As a working mum, Keira O’Mara found she was on a never-ending quest for a better work life balance. She addressed this by launching her own – now multi award-winning – company, Mama Designs. All while raising two kids singlehandedly…
Keira O’Mara, 38, lives in Birmingham with her children Sam, nine, and Lily, six. Here, she talks starting a business, the ‘girl gang’ of Instagram and finding women in business hugely supportive…
On being a working mum
I launched Mama Designs in 2008 after having an idea for a discreet breastfeeding cover and not being able to find one to buy. I had just been made redundant from my job in customer marketing and decided to use my payout to set up the business.
I had no experience and it was a steep learning curve. I had to get another job in customer marketing so that we still had an income and I was working on the business in the evenings and at weekends (while looking after a one-year-old).
Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. But I’m glad that I did. Mamascarf was my first product. It’s a breastfeeding scarf/ nursing cover providing comfort, support, discretion and style. It’s made from 100% cotton and is machine washable.
I left paid work after eight months to focus on the business and it paid off, although it was a long time before I could take a proper salary. There have been some major highs – like winning awards (including Mumsnet Best Top ten Products of the Year and the Guardian’s Business in You) and being on TV. And some lows – like IP theft and having stock stolen. It’s been a rollercoaster and I’ve learnt so much.
The freedom of working for myself from home and seeing more of my family is amazing and plays a big part in making me love what I do. It is a big juggling act, particularly as I’ve been a single mum for the past three years. Also you never really switch off, even if you are on holiday or have a ‘day off’ you will still be checking emails.
I now have a whole range of products for mums and babies. Stylish yet practical products, ranging from Babasac (multi tog baby sleeping bags) to bright coloured cellular blankets with clashing trims. We sell to some major high street retailers (including John Lewis and Mothercare) and independents across the UK and beyond.
I find women in business are generally very supportive. I have made some lifelong friends within my industry and more recently have been welcomed into the ‘girl gang’ that is Instagram. I am in awe of the lovely women out there who are supporting each other’s businesses and goals through sharing and promoting each other. There is also a whole ‘shop small’ mentality which is great.
When I launched the business, all I really wanted was to have some more time at home with my baby boy. Now he is nine and although I still work from home, my dreams for the business have changed. I have loads of ideas for new products. So I would like to be able to really grow the business, launch lots of new products and expand into new markets.
If you’re a working mum and would like to be featured on The Early Hour (you don’t have to run your own business – we’ve interviewed an NHS disability nurse, poets, artists, designers, writers), leave a comment below with your email address and a bit about what you do.