Interview with All By Mama founder Gemma Whates
Looking for somewhere to showcase and sell the beautiful things you make? Read how a mum and daughter have launched All By Mama, a new online shop for creative mums.
All By Mama is a mother and daughter team, Mama H and Mama G. Mama G (the daughter) has answered these questions and added some of Mama H’s thoughts along the way too.
What’s your career background?
In 2005, after studying marketing for two years at Bournemouth University, I applied for two work placements in advertising agencies in New York and London. I
spent an exciting summer working and then was offered a job. I made the choice to take my job and not to finish my degree – I think at the time it was partly driven by the fact that I wanted to stay in London with my boyfriend (now fiancé!).
But I don’t think that choice has affected my career – before starting All By Mama I worked for 10 years in marketing agencies in London for clients such as Disney and Mars.
Mama H has worked in marketing for the last 30 years, starting her first business from the kitchen table when Mama G was just two! As well as being the co-founder of All By Mama she also owns a children’s publishing company.
How did your career change after becoming a mum?
I became even more ambitious. I want to show my son what can be achieved if you are prepared to work hard and never give up. I think I got that from Mama H!
What gave you the idea for All By Mama?
A belief that I could start a business around family life, and then a realisation that I was not the only mum that wanted to do that. Also a love of shopping for gorgeous, handmade things for my son!
What makes your site different from other online stores?
Everything at All By Mama is made by a busy mums working hard to run a business around family life. We want to build a community in which everyone understands the struggles and joys of running a business around having a family. Our Mamas can attract investors, join our Children’s Club and network together.
When you buy something at All By Mama, you are supporting a working mum who is supporting her family and your products has truly been made with love and care.
How did you fund your site?
I took my original idea to my mum, Mama H. We developed the idea together and worked out a way to build a website to a professional standard using our own savings and loans.
We have begged and borrowed to get the site built! We’ve also made personal sacrifices to get All By Mama off the ground and we really believe in it’s potential.
How do you find your sellers?
Before we launched All By Mama we used social media and events to find our Mamas (sellers). Now, it is a combination of our new sellers finding us via social media or our website and us approaching talented mums that we would love to work with.
We feel very proud to showcase our Mamas and we are very excited every time someone new joins us.
How do you spread the word about All By Mama and reach customers?
Our objective over the next few months is to raise awareness of All By Mama. As a start-up we don’t have big budgets so we are mainly relying on social media, PR and our weekly newsletter.
We have lots of promotional activity planned, and our Mamas are also brilliant at helping us to spread to word.
What has been the biggest challenge to date in starting your business?
Working with a toddler in the house! Other than that, I think for both Mama H and myself, it has been building the website.
We didn’t have a huge amount of knowledge about different platforms before we started and it seemed to us that there were a million ways to do the same thing. It was hard to know who to trust.
We finished up working with a fantastic team – so it all ended well!
And your proudest moment?
Seeing the website launch and receiving lots of positive feedback from sellers and customers was a very proud moment. To know the people you are working with like what you are doing is very rewarding and all our Mamas have been incredibly supportive and positive.
It was also a very proud moment when our first Mama joined us and when we made our first sale.
What’s your vision for All By Mama?
We have lots of plans for All By Mama. We dream of operating internationally and providing not only a sales platform, but a place of advice and support for all mums around the world with a creative business and especially those just starting out.
We also dream of developing a charity scheme to support working mums in disadvantaged parts of the world, as however hard it is for us it is likely to be much harder for someone else.
How do you balance your work and family?
It is hard to avoid the temptation to constantly check emails, seven days a week. We both often can’t help ourselves and we are so passionate about making All By Mama a success that we do enjoy working!
We work seven days a week most weeks at the moment but I feel very lucky to be able to spend quality time with my son every day, and we do a lot together.
I tend to work early mornings and late nights. I also plan lots of family outings during which work isn’t mentioned and I am lucky to have a very supportive fiancé who does lots of cooking!
How important is it to have the support of your family?
We are both incredibly lucky to have very supportive partners. My fiancé plays a part in All By Mama, and without him being so supportive it would be extremely difficult for me to get any work done.
Our families have helped us lots. From checking the website before launch, to words of encouragement, we are very grateful. And All By Mama HQ looked like a florists on the day we launched!
What advice do you have for other aspiring business mums?
Be brave and give it a go. I am a strong believer that if you are prepared to work hard you can make things happen.
Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen – can you cope with it? Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Don’t forget your motivations, too (for me it is working flexibly to enable me to bring up my son in a way that works for me and my family).
Actually, I love this quote from one of my favourite albums, The Element of Freedom by Alicia Keys. I am not sure she was talking about starting a business, but I think it applies in a strange way:
And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful that the risk it took to bloom.
I think you know when the time is right. Oh and lastly, switch off the TV. You will get so much done!!
You can browse All By Mama’s beautiful gifts made by mums on their website.