This week, we catch up with The Mum Club’s founders Jessica Lawes and Lauren Webber. We learn all about how they took their wants and needs as mums and turned them into the UK’s leading event-based members community for mums. Discover how they juggle their work-life balance, the women that inspire them, and their views on running businesses in the digital world.
Jessica Lawes: The Mum Club, I always like to say, started because of our need. It was a very personal start to business. I say business, but we really started it out f just finding a missing part and wanting to fill the gap.
Lauren Webber: We sort of said, there must be something out there that we could create that was for mums as opposed to for the baby, we’ve been to plenty of baby groups, and we had sort of gone to these groups and felt sort of out of place.
JL: I just felt like I didn’t enjoy my time going to these groups and things, I thought there’s got to be something better and met Lauren, we got chatting and it was literally over the kitchen table with a glass of wine, and we thought, if you can’t find it, then you’ve got to create it. So that’s where it stemmed from.
The point in it all is that we no longer have this village that you kind of know and love growing up or you did have X amount of years ago where everybody lived on the same street, you still lived next door to your mum, your nans up the road and everybody’s there on hand to help care for your growing family. So you have to create it for yourself.
LW: Jess and I just decided that we felt that there was something really missing in the market that mothers weren’t being looked after, as well as they should have been, and how our whole ethos was ‘happy mum, happy baby’, you know, a bit like ‘happy wife, happy life’. Happy mum, happy baby was really sort of a starting point for us and so we set up The Mum Club. Initially, it was just us having conversations about the realities of motherhood.
JL: So, we started with the events so we could bring people together because Instagram’s wonderful, but it’s all online and you make best friends but then you’ve never met them, and you never will. So, we were like, we need to meet these people.
So, we started with the events, and they were a hit from the get-go and they sold out very quickly. They were very easy. It just happened so naturally, and you know, the women would meet and six months down the line we’d find out that one of them is a godmother to this lady’s daughter and it was just lovely.
And actually, we have now grown to a point where we know we need experts, you need proper advice in a more modern way of being told. So that’s where the kind of online really kicked in so it’s been a busy time, but it’s really exciting what’s happening.
JL: Me and Lauren are very different, but then have very similar views. I’m a lot more laid back and Lauren’s a lot more go get it. So we really complement each other – it could’ve gone one or two ways, but it works and we really compliment each other in that sense.
When we were talking about it, it was never ‘let’s create this and make lots of money and we’ll do this with it’, it was never that kind of business strategy of five-year goals and this and that. It was always ‘how can we make this better?’
LW: I think together we have created a lovely understanding in what each other needs to be able to get the best from each other. You know, Jess has four children. It’s a lot of work. Her husband’s away a lot and that takes a lot of commitment however she gives so much to the business.
It’s just all about understanding each other’s sort of personal needs, and in terms of responsibility for the business, initially it was just ‘let’s dive and conquer’ – who can do what? When can they do it?
It was a time thing really, and I think as a mum in business it is just down to the time that you have to be able to give to it. I guess in terms of dividing the responsibilities, it’s kind of come naturally, and it’s literally just been a five-year or four-year experiment on who’s better at what.
LW: The biggest thing is that for us it’s all about time management, so when we are with our children, we need to 100% be with our children. What was happening initially was we would be a bit business, a bit baby, and then we would just end the day feeling like we hadn’t done either very well. We hadn’t been present enough for our children and given them the time that they deserved and needed, and we hadn’t given the business the right thought and the right headspace that it needed and what was ending up happening is it was just too much, and we were being bad at both. So, we both came up with the way that we work best.
JL: We started implementing no weekends, so at the weekend it was real cut off. To start with, I felt like that was very difficult, because there’s WhatsApp, there’s social media, and you’re so contactable. Even with WhatsApp, you’ve got your blue tick, you’ve got when you were last online and it’s very hard to then not respond and you’re like well they’ve seen I’ve been online so maybe I should just reply and get it done and then that leads on to another thing and it just doesn’t work.
Now we’re at a place where you know we finish at this time and weekends are off and if you need a day, you put it in the diary, you’re out of office, and everybody knows you don’t get contacted and it works. It’s definitely a juggle, but I think setting them strict boundaries, even times, weekends, holidays, you need them, and your family needs them so they’re worth putting in place.
LW: I think that I am constantly inspired by women. I try really hard to take time to read and to listen to podcasts and to attend events. In fact, it’s a big to-do list of mine to attend more networking events to listen to women.
JL: I grew up around lots of working women, my mum has her own business. Everybody within the family has always worked hard. I actually come from a line of dairy farmers so it’s always been all hands on deck as well, we grew up seeing everybody work and everybody chipped in and that’s what works.
Coming into the Rugby world, there’s masses of women that have started their own business because that’s the best route to go down because you can then move that with you wherever you live so there’s lots of inspirational women that shift countries and kids and this and that and are still running these brilliant businesses. I don’t think there’s one hero for me, it’s very much all the women around us.
LW: I’ve got friends that are actually my biggest inspiration. My best friend, she is the managing director of a company called Leaders in Sport, and it’s actually a website, it’s effectively like The Mum Club setup. It’s an opportunity for people to purchase courses and they do it for sports teams and they go and learn about the different types of leaderships.
LW: You know, I just feel like the beauty of the digital world is it really gives you that initial connection, but I do think it’s important to continue to have the real-life element of it.
JL: I think the side of social media can obviously have its pros and cons as obviously all the bad that comes with good, but the opportunity I feel like that comes with digital is massive and more people should do it.
LW: It’s lovely to see these digital businesses coming out and really making such a big success out of themselves, like your Bumbles. I know there’s Peanut, she used to work for tinder, and she connects mums via an app and that’s a really interesting set-up, but I just can’t help but feel that need to have that real life connection, as well as the online.
LW: I definitely think digital has been a positive for women. With things like social media, you have an immediate platform, you have an immediate voice, if that’s to two people, ten people, a hundred million people; you have a voice straightaway.
The digital world has been brilliant for people to be able to just, I mean, we would never have started had it not been for that immediate sort of digital platform.
JL: Recently we did TMC Lates which are these videos in the evening, we’d generally have an expert having a chat and somebody could be sat there as a mum at home breastfeeding and still have the chance to be at these events and get the information, you know, you don’t have to be leaving the house.
The opportunity is so accessible and when you’re a mum, it’s not that easy to go to everything and get the babysitter, so as an example, the TMC Lates are great in the sense that you can still be at them, and you don’t need to be missing out and that is all thanks to the online.
JL: The best advice we were given was probably just go for it. You can spend days, weeks, months chatting about an idea and giving yourself reasons not to do it, especially when you’re a mum, you know, ‘oh, well, I’ll wait till they’re at school’ or maybe ‘we’ll start them at nursery and see how they get on’ or ‘no, they need me now.’
On top of that, your husbands got a career, and he goes to work, and there’s so many reasons that you can opt out of doing something and that’s the easy way. You should just go for it. The worse thing that can happen is it doesn’t work; it was an experience, and you don’t end up going anywhere with it and you learned a bit.
LW: One of the best pieces of advice somebody gave me was ‘there’s nothing more expensive than a cheap graphic designer’ and it sticks in my mind every single day because it’s so true. Every time I apply that to business, I seem to – but that’s more of a silly thing, but it’s true if you spend less money on rubbish things. You know, you should do it well if you can afford to, obviously.
But in terms of as a woman, I think the best bit of advice is probably that nobody really cares what you’re doing, like that’s the truth, like it sounds awful, and you really want people to care about you. You get to a stage in your life where your parents are there and they’re great and they love you very much, but as long as you’re happy and healthy, they don’t really care about how you get there.
It’s a bit like that with your friends as well like they care that you’re okay and they obviously are supportive but nobody really cares as much as you do about what you’re doing day to day, and I think as soon as you detach yourself from that, that people care what you’re doing, it is life changing because you suddenly realise that no one’s thinking about you and therefore you don’t care what people think because people aren’t thinking about you so it doesn’t matter if you make wrong decisions and it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes.
It’s all just about trial and error, you can build as you do it but you’ve just got to go for it and I think for me that was the most freeing thing was I just thought no one really cares what I’m doing anyway so I’m just gonna go for it and if you make a few mistakes, we’ll probably get told off along the way but we’ll just figure that out and you know, it’s all just been a big constellation of learnings.
JL: I’m definitely proud of what we have created with The Mum Club. I’m not very good at sitting back and looking at it from an outside perspective and realising kind of what we’ve done, how many women’s lives we’ve touched. The feedback we get from women is just phenomenal about how we’ve helped and to think if I was that person feeling a bit lost, and I found a community like The Mum Club and it helped me, how valuable that would be for me. That’s when I kind of sit back and realise what we’ve created, so I’m very proud of my business.
I’m very proud of being a mum. I never thought I would have four children, ever, and coping with them, a business, a busy lifestyle, and a pandemic as well thrown on top – yeah, I’m proud of how we kind of managed through that one as well.
LW: I am most proud of my daughter 100% - it actually makes me feel emotional thinking about it. She is my pride and joy, like I couldn’t be prouder of who she is as a person and who she is becoming.
I’m proud of the resilience that I have created within myself and the persistence to have something for myself. My dad died two years ago in October, and I have honestly used his death as a sort of focus for myself and the business and I’m proud of myself for doing that.
I am proud of my relationship with Jess and how we’ve come together and how we’ve built this. I’m proud of all the obstacles we’ve had along the way in terms of family things that we’ve both put aside and soldiered on for the cause.
I’m really proud to be able to one day show my daughter that you can do this, and you got all the opportunity in the world to do this and to create an opportunity for her.
I’m proud of who I’ve become on the journey, my daughter obviously, and then obviously I’m very proud of The Mum Club.
JL: I was actually listening to a podcast the other day and this bloke was talking about how you want a four-bedroom house and then you’ll be happy, and then you get a four-bedroom house and then you want a yacht and then when you’ve got your yacht, you’ll be happy but then you want a house in the Maldives, and it just goes on.
So I think it is really important to create those goals to hit, and for me at the moment, we’re working really hard on the franchise side of the business, which for me is a massive element because yes, it’s wonderful that we can reach these women in Northampton or in London or in Manchester, but everybody should have the access and on top of that if we can create jobs for these brilliant women that want to be involved and build a bigger community, to me that would be a successful franchise with The Mum Club, I’d be very happy with that.
LW: I think the definition of success for myself comes in a few packages. The first one with The Mum Club is that women feel good from something that we’re giving them. Like, I remember we had women who met at a Mum Club become each other’s godparents to their children and honestly, it was like we’d won the Olympics. That for us is the ultimate success. We have created these relationships for people that they can continue to have throughout their lives now and we’ve orchestrated that.
We’ve recently just joined up with Pandas, the postnatal charity, and that really is important to us. Another of our stripes for success is that we can now give back to those sorts of charitable entities that are doing such incredible things for women.
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