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#mumsmakeithappen by Lucy Griffin-Stiff

interviews Apr 08, 2017

1.       Tell us a little bit about your background and what you did for a career before you made the change?

Before I set up Leading Conversations and Starting Conversations (my two businesses) I was consulting in the city. I’ve spent the best part of two decades helping big businesses achieve their goals using the power of communication, employee engagement and cultural change.

 2.       What changed within you when you had children?

I think your whole mindset changes once you become a Mum. You have to put your child’s needs first, you can’t help it. You gain a new perspective on what’s important, and what you have to prioritise.

When I was pregnant with Elsie, I was spending almost 5 hours a day commuting to Canary Wharf and back! I had a really good job, a six figure salary, but I knew I couldn’t go back to doing the same. Not if I wanted to be around for my daughter.

If I went back to my previous way of working I wouldn’t see her from morning till night, and that would break my heart. So I figured I’d have to come up with another plan. And that I’d have to take a massive drop in income for quite a while. It’s been a BIG change.

3.       What inspired your business idea?

I’d seen so much unhappiness out there in the corporate world, I knew I could help big businesses improve their communication and culture to become great places to work. So I set up Leading Conversations to do that, but on my terms. I wanted to help make the working world a happier place.

So instead of consulting in-house, I set up an agency / consultancy model and started running that part-time, three days a week, from home.

I had to create a life and business that worked for us. It made sense to take what I was already expert in and use it to make the working world a better place.

That was what then inspired me to set up Starting Conversations.

I’d immersed myself in the world of online business, social media and entrepreneurship for some time and was inspired by how many people, like me, chose to take the path of setting up their own business or solopreneur venture.

Because if you can’t find a job you love that offers flexibility for family life, you may as well create your own!

So many women are doing it now. Setting excellent examples of working mums building their own lives outside of an out-dated and broken corporate system.

 I spent almost a year listening to business owners and observing their struggles. I noticed some common communication challenges that I knew I could help with.

I was struck by how many people are out there trying to market their business, but without success. Often because they just haven’t looked at what they are trying to achieve with a strategic hat on.

Some weren’t clear on their brand identity, some not clear on their target audience, some had confusing messaging… the list goes on.

I see people stuck with what to say when asked about their business. Desperate to market it and grow it, but without the clarity or strategies they really need achieve it.

I decided I’d love to help small business owners, in a similar position to me, grow successful businesses that work for them.

Sometimes you are just too close to your business to be able to see the woods for the trees. But with a fresh pair of eyes, a new perspective and someone to ask the right questions we can quite quickly take your business ideas and goals and turn them into action using what I call “the power of communication”.  

It’s so amazing when you’ve helped someone really understand what they, and their business, are all about. Why they’re different; why people should choose them. I help them figure that out and put it into words. And help them think strategically about their business. The information is usually all there in their head, but it needs a bit of coaching and coaxing.

So now I’m on a mission to help small business owners get that clarity they need and come up with strategies to grow their business through my new venture, Starting Conversations. Because us business owners need all the support we can get, it’s hard graft!

4.       How did you move the business from a dream to reality?

 With a lot of hard work and a bit of help. I know only too well how hard it is to do everything on your own when you are close to a business, and the one person doing all the jobs. So I got in touch with the lovely Nicola Huelin and had a chat with her about my ideas and what I was trying to achieve. I knew she’d help me keep focused and be that person who could understand my idea, where I am coming from, and be there to talk to and support me. It can be lonely running a business on your own with no-one to sense check ideas with, so enlisted the Mpower support I needed!

5.       What makes your business different?

For Starting Conversations - I suppose I do. My expertise, experience, personality and approach. Also I don’t know of anyone else who does exactly what I do… There are lots of people who are out there trying to help people with marketing, visibility and PR, but not so much with the absolutely fundamental work you need to do first before you start the marketing and PR which guides your approach, works strategically towards your goals, gets you that absolute clarity, and makes sure you don’t waste money on stuff isn’t going to work for you. If you haven’t done the fundamental work first, and find yourself stuck,  I can step in to help you get that clarity and figure it out. So I help people whether they are just starting out, have been going a while but got stuck, or who are looking to refresh or revive their business.

6.       How do you promote your business and what have you found works the best?

For Starting Conversations it’s still early days. At the moment my clients come from seeing me on Facebook, or reading my blogs. I also run a supportive free community for business owners on facebook – The Business Owners Conversation Club – which I set up because working alone doesn’t need to be lonely. Sometimes we need a virtual team to chat to who understand the challenge of being a business owner, to ask questions and sense check things with. I’m also looking into partnering with other complementary services and businesses and will do a lot more targeted networking when I get the time.

7.       What was your biggest challenge in this journey?

 Time, patience and a toddler. I only have part-time child care so trying to run one business and launch and grow another is tough. And we’ve had more than our fair share of winter bugs, which you just can’t plan for. I lost my voice for a month, which is no good when you run two businesses with “conversations” in the title!

 8.       And what has been your proudest moment?

In terms of my new business, I think I’m still waiting for it!

9.       What top tips/advice would you give our Mpower mumpreneurs?

You have to start somewhere. You can build the plane as you go, and fix it as you fly. But please do some strategic thinking upfront: It will save you time, energy and money! 

Know where you are headed, so you can think logically of the steps to get there. Make sure you understand yourself and your brand identity as these go hand in hand with a small business. It will help you communicate authentically. Know your audience, and don’t be afraid to niche it down.

Be clear on what you offer that solves a problem or meets a desire, and what makes you different.

Finally have a clear message that speaks to your audience before you start marketing. And if you’re a bit confused on how to do that, get in touch. That’s exactly what I can help you with!

10.   Finally what’s your #mumsmakeithappen moment? (a moment where you made something happen thanks to connecting, collaborating or getting support from another mum in business)

 There isn’t one moment for me, it’s been a series of things. 

I hadn’t realised the silent bond that exists amongst Mums, before I became one. I try to support other mums in business as much as I can, it almost feels like a duty! Motherhood has made me a much more generous and thoughtful person. (My memory, on the other hand, is shot!)

 I hadn’t realised how hard it can be to almost lose your old identity and life. It creeps up on you and then suddenly you’re in shock.

I feel, in part, I was saved by the parenting blogging community. After six months at home, on maternity leave, I was missing communication and conversation. Honestly, I felt like I might be losing my mind slightly, and becoming a mummy machine with no other purpose.

 I felt I’d lost my voice; myself; it was all about the baby. I needed to get my voice back.  So I started blogging. And the parenting blogger community were brilliant at making me feel valued, not alone, like feeling like you are going mad can be quite normal! I even got nominated for awards.

Through building my own website being part of the blogging community I learnt so much about social media, online business and got my voice back. I also realised that setting up my own business, on my own terms was entirely possible.

 Since then, I’ve spent time listening, learning, building a network and when I came across Nicola and the Mpower community, I knew getting involved with that group, and working with Nicola, was going to be such a support. Like Minded, like hearted Mums, looking to support each other. Because we all know how it feels, that silent bond, and supporting each other is our best way forward.

 

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