Tell us a bit about yourself and your career background?
My name is Lesley Fox, and I am 30 years old. I own Fox and Rainbow, a small business, run through Etsy and Facebook, making printed clothing.
Here’s something that not many people know about me. I have NEVER had a 9-5 Job. I’ve never applied for one, never wanted one.
My original career goal was to become a Sports Therapist. However, when I returned from university with my degree, my Dad I offered me the Window Cleaning business that I had helped him to set up at a mere 11 years old. It was easy, I knew the people, what I was doing, and I loved choosing my own hours. However, it wasn’t particularly fulfilling. It did however, help me understand that I wanted to set up something that was solely mine, and so what is now Fox and Rainbow was born.
Tell us about your business? (for example, when you started it, what it does, how many employees if any)
My small business, Fox and Rainbow, originally created beautiful cards and wedding invitations. Though, after the arrival of my second baby I realised that I could use my machinery to make printed clothing, and after making some for my own children, my business evolved.
I run the business myself, with two small brand ambassadors in the shape of my children (and a couple more in the pipeline) and I regularly use my husband, and regular customers as a sounding board. Although it can at times be quite solitary, I actually quite like that, as it means I work under my own pressure, and I don’t have to worry about when I can fit the hours in.
I sell mainly through my Etsy shop (that I neglected until last year), through my Facebook page, and also face to face at local events, when I can tear myself away from the children.
What inspired you to start your business?
When my husband and I married, I wanted to have a wedding that was of homely touches, and which reflected our quite laid back nature. So I made as much as I possibly could myself. After the wedding was over, I carried on making things in the evening. I realised that this was the something that I could do around the commitment of having children, and although the children took longer than we anticipated to arrive, it was something that I continued to develop until they did.
Tell us about your family? (upload a picture if you feel comfortable to do so)
My family consists of myself, my husband Martyn, our three year old boy, and our one year old girl. My three year old is mostly the inspiration behind many of the cheeky t shirts that I create, whilst my one year old is a rainbow baby (a baby born after a loss) and so is the inspiration behind the rainbow items, and the rainbow in my business name.
Can you describe a typical day, where you work, what your responsibilities are, timings, are you an early bird or night owl?
I don’t have a typical day (I can hear you all groaning now). At the moment, my children are small, and most of my time is spent with them. My son is at pre-school for 15 hours a week, but my daughter is home with me, and so I work around them in the daytime IF I can, but usually do most of my work in the evenings once they have gone to bed. The only time this varies, is if the husband is rained off at work, and then we try and work it so that is my worktime, but with a very clingy daughter, this doesn’t always work. I am also supposed to have 1 dedicated hour of worktime in the afternoon, but as a family we need to get better at making sure this happens.
If I am working in the daytime, it is usually only light admin work, so editing my Etsy listings, quick facebook messages, or some advertising/promotion of listings etc. I also get my children involved in my photography of new items, though that is costing me a fortune in Hotwheels cars!
I have my own dedicated workspace for the evenings once the kids are in bed, and once I am in that space I know it is time to get my head down, not procrastinate, and get things produced. Some nights this will mean that I am actively designing and making new products, other nights I will solely be working on my Etsy shop. Working on my SEO, editing listings and making sure my tags are current. Fortunately, I have always been more productive as the night goes on, so this fits well for our family.
How do you manage your time with work and children?
As I mentioned before, currently most of my work is done in the evenings once my tiny two have gone to bed. My eldest does start school in the coming September, and my youngest will hopefully be starting one morning session at pre-school a week when she turns two. Those precious three extra hours of alone time will be spent solely on advertising my shop.
The grand plan is to grow my business steadily, so that as both of them start longer hours I can take on more work. Although we would all like to earn a bit more, or have more brand awareness, for me it also needs to be manageable. There is little point in me having more custom, if I can’t keep up with the demand.
How did you fund your startup?
I am quite lucky in that my business didn’t particularly come with any start up costs, as I was using up the things that I had left over from my wedding, and then putting the profits from sales straight back into the business. To this day, even with the machinery that I now own, I have no loans to pay back. I still work this way now too, putting a percentage of profit away for the next big purchase that I want to make. Although, I am also considering a crowd funding appeal as I would like a new heat press sooner rather than later.
What tools, resources, advice did you use when starting your business?
Most of the knowledge I needed, I already had from helping my dad when I was younger. However, I did trawl the internet to read up about things like trading standards, distance selling regulations and copyright. I also found a few groups of likeminded people on Facebook.
What do find the most rewarding about being a Mumpreneur?
I love that I can both be home for my children in these early days. That I haven’t missed any of their milestones, but that I can also help show them that if there is something that you want to do, and you work hard at it, they can do anything.
What do find most difficult about being a Mumpreneur?
That people don’t always seem to take you seriously. That because I work from home, and I create things, it is almost seen as though I just have a hobby. People often don’t see the behind the scenes things, that I am my own accountant, photographer, designer, creator, advertising exec, etc. It often feels like family don’t think I may need any extra help as I am always at home.
That, and trying to find an actual routine around the kids!
How do you manage running your business and family life? Is there any hints and tips you can offer?
I absolutely have no tips, and this is something I often ask other people. But everyone’s families are different, and so what works for one, won’t always work for another.
Do you have/make any time for yourself? What do you do? Is it important to do this?
I never work on a Saturday morning! Instead I can be found running around a parkrun, somewhere in the country (usually Peterborough though) sometimes on my own, and other times with the tiny two in our running pushchair. I am also supposed to have a, Thursday evening to do this too, but I am notoriously bad at getting out then. My Saturdays are vital though, as it gives me 30ish minutes of headspace to not think about a thing, followed by a big breakfast with no cooking or washing up!
What is the biggest business challenge you encountered in your business and how did you overcome it?
For me, having a product based business, this has been actually finding my customers. Etsy is one of the biggest marketplaces in the world, and as such has a huge wealth of sellers who also sell similar items to me. I have had to learn a lot about writing good SEO, writing good tags, and how to find the customers who want to choose my witty t shirts, rather than another sellers.
What is your biggest achievement in business to date?
Having t shirts that have gone across the world to America, Canada and Australia.
What have you got planned for your business in the future?
I want to stay as a one person business for now, so slow but constant growth is key for me. As long as I keep increasing my profit steadily I will be happy. I am in the process of adding more rainbow items to my shop to suit older children, as well as more running/technical t shirts. I am also in the process of re-branding my business, with a rainbow brights theme!
What three bits of advice would you give to a mum wanting to start her own business?
Find something that you are going to WANT to do. Particularly if you do something product based. There is nothing worse than making something over and over again when you hate doing it. It will show in your work.
Don’t make rash decisions when you are tired.
Try not to worry about what other people think about what you are doing. They probably won’t have a clue about the ins and outs of what you do. But you do!
What things do you delegate/outsource to others and why?
Currently nothing, as there isn’t particularly anything that needs to be outsourced. I am looking at outsourcing some of my product photography though as mine needs a lot of work, but I am struggling with letting go of the instant availability I have when I do it myself.
What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Mumpreneur community and would you recommend it to others to join?
I regularly use the community for advice. I’ve used the group to confirm my new business name, to find a possible photographer, and as a general sounding board too. I love that when you are stuck for an answer for something surrounding business, there is usually someone around who can point you in the right direction.
www.facebook.com/craftedbylel (this will revert to Fox and Rainbow once the name change has been approved
www.instagram.com/craftedbylel (this will also revert too).