Category Archives: Inspirational Women

Direct Sales

Happy New Year!!  New Year is traditionally a time when we think about making a new start.  Many Mums start doing some Direct Sales as a way of earning a bit of extra money in a sociable role that they really love.  Direct Sales means getting a group of people together and showing and selling them your products.  It’s a way for a group of friends to have a nice evening in and do a bit of shopping from the comfort of their own home, but with the opportunity to try before they buy.  It’s perfect for Mums as it’s so flexible, you set your own hours and targets.  It’s also great for Mums as becoming a Mum has likely introduced them to a whole new social circle who are likely to be in their target market.

There are so many companies now offering these positions (Pampered Chef, Neal’s Yard Organics, Craft Superstore, Avon, Kleeneze, Usborne Books, Body Shop to name a few), you are bound to find one that sells products that you are passionate about and can enjoy selling.  You can choose to sell at evening parties at a host’s home, daytime groups (playgroups etc), a party in your own home, at events like school fetes, or door-to-door.  With most of these companies you now also get a personal website so you can do some online sales as well, and customers can buy your products again and again without coming to more parties.

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Anita started working as an Usborne organiser in Exeter in 2012. She is a mum of two and already worked part time, but needed to find a way to boost her income. Direct Sales was a good option for her, as it had such flexible hours to fit around her part time work and children. You can even take your kids along with you when you are hosting book parties so this saves on childcare.

“I love their children’s books and also meeting other people so the work is enjoyable. It doesn’t always feel like work because parties can take the form of coffee mornings, playdates or even an evening with wine and nibbles! I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for people trying to get back into employment, especially parents with young children.”

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Caroline is Mum to Jack, 4, and works part time in Customer Services. She became a Pampered Chef consultant in October 2011. Pampered Chef sell high quality kitchenware, and during their parties consultants use the products to cook some goodies for all the guests!

“I was recruited at a Pampered Chef party hosted by a friend. It’s not something I would ever have dreamed of doing but I love it. I love the flexibility, meeting new people, my new cooking skills and newly acquired confidence.”

As well as the social aspect of hosting parties, most of these companies bring their consultants together on a monthly basis, so there are additional networking opportunities. Caroline has met many other Mums at these meetings who have also used Direct Sales as a stepping stone into work after having children:

“Having children seems to lower women’s confidence and it can take a while to build this back up. I can honestly say that the women I meet now are so confident and love what they do.”

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Nicole has two young daughters and works as a Supply Teacher.  She attended a Neal’s Yard Organics Party at a friend’s house and was so impressed with the products that she decided to become a consultant herself.

“I’d thought about different ways of supplementing my income and maybe trying out running my own business, and after investigating yoga for children franchises I decided that the cost of these was completely out of my league and the risk was too great. A friend mentioned that Neal’s Yard did something and it wasn’t expensive so I had a look. There was a special offer on for that month and signing up was half price … only £50, so a bit of a no-brainer! I knew that the company upheld what I believed in and were ethically sound. So I had nothing to lose! And I hadn’t even been to a party! It has been a great way of adding to my income … you get out what you put in. And I have a house full of products for myself and family! I consider myself to be the local ‘tester’ so when people ask me about certain products I can speak with confidence! The training is great; loads of opportunities for face to face and phone training, as well as two conferences per year and endless incentives. It can be hard work but I know that I can boost my income at certain times of year if I need to save for something.”

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Direct Sales could give you the skills and experience you need to improve your employment potential too.

Naomi trained as a Beauty Therapist at college.  She became pregnant when she was 18 so did not have the chance to gain much work experience.  After having her son, she started doing Direct Sales for The Body Shop At Home.  Through this experience she gained lots of new skills and confidence, and when a job opportunity came up with Benefit – one of her favourite cosmetics brands, she leapt at the chance.

“I love my job.  I’d never have had the confidence or experience needed to do it if I hadn’t worked for The Body Shop At Home first.”

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Have you considered Direct Sales? Have you been to any parties like those described above? If you’d like to discuss some of the options for getting started, give us a call on 0800 043 2440.

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Filed under childcare, food, hair and beauty, Inspirational Women, lone parent, retail, self employment, work-life balance

Magazine News!

This year, we have been awarded funding from Awards for All to create three magazines for Mums, all about improving your confidence and motivation, inspiring you to make choices that will improve your work-life balance.  We are very excited to have got the first copy printed – it looks great!  It’s packed with inspirational stories from Mums who have started their own business or dealt with the worry of returning to work or training, as well as loads of information that will help you to progress.  We’ll be posting some of those stories on this blog, so don’t forget to keep checking back!

If you’d like a FREE copy of the magazine, please give us a call on 0800 043 2440.  If you have a story you’d like to share, please email cmathers@opsw.co.uk or get in touch through our Facebook group.

If you’ve got your hands on a magazine already, please let us know what you thought!  Comment below, or on Facebook – we’d love your feedback!

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Filed under creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, self employment, work-life balance, writing

Fancy doing some volunteering?

Voluntary work is a great way to learn new skills, make friends, and build your confidence, as well as adding to your CV and giving you a recent reference.  If you’re considering a career change, it can be a perfect way to try out a new role and show potential employers how dedicated you are to the new career.

There are lots of fantastic opportunities to get involved with volunteering.  The Do-it website is a great place to start.  If you’re already involved with a local organisation that you’d like to support, then you could ask them directly about volunteering opportunities.  Pre-schools, playgroups, schools, and Children’s Centres often need all kinds of volunteers, from receptionists, to gardeners, as well as roles that are more involved, such as playwork or breastfeeding peer support.  Most charitable organisations will be looking for people to help out with fundraising – from selling raffle tickets, to events organisation.

Here are some organisations that we have identified that offer voluntary positions that we think will be of interest to Mums in particular:

Home Start is a national charity, supporting families that are finding it difficult to cope.

Balloons is an Exeter based charity, supporting children who are dealing with bereavement

Real Nappy Advisors help new Mums get to grips with reusable nappies.  In many areas this involves providing a trial kit for a month and supporting the parents in using the nappies and deciding on the best options for them.  This goes well alongside a real nappy retail business, as the family is then offered a discount voucher if they buy from you (refunded to you by the local council).  Read blog posts from local nappy brand, Eccobots, and retailer, The Natural Nursery.

Breastfeeding Peer Supporters help new Mums deal with the many issues they can face with breastfeeding.  They can volunteer within Children’s Centre groups, and in hospital maternity wards in some areas.  Training is usually undertaken through the local Children’s Centre, and locally has been done through Healthy Babies UK.

Have you done any voluntary work?  What sort of voluntary work would you consider doing?

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Filed under charity, childcare, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, work-life balance

Angel Face

A few years ago, in a previous job, I was looking for voluntary work for a customer and stumbled across some opportunities to volunteer in a Bridal shop.  It wasn’t right for that customer, but it looked like such an amazing opportunity, I stored it away in my memory for the future.  Fast forward a couple of years, and my boyfriend surprised me with a proposal!  I immediately remembered the shop that I’d seen all those years ago, and got on Google to see if they were still there.  I was in luck.  I got in touch with Angel Face and a few days later (and more than a year before the wedding itself) I found myself in there trying on what would become my wedding dress.  (In my haste, I tried that dress on, not in the traditional company of my Mum and bridesmaids, but of my 3 month old son.)

Angel Face is much more than a bridal boutique.  They are a social enterprise.  They provide fantastic, friendly and personal service that makes you feel like the first bride they have ever worked with, and then they invest their profits in young people.  They create training, sponsorship and employment opportunities – helping young people discover their talents – in design, seamstressing, modelling, photography or event planning.  They also showcase young and local designers in their shop.

If you are lucky enough to be looking for a wedding dress, I highly recommend visiting Angel Face’s lovely shop on the river in Buckfastleigh, Devon.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust

Supporting families since 1853.  The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) was founded over 150 years ago, to support disadvantaged children, whose parents or carers work in the UK fashion and textile industry.  We provide grants to support all aspects of a child’s well-being including sickness, disability, bereavement, and issues arising from financial hardship.   Here in Devon, thousands of parents are, or have been, employed in retailing in clothing or shoe shops, working in manufacturing or working in our historic Mills. When family crisis strikes or financial hardship takes hold, children are often on the frontline of suffering.  This amazing charity provides essential grants to ensure every affected child can still thrive and achieve their dreams.  Learn more about FTCT here.

The BIG Little Dream Company

This is the non-profit arm of Angel Face devoted to helping children and young people gain self confidence, skills and belief in their talent.   We provide a broad range of skills based programmes to help discover and nurture the best talent in the South West, particularly amongst children, young people and women who have faced significant barriers in their lives.   We believe passionately in the heritage of local communities and reviving skills in industries that have declined here in the UK.   We want to inspire a new generation of designers, craftsmen and women, sales and marketing leaders and young entrepreneurs who embrace the concept of social enterprise.   We link emerging young leaders with experienced industry contacts to provide mentoring and support as they set about turning their dreams into a big reality.  We aim to contribute to the re-generation of vibrant, prosperous local communities here in the South West.  For more information:  01364 644988

 

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Filed under charity, creative, hair and beauty, Inspirational Women, retail, retraining

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Advice.  When you become pregnant, you suddenly find that everyone wants to share their advice with you.  It could be your close friends and family, but more often than not it’s complete strangers giving you unwanted advice, usually whilst fondling your bump or baby without asking!  Most of this advice is well-meaning, from people who have been there and know how hard it is – they just want to try and make it easier for you, and feel involved with your little bundle of joy.  It’s down to you to decide which bits to take on board and which to ignore.

We asked Mums on Facebook to share the best piece of advice that they’ve been given.  Here are some of their responses:

Esther: Try and avoid directly comparing babies too much, particularly in terms of milestones.

Anne: Trust your instincts and spend time getting to know your baby, and don’t worry so much about what the books say! 

Victoria: Take all the help that is offered, and don’t think people will think you are a failure if you ask for help.  They won’t.  They’ll just think you are sensible for recognising when you need a hand, like we all do.

Arabella: Buy a baby sling!

Louise: When things get rough, say to yourself…….it’s just a phase.

Charlotte: Get a good group of mum friends around you who are supportive and good fun.  They’re the ones who will get you through the bad times and enjoy the good times with you!

Charlotte: At work when I was pregnant I had an elderly man tell me he was going to give me the only two bits of advice I would ever need.  The first was – don’t encourage them to talk as once they do they never stop.  And the second was – don’t worry they eventually grow up and move out.  I’m not sure either would be in the attachment parenting handbook but it made me laugh at the time, and still does!

Justine: Books are just other people’s opinions written down. It made me realise that they are not the law to follow, but only what others THINK and I could take and leave advice as I so chose!

Sarah: If it’s not a problem for you, it’s not a problem.

Louise: Slow things down and enjoy it.  I finished work and was expecting a good couple of weeks of putting my feet up, reading, and preparing for the birth.  My little one had other ideas and turned up 12 hours later.  As a result I stayed in work mode for weeks, rushing around trying to be superwoman.  I eventually got the confidence to just chill out and enjoy the here and now and to stop willing him to be at the next stage.  It was my mother-in-law who said enjoy every moment as they don’t stay as babies for long.  And having watched Child of our Time over the past couple of nights, I realise just how quickly they can grow up, especially when I look at my little boy who resembles a toddler now much more than a baby.

What’s the best piece of advice YOU have been given?  Did you realise it at the time?

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Filed under children, Inspirational Women, planning, sleep, work-life balance

Push2Fitness

A totally new concept in fitness class, Push2fitness has arrived in West Devon & Cornwall.

Fully qualified local fitness instructor and personal trainer Kerry Jo Gardiner from Funky Fit is introducing her new classes to the beautiful surroundings of Roadford lake and St Giles on the Heath.

For any mums that want to join a fitness class but don’t want to leave baby at home this is definitely the one for you. The sessions will include cardiovascular exercises including walking during an outdoor workout and everyone is encouraged to work at their own pace.

Held weekly at Roadford lake and St Giles on the Heath, the classes are aimed primarily at anyone with a baby from a minimum of 6 weeks after a normal birth and from 10-12 weeks after a C section, although parents of older babies and toddlers who are still happy to sit in their pushchairs are also welcome. Partners and grandparents are welcome too free of charge to join in the fun.

Classes will be based on an initial 6 week course and registration by email is necessary.

Kerry Jo commented – the classes have been initially very well received by lots of new mums in the area wanting to get fit and also make new friends in the process. We are particularly pleased to have been supported in our new venture by the lottery funded Active Villages project & Torridge District Council who are keen to encourage people becoming active in the local villages & rural communities and so have given us a grant to assist with advertising etc in the early stages. Holsworthy Childrens centre have also been out to meet with mums coming to Push2Fitness and have shown their keen support to this unique post natal fitness group.

For more information about Push2fitness or any of Kerry’s other classes see her website www.funkyfit.webs.com or call 01566780401

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Filed under fitness, Inspirational Women, self employment

When to take a break

I like keeping busy, and definitely find that the more I do, the more I want to do.  As regular readers will know, I have two young (and very energetic) boys, a part time job, my own business, and have been planning my wedding over the last few months.  Last year I trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and was really enjoying volunteering at local Sure Start groups, but things were so hectic over the last few months that I decided to take a break from Peer Supporting to give myself some more time.  (Though I have met so many breastfeeding Mums through the Flexi-Mum project I’ve probably ended up doing just as much peer supporting!)

I am someone who wants to grab every opportunity I can, and I find it very difficult to say no, so making the choice to take a break was difficult for me, but it was so worth it.  I’d much rather do what I do well, than spread myself too thin and not manage anything as well as I’d like to.  Now that the wedding is over, and I’ve enjoyed a few quieter weeks, I’m looking forward to getting back into some more peer supporting, and spending some more time on my own business.

It can be difficult to make the decision to take a break, and sometimes it’s not possible.  But I think it’s really important to assess everything you are doing and cut back on things when and if you need to.  I’m lucky to have a very hands-on husband and we are surrounded by family members who can help us out with childcare when we need it – not everyone has so much help (hats off to anyone who manages to be a Mum living away from their own Mum!) and we do really appreciate it.  If you don’t have family close by, then try making arrangements with friends for childcare – even if it’s just so you can take a bath or get your hair cut, or catch up on housework.  It’s often easier to look after an extra child as they entertain each other.  Try setting up something like my “Team Tea” idea on a regular basis too.

It’s important to assess your life balance every now and then to see if you need to cut back on anything, or if you need to make more time to do something (it could be time with the kids, housework, reading, relaxing, seeing your friends that don’t have kids, having a date night with your partner) and then really make an effort to rearrange things so that you can fit everything in as best you can.  For me, one of the big things is seeing friends.  During maternity leave it was lovely catching up with friends most days, but now that we’re all back at work it can be ages between seeing friends and I have to remind myself that that is just the way it is when we all work!

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Filed under childcare, employment, food, Inspirational Women, planning, self employment, sleep, work-life balance