Having sweated over Annabel Karmel’s weaning books as a new mother, I’d always pictured her as a friendly companion in the kitchen, dispensing invaluable advice on how to feed a new baby. In real life, while she is all of the above, she has also built up a seriously impressive, multi-million pound business from scratch. And, luckily for us, she has decided to share the lessons she has learnt over the last two decades in her new book, Mumpreneur.
Before becoming a mother, Annabel was a harpist and musician, touring the world with artists like Boy George and Liberace. Her first daughter, Natasha, tragically died when she was only a few weeks old, leaving Annabel adrift, and unable to find solace in her music which suddenly seemed superficial to her. It was after she had her second baby, Nicholas, that she started to focus on food. “He was a very fussy eater,” remembers Annabel, but after a French doctor recommended trying some unusual recipes, she had her first light-bulb moment.
After learning that it just wasn’t true that babies only liked bland food, she started testing out her tasty recipes on 20 babies in her local playgroup. This led to the realisation that “having children doesn’t have to be a full stop at the end of your CV” and was the starting point for a new business. Despite a few stumbling blocks – her first book was rejected by publishers 15 times before going on to be a bestseller – Annabel says she did her homework and found her niche.
Mumpreneur is specifically aimed at mothers starting up businesses, and emphasises that the skills you develop as a mother are all valuable and transferable ones.
“In many ways working can be much easier,” says Annabel, who went on to have two more daughters, Lara and Scarlett. “For example, taming a destructive toddler… there is no better training than that!”
The book is packed with practical advice – from developing your initial idea to raising finance, drawing up your business plans, collaborating with others and building your brand. There are also several illuminating case studies with brilliant businesswomen, like Chrissie Rucker who founded The White Company and cosmetics guru Liz Earle. Ultimately, the core message is to approach your business professionally, but with heart.
“I did it with love and passion,” explains Annabel, “as a way to tackle my son’s fussy eating and as a legacy to my daughter, Natasha.” If you’re going to give your business your all, then you have to be ready to believe in yourself, and to exploit the gaps in your day – nap times and evenings for example.
“It’s a lifestyle, you live it and breathe it!” exclaims Annabel. “So please don’t launch your own business purely for the money and earning potential; rather, do it for the passion, fulfilment and flexibility.”
1. Find your niche: you don’t have to come up with a unique invention – you just need to do something better than anyone else.
2. Confidence is just as important as competence. The more you believe in yourself and in your chances of succeeding, the more likely you are to do just that.
3. Find your guilt threshold and get into a routine that works for you. Only put the essential tasks on your to-do list so that it feels achievable, and plan meticulously.
4. The opposite of success isn’t failure, it is not trying. If you seldom fail there is a good chance you’re playing it too safe.
5. Be a networker: don’t be shy about broadcasting your idea, you never know who may be willing and able to help you.
6. Don’t quit too soon – perseverance is a key attribute to develop. Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes over 15 years, but the 5,127th worked!
7. Research and plan: take time to test your business idea. Friends and family may try to dissuade you because of their own fears. Look for honest, informed feedback.
8. Always analyse the competition to see how you can gain that edge in a competitive marketplace. Knowledge is power.
9. Embrace social media and learn how you can add value and engage with your current and potential customers. Do it right and you’ll become a trusted brand with an army of advocates.
10. Build a strong team around you: find the person with the right talents, skills and attitude to support your business.
Annabel will be talking at The Baby Show from 15th-17th May at the NEC in Birmingham and again at Kensington, Olympia from 23rd-25th October.
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