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FOUR WORKING MOTHERS SHARE THEIR STORIES OF BUILDING SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES AND RAISING FAMILIES AT THE SAME TIME by Mita Mistry Motherhood, being so demanding, often leaves little time for anything else, but today, more women than ever are balancing family life with a professional career and some are going a step further by running their own business. The successful working mothers are turning this into an empowered movement that is inspiring others to follow in their impressive footsteps and many are motivating one another to find that entrepreneurial spirit. Eastern Eye caught up with four inspirational women who are showing how to run a business and raise children at the same time. Dimple Soneji Makani What inspired you to set up your own business? My motto in life is that anything is possible and by setting up my business I was able to follow my passion for creative photography. My children are my continual source of inspiration as I started taking pictures of them, to begin with. I want to show them that they too are capable of achieving anything. I am very lucky in being able to connect with all ages, which also motivated me, as did the practical side of flexible hours, working on my terms and being able to stay at home as a working mum. Tell us about your business? Studio ShivAay Photography is a professional photography business based in Watford, Hertfordshire. I specialise in family portraits, celebratory cake smash photo sessions, birthday parties, anniversary parties, religious ceremonies, charity events and personalised home lifestyle shoots. What was the biggest challenge of setting it up? Initially, it was the nerves. All the practical things were in hand, but I had to have faith in myself. Sometimes the biggest challenge is your own mindset. But to this day I am so happy I took that leap of faith, with the encouragement of my family and friends. How have you been able to balance work with family? My innate nature to be a go-getter means I need to be doing something as well as being a mum. I find myself working between school hours. Then I pick up my boys, cook for the family, spend time with them on their homework and play games. My husband and I sit down after the boys have gone to sleep and I resume my editing and administrative work. I try to space out my sessions so I can be with the family and couldn’t manage without the full support of my husband Hitesh. He is a fantastic father and partner. My two boys are also very understanding and proud of what I do. What advice would you give mothers who want to set up a business? I wholeheartedly say, go for it! If you have passion and drive, you can achieve anything. Women are very strong and able to undertake many different roles in society; why not also take on the role of a female entrepreneur? Be awesome at what you do, for yourself and your children. There is truly no stopping you if you have a strong belief in yourself. What motivated you through challenging times? It has been a tough time as my youngest son was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma in 2017. I was in full flow gaining brand awareness for my new business and one phone call stopped everything. Our world shattered into a million pieces. All I could think of was getting our son better. We stayed in the hospital for three months and he had to undergo intensive chemotherapy. I took time off from work until my son was in remission. We received help from so many different ways, including from unexpected places. I realised everyone goes through tough times, but it is how you deal with what you are given and that makes you survive life-changing experiences. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful people around me including all my clients and they motivate me even more. What inspires you? I’m inspired by strong people who bring positive changes into people’s lives. I have been extremely fortunate to have wonderful parents who have allowed me to have the belief that I can achieve anything. Mentors have also guided me. I am following my life path and I’m so grateful to everyone who has stood by me. Giving back also inspires me and that is why I’m in the process of setting up small volunteer groups to spend quality time with the elderly in care homes. My sons inspire me daily by teaching me to live life through their eyes again and my husband who is my best friend is always cheering me on. Inspiration will come in many forms, you just need to open up to it and see how it can help transform your life for the better. Twitter & Facebook: @StudioShivAay Mandeep Flora What inspired you to set up your own business? After spending nine years working in banking as a vice president, I felt the time was right to explore a new avenue. My belief is that life is all about putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, despite how hard it can be. After our second child, I had the perfect opportunity to do just that and took the plunge to follow my passion. Tell us about your business? Something Flora is an online brand that takes pride in its three core values; handmade, quality and customisation. We provide a range of unique frames, which includes cultural frames, baby frames and a positive vibes range. The newest product from our brand is luxury hair accessories for newborns, little girls, and some for mums to twin with their daughters. What was the biggest challenge of setting it up? Taking the initial few steps is daunting as elements of self-doubt creep in, which you must learn to control. I learned to put any fears of failure to one side and trust the decisions I was making. Another challenge is that I didn’t come from a business-orientated family so this was all new to me. So I had to essentially learn certain day-to-day business procedures on the job. Tell us, how have you been able to balance work with family? The work-life balance was very tough when I was in banking, as I found the timings restrictive and lacked flexibility I needed, being a mother of two young children. Being a businesswoman and a mum with all the other roles we play, it’s definitely not easy, but I try my best to make it work. My days are usually dedicated to my children who are aged two and one, and the evenings are when I focus on Something Flora. Once they are both at nursery this year, it will enable me to grow the business further, as I will have extra hours to work on my business. What advice would you give mothers who want to set up a business? From my experience I would say, get as much support as possible early on in your business. As strong as us women are, we think we can do everything and need to do it all ourselves. However, the moment we realise we can’t do everything by ourselves, that’s when the magic will happen. This can be small things, such as asking family members to help with home-cooked food a couple of days a week, childcare or hiring a cleaner, so you can free up some time for your business. What kept you motivated through challenging times? Being very clear and specific on my goals and using these to push my business forward every day to achieve the life I want for my kids. When you have worked in a corporate role for so long, you really appreciate being your own boss and because of this I am determined not to quit, and keep going even during the tough times. Having a really supportive husband has also motivated me; he is a great person to bounce ideas off and provides a different perspective on business matters. What inspires you? Flowers are a huge inspiration for Something Flora, and the emphasis on flowers is evident across our product range. Growing up, I lived opposite a park where we had the privilege to see different flowers of beautiful colours and textures. Flowers provide me with warm, happy memories of my childhood. Another big inspiration is my two children. They have taught me to be grateful for the small things in life, including what makes me happy from the inside. Also, positive feedback from clients is the best feeling and this inspires us to work harder, and carry on designing and creating high-quality products. Instagram & Facebook: @somethingflora Aarti Popat What inspired you to set up your own business? I have had tunnel vision with regards to my profession and so interior design was going to be part of my future. I have worked across the interiors industry for more than 15 years and setting up my own business was the natural progression. I really wanted to steer clients with my own creative direction and inspire them to think outside of the box by using their interiors to tell their stories. Tell us about your business? Aarti Popat Interior Design studio creates contemporary and innovative interiors for high-end residential and boutique commercial clients. The design studio focuses on using narrative to create an interior that is wholly unique to the client. I like to use a combination of clients’ existing items, vintage finds and bespoke and off-the-shelf pieces to create a multi-layered, quirky, statement look. The key component is lifestyle led – your space is all about how you live. What was the biggest challenge of setting it up? All the behind the scenes logistics were very challenging. I knew interior design, but the business side is something that was a learning curve for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and now really understand it to ensure that I am able to achieve the targets I set out for myself every year. How have you been able to balance work with family? I find having my own business has allowed me to plan life to work for us as a family. The only time I feel the pressure is when I have big project deadlines and then it’s all hands on deck for as many hours as needed. I’m lucky that my husband is really supportive and does just as much for our little one as I do. If we need additional help, that is when grandparents and siblings come in handy. What advice would you give mothers who want to set up a business? Decide what it is you want out of your business – what do you hope to achieve and what do you want your life to look like and be focused on it. That is the single most important part of creating a business that will thrive and will keep you engaged. This will help you get through tough times, because when you remind yourself of your reason for doing what you are doing, you will pick yourself up and carry on. Have a support network in place, just in case, and start planning your weekly schedules so that you know you have all bases covered. You can do it. What kept you motivated through challenging times? It is the focus. First, for me, I know what kind of lifestyle I want for my family and what I want to achieve – having that vision clear in my head is what keeps me going. I also have a great business support network of like-minded entrepreneurs around me who all rally round when things get tough. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely and so it’s important to have the right people around you. What inspires you? Inspiration is everywhere. I find inspiration in travel, vintage items, their stories, background and history – for me, that is what forms the foundations of their interiors. Daily inspiration comes from fellow designers, walking around the Design Centre in Chelsea and looking at various textures, patterns and materials allows me to envisage what I am going to create. I’ve been lucky enough to visit some of the world’s most incredible places; so my travels have definitely inspired and informed my design style and aesthetic., Instagram & Facebook: @aartipopatinteriordesign Rani Malik What inspired you to set up your own business? I see myself as an energetic, spirited and transformational entrepreneur. My experience spans over 20 years with running and building several businesses within the mobile communications, hospitality and catering industries. I am also an expert events director, having managed large-scale events, so have had that entrepreneurial spirit and been around the business sector. This includes supporting other entrepreneurs and promoting the spirit of collaboration. Tell us about your business? For over 25 years, I have had many different types of businesses that have been very successful. Today, I have my own restaurant and banqueting hall. We have just purchased two more restaurants. What was the biggest challenge of setting it up? I am a passionate advocate for women’s rights and empowerment, and have spoken at many events on the subject. For me, challenges are an opportunity to learn and grow; so in a way, I enjoy obstacles. Today isn’t just about a celebration for change, but a reminder that there are lots of changes to be made and more causes to fight for. On a personal level, I am a mother of two boys and love how so many of us women are pressing for progress and uniting to make those changes. Being surrounded by strong, empowered and innovative women also helps overcome challenges. How have you been able to balance work with family? Having a family at the same time was difficult to start off with, but we balanced it all. I have a big family who all helped out. So that balancing act was very challenging and fun at the same time. What advice would you give mothers who want to set up a business? I would advise the amazing mothers out there to follow their heart and do something that makes them happy. Keep busy, be sociable and don’t be too dependent on your husband. Make your identity and believe in yourself. What kept you motivated through challenging times? My children have kept me motivated every step, through an ever-changing life because I wanted to give them a good family life, as well as a financially-stable future. What inspires you? My parents inspired me so much growing up. They kept us united as a family and showed us the value of hard work. So hard work never scared me or my siblings. My husband also inspires me as he came to this country with no education and worked his way up. We supported each other through the highs and lows, and found that struggles seemed easier when we remained united.