Business Mum’s Profile: Nicola Cunningham from Wood and Willow

Today is the start of something new that I’m very passionate about, and hope to continue on a regular basis here on the Love Chic Living blog. I’m so excited to announce the beginning of my Design Divas feature where I showcase one fabulous business mum and allow her to tell us all about her business, her journey and how she manages to juggle family life with her work. It’s not easy. Many of us have probably experienced how hard it is to maintain a balance between work and home and I’m hoping that these lovely ladies will give us some tips to help us all along the way.

(I should point out that the feature title ‘Design Divas’ is in no way intended to illustrate certain behaviours of the profiled business mum! I just thought it sounded good.)

So here we go, I am thrilled to introduce our first Love Chic Living Business Mum.

What’s your name?Nicola Cunningham

How many children and old are they? – I have 3 daughters (18 next month, 15 and 12) and 3 Step children (18 next month, 13 and 11)

What is the name of your business?

What is your business and when did you start it?

Wood and Willow is an online Boutique, selling a wide range of gorgeous home and garden products from pretty handmade cushions and bunting to willow picnic hampers and log baskets. We also have dedicated UK Handmade pages showcasing the best of British hand crafted products.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

I had bought a business idea and name with  a small amount of stock from Ebay, this wasn’t working so after being made redundant from my Sales and Marketing position within a Hotel last March, I decided to start looking seriously at re launching the business. So from June until November last year, I researched suppliers, came up with a new business name to suit the products I wanted to stock , found a fab web designer who listened to my ideas and designs for the site, and re launched as Wood and Willow at the end of October 2011. The website is constantly evolving, since the launch, I have introduced dedicated UK Handmade pages which showcase the gorgeous British products being designed and made within the British Isles. Each page has a biography of the designer and gives my customers a look “behind the product”

Can you share 3 positive aspects about being a business mum?

The most obvious one I suppose is that because I work for myself I can be fairly flexible. If any of my children are ever poorly or need me during business hours I am generally able to drop everything and be there for them.

Secondly, I feel I am teaching my children a work ethic. They see the long hours I work (most days I start at 7.30 and finish around 10.30pm obviously I have school runs, dinner to cook, and other commitments in between) but it is hopefully teaching them that to get anywhere in life you have to work for it.

Thirdly, I am in control, not being controlled by an employer. My family is always my priority but being my own boss enables me to make my own choices on what/how/when I need to juggle everything.

Any downsides?

Sometimes my children think because I am at home not out working in an office etc.. That my job isn’t really important! There are occasions when I have to remind them that Mum isn’t playing at this and I can’t be constantly disturbed. But other than that, I love every minute of what I do and feel extremely lucky that I get to do this.

 How do you keep motivated?

When sales are down (as they have been during January) it is sometimes hard to stay motivated. I have learnt that just because orders aren’t coming in thick and fast it isn’t the end of the world. It actually gives me time to work on everything else that is so important, things like marketing, pr, sourcing new stock, blogging, networking and of course my accounts and tax return!

Would you change anything you’ve done in building and developing your business?

I think with hindsight, I may have taken more time to get everything just so before I launched. But I was so worried about missing the Christmas gift  market that I gave myself a deadline of the first week of November. It was fine but I put added pressure on myself and my web designer. Also I would have benefited from going on a business course before launching, as now I don’t have time to justify it!

What tips would you give anyone wanting to start their own design/craft/interiors business?

Research your market, be sure you research what is current and in demand. You may be great at making something but will it sell? Combine your passion with your business head. If you are a crafter but not so knowledgeable on a business front go on a course, lots of local colleges run evening classes to help. You have to sell yourself and mean what you are saying. Find out about all social media, it really is an extremely valuable marketing tool and it’s FREE! Sites such as Linked In, Twitter and Facebook take your business to a far bigger audience than you could hope to reach n your own.

Be prepared for the long hours, I am sure there will come a time when I can cut my hours down, but it won’t be for a while yet. You need a supportive family and partner because it becomes all consuming.

Don’t give up; so many small businesses give up within the first year because success hasn’t been immediate. It won’t be, it’s a long hard slog but if you know that from the start it will help you to keep motivated.

Thanks for sharing this with us Nicola, we wish you lots of success with your business.

You can follow Wood and Willow on Facebook, or the Wood and Willow blog.

Nicola is also a winner of the coveted Theo Paphitis #SBS Twitter competition, and has a Website Silver Award from MumpreneurUK.



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