The Turning Points blog series is back!
This series is all about putting the spotlight on creative entrepreneurs, like you. I hope that by reading their stories you gain inspiration and useful tips that you can implement in your own business.
As a recap, so far in the series, I have interviewed:
- Crime fiction author, Paddy Magrane
- Content marketing expert and author, Mark Masters
- Contemporary artist, Adrian Grainger
In this edition, I interview the successful independent business owner, blogger, published author and mum of three, Joanne Dewberry.
In 2010, Joanne was named ‘Dorset Business Mother of the Year‘ and has numerous accolades and awards to her name.
She is the author of the book ‘Crafting a Successful Small Business‘ and is also the owner, designer and creator at Charlie Moo’s which specialises in handmade fabric party bags.
Hi, Joanne. Please tell us a bit about you and your background, as well as your current business
I live in rural Dorset with my long-suffering partner David, who I met working abroad in our late teens/early twenties. We have three children: Charlie, Megan and Olive, and two cats, George and Alice.
We are quite an active family, participating in various sports. We also love nature and our garden.
Before children, I used to manage a Day Nursery, which I loved. But once I was pregnant with Charlie I couldn’t really fathom looking after other people’s children whilst my own was being cared for by someone else. Both ‘Daddy Moo’ and I are from families with a stay-at-home mum, and so it seemed natural that I too would do the same.
However six months into being a full-time parent, I found I missed the mental stimulation a job gave me and I felt I needed something to do. I toyed with the idea of direct sales. In the beginning, it wasn’t really about making an income. More about having something that belonged to me.
When I became pregnant with my second child, I soon realised I needed to make this dream a reality. Two babies in two years was going to melt my brain!
When did you first decide to launch your own business? What was the turning point in your life that led to that?
When Charlie was still under 1yr, we went to a birthday party – his first one – and I was surprised at the quality of the party bag he received. Plastic and full of age-inappropriate tat!
I decided I could provide better party supplies and that is how Charlie Moo’s developed.
In the first year of business, I had a second baby, learned to sew and build a website.
Through Charlie Moo’s, I started networking with other small businesses in the area especially those run by mums. In 2010 I was awarded ‘Dorset Business Mum of the Year’ and through this, I started my small business blog JoanneDewberry.co.uk.
I love working from home around the busy schedules of the children. It has allowed me to try out new things and develop my small business to suit not only my family, but myself.
In regards to your book, ‘Crafting a Successful Small Business’, how did this come about and how long did it take to write?
After a difficult pregnancy with my third child and a stint in hospital after her birth, I decided I wanted to write a book. A woman who has just given birth is pretty much unstoppable!
I can’t remember how long it took to actually write my book. But from approaching a publisher with a very scrappy pitch to getting my first printed copy, was roughly a year.
How did you find the process of getting published and what lessons did you learn?
Having a publisher is really good for momentum and deadlines. I’ve been trying to write a second book, which I plan to self-publish. But I get so easily side-tracked and before I know it, months have passed by.
There’s also no financial outlay when you have a publisher. However, you still have to do as much marketing and promotion yourself as if you self-published.
It was very easy having a publisher and editorial team. You also kind of know it’s going to be bought initially, as publishers have access to retail outlets.
My publishers initially created press releases and them out to all the major publications.
What was the impact to your business of publishing the book, and the publicity you secured for the book?
Having a book is actually a super piece of passive income. Three times a year I get paid royalties. As my book is five years old now, I don’t really do much work promoting it. This is one of the reasons I’d like to have a few more books under my belt.
Having a book is also a great way to position yourself as an expert in your genre. This means I’m able to attend speaking events, where I can sell signed copies of my books.
I get asked for quotes for articles in magazines and online too. Until it’s demise I had a regular feature in Craftseller Magazine giving expert advice.
You are a fan of networking and have set up a number of different networking groups for parents over the years. What do you love about networking?
Networking isn’t always about growing your business in the traditional sense of meeting some people and selling to them.
Networking allows you to build and develop a support network which is vital when you work from home. A support network you can turn to when things aren’t going to plan. When you need advice, people to hold your hand, a shoulder to cry on. But also who are there to celebrate your wins with.
When you work from home by yourself you can go days, weeks, even months not speaking to anyone. Which is why I suggest even in the early start-up stages, you get out and meet others and build your support.
Lemur Link Up, the networking group I co-founded, is a friendly and child-friendly business network hosted at Lemur Landings Soft Play centre.
What advice would you give to those who hate the idea of networking?
Most networking groups have online forums (twitter accounts, Facebook groups) where you can introduce yourself and start chatting in that less scary ‘behind the screen’ way we have become accustomed to.
Once you start making relationships online it can be easier to walk into a room for the first time.
I also suggest trying out a variety of groups/events, as each will have something different to offer.
Some groups provide training, guest speakers, whereas others have a much more relaxed approach. However other groups charge a membership fee and require you to “bring something to the table” in the form of new business/referrals etc. You need to try out a variety to see what works best for you.
You’ve won so many awards! What’s been the key to your success with awards and what impact have these awards had on your overall business?
I’ve entered a lot more awards than I’ve won, believe me!
Entering awards should be a key point of your small business marketing plan. Business awards provide you with accolades that you can use to position your business above your competition.
Awards help with building your brand identity, set you as an expert in your genre and, well, it’s always nice to be recognised for your hard work.
And on top of all this, you’re a mum of three! How do you manage your business and family – any top tips you could share?
I get asked this a lot and well, believe me, I’m no superwoman!
I have been known to hang my washing out at night and leave it there for a few days, sometimes I even drop off pack lunches after a quick detour to the supermarket.
Work-life balance is not a one size fits all. What works for me might be helpful for some but not everyone.
I take off all the school holidays and spend all my time being a mum. I do for many reasons, my family come first, I don’t really like working nights I’d rather be eating, binging watching crime dramas or sleeping. I also finally have three children in school so I actually enjoy the holidays and spending time with them without boundaries, routines and the stresses of normal life.
Taking the holidays off also means I step away from my business and reassess what has been happening. It’s good for the soul.
I have set working hours and a schedule which I *try* to stick to in order to keep work and life separate. As soon as I drop the children off at school I turn on my computer and prepare the evening meal. I then go to “work” every day.
At 2:30 pm I shut my computer down, sort myself out (grabbing the 100’s of things they need for after-school clubs) and then transform (no capes or pants on the outside) into mummy.
I think the physical action of shutting my work down is vital in mentally ending the day. It also means I’m not likely to start tinkering after school. I think this is where you start blurring the lines between work and life, which is easily done when you work from home.
What is your top tip for creative small business owners in regards to their social media marketing?
My top tip would be to register on all the platforms in order to grab your vanity URL’s and business name.
Then I would take one platform at a time, build, grow and learn how to use it once you have mastered one move onto the next. This way you aren’t half heartily trying to do all of them at once. I still haven’t got to grips with Pinterest yet.
Facebook is my favourite platform. My ‘20 Facebook Business tips to grow your Facebook following‘ is one of my most popular posts.
What are your favourite books/resources/apps/online tools/podcasts?
I listen every week to Digital Coffee Morning Facebook Live with Spiderworking every Friday to keep up to date on the latest social media news.
I don’t have many things I specifically watch/read/listen to. I like an eclectic mix. I love that social media enables you to see/read/interact with people you wouldn’t normally come into contact with in your everyday life.
What’s next for you? What do you have in the pipeline for 2017 and beyond?
I’m working on a book which hopefully one day I’ll actually finish! I’ve just refurbished my home office and I’m looking forward to creating some magic in there.
Where can we find out more about you?
Website : www.charliemoos.co.uk
Blog : www.joannedewberry.co.uk
Twitter : www.twitter.com/charliemoos
Facebook : www.facebook.com/joannedewberry.co.uk