Welcome to part five of our Wonder Woman Collective and thanks for visiting! Our mission is to showcase inspirational women who have made a leap into their own careers and are following their dream.
When I began this project, one of the first people who came to mind was Steph Douglas, the founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers. I can’t think of a more deserving Wonder Woman for our feature this week. Steph encapsulates everything many Mums on maternity leave dream of. She had the most amazing lightbulb idea and has made a living from it!
Career and entrepreneurial skills aside though Steph is Mumspirational for other reasons too. If you ever have the opportunity to talk to Steph you’ll notice that the 48.6k combined social media followers and blogger friends in high places have not changed her, not that we knew her before, but you know what I mean, she doesn’t grace the room with an air of arrogance, she is ever compassionate, humorous and approachable. Steph shares her stories with women across the world in her Sisterhood blog where she talks candidly about life as a mother of three!
She doesn’t take herself too seriously …
During Steph’s journey into parenthood at just 14 weeks pregnant with her first baby in 2014 her world was rocked by her 30 year old husband receiving a cancer diagnosis. I imagine this life changing event, as dreadful as it must have been for Steph and her family, has served to mould her into the person she is today, appreciating the little things and living for the moment. Perhaps it’s this that spurred Steph to create her own business, taking life by the reins and trusting her instincts. Steph has also just given birth to her third baby (CONGRATULATIONS!)
So here’s our interview with Steph Douglas, Founder of ‘Don’t Buy Her Flowers’, we think you’ll love her as much as we do!
Hi Steph, tell us a little bit about your job or career before you launched your own business
I have always worked in Brand and Communications, on Government campaigns and then on London 2012. My role was to integrate all the elements of a campaign – advertising, PR, design, digital, materials etc – and make sure they all worked together and were consistent. It involved working with all the teams responsible for each of those elements and joining everyone together, which I loved.
Tell us all about your current business
I started Don’t Buy Her Flowers in November 2014, selling gift packages for new mums. Very quickly our customers started also sending our packages for get well, bereavement, birthday – any occasion when they wanted to send some TLC in the post. The idea came when I had my first baby and was sent eight bunches of flowers from lovely family, friends and colleagues. They were all well-meaning but it struck me as bizarre that the go-to gift for new mums is another thing to care for, when you’re doing more caring than you’ve ever done in your life. All our packages are about encouraging the recipient to take a bit of time out for themselves, and that of course works for new mums (who are so hard on themselves) but also for anyone that needs a bit of looking after. Which I think is probably most of us!! We’ve also seen growth in our corporate orders, including working with businesses that want to use our services to develop bespoke packages so that’s very cool.
What made you take the leap to decide to start out on your own?
It was a combination of things really – I had the idea but then went back to work twice after both my babies. On my second maternity leave I started thinking about it more. When I went back to work I found I didn’t have the same passion for my job, and also struggled with the constant race against the clock for pick ups and drop offs and then the inevitable call that one of them was sick and needed collecting. Those things combined and then a glance in to the future when they’d be starting school and thinking ‘how the chuff will we manage then?’ made me start to think doing my own thing might be the answer. I started a blog first and that went really well, which built my confidence enough to make the leap and quit my job.
What do you love most about your job and why?
We are in a really exciting phase as the business has grown considerably in the last year so we’ve been able to build a team, and it’s awesome finding people you respect and trust to take over different elements. I like working with other people but also it means I’m not responsible for everything, which makes it all a lot more enjoyable! The feedback we get is also wonderful – we get a lot of reports of people crying when they receive our packages,
I completely underestimated how powerful it is when someone reaches out to say ‘hey, you deserve this because you need looking after and you are loved’. Our customers are just lovely.
How do you juggle being a Mummy and having your own business?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t! I don’t think anyone has the answer and I think whether you have your own business or any job, it’s a juggle! Those first two years of starting a business were particularly intense and I have to say often not enjoyable. The problem is, you’re learning all the time because it’s all new, and you’re never done. There’s always more to do and no one is going to say ‘stop now, you’ve done enough’ so you have to learn to do that yourself. I think as the business grows, your confidence does and then it becomes easier to allow yourself to stop and say ‘I’m doing ok’ and recognize the things you’ve achieved rather than only focusing on the things you’ve yet to do. It’s a massive learning curve.
Do you have any particular rules to make sure you balance things so you get family time too?
“I leave my phone downstairs every night – I’d really recommend it. Waking up and going straight in to social media/emails is not good.”
I also try not to work weekends now if possible. I also love having weekends with no plans – weekdays are always going to be busy with work and school and clubs, but having a weekend with no one to please but ourselves, and no time schedule to keep to but our own, that is my absolute favourite time.
Is there anything in particular that makes things a little easier for you?
Accepting that you can’t do everything you did before and run a business on top. The house might be a bit messier, the meals may be mostly jacket potatoes or beans, and your social life might take a hit for a while. Something has to give and if you don’t work that out, you’ll burn yourself out and then you’re no good to anyone. You also have to share the load more at home if you can.
Do you come across any negativity from others because you’re a working Mum? If yes, what?
No – I think a lot of the time when we feel judged it’s actually because we worry we’re being judged, or we’re measuring ourselves against other people. But most of the time the person hardest on us is ourselves. It’s something that is really hard when you first become a mum and seems to get easier as your kids get older and have more confidence in yourself as a parent.
I’ve just had my third and the nicest thing is that I don’t care for anyone’s opinion about how I’m doing it.
That is very hard to manage with your first because it’s so unknown and you’re so vulnerable.
Business nowadays are not just about contact via email, potential clients reach you via social media as well as websites, do you feel a pressure to keep up to date with social media and if so do you find this impacts on your time, especially in the evening?
It does, and it’s another work in progress. We’ve actually taken on the very lovely Nicola from toomuchmotheringinformation, who manages all our Don’t Buy Her Flowers social media. That has made a huge difference, and I did it when I realised I was having a third baby and do not want to be juggling a newborn and feeling compelled to post for the business at the same time. Social media is a wonderful thing – it allowed me to grow a business with very little marketing budget – but we’re all still learning how to manage it and still do ‘real’ life. Putting my phone in another room works for me.
What do you think the hardest thing about having children and being your own boss is?
The juggle. Definitely. But I think that’s for all parents, not just mothers with businesses. I feel pulled by both things a lot of the time.
And what’s the best thing about it?
Whilst it’s a juggle, if it’s sports day or school holidays or someone’s sick, I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to down tools. And I can be there for bedtime and know that if I have more work to do, I can pick it up once they’re in bed. It’s not easier – I’ve never worked harder – but it can be flexible and it’s also a passion so it doesn’t always feel like work.
What advice would you give another Mummy who is considering changing their job or career to follow their passion?
Something I think is really, really important is that no one feels under pressure to use their maternity leave to start a business or new career.
I went back to work after both of my babies and didn’t start Don’t Buy Her Flowers until they were 2 and 3. There’s a lot to be said for the familiarity of your old job and colleagues and even the same journey to work, and of course the income. So much changes when you have a baby – whether it’s your first or not – and taking a bit of time to get used to that without adding another pressure worked for me. Take your time, and when you’re ready you’ll know.
So there we are, one true Mumspirational Lady. Honest, down-to-earth and open. We love her business and her attitude and wish her every success with the business and send our very best wishes on the birth of their little boy. Thanks to Steph for taking the time to talk to us.
If you’ve been inspired by Steph’s story please do share it! We would also love to receive your Wonder Woman nominations so please do get in touch if you have ideas for future features.
You can visit Don’t Buy Her Flowers here, I’m lusting over the Gin Package (below) There’s loads of ace things on their website if you know a new Mum or you’re stuck for Christmas present ideas, go and have a look 🙂