Emma Fletcher, is a mum of four – Charlotte 19, Archie 17, Harvey 12 and Abigail 10 – and the creator of the MUM’s Office range of family diaries, organisers and planners.
In 2006 she was living in London with three young children, and finding it increasingly difficult to keep track of the constant demands of her household and family. There were nap times, school runs, after-school activities, birthday parties, meal plans – the list was endless, and she never quite felt on top of things.
So she decided to do something about it…
What drove you to design your first Mum’s Diary, and how did this lead on to eventually become Mum’s Office?
With the arrival of my third child I began very quickly to feel out of control.
I’d always loved stationery and I needed something to help get my life back in order, so the idea of a diary where I could keep track of everyone’s schedules was born. I found if I customised my diary with a grid system I could see at a glance who needed to be where, by when.
I could not find what I wanted on the market, so I set about designing and making one. That was 11 years ago.
What was your biggest challenge?
Finding time and energy to work on the business. Any mum will tell you that young children need a lot of time and attention and mine were no different.
I found I could only really work on my business once the children were in bed or early in the morning before they were awake, so I was tired and I did find it frustrating in the beginning that I didn’t get much done during the day.
How did you overcome this?
I think it was sheer will-power that got me through initially. Then, as they grew up, things got a bit easier. And, of course, I believed in my idea and knew if I could make it work it would give me a career and an income in the future.
That was a strong incentive, as it’s not always easy to slot back into a career while raising a family. I knew I wanted more flexible working hours to be able to enjoy my family growing up and get a good work/life balance.
What does a typical day look like?
I’m up around 7am to get the family ready for school/work and the dog walked.
I usually aim to start work on the business around 10 and usually work through till 3pm, so I can do the school runs either end of the day. Of course it isn’t always as neat as this – during busy periods I work in the evenings too, but do feel very lucky that I am able to work around my family.
My work day is very varied – I could be working on social media, planning a diary and checking all the dates, working with the factory on improving quality, dealing with bills, answering customer queries, choosing new covering materials or photographing the latest range. I love this variety and think that’s one of the great benefits of running your own business.
What sacrifices have you had to make?
Like all working mums I miss the interaction with other mums – coffee mornings/lunches/keep-fit classes. I do feel anything other than family and business gets squeezed into a rather tight space. But I still think I am very lucky to have the amount of flexibility I do have.
Is there a working mother that you particularly admire? If yes, why?
I cannot single anyone out, as I think all working mums do an amazing job. Being a mum is the hardest job in the world and juggling this with a job adds another dimension, demanding high level focus, attention and planning skills.
What kind of example are you trying to hoping to be for your children?
I hope they take away with them that, with a little hard work and focus, they can do/be whatever they want. They are all still in education at the moment, so their careers have not begun, but I want them to believe in their skills and ideas so they are able to make things happen.
Every mum can relate to feeling totally in control on some days, and completely out of control on others – how do you cope with those bad days, when everything seems so overwhelming?
I love my bit of head space during my dog walk. Even if I didn’t have a dog, I would still do some sort of exercise in the morning as it really clears my head and gets me thinking about what I want to achieve during the day.
When I get back, I update my to-do list in my Blox Dot Notebook. I love the flexibility of this, and find doing a key to quickly identify the urgent, the should-do and the long term really freeing.
And, of course, I can do all this because I know my MUM’s Dairy has the daily routine licked, so I don’t even have to think about that. When all else fails it is pesto pasta for supper!
Is it important to you to keep work and family time separate?
Very. Especially now that Charlotte is away at University and the others are all at different schools. I plan our work into term-time blocks and we work towards the end of term.
Then, when the kids are off, I can give them all my time and attention. I log on a couple of times a day just to keep an eye on things.
Describe your perfect day at work:
I love choosing the new season’s colour ways. A day playing with samples and swatches and ribbons is such fun.
Describe your perfect day out of work:
I do love just not having to get up in the morning to the sound of my alarm. So a natural wake up, then brunch followed by time outside, either a walk or gardening and a roast with all the family early evening.
What are your future goals?
I really want to develop our sister brand, BLOX Stationery. We found that so many people who weren’t mums loved our grid format, so we launched BLOX to appeal to that wider market.
Now we need to build this brand so everyone can enjoy.
What’s your best piece of advice for working mums, or mums wanting to set up a new business?
Don’t underestimate the variety of things you will have to get involved in, but don’t be afraid to turn to professionals when necessary. You need to be quite clear on where your strengths are, and use your network to find experts in areas where you need help.