Interview with Mona Bijani from Tatty Bumpkin

When Mona Bijani returned to work after maternity leave, she knew that eventually something would have to give. So she launched Children Inspired by Yoga classes in central London. Find out how her Tatty Bumpkin classes were born.

What’s your career background?

I started out as a web technologist, and moved on to program management. I have been working in the corporate world for almost two decades, and I think I have reached a saturation point.

How did your career change after having children?

After my first child, I went back to work full of enthusiasm and new energy, like how you would after a long restful holiday. How naïve was I!!

Very soon after I joined back, I realised I was not enjoying working like I used to – I no longer felt motivated to work crazy hours, time at home was sacred; I was focussing less on work, and was naturally spending more time thinking about my child, and to organise childcare and activities for her, and I wanted to watch to develop, grow, play.

And I confess that my productivity at work was an all-time low. And that made me uncomfortable. This dilemma dragged on until I went on maternity leave for my second child. I knew that something will have to give. So, here I am, at the end of the maternity leave.

I am not in a position to quit my office job yet, but I am satisfied that I have taken a step towards a career that allows me more time with my children. I will be returning only part-time to my office job. And for the rest of the time, I will be focused on growing my business.

Where did the idea for Tatty Bumpkin come from?

The first few months after I became a second-time mum were full-on, so all I could do was stay afloat, but I kept my eyes and ears open.

I had put the intention out there, that things must change before the year was out. And it was a chance conversation with a friend at a social evening in late October, that the idea manifested itself.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

My grand scheme is to open a wellness cum retreat centre, and enrich people’s, especially mums’ and children’s, lives with yoga, meditation, healing.

But I have this theory that before I can throw myself into setting up the centre, I need a better understanding of the industry and the dynamics. And so what is ideal for me right now is to start yoga-based classes for babies and children.

So I have invested in a franchise – Children Inspired by Yoga, which brings together the baby and children’s yoga and movement classes.

Much before I became interested in it as a business, I had been sending my older one for Tatty Bumpkin yoga classes, which are the toddler classes for Children Inspired by Yoga. That was me with the mummy hat. And I still believe in the brand, with my business-mummy hat on.

To start out, I have had support from my husband who is a management consultant, and we used the time after the kids’ bedtimes, to slowly bit by bit, build out the idea, draw up the financial projections, put together a business plan.

I went for a small business loan because we didn’t want to use up our savings for this. Applying for a loan also brought a certain amount of rigour to the process.

What’s your USP?

Children Inspired by Yoga classes have been designed and developed by paediatric physiotherapists, educationalists, yoga instructors, and musicians, offering a holistic developmental program for children, linked closely to their key growth stages.

The class format is multi-sensory involving story-telling, art and craft, music and movement. This is perfectly balanced with relaxation and calm, so that children reach the right level of calm alertness, and learn the very important skill of self-regulation. Here’s a short video that tells you more about the class format and content.

My personal USP is I am a yogi. I have been doing yoga for almost 15 years. I have had a meditation practice for as long, from way back when saying that I meditate regularly made people look at me all funny.

Yoga is quite mainstream now, and mindfulness, is no longer, a hippy word. I feel passionately about the benefits of the two on people’s lives. I want to do what I can to introduce it to children, teenagers, youth, adults, everybody. This is the one skill that will safe-guard individuals from the ever-growing pressures of society and technology.

Who’s your target audience?

I have three core target audiences:

  1. Nurseries and schools where I can set up regular yoga classes for children.
  2. Mums of babies and children up to the age of seven who can enrol in my private sessions.
  3. Hotels and fitness centres who would like to partner with me to run yoga and mindful classes for their patrons’ children.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

I use the web and the social media extensively – I am quite active on Facebook and Twitter. I have also started to network both online and in person.

I make cold calls, which by the way, I find very satisfying to do, because I am doing it for my own business, and I send newsletters, postcards as gentle reminders to potential clients and I invite bloggers and journalists to write about my classes.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Networking.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

My fear of failure – I have always had big dreams, but have lacked the confidence to go after them. I have been chained down my insecurities about my abilities. I turned 40 recently, and realised I have been living other people’s dreams all this while. I need to have a go at making my own dreams come true, before it’s too late.

And your proudest moment so far?

I gave a demo in a nursery, and the nursery manager was immensely pleased with how it had gone. Later, I was in discussion with her colleague, about the price and the whole package on offer, etc. And she told me the, “nursery manager only wants you for her children, she told me there was something Zen about you.” I was on top of the world.

My husband’s advice to me that evening was to get a testimonial right away from the nursery manager, because beyond this point it can only be downhill!

Why is work so important to you?

I have always put my heart into my work, and that’s the only way for me. It’s a wonderful playing field, where you are constantly learning and evolving. It’s my source of intellectual stimulation. Either that, or I’ll be doing Sudoku puzzles all day.

Who inspires you?

People who are bold enough to go after a dream. People who follow their passion to the fullest. Steve Jobs. Tenzin Palmo. Sam Petter, the founder of Children Inspired by Yoga.

How do you balance Tatty Bumpkin with your family?

I am fortunate to have full-time childcare, so I am able to focus on my business to a large degree. I can be around my children, and my days can be more fluid, so that I needn’t be such a hard choice between work and home.

When I go back to work part-time, it will be a bigger challenge to split time and mind space between my office job and my new business, and my precious children. But I’d rather have that problem, than not, as it means I am headed in the right direction.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. There will be some degree of risk that you will need to accept. Be open to change. Be open to chance. Do proper research, plan well, and then take the plunge.
  2. You need a weapon that you can point in the face of anxiety, disillusionment, impatience, etc. and zap them away. Something that makes them go Poof! Gone! Devise a mood-lifting strategy – running, yoga, jazz, whatever.
  3. Find other folks on a similar journey – your network, your community, they will help you in invisible ways.

Love to join one of Mona’s London classes? You can find out more about them here