Zoe

Zoe Brooks shares her experiences of beginning her own business alongside being a mum.
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I found out I was pregnant two days after running the Brighton Marathon. After a bit of a surprise and terrible guilt for putting my little baby through a marathon, I knew that I was ready to become a mum, I had travelled, I had partied. I was delighted! I set about learning everything I could about pregnancy and the impending birth. After a bit of a delay getting her to come out, she finally joined us on Christmas Day. Now, don’t hate me, but I was very fortunate to have a very easy going baby, she started to sleep through from very early, she fed, she rarely gave me any cause for worry or concern. As I write this, she is six, has started school, made new friends, been home-schooled throughout lockdowns and has generally taken everything thrown at her in her stride. I am very proud, and lucky!

One thing I didn’t expect to struggle with after becoming a mummy was my identity. I’ve always felt it important that I have my own funds so my partner and I have always gone halves, and I’ve always had my own savings and worked or earnt in one form or another. When it came to returning to work, I’d had to rethink my adventure travel career, so I looked at the aspects of the tasks I enjoyed and I set about applying for part-time admin focused ‘mum jobs’. I quickly found, that despite 10 plus years in various office environments, my skills weren’t necessarily considered transferable, nor were they worth more than £8.50 per hour. I also had an inkling that I didn’t just want to work for one company or person and I really didn’t fancy squabbling over early finishes and the term time holidays.

It also eventually became clear that if I wanted to fit any kind of career progression around my little girl, I would need to pay for full time childcare and miss so much of her growing. I didn’t want that either!! So, I decided I would work from home a couple of days a week on a self-employed basis.

So how does one go about achieving this? I didn’t know, but I was in a new area, with a new business (that I didn’t really know how to market or explain to a stranger) and no budget. I decided that I was also a bit lonely so I started looking for groups I could join, I eventually found ‘Mums in Business International’, perfect fit! so I started going to networking meetings in my local area, I met other women/mums that did what I wanted to do but better. I was inspired, I learned so much from them, I went on courses (in person and online). I still didn’t even know what to introduce myself as, but I turned up as a work in progress and more importantly I was accepted! I evolved my business the more I learnt. Ultimately, networking has been key to everything I have achieved, and it has helped me become visible, I’ve learnt so much about myself and it has genuinely helped me to build the career and the kind of work-life balance that I’ve always dreamed of, yet felt it was unreasonable to request.

 

As mums we give away so much, we often put our own self development and career aside in favour of our home life, better hours, less childcare fees. Today seemed like the perfect opportunity to share this and reassure anyone who needs to hear it; you can rebuild your career back from scratch (without a partner to support you), you can be confident about your identity again, reinvent yourself and create a life on your own terms with balance and earn well.
 

Don’t believe all the hype you see on social media, you will need to work harder than you’ve ever worked, you probably won’t be swanning about in a white Range Rover straight away, or ever… You won’t be a polished entrepreneur, you’ll fail at somethings, be ready to fail, be accepting of failure, share failure. You are human and it makes you real and authentic.

You will always be a work in progress, constantly learning and evolving. You will always feel watched and judged no matter what you do, so you might as well do it! Realising this was crucial! I am not hugely confident; I am often full of self-doubt and at times I want to run away and hide. BUT I am proof that you can do it, you just need to take a leap, network, be visible, show up and put yourself out there.

Zoe Brooks
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I am a virtual assistant based in Leicestershire (I’m still not sure if that title accurately describes what I do, but I like working on a freelance basis to help other business owners with tasks that they don’t enjoy or have much time for).

 

I am a mum of one and a rabbit called Carrot Ninja. I coordinate child friendly business networking events in my local area, Market Harborough. I also work for the chamber of commerce, helping to coordinate their monthly members meetings.

 

As a virtual assistant I provide affordable, flexible, remote business support solutions for (generally female) business owners. My favourite tasks are administration, social media marketing, business development, processes, streamlining, and I absolutely love spreadsheets, and travel planning. 

 

I spent much of my twenties traveling the world, as a tour guide, working in the adventure travel industry, I then went on to work in travel operations, marketing and business development but after becoming a mummy my career and lifestyle had to change. I have been very fortunate to be able to use my skills to build a business around my daughter and family time.


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