Well that was the year that was and this is the year that is
Here it is the obligatory New Year's blog a reflection of the year past and a look ahead to the next 12 months and anticipation of all that they may bring, but as many have started their blogs today, 2020 was not what you would call a normal year. As I started 2020 I had a good feeling it was going to be THE year for my business to really take hold. I had spent weeks and weeks planning and writing an Innovate UK Smart Grant application and for those of you who have been through this process it is an arduous task. However I felt driven and proud that I was able to secure the backing of a University and Commercial proje
ct partners and felt if they had faith in my product I must be onto something. The project was to research and develop the prototype of an innovative product I had designed to offer a private secure space for employees to pump or breastfeed when they were at work or out and about, the MumPod®. Unfortunately, I missed the submission time, probably a blessing in disguise , giving me more time to polish the application. The project plan mapped out my life for the next 18 months from August 2020 to February 2021 and I took comfort in this sense of focus and the realisation of my dream. I can't deny the pounds signs were flicking passed my eyes like a Tom and Jerry cartoon as well.
February was spent putting together a proposal for my first big contract for #KeepingMum writing breastfeeding guidance for employees and line managers for an entire supermarket chain's portfolio of buildings. It was then that the start of this horrible year starting playing out. Funding was being pulled, rerouted, priorities were changing and the rumours became reality - an unknown and unpredictable virus was spreading across the world in ways not seen for over a hundred years. I soon found myself clearing all my belongings from my desk space at the Natwest Accelerator Hub in Milton Keynes and having to set back up at home in my tiny office, alone, no fellow entrepreneurs to bounce of ideas off, seek support from or to be a listening ear. I called these people my colleagues and we dragged each other through many sticky patches and held each other up during our successes.
March brought the welcome interest from a wonderful Milton Keynes business woman and her business partner whose business Queensbury Consulting were interested in investing in the MumPod®. Giving me an alternative route to market for the pod and took the pressure off of relying on the success of the Innovate UK Grant Award, realising that I only had a 10% chance of winning, not that that deterred me. Despite now moving into 'lockdown', a new word my vocabulary, I had hope and a clear vision that would take me through the year and over, what I felt would be a short blip that would be over by the summer. Now we know how that panned out!
April through to September meant a real pivot in my 'day job' as a private Lactation Consultant and registered midwife. Face to face consultations had to be postponed and I had to bite the bullet and get myself on camera, something I quite liked in the end. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were feeling more vulnerable than usual. They were often spending the majority of their time in Maternity Units alone, their partners only being allowed with them for their labour and 90 minutes after. I heard numerous stories of new mothers struggling to get to grips with breastfeeding, despite the care of the maternity staff they were over stretched and the usual help from partners or family was stopped, many of these mothers would say all was going well with feeding just to get discharged. On the flip side of this, the prevention of households mixing meant that new parents were able to spend time quietly getting to know their baby, responding to it's needs without interruption and anecdotally baby's were losing very little weight at their first weigh in, where a normal loss would be 5-7% of birthweight. These mothers were unfortunately though getting less visits and I wanted to ensure I could reach out to them, by doing Facebook lives regularly through the week and moving my consultations online, as we all began to get used to our new 'virtual' method of communicating.
I may have taken a dramatic drop in my turnover but during this time I met a group of breastfeeding mums who would turn up to my Zoom drop in breastfeeding group every Thursday. Yes, I was there for them, setting this up so they could socialise with other breastfeeding mums and of course I was on hand to answer questions and support them with feeding their babies. It ended up with us having a good old gossip, a moan, a giggle and a lot of talk about sleep and their lack of it. I can honestly say they got me through these last months and one of my highlights of the summer was meeting up with them in the 'flesh' on a socially distanced, cake filled picnic, thank you ladies you know who you are.
September saw the schools reopening, with my youngest daughter joining sixth form, my eldest daughter starting as a Maths teacher at the same school, my husband returning to face 2 face work as a teacher at a different school and my younger son returning to University in Leicester. That's a lot of mixing with a lot of people who are mixing with a lot of people, who no doubt had mixed with a lot of people, so no surprise one of them got Covid and we were then in and out of isolation right up until Christmas.
As the year progressed and as we popped in and out of various levels of restriction there were moments of excitement and achievement; being asked to become an associate of Queensbury, becoming a finalist in the entrepreneur category for the Women Leaders Awards, launching an e-commerce site Boobin' Mama and ending the year with the MumPod® design signed off and receiving a small grant approved for some equipment for my next venture that will be coming to a pair of headphones near you soon. Oh yes, and getting a Puppy!!!
I can truly say I have worked bloody hard in 2020 and I know people say it takes 2 years before your business takes off but I hope it's ok if I take the last year out of the equation. I contemplated furloughing myself as a Director of a limited company, but with no formal premises how was I supposed to develop the business to ensure it still exists when we come through this, which we will. So yes it has been tough, yes our personal finances have struggled but here we are in a new year, with a roof still over our heads, with a business that has survived and I now have a deep feeling of excitement and positivity for 2021.
Watch out for...
MumPod®, a stand alone unit for purchase or hire for breastfeeding employees, clients or customers
MumPodcast, interviewing Mums in all their forms, covering topics about every stage of motherhood, the highs the lows and the in betweens.
DadPodcast, opening up the conversations that men are often reluctant to have: birth trauma, mental health, parenting, being a working parent ...
The Boobin's, a community drop in breastfeeding group being launched as a new not-for-profit business.
Boobin' Mama will be adding new lines and a range of Boobin'versary cards and gifts to celebrate each breastfeeding milestone from 3 months to 2 years; bronze, silver, gold, diamond and platinum.
Launch of the #KeepingMum business consultancy new website
Redesign of the Breastfeeding Hub website with a new look and maybe and new name!
It now just leaves me to wish you all a very HAPPY, HEALTHY and PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR and I hope you follow me on all my social media platforms and watch how my 2021 pans out as I will watch follow yours.