Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Mums in business

Since I've started blogging I've come across so many amazing women who are running their own businesses, as well as raising a family. It seems that more and more mums are becoming their own boss.  Whether that's running a shop, an online store or offering a service like writing or photography.  I love finding out what made them choose this path, what spurs them on during the more challenging days and weeks and how they juggle motherhood and the business world.

A little over a year ago I met Nina who is a working mum and her own boss. She runs a local vintage furniture and interior design business which I stumbled across on Facebook.  Her style is amazing and I pretty much got in touch with her straight away to ask her to create some cushions for our living room.  I love Scandinavian style, which is very much her influence, so I knew I would love what she came up with.  We'd just moved into our new house and didn't have the budget to completely decorate, so instead decided on little touches like these cushions as a way of injecting our own style into our blank canvas home without breaking the bank.  Nina was heavily pregnant with her second child at this point, but now a year or so on, she's back at work and our paths crossed again, so I decided to find out a bit more about her, her family and her business and how it all works together.

Hi Nina, so tell me a bit about yourself?

I'm a 36 year old, Dutch, married to Glenn and mum of two little boys (3 and 1). It’ll be 10 years this June since I moved from The Netherlands to the North East of Scotland. I had never heard of Aberdeen before I met my now husband, in a pub in The Hague on that random Friday night and I certainly never anticipated still being here, now with two kids, two cats and my own business! I now love it here, especially living in Aberdeenshire, with the hills in my backyard, but the first six months were agony, having come from a country with a bit more colour, cafĂ© culture, generally better Summers and well yes, better home interior shops!

And tell me about your business, Nina's Apartment?

I have been in business since 2011, first as an online shop selling smaller vintage and handmade items via Etsy and since August 2012 I have had my own ‘real’ shop in the old mill at Lethenty Mill, just outside Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. I specialise in original mid 20th century furniture and homeware, Scandinavian and British made, and I also ‘upcycle’ the odd vintage piece. A few months ago I branched out into teaching upcycling classes, giving unloved furniture a new look with chalk paint or some new upholstery. It’s great fun and very satisfying to inspire people to mix and match the old and new and add some personality to their homes.

What made you decide to start your own business?

I have always been interested in art, architecture and design and have done a number of arts jobs in both The Netherlands and Scotland.  Despite my love for interior design and vintage finds, I only seriously started thinking about turning this passion into work about five years ago. It took me some time to take the plunge, because running your own business means a lot of hard work – mostly on your own, financial risks, no holiday pay and no salary paid into your account at the end of the month. Still, that fire inside me kept burning and things came together when I was expecting my first child and my then employer told me that my job was going to be uncertain with all the budget cuts in the arts. It was a now or never kind of feeling.

How do you manage to juggle running a business and being a mum to two small children?

Going to bed early, haha! It is hard work, but I love it. A fond memory is when I just had the keys to my shop and I invited a group of friends who were all on maternity leave to come and help out redecorating the place. It was hilarious, having one mum entertaining a frenzy of crawling babies in the corner while the others were painting the walls in between feeding and changing nappies.
Now I have two kids, it’s even harder, but I luckily have a few days to myself when they are with a childminder.

What's a typical day for you?

On the days when my boys are with the childminder I drop them off at 8.30am, then I might go back home and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee at my computer doing admin, responding to emails or doing marketing. Later that morning I often go out to buy furniture. I get a lot of people contacting me now who are clearing their house or selling the odd piece – this can be all over the North East of Scotland, so I do a lot of driving. I might also deliver furniture that day or spend some time in my shop rearranging and styling things, and taking good photos for the website and social media. I am mainly open by appointment just now, but I often get a customer in for a look around too when I'm at the shop. You see, I didn’t say anything about having lunch, and I have to admit that’s the one thing I often forget! I work every minute on those days without the kids. At 4.30pm I pick them up again and we go home. Then it’s the usual routine of dinner, playtime, a DVD or books and off to bed. Oh yes, and of course a few fights, time-outs and meltdowns too! After they've gone to bed I check my email and the Facebook page for messages and respond to any enquiries. On days that the boys are with me I obviously work a lot less, but they do come with me sometimes to collect or deliver furniture or meet a customer in the shop. I always make sure that on those days we do something fun for them too, like going to the park or a playdate.

What's the hardest thing about being a working mum/ having your own business?

I guess it’s the eternal struggle between wanting to do both really well and not having enough time and energy. I would love to double the hours I put into my business to start making a proper living out of it, but at the same time I enjoy spending time with my children, especially when they are still so young. It can also be quite tiring not knowing what next week is going to look like and how to make it all work. My husband works full time and we have no relatives living nearby to help look after the kids, which makes things tricky sometimes.

And what's the best thing about being a mum with your own business?

Apart from the fact that I am my own boss, which is a great feeling, it’s that despite being so busy I have the flexibility to organise my working life around my family. I often have my 1-year old with me on buying trips, the same as I did with my eldest when he was a baby. People generally love little children and it breaks the ice when they see I'm a mum as well as a business owner. I see a lot of different places and homes and it is fascinating. I have met so many nice people in the past few years and it is great to here the stories behind the furniture they are selling. It makes me happy being able to tell a customer the history of something because I know where it came from.

Have your children inherited your creativity?

My boys are still very young so it’s hard to tell, but my 3-year old definitely shows some artistic tendencies with his love for drawing and music. Also, with the amount of houses and old stuff we've come across the past few years, one of my sons is bound to become an antiques dealer!

What are your plans for the rest of 2015?

After having been so busy with a new baby last year and not having worked as much as I would have done otherwise, I am upping my game a bit this year. I am planning to increase my hours, my profile and wish to generally becoming better known up here. I’d like to become more selective in the stock I buy, offering really stunning pieces. I also would like to increase the programme of classes at my studio, involving other local creatives too.  I just love my job so much that I want to make it work no matter what. No way do I want to go back to an office job. I get so much energy from doing this.

Thanks Nina

To find out more about Nina'a apartment and to take a peek at her latest stock and classes click here.


1 comment:

  1. I love reading about Mums in business so much, it's so inspiring. Nina sounds amazing and that retro sideboard is FAB! I would love one of them in my house! x