When Ceri Gillett started a business whilst a new mum, she found it difficult to find the right support outside of big towns and cities.
Ceri tells Business News Wales why she decided to plug that gap herself with Mubo, a social enterprise supporting parents in business, with a particular focus on rural Wales.
Tell us a bit about your business.
I started Mubo in 2019 though I had been thinking about it and researching the space for a much longer time. In the summer of 2019 I did a few events to see if there would be any interest in a network for parents in business across the whole of Wales. I was frustrated at the lack of support and events that happen in the more rural areas of Wales, so I ran a crowdfunder in November 2019. Mubo has recently been formed as a social enterprise. We have three other women, all mothers with their own businesses, on our board of directors who are based all over Wales, because I think it’s important that we aren’t focused on only the M4 corridor. I head up the day-to-day running of the business with the help of a part-time assistant. I made the move to the Welsh ICE campus in Caerphilly when they opened after lockdown, after working from home for the last five years. It was time for a change of scenery.
What prompted you to start your business?
When my son was four months old my partner and I started a new business. I had years of experience and years of self employment already under my belt, but there was something about this time that was different. As a new parent, running on very little sleep, I needed some reassurance that I was doing the right thing and heading in the right direction. I followed all the usual channels for business support but nothing really fitted, or was available locally to me. I was shocked at the lack of in-person support, online support and relevant up-to-date information at both start -up and growth stages. As my business grew I heard the same things from many other women in business, especially those who were frustrated that a lot of the support left out those of us who don’t live in big towns or cities. I decided I wanted to change that here in Wales – and all across the UK. Many brilliant people fall away from the workplace because of their caring responsibilities, and I know that freelancing or entrepreneurship could be an exciting and viable option for them. We aim to have a vault of up-to-date online resources and courses but also to always venture to rural areas to get the message out about what Mubo does. We will also highlight the support people can access in their communities and tell them about local groups and local success stories.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business?
I ran a crowdfunding campaign that focused on the fact that in-person, face-to-face meetings were the most effective way of encouraging and supporting women in business. I had big plans to spread that across the whole of Wales not just the south, then I couldn’t do that. So Covid-19 really changed the way I operate. Luckily I was able to pivot to online services very quickly because it was an offering I was developing in the background. Since lockdown we have been offering online networking sessions, signposting to local services and carrying on with our monthly online workshops. We also offer a fully funded start-up course. I’m on the second cohort who have done this completely online and it’s worked just as well. Demand has increased and I’ve spent many evenings talking to new stage businesses who have struggled to access the support they need.
What’s the most significant thing you would say you’ve learned this year?
Small steps add up. Working parents lead split lives. I veer from being a mum, to doing something for the business, and it’s never a seamless transition. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nothing done or doing everything badly, and it can seem like everyone around me is flying ahead and I’m being left behind. But all the steps matter, even if they are tiny. Lockdown has taught me that, as long as I keep moving forward, I will get there. It will get done.
What are you most looking forward to in your business?
The impact that Mubo can make, I think. I’ve quietly worked on Mubo and tested the courses and processes and not always been the best about screaming about our results. I also suffer from some David and Goliath syndrome and can sometimes struggle by comparing Mubo to bigger organisations. But I know that what Mubo does has had great results, and that’s only going to grow. I can’t wait for that.
What do you think the outlook is for your particular sector?
At the start of lockdown, I thought ‘what an awful time to be telling people to start a business’. But the reality is parents are still looking for different ways to work. Childcare is expensive, it can be hard to find a job that works for you and sometimes having children is the time when you think, now is the time I’m going to do that thing I’ve dreamed of. Whatever reason they start a business, support organisations need to be meeting people where they are and not where we want them to be. So I think more people are going to be looking into business and we all need to be adapting to meet that need better.
What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve received?
Balance is a myth, so stop trying to make it work like that. Someone once told me being a working parent is like a see-saw. One week or one day, even one hour, one thing needs more attention and that’s ok. As soon as you let go of that notion of this perfect balance between work and home it all gets easier to manage.
If you were talking to someone starting a rural business now, what advice would you pass on?
Start talking about it to anyone who will listen. You never know who will know someone who can help. Seek out help. Don’t go it alone, you don’t need to, and keep taking those small steps forward, even on the really hard days, because they all add up to get you to where you need to be.
- To find out more about Mubo visit www.wearemubo.com