Stepping Away From Corporate - Sam's story
I’m sure you’ve heard people say starting your own business is like having a baby and there are many comparisons. It will get under your skin, occupy a huge chunk of your brain space and keep you awake at night, to name a few! So why would you ever consider launching a new business at the same time as having a baby!
So much changed when I became a parent, and while I returned to work 9 months after having my first child, my priorities, mindset, sleep pattern (yeah, mentioning that again!) and how I wanted to work had totally shifted. I didn’t feel the same connection with my colleagues and felt constantly pulled between my job and being a mum, not feeling I was making a success of either!
Fast forward to baby number two and the decision that the corporate world was no longer for me, at least for the foreseeable future. However, I knew I needed something, a focus and interest separate to the children, to challenge me and start to make new connections. I think, particularly as a mum, it’s easy to loose sight of yourself, what you want and need, as you adjust to all the new demands on your time. Starting my own business was my way of taking control, to maintain some independence and do things on my own terms.
How and why I started a mobile children’s shoe shop is a story for another day but it was the result of a frustration that grew until I couldn’t get the idea of doing something about it out of my head! If you’re going to get something off the ground, keep it going and keep growing, especially when you’ve got so much else going on in your life, you’ve got to absolutely love it. Without passion and purpose you’ll very quickly run out of steam. That’s not to say these two things will make it an easy ride, there have been some really tough periods, but having a clear vision of why I’m doing what I do, gives me the drive to pull myself through.
It's often said it takes a village to raise a child and building a business is just the same, don’t try to do it in isolation. So many people have supported me along the way, I know without them I wouldn’t be where I am now, probably not even running this business. Meeting my small biz buddies for a coffee to vent our frustrations and swap ideas; attending networking events, meeting many inspiring business people who have encouraged me to look at things from a different perspective; the graphic designer, website developer, photographer, VA (all small businesses themselves) who have quickly and expertly delivered a solution it would have taken me days to do myself; and, of course, local families, who come back to see me again and again. It’s a privilege to watch the children grow and running this business has really helped me feel a part of my local community.
As my children have grown (they’re now 10 & 12), so has the business, as I’ve been able to dedicate more time to it. So a few years ago I asked myself the question, where do I want to go from here?
There are many areas of the country where it’s difficult to access an expert shoe fitting service, and in some areas, any fitting service at all! The mobile children’s shoe shop concept has worked well for me, delivering a valued service in the community, while being able to work flexibly around my family. I started to think about how I could support other parents to set up and run a mobile shoe shop in their area, helping to ensure lots more healthy, happy little feet, and eventually settled on franchising as the best way to do this.
It's taken about three years and a lot of work to get to this point (a global pandemic got in the way for a while!), but I now have two franchisees, one in Devon and the other in Salisbury, and it’s my ambition is to develop a network of CeCe & Me children’s shoe fitters who, while having the flexibility to work in a way that suits them, can support and help each other grow successful businesses. The franchise is still in the early stages, there’s still lots to do and I have no doubt much to learn, but I’m really excited that my baby is growing up!
So what are the benefits of buying a franchise? It will give you a blueprint of how to structure and run your business, so you’re not starting from scratch. You operate under the umbrella of an established brand, but it’s your business, there are still plenty of decisions to make and flexibility in the way you work day to day. It’s a proven business model and the infrastructure, such as a website, booking system and inventory management, is all there ready to go. Meaning you can focus your time and energy on growing your customer base and making sales.
A franchise also comes with it’s own in-built support network. The support and guidance of someone who has stood in your shoes, made mistakes and learnt from them, plus the opportunity to benefit from all the ideas and experiences of the other franchisees.
If you’re thinking about starting your own business, I hope you’ve found this helpful, and it gives you confidence to know it’s possible to start a business at whatever stage you’re at in your parenting journey. At the end of the day, you’re in control and can flex and adapt the business to suit the time you have available and how you want to work.
And finally, if you think a mobile children’s shoe shop would work well in your area, I’d really appreciate if you’d help spread the word, or even better, if you’d like to have a chat about doing it yourself!
Sam Chetwood, Founder of CeCe & Me, a network of mobile children’s shoe shops