This week for my Parents in Business series I’m delighted to be featuring Maria who created Love Lemons (love the name). Maria’s background is similar to mine; working in advertising agencies. I have loved featuring and reading this positive interview where Maria took a brave step away from her full time job to create and set up her own business.
This is a brillaint interview and is incredibly useful to anyone working from home at the moment, and Maria has fully embraced technology to make her business work. Her top tips are also hugely valuable for anyone wishing to set up their own business or currently running their own business. Take a read of Maria’s story here…
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
I’ve been in the marketing industry since the 90s. I have worked for the biggest brands at the best agencies. The ads that make you cry and buy, the events that you take photos of and tell your friends about, the content that you share with your group.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
As a working parent, I’ve always had that nagging feeling that I wasn’t really nailing either of my full time jobs. After the sudden loss of my husband in 2016, I was thrust into being a single parent of two boys. Add to this the fact that 3 weeks prior to becoming a widow I’d started the biggest job of my life as MD of a marketing agency employing 45 people.
My employer was incredibly supportive and afforded me all of the flexibility that I needed but life is tricky. I pride myself on giving everything I do my best and I felt as if everything I was doing was ‘adequate’. The realisation that this constant compromise was making me unhappy – destroying my confidence and feeding my anxiety – forced me to take a step back and consider if there was another way to support my family both financially and emotionally.
With more pressure on me than ever before I took the interesting step away from the security and stability of a full time, high paid job in favour of making my own way on my own terms.
How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?
I’ve completely changed the structure of my working week/days. The constraints of Monday – Friday, 9 – 5 are a curious and quite outmoded conundrum in today’s digitally demanding day. Instead, I try and fit my work and diary around my home life. I rarely schedule meetings or calls between 7 – 9 am (but I’m no stranger to early morning video calls – I’ve got one at 5.30am with Australia on Wednesday!). I’m a big fan of using any tech that helps collaboration, from sharing documents on Slack/Dropbox to working with partners on Google Meet/Hangout, Zoom and Skype. Somehow knowing that I’m here to get the boys off to school and welcome them home gives me such peace that I really don’t mind if the balance means I’m working into the night to finish something for a client.
I also don’t have to manage others any more. I do work with a team but everyone is self-employed and an expert in their discipline so I’m not responsible for them. We collaborate but I don’t need to manage them. Strangely I loved this most about my previous roles but I genuinely don’t miss it a bit. Naturally I miss the people but I don’t miss worrying about paying them and whether they would leave/were happy/were developing etc
Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?
I started trading in June 2019 alone with no clients. The ones that I thought would definitely work with me, didn’t. The first brief I got was through an old contact who I hadn’t worked with for over 10 years. I now work with a virtual team of eleven, across eight clients and this month I’m in the process of agreeing terms with two new international clients. I genuinely didn’t think that this would be happening and I was very, very close to rethinking the whole thing after the first 3 months but, I’m really glad I kept going and stayed positive.
What are your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
- Start saving and make sure that you can survive for at least 3 months without pay – it doesn’t matter how brilliant or well connected you are, it can take longer than you hope to build a viable business.
- Even the best plans don’t always work out – I like a plan and I always have one, from shopping lists to 5-year life ones (ask me where I’m going on holiday in 2023!). Having a plan is great but don’t be afraid to change the plan. The things that you think will be a dead cert might not be, the wild cards may come good early.
- Trust your instinct. You cannot read an article these days without the overused concepts of ‘your authentic self’ and ‘building your personal brand’ smacking you in the face. I reluctantly acknowledge that there’s some truth in this. Only when I started living by the two rules I’ve preached for years that things started taking off for Make Lemonade Limited (1. Follow what you love, not the money; 2. Be proactive, keep busy, add value and don’t take anything too personally).
- Build your virtual support group. One of the biggest challenges is going from the sociable environment of a workplace to working alone. Anticipate your struggles. Think carefully about what that gives you and where you most benefit from the interaction. If it’s purely social, you can lonely-proof yourself by meeting friends for drinks/lunch/coffee etc. But if it’s for motivation, validation or ideas then you need to think about how you’ll fulfil these needs when you’re working alone.
- Give your days structure. There’s something to be said for the routine of the 9- 5. Play with a few different timetables and scenarios to give your days structure and productivity. I like to get up early, check emails then get the boys ready for school. After that I try and get out for a walk. Walking really helps me chew over challenges and develop solutions. I work through productive/action-based tasks (email, finance etc) at my desk but work on proposals and concepts at the kitchen table. I tend to schedule client meetings and presentations on Wednesdays/Thursdays so that I don’t waste too much time travelling too/from central London for the rest of the week.
I honestly don’t think I could go back to working for someone else.
I appreciate its still early days (we aren’t even a year old yet) but I finally feel a sense of contentment around my work/life balance and very optimistic about the future.
Fingers crossed I don’t have to!
Thank you so much Maria for taking part in my series. You can find out more about Maria and Love Lemons on her Twitter and Linked In channel.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Amy Merrywest Consulting, The Kid’s Festival, and Little Hotdog Watson