Interview with Louise Webster from Beyond the School Run
Louise Webster never expected to give up work or sell her business once she became a mum. Find out how the experience inspired her to launch the website Beyond the School Run.
What’s your career background?
I worked in PR prior to setting up Beyond the School Run. I started working for agencies, then went in house to work for Fox Kids Europe, and then on to set up my own agency, Rare Communications which specialised in the kids and family sectors.
I ran that for five years until after my first child was born. It was then after a time out of the workplace to have my second child I started to dream up and develop Beyond the School Run – a place to inspire, engage and connect parents with their skills and talents in the hours available to them.
Did your career change once you became a mum, and if so, how?
Oh yes a lot. I set up Rare Communications to create a flexible way of working only to find out after having my first child that it was really flexible at all. I then decided I needed to take some time out, to really reflect on what I was doing, focus on my young child and go on to have a second.
I had never anticipated giving up working, selling my business or even changing professions at all. I now realise it was one of the greatest things that happened to me, although it wasn’t always clear to me at the time.
What inspired you to start Beyond the School Run?
When I was ready to start working again after my second child, I became acutely aware of the barriers for mothers in returning to work place flexibly. I needed to be there for my children but at the same time I felt like I needed to connect with the working world, my brain and my own journey ‘beyond the school run’.
It also started to become very clear to me that there was so much talent wasted purely because so many parents couldn’t work within conventional working hours and the significant impact this was having on families, society and the world.
I could see such a big issue, I couldn’t ignore it and having had a daughter I wanted to ensure I could look her in the eye and say she could follow her dreams no matter what.
What was your initial vision for the site, and has it changed over time?
My very initial vision was to create an exchange of skills, whereby mothers/parents in the Western world share their skills and expertise with those in underdeveloped countries, empowering one another.
I remember thinking when my daughter was a baby if only I could share what I knew within the hour I had available to me with another parent – it would engage my brain and connection with myself and support another person at the same time.
It would take us beyond charity to a place where we empower one another through our skills to create positive world change.
However, as I started to explore the idea further I realised there was one issue – so many women in the Western world were removed from their skills for a great many reasons and this needed to be fixed first. With that came the early stages of Beyond the School Run was born.
How did you go from idea to actually building Beyond the School Run?
This was very much step by step. I wrote the idea out on paper, everything that was in my head, shared it first with my husband and then with a small group of friends and contacts.
Once I started to receive positive feedback, I started to look at what resources I needed, support with developing the website and legal work. I found this support and the skills I needed amongst the very talent I was connecting with – mothers.
What has been the biggest challenge in running Beyond the School Run and how have you overcome it?
I think changing my way of working was one of the biggest, I needed to live what I was and am sharing with the world and this is a new way of working.
So many habits have been engrained in us for such a long time, it took time for me to release old patterns, find new ones and become efficient in the hours available to me. I share a lot of the tools and techniques in my book that is coming out Summer 2017.
And what has been your proudest moment to date?
There have been a few – my first invitation to No.10 Downing Street was a defining moment for me; signing my book publishing agreement last year and also every time someone says an element of Beyond the School Run has helped them on their journey.
What skills and experience from your career have helped you create your business?
My PR skills have been invaluable to me. All other skills I have learnt or re-connected with along the way. My journey with Beyond the School Run really has re-skilled me in a way I never knew possible.
Who inspires you?
I have been greatly inspired by people such as Carrie Green, The Founder of The Female Entrepreneurs Association and Marie Forleo, who provide wisdom on many subjects in particular working in an authentically female way and following your purpose.
I am also inspired by the younger generation of female entrepreneurs such as Deliciously Ella, who are creating such positive change, developing businesses that are authentic to them and their values.
How do you balance your work with your family?
I have developed Beyond the School Run on the philosophy that you can achieve what you need to in working towards your dreams all within the hours available to you.
I have done the same with my work and continue to do so. I bring in help when I need too and recognise my job of caring for the children as my primary one.
What does an average day look like (if you have one!)?
I get up at 6.30, do 30-40 minutes exercise, I then take over from my husband and get the kids ready for school and drop them off. I then come home, go straight into my home office and work until about 2.30.
I am very careful about when I schedule meetings and ensure I am as efficient as possible with my time and often arrange calls instead. I then pick the children up from school and focus on activities, dinner etc. The school holidays are different but that is a general day.
What three pieces of advice would you give a woman ready to go beyond the school run?
- Take the first step, this will be one of the most important steps you take
- Start engaging and sharing your thoughts and plans with others, if you are looking for flexible work, to set up a business or find voluntary work start speaking about it
- Connect with a like-minded community who can inspire you and keep you focused. (We have a private members Facebook group where we do just that.)
You can find out more about Beyond the School Run on their website.