Julie started her business journey in 2012, at the same time as becoming a single parent. She didn’t intend to be a business woman per say, and had worked full-time for over 20 years, but the realisation that she faced new childcare barriers as a single parent, meaning that 80% of the job market suddenly closed to her, she had to find a new way to work, and so she embarked on a very long and difficult journey to create, sustain, and grow her business quite literally from the gutter without a penny to her name, this was alongside completing a law degree and working part-time (in low skilled low paid work). Julie launched KIH Products Ltd in 2013 and has since sold her KIH Bed Pregnancy cushion to professional practitioners in the UK and abroad winning a number of awards and learning the hard way what to do, and what not to do when starting and growing a business.
Julie embarked on a very long and difficult journey to create, sustain, and grow her business quite literally from the gutter without a penny to her name.
In 2019 Julie launched the Single Mums Business Network to help single mums where she found she faced most difficulty; with exposure. Julie could not afford magazine advertising or exhibitions and after years of begging just about every celebrity on the planet to help her gain exposure to her product she really didn’t want another single parent to struggle as she did, as she was genuinely having serious suicidal thoughts for a period of time, and she has read about many single parents who sadly have taken their own lives. She understands why but also knows how easy it would be for our Government to make the required changes to support these people properly. Julie joined the advisory panel of the charity Working Families in 2021 as she is equally passionate about raising awareness of, and removing, barriers to employed work.
This year Julie celebrates 10 years since designing her product and 8 years since launching her limited company, she is hosting the 2nd National Single Mums Business Awards in the Midlands in October, which is to not only celebrate single parents but also the companies who employ them flexibly and other organisations who do their bit to help.
One of the most difficult areas to understand when you are a single mum in business is benefits, a lucky few will have a good enough income or maintenance support not to need them, but sadly for many benefits will be needed. Julie knows that the psychology and humiliation when you have a strong work ethic to suddenly need to claim tax back instead of paying it, at least from wages, is very damaging, and holds you back in many ways.
Julie has blogged about this and points out your lifetime contributions, direct and indirect are intended to support you in your hour of need, so that you are not left destitute or sick. One of the mistakes Julie made in the beginning was to pretend that she was earning money. It is extremely hard to get your head around being in business but not drawing a wage, it took her a few years to understand the financial and physical input required in business before you can enjoy output, many large companies are amazingly comfortable with venture capitalist funding, but when you are a small single mum, it seems harder to admit to not drawing a wage. So, with that pretence of earning money, Julie’s benefits were reduced, including her Council tax support, leaving her so desperate to make ends meet that she would use sales money for food instead of leaving it in the business and using it for growth. It is important to be honest and make peace with working for nothing in the beginning. When you are in full-time work it is okay to work for free evenings and weekends, but when you are locked out of your own private salary due to childcare barriers you really are not to blame for being in a situation where you cannot earn enough money to live independently.
With that you have added trauma alongside growing your business of constant questioning, scrutiny of bank accounts and essentially being treated as a high fraud risk because you are trying to work. It is easier not to; and that is why you need all the support you can get when you are fighting to make life better for you long-term, and you are fighting not to need benefits.
Being a single mum in business is incredibly rewarding because it is so challenging! It is great to keep you optimistic about the future and to give you something to focus on and look forward to outside of what may be current adversity.
- You do need to be careful as many companies will prey on primary carers to work from home for free.
- If you are going to work for free, please ensure it is for your own company so that you are not lining the pockets of those high up the food chain who have zero corporate responsibility when it comes to you as a self-employed employee!
- If you cannot make every decision, you are an employee, self-employed is just that – you are your own boss and you decide if you have a website, a shop, a high street store front and who to advertise with and so on. You must be careful when you are understandably desperate to work and make a living not to fall prey to those who will benefit at your expense.
Selling Our Strengths!
We are all good at something, what we are terrible at is having the confidence to sell our strengths! I once met a carpenter who spent a week working in a low paid low skilled role when with the confidence to set up her own business as a carpenter, she would earn in a day what she earned in that week. It may be a year or two or three of pain, but you have to look at the ten-year picture. Will you still need benefits in ten years if you stay as, you are? Or can you kick and scream in business and benefit from the lifestyle you know you deserve – one where you are not scared about rent or bills or buying food.
Posted on May 5, 2021