Mumpreneurs’ testimonial: how mums got into business while inspiring other mums to get creative

Mums Charlotte and Fiona co-founded Woolly Mammoth in May this year. The company provides ready made art&craft packs that arrive through the letterbox twice a month (with a personalised label, we have found kids love receiving their own post) containing an imaginative make-and-do craft kit, photo suggestions, and either a story, song, quiz or game linked to that week’s theme. In our busy lives we never seem to stop. Work, school, activities and chores take over our weeks. Fiona and Charlotte designed Woolly Mammoth kits to make it easy for grown ups and children to have fun together.

How did you come up with the idea for Woolly Mammoth?

Fiona: It all came about one day after playing with Jules, my little boy. It was a rare moment when Lucas (my younger son) was having a lunchtime nap and I managed to grab some precious one on one time with Jules. I can’t quite remember what the masterpiece was that we made together but I do know it was made from a cereal box! Then it happened. Jules held my face, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Thank you for spending some time with me Mummy.’ I felt beyond terrible and knew things had to change. I had been searching for an idea for a while that would enable to earn money whilst raising the children. After churning around many business ideas in my head the idea of a pre-paid, low-effort, guilt-relieving experience was born.

Why is Woolly Mammoth different to off-the-shelf craft packs?

Woolly Mammoth has never been about creating the masterpiece, it is about taking the time out to sit and play with your child. I know that sounds daft but I used to find that hard. The packs are addressed to the child and their grown up of choice and they arrive through the letterbox twice a month. That’s when the fun starts as the children love getting a surprise through the post. The packs are not designed for the children to do by themselves, in fact they are purposefully a little too hard – they are to be created together. I know that there are other craft packs available to buy, but you have to go out and get them when the mood strikes.

Whilst working on my business plan I had an enlightening chat with my boys’ swimming teacher. We were talking about the need for young children to learn how to swim and she said one of the main reasons for booking swimming lessons was that if you don’t pay for swimming lessons, even with every good intention, you probably wouldn’t take the kids swimming on a regular basis. This basic reasoning was applied to the model. Prepaying for a craft subscription would encourage parents to sit down and spend some precious time with their child.

Where did you go from there?

Fiona: After deciding that rotating the crafts on a three-year basis would be the best plan, I challenged myself to try and come up with as many craft ideas as possible. After doing my market research I realised to do this properly required more than one person. This is when Charlotte came on board.

Charlotte: I did the trial run for Fiona and loved the concept. I work full time (and then some) so was finding that the time I spent with my children was dashing from one activity to another or them playing on their own whilst I was trying to catch up on life. Doing a Woolly pack with the kids made me slow down and have some fun with them. They love making things and I struggle to come up with the ideas. Even if I found ideas online or in magazines, it still required the time to get to the shops to buy the materials. By then the moment was gone. When Fie asked me to help her bring Woolly to market I couldn’t have been happier. Fie’s the arty one. I don’t have a creative bone in my body! I look after the marketing.

How do you juggle family life while running a business?

Fiona: When the boys are around at the beginning and the end of the day I down tools and, even though my mind may be elsewhere, and I try to focus on them, whether that be playing a game, or snuggling up in front of the TV. However, during the day and after they have gone to bed, its all go go go with Woolly. The housework is often neglected as is my husband! But luckily he is fully supportive and is heavily involved in the business. Even the boys talk about Woolly as though it is their job to help me come up with future ideas. I’m not perfect but am learning not to beat myself about it.

Charlotte: Its taken some time to come up with the right balance and maybe I’m not quite there yet. Its not easy but the boys are at school so I have time during the day and like Fie I also work in the evenings. But Sundays are our family day, long walks, a huge roast and games night.

What’s your most important recommendation to women who have a business idea but who don’t dare starting in this tough economic climate?

If it was easy everyone would do it. If you have a good product and you believe in it your enthusiasm and excitement will sell it.

My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur would be…

Keep going, the next answer might be a yes.

Don’t expect instant results.

Try not to be defensive, be open to suggestions and advice.

As soon as you are pregnant people tell you how hard labour is; avoid the naysayers telling you how tough it will be and try and associate with like-minded people.

Join networking groups, there is nothing like the support of other women in business.

Where do you like to shop in London?

Fiona: Markets. Ideally I like to mix styles up a bit.

Charlotte: I used to work in Covent Garden which pretty much meant I spent my wages during my lunch break. Now shopping trips to London mean heading to Hamleys!

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