Becoming a parent is a massive life change. So it’s not surprising that motherhood leads some women to change career too. This was true for Angeline Braidwood, owner of Sleepy Nico baby carriers.
Angeline had a varied early career. She worked in marketing and publishing and as a self-employed bookseller. But becoming a mother led Angeline to discover her passion.
“When I had my first baby Amelia, I walked from Balham to Tulse Hill, using a standard baby carrier. At the end of the walk I was in agony, everything hurt, especially my shoulders. The woman who opened the door to me wore a beautiful baby carrier. I bought one, and found people stopped me on the street to ask where I’d found it.”
At that stage, Sleepy Nico was a tiny cottage industry run by two friends, and named after the founder’s son. And when the founders decided to move on, Angeline stepped in and bought the business. She took over the name, website, method and materials. “I was just so impressed that I bought the company.”
Angeline has since expanded her enterprise, and still creates an entirely British made product. She started on a micro basis, employing a couple of local seamstresses. She has now taken on a manufacturer to produce the slings on a bigger scale.
Angeline’s enthusiasm for the business shines through, and has been essential to her success. “For me, a key to enjoying work has been to be passionate about something. Slings brought me and my child together. You just pop your child in, and off you go.”
But is hasn’t always been easy. I asked Angeline to share what she has learned so far in her business journey.
“The biggest thing has been to stand up in the face of problems. When you work for yourself, every time something new comes up, you have to learn how to do it. I couldn’t ever go back to working in someone else’s structure. In the workplace, you have a set place in the organisation and your work is planned in.
“At times I just lay on the floor and cried…. But every time there was a problem, I found a solution even though I wouldn’t have though of myself before as a problem-solver.”
“Get organised before you start. Look into all the administration and legal side. Do your groundwork and research – know what you’re getting into. Write a business plan, and look into funding.
“Document everything as you go. You need documented processes as you get bigger. If you don’t do it as you go then you suddenly have to try and do it all at once.
“For example, we were working from a set of instructions written by seamstresses, not by instruction writers. So I’ve asked a former textile instructor to write a proper set of instructions, known as the Bible“.
“A year ago I took a leap and rented a studio on monthly terms at a local business centre. Making the leap made me work harder to make the rent.”
Angeline didn’t borrow money to set up the business, but funded it from within the family. “I stretch myself a little bit financially, but not to the point where if it goes wrong I can’t shut it down. I always have enough to cover any liabilities.”
The challenge for all small businesses in manufacturing is to find the workforce. “If you only have a couple of seamstresses and something happens, then you are stuck.”
Angeline would like to keep to the ethos of British made products. She needs to find people with the skills needed to make a full sling to the highest of standards: “The product holds the most precious being. It’s made with care, attention and love. At the moment, every sling is checked by me, and the buck stops with me!”
One solution could be more flexible apprenticeships. Angeline can teach valuable skills, but she doesn’t work a standard 9 to 5 day, which can pose a problem for standard apprenticeship schemes.
Angeline talked about the need the let her seamstresses know about their contribution and feel a sense of pride in what they do. “I want to get people excited about working for the business.”
“Ask for help when you need it. I’ve had advice from a manufacturer and a business adviser. And get a really good accountant – mine looks into my numbers and gives advice, as figures are not my strengths.”
“Know your strengths – mine are selling, networking, and project management. And recognise when you need to delegate. For example I now work with someone on my social media. I enjoyed doing it, but you need to outsource when you need the help, or you lose your personal life and your time.”
“The people I’ve met who have helped me have shared similar passions. Sleepy Nico fits into the bigger picture of baby-wearing, nurturing children. I’m part of a child-focused community, it’s lovely.
“For me, it’s about building a business around children. People call me an entrepreneur, but I always put the children first. A business is a bit like a third baby, with me looking after it. I think it’s a female way of running a business.”
For more information on Sleepy Nico carriers, visit sleepynico.com
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