It was launched by highly experienced consultant and trainer Inge Woudstra, early last year. The first year has seen some incredible achievements. She has built her initial idea and turned it into reality, now offering probably the best selection of links to organizations supporting professional working mums.
In addition there is a wealth of practical information, tools and tips on flexible working, starting your own business, returning to work, childcare and women leaders. She organizes her own events but also runs a great London-focussed event-listing. She has teamed up with contributors of high quality, including life-coaches, business mentors as well as organizations that support career-minded women including: WomenLikeUs, Sapphire Partners Recruitment and MyFamilyCare. We like it most that she offers her time for free, as do all contributors, to bring this great resource to you.
I have worked as a business consultant in Shell and Siemens, in a think tank and my last position was as a Consultant/Researcher in CSR in Ashridge Business School. I have always greatly enjoyed my work, however I felt it became increasingly harder to combine with family-life. I had imagined that once I had grown into the job and built my network I would gain more flexibility. When that didn’t happen, I decided to down-shift and take the pressure off by going free-lance. That’s when I found a real gap on-line. In The Netherlands – my home country – a lot of career-minded women share on-line, which was really helpful for me. I tested the idea in a focus group and learned, to my astonishment, that it wasn’t just me, but that the tension between family and career is still a big issue for most women. I decided to use my research, consultancy and facilitation skills, to build and grow a web space and events that give women all the resources to create a work-life that works for them. It helps that I have always been absolutely passionate about the unique value and contribution of women.
What advice would you give to others thinking about setting up on their own?
Have a rigorous routine, planning and targets. Even though I was used to a packed workday before, my biggest challenge initially was to actually sit down and work. I’d Google something, respond to some e-mails, and before I knew it, it was time to pick up my son from school; another day wasted. After three months I was hugely frustrated about the lack of progress. I re-designed my work-routine, and wrote the article ‘10 commandments for WAHM’s’ sharing what I had learned. Communicate seriously about your business. Initially my husband and family seemed to think this was some sort of hobby and I would soon get a real job. Also my husband would assume I would have time to ‘quickly pick up something at the dry cleaners and stop by the garage on the way’ and my friends assumed I would always have time for a coffee. This really frustrated me, until I realized it was me. The words I was using myself weren’t serious either. Now I talk about ‘my work’ and ‘my achievements’ and rather than ‘go for a chat’ I have a ‘key business meeting’ today. And it has really worked. Keep going and celebrate successes. The biggest thing I have learned so far about running your own business, is that there are so many mountains to climb. Each time you climb one, and you think you are done, there is a next one. But you have reached the summit on the first one, and that is such a great feeling. You just have to take them one by one, one challenge at a time.
Go for it! It’s way more fun than I imagined. It’s great you can take and implement your own decisions, it allows you to drive things fast and focused and try new approaches.
Working from home allows me to be flexible and efficient, saving commuting time. I imagined it might be lonely and isolated, however I solve that by teaming up with other organizations. In addition my mentor and ladies-networking groups have given me a great support network. It feels no different from having colleagues, perhaps even better and I am really enjoying it.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
That must have been PR. I imagined that high-quality content and ladies networking would attract visitors. But I soon learned a real PR-effort was needed, on-line and off-line. There’s absolutely no point having a great resource for free if no one is using it. As PR is a new field for me, I started to work with a business mentor to help me come up with ideas and keep momentum. From the moment I started focusing on it, I have seen great results. Each thing I do, from running a competition, to improving Search Engine ratings or writing for a magazine, brings in new visitors and membership numbers are increasing steadily. These new contacts also bring in lots of new opportunities, and it is all becoming very exciting. Soon I might have to hire staff!
If you could change anything about last year what would it be?
I don’t think I would change anything. I have had so many great experiences. I would like things to go faster, grow faster, more content, better services, but I have learned that you need to live through each experience, draw your lessons from it and move on to the next. That way you really own the results and can replicate them. I could put in more time, which would help me grow faster. However, whenever I reflect on my day-to-day life, I know the balance is right for now. I have time for my son, coaching his rugby-team, training our dogs, a social life and even get to see my partner regularly. I am also developing myself and following my biggest dream: making a change to work-life models for women.
What are your dreams for next year and how will you go about achieving them?
Grow big and become the first place to stop for professional working mums! To make that happen I am adding new services to Mum & Career that will make it more fun and valuable. I am running a market survey at the moment, and will develop the favourite services chosen by our members. In addition I am really looking forward to the series of surveys and events I am planning, such as: Starting your own Business, Navigating your Career Around Children, Returning to Work after Maternity Leave and Career Change.
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