I love to feature women who have shown guts and changed their lives ideally helping other women along the way. Today, I am pleased to share my interview with Jane who changed her life by setting up the Natural Birthing Company which supports women through pregnancy, birth and life as a new mum.
1. Can you tell me a little about your childhood and teenage years?
I grew up with a younger brother who I constantly bickered with! (We do get on now though) I was quite a creative child, and I enjoyed playing music in the school bands. I think I must have always had a strong work ethic as my first job was around the age of 13 as a Saturday girl in a hairdressers. I progressed to working on an egg stall on an outdoor market in all weathers and then left school at 16 to take up a Retail Management Apprenticeship with the local Electricity Board. My Dad was self-employed and my Mum initially stayed at home full time but then as we got older she also had her own business. So I came from an entrepreneurial family.
2. What made you want to become a midwife?
I came into Midwifery later in life after having my children. I’d always been interested in biology at school and my previous jobs had all involved working with the public. Then when it came to being pregnant I was fascinated with it all and I saw the role my midwife played and it really interested me. I looked into it just after my youngest was born but the time wasn’t right with a young baby, so I shelved the idea and did a couple of other jobs before revisiting it again 5 years later. I got in the first time I applied and as the time came to leave work to start the Midwifery training I had a wobble and started doubting my decision – in fact I remember breaking down in tears to my old manager! It was a life changing decision at the time – deep down I knew it was right but to leave a job where I felt comfortable to go into the challenging unknown made me doubt myself.
3. What led to you changing your career?
It started with wanting to offer women an alternative to the antenatal classes available locally. Either the NCT were run people who weren’t Midwives so women were coming into hospital with misinformation. Alternatively the NHS ones were a bit fierce with forceps blades being waved about! So Natural Birthing Company was formed to offer HypnoBirthing, Antenatal and “Preparation for parenting” classes with a natural feel, run by Midwives. Very quickly we decided to book a stand at the Baby Show at Birmingham NEC – the stand was very expensive and we worried about how we would make our money back. We had a love of natural remedies and we used aromatherapy in the hospital with women so we knew the benefits, but we also knew there was nothing available for women to buy that was ready made & safe for pregnancy. So we decided to explore the idea of making some products. To cut a long story short we went to the Baby Show with a pilot range of products and they were really well received by the women. This led us to present the range to high street retailers and it just snowballed from there! Initially there was a lot of juggling of nightshifts, studying for a degree and running the business – never mind having time for my husband & children. I reduced my hours at work, but when we took investment on board and moved to the next level I wanted to reduce my hours again but I wasn’t allowed so I had to make the decision to leave. It’s a shame particularly when they are so short of Midwives and I’d been there 8 years but it ended up being the best result for me because it has given me the freedom to grow the business and I feel so much better in myself by not working shifts.
4. What do you do now?
I’m now the Managing Director of Natural Birthing Company. We are a brand for pregnant women and new mums, providing them with natural products to support them during their journey from bump to baby and beyond. It has been a steep learning curve but I now consider myself as a business woman. We launched the products in 2014 and I’ve worn many different hats within the business over the years, having to juggle finance, marketing, sales, purchasing to name but a few. However I now have a fantastic team around me which enables me to focus on wearing less hats and having the time and energy to be the voice/face of the brand and drive the business forward. I still work as a Midwife as I like to keep current in my practice. I enjoy caring for women and getting to deliver the odd baby! So I have a varied work life with no two days ever the same and I love it!
5. What is special about your brand?
We’re quite unique in that as a midwife I know from experience what women go through during the pregnancy journey. So using this knowledge we’ve developed products that support with issues such as mood swings, hot flushes, swollen ankles, perineal tearing, stitches, haemorrhoids, engorged breasts, low milk supply and sore nipples and anxiety.
The products are all made from naturally derived ingredients so there’s no nasties such as parabens, SLS’s or mineral oils. We are also registered with the Vegan Society giving assurance that the whole range is cruelty free and vegan friendly and everything in Made in Great Britain.
6. Who has supported you as you built your business?
My biggest support has been my husband – he was amazing whilst I was training to be a midwife – he literally did everything at home and for the children for the three years that I was studying and working shifts in placements. Now with the business – he’s still by my side, supporting me every step of the way. Both of my children have got involved as well with some graphic design or helping out at Baby Shows. The District Council and other local initiatives have helped from the beginning with grants and free training and mentorship. After a local Dragons Den we secured two local investors which allowed us to fulfil our Boots contract. A further Director came on board a couple of years ago who has brought so much knowledge and experience it’s really taken the business to the next level– it’s good to have that mix of skills within the business.
7. What are your top tips for someone scared of changing direction?
It’s perfectly natural to be scared of changing direction –it’s the panic of leaving your comfort zone and the fear of the unknown. So try to take the emotions out of your decision making and write down a mind map including things like:- what your plan is, why you want to do it, how you going to achieve it, what you need to be able to achieve it, the pros & cons etc. I think if everything is down on paper it helps you to see more clearly & encourages all the thoughts out of your mind. If the change of direction is fully researched and looks the right thing to do on paper then take that as your answer. A good support network will help you with the understandable wobbles along the way.
8. What is your advice for someone who wants to set up their own business?
Get in touch with your local Council. They tend to run free courses for start-up businesses and they often have grants available too which would help fund things like getting a website built. If they can’t help you they’ll be aware of other initiatives running in your area. Get yourself to everything free that you can, you can learn so much and it’s a great way to network and pick up tips from other business owners. Write a business plan – it really encourages you to think about all the elements of a business.
9. How do you envisage the future of the NHS?
It’s pretty grim! A growing population, a rise in the number of the older generation and obesity are all putting our services under an enormous strain. Staff shortages and cuts in services are just compounding the issue. My parents told me recently that they were frightened to grow old as the thought of waiting on a trolley in A&E for 7 hours or being sent home when they weren’t fit and ready filled them with dread; I find that really sad. I don’t know what the future will bring but I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel yet.
10. What are you hopes for the future?
We have a lot of exciting new developments in the pipeline and we plan to expand the team this year. I’m looking forward to growing the brand and spreading the word to women so they can learn about the benefits of our products. Top of my “to-do list” is to get vlogging – I went on a course recently but I need to find time to put it into action as I’d really like to connect with women through short video clips of tips & advice – so watch this space!!!
I wish Jane all the best with those exciting video plans and I wish I had known about the company when I had my children as I was so keen to use aromatherapy but scared to do so. I am sure her products would make lovely gifts for mums and I am always very keen on reminding people to treat mum as well as the new baby.
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