Interview with Leanne Davies, founder of Run Mummy Run®
Read how a Facebook group Leanne Davies started to find local running buddies has grown into Run Mummy Run®, a community of over 52,000 women, a clothing range and a new book.
What’s your career background?
My background is in marketing, sales and customer service. I spent 14 years in the airline industry, gaining experience in different areas. My favourite role was marketing; I love being creative.
Did your career change after children, and if so, how?
Yes. The marketing role I had been doing before my maternity leave still needed a full-time person, and I wanted to return part-time. I was moved into an administrative role two days a week.
When and why did you get into running?
It was my husband, actually. When we first met, he was into running and triathlons. His enthusiasm had an effect on me, so I gave it a go. Initially I found it so hard, but as my fitness increased, a love of running grew.
How did Run Mummy Run® initially get started?
After my second baby I was struggling to keep to running arrangements I’d made or make it to my local running club, because the times were early evening at the children’s bedtimes. I seemed to always be cancelling on plans or running alone.
I was desperate to find a network of women online to chat to about running, gain motivation from and, if I was lucky, meet some running buddies, even if it was chatting from my sofa.
On my return home from a run one day, I sat in my kitchen and set up a small Facebook group of three women. It steadily grew in popularity in our area of Surrey, but then women started joining from all over the UK.
It was amazing how quickly it grew, and five years on we have proudly reached over 52,000 Facebook members.
When did you decide to turn it into a business (or realise it was becoming one)?
It was never meant to be a business – just a hobby – but I realised the tides were turning when women were asking me to source them running kit with our name on. They wanted to feel part of something, which I thought was lovely.
My first order was for 10 colourful pairs of running compression socks (they are a thing you know!) and I nervously paid for them worried they wouldn’t sell. They sold in an hour and so I bought 20, and so on.
The t-shirts came next. I had a logo made and ladies wanted to wear our name on their tops. I was so honoured, and that is how it happened. I have literally fed demand. What the girls want, I do my best to source.
You have an amazing Facebook community. How have you built it?
It has been built organically. I ensured the group was friendly and supportive, and set a benchmark of expectations for anyone joining (be nice!). Our rules clearly state it’s a place to support, encourage and be positive. We are all about bringing people together no matter who you are or what stage of running you’re at – we welcome everyone.
I think having this positive vibe within the community radiates throughout the group and people naturally respond with the same positivity. Our ladies love the community so much they go and tell their friends, so a lot is referral based. Also, having the branded running kit being worn at races across the UK is an amazing way to get our name out there, so that’s helped our growth too.
Having an excellent admin team to look after the groups (we have around 14 Facebook groups now) is essential to ensure all groups run smoothly and our members are happy.
What are your top Facebook community tips?
Find your subject and stick to it. Decide on what you want your community to be about and don’t deviate from that. Have clear rules for the group and don’t be scared to address things if people go off track.
Your community is like your home and you have every right to be in control of that; you kindly invite people in and they must respect the space and everyone in it. Find a good admin team that shares your ethos and community values, but also a team that engages well with your members. They will be the backbone of your group; often, if you can’t be around, you know your group is in safe hands with people you trust.
Finally, be positive and don’t let what is going on behind the scenes spill onto your group. I sometimes think of our admin department like a swan: to the outside world everything is smooth, graceful and serene, yet underneath you have these strong powerful legs working crazily hard to keep everything moving. That’s my team – all 25 of them!
You have an online clothing line. How did that come about?
It started with me sourcing a few items and testing the waters. Initially people were ordering by email; I would send them a PayPal request and, once I’d received the payment, I’d take the parcel to the Post Office.
Eventually this became incredibly time consuming, so we built a website with an online shop that could take the orders and payments for us. By this time my sister had taken on the role of dispatching the goods from her house, but little did we know that a year later we would again have to find a bigger and better solution.
We decided to outsource to a fulfilment company in the West Midlands who could accommodate the volume of orders we were dealing with. It’s been a game changer, and has completely allowed us to grow our kit range for our runners.
You also work with brands and sponsors? How do you attract them? And what do they look for in blogs to form a working relationship?
We are quite lucky that many brands and businesses contact us directly to work with them. We have a wonderful marketing team who maximise every opportunity possible when we get them.
Brands and sponsors tend to look at the ‘reach’ we can offer, so will be interested in our website analytics, social media channels and the followers we have on those channels, plus direct marketing opportunities such access to space on our newsletter.
Bigger brands and sponsors definitely want to align themselves with businesses or bloggers who follow their own values and ethos. Run Mummy Run® is the same; when we look to work with anyone, we want to feel that our values are shared with them and that they would treat our community with the same care and respect as we do. I think this is incredibly important.
At what point did your business grow beyond your dining room table?
Funnily enough, I still work at my dining room table! However, when our online shop became too big to handle from a house, it was then that I decided to outsource.
My work consists mainly of emails, social media and Skype calls, so everything I need for the business is on my laptop. It was the whole reason we’ve continued to be an ‘online’ running community as opposed to a physical club in my town or area. I knew as long as I had Wi-Fi I could work on it flexibly around the children and there would be less impact on them.
What’s your USP?
I think our USP is our ethos, which is kindness. We want our women to be kind to themselves and to encourage, support and motivate each other. We also aim, through our women, to teach children the value of kindness, so that they can one day make an impact on the world.
We actively promote kindness, friendship, love, support, equality and unity as core values. Some of the acts of kindness we see in our community between members are incredible.
Who is your typical member?
Our typical member would be a female runner, or a female who has not yet run but is intrigued to know more about it.
The community welcomes all abilities, from complete beginners up to ultra-runners doing 100-mile races. The link between them is that they all support and encourage each other no matter what stage of their personal running journey they are at.
We were all beginners once and we know how important encouragement was back then, so we pay it forward and support the new ladies. At the same time, our newer runners applaud and support those who are further ahead with their running. It’s really great to see.
What do you love most about your business?
I love that it changes lives. I’ve seen so many inspiring stories from women joining us when they were having a really tough time. A year down the line we see that they have grown into confident, happy women having made positive changes in their lives.
I love empowering women to see their full potential, and running is a wonderful way to do this. I really enjoy the social aspect to my business too, meeting new faces and working alongside some inspirational people and entrepreneurs.
I’m also proud of the confidence this venture has offered me by pushing my boundaries and giving me the courage to do things that I would have run a million miles from five years ago. If I had to choose one thing though, it would be making a positive impact on people’s lives.
What barriers have you had to overcome in building it?
Confidence. Before Run Mummy Run® I had a lot of hang-ups about what people thought of me. Did I look silly? What would this person think of me? Will they laugh at me? A lot of this has now gone – it’s had to. I would never have succeeded in what I do if I had put my energy into worrying about things so much.
My role as Run Mummy Run’s founder means people want to know about me and see what I’m up to. This has meant getting used to being in pictures and talking to the camera, something that five years ago I hated.
Now with advances in social media, such as Facebook Live and the new Instagram Stories, I’ve had to be brave and put myself out there. That was a massive barrier to get over. What I’ve found is the more I’ve done it, the more normal it feels, and I’ve grown to love engaging with our followers in this way and they love it too.
Good things definitely happen when you push your boundaries.
And what’s your proudest moment to date?
Publishing my new book this month Run Mummy Run: Inspiring Women to Be Fit, Healthy and Happy. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen to me! It’s been an extremely busy six months putting it together with co-author Lucy Waterlow and our publisher Summersdale.
It’s a perfect read for any female runner. We’ve been so lucky to be able to see within our own community what topics female runners want to talk about, and so have drawn a huge amount of information from our ladies and put it straight into the book.
It’s also a great introduction to the world of Run Mummy Run and how you can get involved with our community.
And finally, your top three pieces of advice for bloggers looking to turn their passion into a business?
Be yourself, and talk about what you love and are passionate about – it makes it so much easier and more natural. If it’s a new blog, spend some time investing in the growth of your following first; there’s no point in pushing the business aspect to only a few followers, as it will leave you feeling demotivated.
Grow a little organically first and practise on them, see what works and what doesn’t. I grew Run Mummy Run® as a hobby for nearly two years before considering it a business, so I had all the followers there. Organic followers will be your best customers; they will love you and your brand, and support you every step of they way.
And finally, be real, be you – it’s the recipe for success.