Mums, if you want to sell books, toys or kitchen paraphernalia. I was initially very cynical about these schemes, seeing the balance of advantage so heavily tilted in favour of the franchises / head offices. I have softened my view here - as these some of these schemes work for you and offer you substantial support and mentoring . Our site even features Barefoot Books (fabulous books with original artwork, published by a company set up my two Mums) which be such a WAHM* business.

So if you have an idea where do you go? What are some of the options for becoming a Mumpreneur*.

1. Getting a New Concept into Production.
Considering getting help and guidance via the B P A - Baby Products Association. They have the most amazing links and if you are starting a whole new concept this could be the route for you. This was the route favoured by Tilly Beasley of Wean Machine .

2. IP*: Copyright / Trademarking / Patenting
Cally Robson is the woman to know! You can join her organisation to benefit from her mentoring or just browse some of her website She's Ingenious ! It is dedicated to female inventors. The British Library Business and IP Centre is a fantastic source of information and training - which is not much use if you are based in Scotland!

3. Cottage Industry
In the days of the Internet there is no reason why a small business should not punch way above its weight. First point of call would be to get the Mumpreneur Guide. It is a great hands on guide, holding your hand as you take the first steps. There are some websites to network and advise, here are some to start you off.

4. Manufacture
Do you make it yourself, do you get UK home workers or do you source from abroad? If you do source from abroad do you go through an agent?
Your product will probably decide this for you. Some products just can't be made at home and need specialist tooling - if that is the case call in the experts immediately!

With my own invention, Rockin Hood , I initially made up samples and slowly scaled up production finding a great unit in London to make them up. UK manufacture can be an expensive proposition, and if I were to wholesale the Rockin Hoods I would need to go for off-shore sourcing to get competitive prices.

The first thing that you will need will be a decent sample, often called a counter sample in the trade. Good samples are absolutely key to getting yourself set up well, if you have not clearly defined your product via the IP* route.

To find manufacturers and someone to make a sample Business Link have a Skills Matching tool on their website, your local University might have some good contacts if you contact the pertinent department and don't forget your local council - mine has given me some great contacts (thanks Wokingham!).

If you are not sourcing a manufacturer locally you must have a decent intermediary. If there is a misinterpretation or a mistake that can be made it has been made already and will possibly be made again. WARNING if you go it alone it is a minefield. Many Mumpreneurs have found great factories in Turkey or the Far East via the Mumpreneur networks (see links above).

Two samples are better than one. Keep one pristine and trash the other! Wash it, iron it, tumble dry it, let our kids loose on it - can they get their fingers stuck it? Can they puke on it then it comes out of the wash looking as good as new? My first samples are STILL going strong and I am still learning from them! Three years on I am hearing that my first external sample is still being worn by my initial tester AND her baby sister. Without a proper sample to test you will never get feedback or be able to make it better.

One obvious hint from the site: if you would not buy it and love it then something is wrong. It needs to be the right product, at the right price in great quality - with that as a starting point you have great foundations for your business! All you need know are nerves of steel and a lot of luck; as Sam Goldwyn said, 'The harder you work, the luckier you get!'

* Terminology.

Mumpreneur - It is a bit of a Marmite of a word, you either love it or hate it.
Acronyms: WAHM - work at home Mum, SAHM - stay at home Mum.
IP Intellectual Property - the world of patents and trade marks.
Enter a whole new world of terminology!


Antonia said...

thanks for the link. Love 'a bit of a marmite of a word'

Helen @Business Plus Baby said...

Brilliant post, very useful for any mum thinking of developing a product. Great blog too!

Mother of Innovation said...

In response to an email comment about registering a name:
You can register a company - I often check at Companies house and a name is available as it is a simple free search. I would not recommend registering a company that you are planning to have dormant as it is admin heavy and no real benefits.

More importantly are to register the domaine name (www.youridea.com and you may want to secure .co.uk and .org as well). You can take your pick who to do this with, but if you Google 'domaine names' you will find a range of companies willing to do this service for a fee. I can't even remember who we used.

Also you will need to register the name as a trade mark - the costs involved in this will vary according to what you register i.e. for what territories, for what industry sector.

At some stage you can start to get heavily involved and start protecting all manner of things to do with your branding and the look of it to stop people emulating your ideas with a similar sounding / looking brand but that is way down the line and you will need to chat to an IP specialist about that.

Louise said...

Great post(just come across it), wish I'd seen it a lot earlier! Good idea about getting two samples and trashing one of them!