Doers and Dreamers... Keira O'Mara
Hi Keira tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m Keira I’m 42, I’m a mama of 3 (still getting used to saying that! Age 12, 9 and 7 months) we live in Birmingham but I am originally from Liverpool. My business is Mama Designs which I set up 11 years ago whilst on my first maternity leave, after having an idea for a discreet breastfeeding cover (I was really nervous about BF in public). To mark our 10th anniversary I set up Mama Designs Business Club, I had already been mentoring for a few years and this was more of that, an online business course “Grow Your Business on a Budget” and new for this year, events.
What was your driving force to set up your business?
My driving force was my baby boy and wanting a more flexible life. I was made redundant whilst on maternity leave and had to go and get a job. The only jobs I could get were full time. I had already had the idea for the business and started doing stuff behind the scenes but knew that we needed a salary coming in. This really gave me the kick up the bum to keep going with the business (which i did in the evening when my 1 year old was in bed). It was really hard work but I knew that I had to keep going to be able to leave my job at some point (which I did 8 months later).
What’s your workspace like?
The kitchen table!! I did have an office but my partner works from home now, so he uses that more than me and I work at the kitchen table, which suits me more as work is more “as and when I can” now I have Daisy at home with me. So it’s often got my stuff piled at one end, which I move at mealtimes.
Tell us about a typical day?
Now a typical day since having Daisy is quite different to how it was before. We start with the school run for Lily, I exercise weekday mornings (usually at home to a HIIT video on YouTube) and then I will work while Daisy naps. Things I can do around her I do, like posting on social media or answering an email or two. I have learnt to save my big jobs for when she is napping, so then I might catch up with my team, work on planning my event, write a newsletter, do some sales planning, general admin, blog posts, sourcing content. No two days are the same really in terms of what I do. I do try and have a couple of days that are more Daisy focussed and we go out for a walk with a friend or to Buggy Fit. I squeeze a bit of work into the evening once she has gone to bed (if I am not too tired) I have learnt that it's not my best time to work (I am def a morning person) but till she is a bit bigger I have to squeeze stuff in where I can.
How did you launch?
I launched Mama Designs (formerly Mamascarf) at a Baby Show on a friend's stand. She said I could get feedback on my new product if I helped her for the day. It was very low key and low budget and nothing like some of the launches I see these days. I had had some leaflets made and I had a website. I had 50 Mamascarves produced and decided I would see what happened. Luckily I got some good feedback. Some media coverage soon followed in the national press and TV which really gave me a boost.
What’s your favourite online resource (app/tool) that is indispensable for work?
At the moment I am using Preview to plan out both my Instagram accounts. I also love Audible for listening to business books on the go.
How do you manage family and work life balance?
It is hard. Particularly now with Daisy being so young. Before she was born I felt like I had a great balance. I was able to use time with my older two being at their dads, or getting taken into school by him as extra work time (I rarely worked evenings or weekends). Now it is a struggle to fit in my work and I feel like I am not having the relaxing maternity leave that others do. But I know that the benefits from this come later.. In terms of the flexibility being my own boss provides. I also have two wonderful employees which has allowed me to take my foot off the gas a bit.
What have you found most surprising since setting up your business?
That I still love it 11 years in and that we are still here when I have seen so many businesses close! I think before setting up my business I did lots of different roles and none of them were me really. I love doing this.
On the tough days how do you self motivate?
Some days I go out for a walk to have a change of scenery and clear my head. Meditation and exercise also help. I have several great groups of business friends and sometimes a call with one of them can be enough to sort me out. It depends why I am in a funk. If it's because I have not had much sleep, I have learnt to not give myself such a hard time and to switch off from work for a few hours or even have a sleep!
What’s been your business highlight so far?
Being on ITV’s This Morning demonstrating my Mamascarf to Philip and Fern. There have been lots of highlights but I think that is probably up there as the best.
What have you got planned next?
We have our first event next month for the Business Club with Gemma from Mutha Hood and Steph Douglas from Don’t Buy Her Flowers. I want to do more of that, carry on with my mentoring (which I love) and the business courses. For Mama Designs we are looking at focusing on new markets.
And finally…. What’s your top tip for anyone thinking of starting their own business?
Go for it! What is the worst that could happen? Starting your own business and working for yourself is not an easy option. It is hard work but it is also extremely rewarding. It is definitely a rollercoaster ride, whatever stage you are at with your business, the highs and lows just get bigger the further along you are. You become better equipped to deal with them but they are still there. That said, I absolutely love it and could never imagine working for someone else again.