Interview with Country Mummy blogger Danielle Silsby
Fancy yourself as a blogger? In summer 2014, Danielle Silsby left her career in law to launch a new blog. After months of hard work, Country Mummy went live in January 2015. Find out what went on behind the scenes.
What’s your career background?
I spent 10 years working in recruitment, employer relations and civil litigation. I have a natural affinity towards research and project work which I was able to explore fully whilst working in law.
But I am also very target driven and enjoy sales. Country Mummy allows me to experience all the different aspects of working life that suit my personality.
How did your career change after becoming a mum?
After my little girl came along, when I was looking to return to work, returning to a career in law while working around my family seemed like an ideal fit. It was a safe (although not easy) option, and would provide me with a solid career.
I worked steadily for a couple of years gaining my qualifications and building my experience but over the course of the two years it never really felt right. More and more I found myself thinking about what I could be doing rather than what I was doing.
I found it very hard at first to admit that it wasn’t for me but the sense of relief I had when I finally did, first to myself, and then my family was massive!
At the end of the Summer in 2014 I had the idea for Country Mummy and I had an almost overwhelming feeling of now or never.
Our circumstances were that Isabella, our daughter, was about to start school, and baby number two hadn’t yet come along so I felt in a very weird place… not quite in the throes of raising a young and demanding family, but equally not able to dedicate myself entirely to a 9-5 career working on somebody else’s clock.
From the first day my little girl started school in September 2014 until the launch in January 2015, I worked solidly on the website, entirely on my own, often feeling like I was a bit crazy!
It was quite a lonely process, and everything took 10 times longer than I thought it would, but now that the website is out there I can focus on turning it into the business and resource that I hope it will become.
What inspired you to start Country Mummy?
A combination of things. I’m a huge advocate of Somerset. I think that as a county it is prone to being underrated/overlooked and I was keen to do my little bit to help promote the area.
I also wanted to try and create something that inspires me, challenges me, and importantly that allows me the flexibility to balance work and family. With Country Mummy I have created my dream job encompassing many of the things that I love, as well as the things that I believe I am good at.
What can people find on the site?
I hope that people will visit the site for many reasons. Whether that be to get ideas for day outs, to see what offers are available, or to read a feature article. I have tried to create a resource that will be a go-to hub for local families in the area.
A fresh and interesting days out page was first on the agenda for me. There are resources already available for families to use, but they are generally national resources with Somerset featured. I wanted to create something much more bespoke to the area and appealing.
Over time there will be a varied and interesting family friendly directory and I will be working hard to add new and interesting offers that families will appreciate.
What do you hope Country Mummy will achieve?
My husband suggested that the website name could be changed to Mamaset which was quite a popular suggestion amongst friends and family but I shied away from the idea as I am hopeful that the website will continue to grow… Country Mummy Devon, Dorset and so on. I have registered the domain name www.citymummy.co.uk just in case as well!
In time I would like the site to have the functionality to show comments and reviews, and I would like the offers to take off and for more local businesses to get behind the idea of creating local offers for local people. I would also love to have a Country Mummy app.
I have lots and lots of ideas but, for now, I need to take it slowly and steadily. I need to take the time to listen to any feedback people are kind enough to give me and ensure that the business relationships I have built to date are appreciated and nurtured.
How difficult was it to get the site off the ground? What were your biggest hurdles?
The complete lack of control over any technical issues has been very frustrating. There is a definite communication barrier between my vision and the world of IT!
Accepting that not everything is going to be perfect straight away was a hurdle as well. If money were no object, and time was not an issue I would have waited for the site to go live until everything was completed with every Somerset location added, the directory fully built, and relationships already formed with half of Somerset so that I could just present the site with hundreds of fantastic offers, but that simply was not practical.
Everything already took so much longer than I had anticipated so in the end it was just a case of getting it out there as is, and working on it on the go.
What skills from your career did you use creating Country Mummy?
I had a great few years in my early 20s working in recruitment and the sales skills and the tenacity that I developed from working in that environment have been very helpful.
I also had a fantastic mentor during my time working in law who advised me not focus all of my attentions on certain parts of a case just because they interest me more!
I believe it is a genuine skill to be able to keep your eye on the bigger picture and follow the necessary processes to reach an end goal. I have had to follow that approach with Country Mummy otherwise I would still today just be wandering around Somerset taking lots of beautiful pictures!
How did you come up with the design/look and feel?
The first time I stumbled across a mummy blog I lost my entire day and had my eyes opened to a whole new world. The blogging community is inspirational, friendly and hopeful. It represents where I am at this stage of my life and I feel a silent connection to the amazing people that run these blogs.
I am an impetuous person anyway, so on the same day that I discovered MummyDaddyMe, Capture by Lucy and some other fab blogs I registered the domain name for Country Mummy.
At this point I did not have anything to say necessarily, but I decided there and then that I would like to get involved with this community somehow.
I knew I wanted a creative outlet but I also needed whatever I embarked upon to be a credible business. I have no issues admitting that I gained inspiration for my website from a combination of already brilliant concepts.
I have tried to learn from the best that is out there in the areas that are relevant to my website and what I am trying to achieve… Mumsnet, Groupon, Vouchercloud & Tripadvisor. But I do think that my presentation is unique, and that my desire to build an online community championing the local area and small businesses is authentic.
How do you plan to grow Country Mummy?
It is an obvious answer but social media will be a top priority for me. Connecting with mums through Facebook and listening to what they would like to see on the site, connecting with businesses, bloggers and entrepreneurs through Twitter and trying to absorb the wealth of free information and knowledge that is already out there.
I will continue to put fresh content on the site and connect with new businesses and hopefully this will engage and interest people. By the very nature of the site hopefully word will spread.
It will not just be Country Mummy that will advertise a particular offer, but obviously the business that is running the promotion will want to spread the word as well.
Why do you love living in the country?
I love living in Somerset because of the options and variety it affords you. Somerset is beautiful in itself, and it’s just an hour to Bath, an hour to Devon and Cornwall and two hours by direct train to London.
As a family we feel perfectly positioned to be able to experience the best of everything that the UK has to offer.
Friends have previously commented to me that living in the countryside is wasted on me as I’m not actually an outdoorsy person – I’m allergic to virtually all animals, I’m a real wimp when it comes to the cold and if someone suggested going on a hike to me I would probably cry!
Despite the above I still adore the sense of freedom and openness that comes with living in the country and it is exactly the place we want to be at this time whilst we are raising a young family.
Have you always lived there, and if not why did you move?
I made the giant leap (!) from Taunton, Somerset to Bath, Somerset a few years ago with work, but we moved back to the Taunton area when my little girl was born.
We had a great couple of years living in the centre of Bath where we experienced beautiful restaurants, shopping and theatres on our doorstep, and I do miss those things of course, but all in all I am at my happiest with all my family around me and neighbors that I consider to be my friends.
Who inspires you?
My sister inspires me to be a better person. She is 35 years old, a mother to three incredible children, a fantastic step mum, she holds down two jobs, volunteers every week, and is currently retraining and studying so that she pursue her own career ambitions.
On top of all of that she has the biggest heart of anybody I know and would pretty much do anything for anybody often to her own detriment. We are in many ways very different, but I look to her for guidance and support and she is my moral compass.
Professionally I’ve got a huge amount of admiration for Greg LeTocq and the amazing successes he has accomplished with Vouchercloud. I find his entrepreneurial journey very inspiring.
I will also read anything and everything that I can find where the founders of mumsnet are featured. Justine Roberts and Carolyn Longton have demonstrated perfectly what can be achieved if the tone of your message is genuine (and you work very hard of course!)
What tips do you have for other mums who want to start a blog or website?
I think if you are looking to start a blog or a website as a creative outlet then my advice would be not to second guess yourself. Try not to worry too much about what other people may think.
If, like me, you have aspirations for your website or blog to be the foundation for your career, then I think it is really important that you and your family have thought through what the next few years will look like.
My husband has been incredibly supportive but his support hasn’t negated the financial pressures. Even if there is little or no financial pressure, inevitably you will be redirecting your time and energies towards your new venture, and that in itself can be quite contentious if you have not had honest conversations from the get go about what you expect from each other during this time.
Read and share Danielle’s blog Country Mummy.