My Early Hour: Sara Vickery-Bragg, founder of Seventeen Minutes

“As an only child, I’m happy in my own company but I do miss the camaraderie with colleagues, the tea break chats and payday lunches.” Sara Vickery-Bragg, founder of Seventeen Minutes, on mornings and working-from-home…

Sara Vickery-Bragg, 33, lives in north London with her husband Ralph and their two kids: Max, three, and Olivia, one. She is founder of Seventeen Minutes: a self-care subscription box for mums – named after the fact that mothers, on average, have just 17 minutes a day to themselves.

What’s your home like?
We’re 90% finished with renovating a 1930s semi. When we first moved in, it needed complete gutting so the last four years have been a labour of love. The part I love most is our open-plan kitchen and dining room with space for the kids to play. We have bi-fold doors that open out to the garden and we keep them open most of the summer. Most of the time, I’d say it’s organised chaos here.

What time are you up in the morning?
Anytime between 5.00-6.30.

What wakes you up?
Always my son Max, who is an early bird. There’s never any need for an alarm clock in our house. I can usually hear him going down stairs and opening the fridge.

How do you feel?

What do you do first thing?
Have a cup of tea. I don’t seem to function without having that cup of tea. Then I’ll curl up on the sofa with Max, read him a story or put CBeebies on while I wake up. Olivia doesn’t rise until after 6.30 usually.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Chaotic but joyful.

Tea or coffee?
Tea. Always.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
Some days I’m home with the kids so we have playtime in the morning and naptime, then we venture out to the park, soft-play or for a playdate in the afternoon. Other days the kids are at childcare and I work, so I spend most of my day at the kitchen table on my laptop or my phone.

What’s your workspace like?
I like the kitchen table because it’s big and close to the kettle. It’s an open space, filled with natural light and I like looking out at the garden. In the summer, I make myself a little office outside sometimes.

Where are the kids when you’re working?
They are at either at nursery or with my parents. We’re lucky to have a great support network with my parents living nearby.

Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
Seventeen Minutes launched in March this year. It’s self-care subscription boxes for mums with £1 from every box going to PANDAS Foundation UK, a charity supporting parents with pre- and postnatal mental health.

I quit my safe 9-5 job when I was on my second maternity leave when I realised it was no longer the right option for me. I wanted more flexibility and a new challenge so I decided to set up my own business.

When I became a mum, I struggled with losing my identity and I found taking regular time to myself really helped. I used my own experience to start Seventeen Minutes and encourage other mums to make time for themselves. I carefully curate each box and source products that will help mums relax, unwind and reset.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
The juggling act of being a mum and running the business single-handedly. I often feel there’s not enough hours in the day and end up working evenings and weekends. It’s impossible to switch off when you run your own business and that can spill in to the time I have with the kids, as much as I try not to let it.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Happy customers. When I get a testimonial or a personal thank you, I know I made the right decision to start the business. I love to think that someone has joy from something I’ve put together. If I can help mums unplug and feel 100% themselves, then I know I’m doing my job right.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
As a new business, I’m the one doing everything as I can’t stretch to hiring any help. From website maintenance, social media and branding to PR. As a creative person, my least favourite part is accounts so I have just hired an accountant. I see that as an investment, as I’ll be able to focus more time on the aspects of the business I love.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
As an only child, I’m happy in my own company but I do miss the camaraderie with colleagues, the tea break chats and payday lunches. Sometimes I miss being part of a team, discussing ideas and working together but ultimately I prefer the flexibility and job satisfaction of running a business.

What’s the secret to career success?
I’m not sure yet. I’d like to think it’s confidence. If you believe in yourself, you’ll always get somewhere. Ask me again in a few years…

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
It’s definitely a challenge but I’m learning as I go. I try to plan as much as possible so I have things in the diary to look forward to if it’s a tough demanding week. For me, it’s all about getting a balance I’m happy with and sometimes that means saying no to things and favouring time just for me.

Describe an ideal weekend?
It would involve sunshine, a family walk, playtime in the garden and a BBQ at home.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
I’m a classic cliché, I’d love to wake up in the Maldives. Somewhere with cloudless skies and turquoise seas on my doorstep. I’m always so relaxed when I’m by the sea.