Self-Start Mums is a brand new series showcasing some fabulous mothers who have created their own self-employed business.
As a mother and self-employed, work-from-home woman myself, I’ve always been interested in the businesses that other mums run. I’m looking forward to finding out what they do and how they juggle it all.
Throughout the interviews, these innovative and influential mothers will share all from why they started their company, how they did it and top tips for other mums who are considering taking the leap into self-employment too.
For my first interview, I had the pleasure of chatting to Julia Colbron, Co-Founder of Tell Me Baby.
My Interview with Julia: Co-Founder of Tell Me Baby.
1. Tell me about yourself?
I’m Julia Colbron, (35) Co-Founder/Content Director at Tell Me Baby, mum to Mila (2) and wife/business partner to Mat (8 years together). We live in Sydney.
2. Tell me about your Self-Employed Business?
Our business is Tell Me Baby – Australia’s first 100% user generated review platform. Kind of like TripAdvisor but for Australian parents to read about and review baby products.
I started it with my husband just after our daughter was born in 2015. During my pregnancy I really had trouble researching baby products sold in Australia (I was clueless when it came to everything baby related) and googling often led me to outdated forums, overseas products and paid for editorials – nothing really felt genuine and I wasn’t sure who to trust.
After getting the best tips and advice from our friends who were already parents we decided to create an evergreen platform where parents and parents-to-be could read, research and leave reviews to help other parents with their decision making process when buying the best for their babies. Mums and dads also get rewarded for leaving reviews on TMB so it’s a win win/pay it forward scenario. It also gives parents a platform to be heard and to share what they want and what works for them.
We have been up and running for 18 months and the feedback is overwhelming and incredibly positive. Most mums that write to me say “I wish I had this when I was pregnant with my first”. That makes me happy – being a parent is so hard, sharing your opinion and advice can make someone else’s experience so much easier. I’m still learning new things all the time from the reviews that are left. Did you know that baby powder helps remove sand from your child’s feet after a day at the beach? I do now :)
3. How did you transition to working for yourself?
My husband always wanted to work for himself, he told me that on our first date and I just never understood it. I liked the security of my job, the hours (and weekends off!), the fortnightly pay check – I definitely wasn’t a risk taker especially when it came to employment or finances.
When I was on maternity leave he was made redundant. We thought there was no better time to water that little seed of an idea that had started to grow – then Tell Me Baby was born. I worked around my baby’s sleeping and eating schedule which didn’t leave much time in the early days for work, but it’s much better now.
4. What was your previous career?
I was a TV Editor at Seven Network for seven years working on current affairs, news and a couple of Olympic gigs. The time pressure was crazy…sometimes down to the minute but I loved it. I got very desensitised to a lot of the things you see working behind the scenes in broadcast TV which worried me after a while but ever since my daughter was born I get very emotional and cry at the drop of a hat.
I worked with some incredibly talented and very funny people. Many of whom still remain good friends today.
5. Describe a typical day in your working life?
As most mums and dads would know you rarely need to set an alarm clock once you have kids! Once my daughter is awake I get her ready and drop her to day care. Once I’m home – coffee time then straight into the office and on to the laptop.
The day usually consists of content and product discussion with our team, liaising with the TMB community and customers, management of brand accounts and overseas staff and working on big plans for the future of the site.
I pick my daughter up from day care around 4pm, then the joyous hour of bath/dinner/bed begins. Once she’s in bed I’m back to work (via my iPhone on the couch) keeping an eye across our social media and live chatting with customers.
6. How many hours do you work per week on your business?
Tough question, it feels like infinity hours! Because I’m working for myself it’s something you live and breathe from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. Your business’s success depends on YOU and all you put into it.
I started slowly in TMB because we launched when my baby was so little. We didn’t have much support close by in terms of babysitting so juggling an infant baby and an infant business was very overwhelming for me as a new mum. Now that my toddler is in day care and loving it, it has freed me up to be involved 4 full days a week (but ultimately as Co-Founder I work every day – sometimes remotely, always online).
7. Do you supplement your income in any other ways?
I started to save heavily when I found out I was pregnant, so I survived on that for two years. I also have a small investment property so the rent from that definitely helps out.
I’d recommend having a backup plan in place financially because not everything is always smooth sailing in the money department.
8. How do you manage your family and working for yourself?
It can be difficult at times that’s for sure. Even if you have a good day and your child behaves like an angel you still have to have your work hat and your mum hat on 24/7. I will often be taking work calls and Skype chats while I’m pushing a trolley around Coles looking for specials on nappies and wipes.
Because my husband and I work together from home we are able to tag team the parenting duties. One does the day care pickup and dinner then goes into the office at night to work, while the other will do bath and bed for our daughter.
We try to balance as best we can and figure if our daughter is laughing and happy, we have done a good job for the day. Our diets on the other hand have hit rock bottom! There’s not much time left for date nights, holidays, gifts and things like that when you’re giving your business your all, so if some Brie or a KitKat at the end of the day makes you feel better I say go for it!
9. What challenges did you face in setting up your business?
When we launched the TMB site we were so nervous and excited – then nothing happened. No one knew about us or what our site did which was such an anticlimax.
I knew nothing about marketing being from a TV background, my husband worked in finance so we had to start from scratch and figure out how to get our name out there. Also TMB didn’t turn over any revenue to begin with because it was a review platform so I could not pay myself for a long time.
TMB now has a team of eight staff plus contractors, all who are brilliant at their jobs and guide us every day. It is a huge learning curve, every mistake you make benefits you in the end because you learn to do things a different way, a better way. Every move I’ve made has lead to where the business is today.
10. What’s the best thing about working for yourself?
There are several!
- The money I have saved on work outfits and high heels (yay, Kmart lounge pants and UGG boots).
- The freedom – yes you work around the clock and it’s constant but if I want to grab a coffee or go to a doctor appointment in the day anytime I can. Also the parking at Westfield is waaayy better when you can go at 9am on a Monday.
- The people I’ve met along the way doing the same thing, it feels like a cool club of these daring, risk taking but also slightly terrified people you can get advice from and swap stories with. They’ve all been there in your situation and are more than happy to help when you need it. You feel an instant bond with them.
- I’m in charge. I decide when I’ll start and stop work, I decide when I’ll take holidays, I don’t report to anyone but myself – goodness it is so liberating.
11. What’s your best advice to another mum who is considering setting up her own business?
Have a good support network close by. If people support you and your idea it can spur you on fantastically.
There will be highs and lows – sometimes they last days, sometimes months. Money will be tight for a while so prepare yourself financially beforehand if possible.
Luck doesn’t come into it – you have to push and keep pushing (I mean seriously, you birthed and are raising a kid right? You can do ANYTHING sista). Ask yourself at the high points and especially the low “is this a good idea, do I truly believe in this?”. If the answer is always YES then keep going. It WILL happen for you, never give up.
12. What’s next for you and your business?
TMB is growing so fast daily and without giving too much away we are on the cusp of something really big for 2018.
There is great interest in what parents have to say about the products we purchase – from prams and cots to dummies and wipes! We have some really exciting launches in store for our growing community this year!
I hope you enjoyed my interview with Julia Colbron, Co-Founder of Tell Me Baby.