Tracey Blake, Student Nannies

How to navigate working mum/building a new business madness!

Introducing The F Club friend, journalist and new biz entrepreneur, mum, partner and all round whiz – Tracey Blake.

I hold down a full-time job, am a long-term girlfriend and a mum to two children….my life is currently insane.I’m a 41-yr journalist at a national newspaper, I’m mum to Minnie, 7, and Monty, 4, and last year I launched Studentnannies.com – a local student childcare network. Students help working parents with childcare (they make great nannies/babysitters because they’re smart, energetic and fun), parents pay a good wage and help students with career contacts and mentoring. Here’s my 5 current “am I insane?”issues:

1. Having a new biz is as exhausting as having a new born (well, almost)
The main issue is that any down time you have – and if you’re working full time that basically means evenings and weekends – now needs to be devoted to your new business, rather than chilling on the sofa, reading the newspapers, playing with your children or hanging out with friends or family. Luckily it’s as rewarding as it is tiring, so each small win feels like a massive achievement and encourages you on to the next step (much like when your baby sleeps through the night for the first time!).

2. You’ll be riddled with parental guilt
I think most of us working mums feel guilty that we’re not spending enough time with our children as it is, but launching a new biz makes you feel even more emotionally stretched (see above!). It’s ironic that the thing you are setting up to achieve a better live/work balance for your family in the long term takes it all away in the short term.

3. Your Sky Plus is seriously neglected, too
While you used to spend your evenings once the children were in bed zoning out in front of the TV, now you spend it in front of your lap top. I currently have Line Of Duty, Big Little Lies and Gray’s Anatomy racking up on my Sky Plus – and I have to block my ears when colleagues talk about the latest revelations at the office for fear of plot spoilers. I work most nights but treat myself to the occasional evening off when I have a full-on junk TV binge. And boy does it feel good!

4. Your kids become your PRs
They’ve heard you talking about your brand so much they become your mini marketing team – it’s actually really cute! Minnie will point out passers by who she thinks might be students, will tell random strangers about our business with some enthusiasm, took a flyer into school with her to show her teacher ‘what you are up to’ and has even created her own jingle where she sings, ‘Student Nannies dot com!’ rather catchily.

5. Doing it with your partner brings bonding and rows in equal measure
James and I have had some furious arguments about Student Nannies, but we’ve also pulled some spectacular late nights together in a whirl of creativity fuelled by wine, enthusiasm, blind optimism and excitement, and even had a Dragon’s Den style moment where we had to do a 60-second pitch to win a place on a business accelerator programme (we did it!).

In short, it’s been a thrill ride and the highs more than make up for the lows. As for my tips to making it work? Well we’re only just starting out really and things are about to get serious when we pitch for angel investors, but so far I think we’ve got where we are today by pulling in as many favours as we could from friends and colleagues and networking furiously – you need to make as much noise as you can for free. That also includes applying for free business accelerator programmes, grants and approaching local universities to see if you can be a ‘case study’ for their business courses.

Possibly the most important thing, though, is to keep the faith, believe in yourselves and your business. Go for it and be positive – I always figure it’s better to regret not doing something than doing it!

If you need childcare or have grown up children looking to earn some money then do check out Student Nannies and sign up.
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