Many women in the UK today are conflicted. Caught between the choice of bringing up their family and working. Being able to work part time, or at hours that actually fit around family commitments could be the answer. But too many businesses still aren’t recognizing this.
Recent information from the CEBR (the Centre of Economic Business Research), produced in conjunction with Digital Mums, shows that many parents are left frustrated by the lack of flexible working hours. Unbelievably, they discovered that 2.6 million mums aren’t working right now and out of those, 68% said they would be happy to rejoin the workforce if flexible working was readily available.
One business woman (and busy mum), Sarah Rugg, is making it her mission to give mums the opportunity to be in control of their work/life balance. “It seems so ridiculous that some of the best talent is being shunned, just because flexible working isn’t widely offered,” says Sarah, “After all, the traditional idea of 9 to 5 no longer exists, so why should we still be working it!”
Sarah discovered the lack of flexible hours when she herself became a parent and tried to find that illusive ‘working mum’ equilibrium. “Like many other first time mums, I was quite worried about leaving my two young children at nursery.” Sarah admits. “I felt like I was missing out on something that I could never get back.”
“I began to wonder about the possibilities of working for myself. Part of me thought ‘it’s an absolutely crazy idea’, but in all honesty, once I made the decision to go it on my own, I never looked back.”
Sarah saw there was a gap in the market for supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs with day-to-day tasks, so they could concentrate on the bigger issues of growing their businesses. “With the developments in technology and remote working, a Virtual Assistant service seemed to make a lot of sense.”
Eleven successful years later and Sarah’s determination paid off. “It’s been an uncertain journey at times and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but it’s been worth it, especially when it comes to spending quality time with my family.”
While working with her business partner on expanding the services she already offered, Sarah realised that her experience was something that she could share. “I thought, if I was doing it, why couldn’t other people? And the idea for My VA Business In A Box was born.”
Thinking about how she had felt starting her own business, Sarah realised that what she had lacked most was confidence. “I thought that may be it wouldn’t have taken me so long to get started if I had been more confident in my abilities. If I had had someone there to guide me through start up it wouldn’t have felt so daunting.”
“So when we first started thinking seriously about Business In A Box, I wrote down everything I had done, from registering as self-employed to setting up a website, and basically put together a step by step guide on how to start a business. I wanted to show people how easy the whole process could be – from someone who has actually done it.“
In the last six months, Sarah and her team launched a pilot scheme of My VA Business In A Box, to an eager audience.
“We were thrilled when the pilot stirred so much interest and decided to limit it to 16 members to trial the product. I was also pleased, if a little surprised, to see that it wasn’t just working mums who were joining us – we have a couple of men, a member who has a disability so prefers to work from their own space and several members who don’t have kids at all. Running their own businesses gives them the flexibility they need, whether that’s simply avoiding the daily commute or working hours that fit around their personal circumstances.”
“The pilot scheme was really for us to see how everything worked and gave us a chance to iron out any kinks – and for that to happen I wanted to give each member as much of my time as possible. I made myself available 24 hours a day seven days a week, giving advice and guidance on each step of business set up – but to also be on hand if they had any fears or just wanted to talk through their day.”
Sarah said she has loved working so closely with her pilot members, but it is only now that the trial period has come to an end that she realised what an immense responsibility it has been. “It didn’t quite hit me at first, just how much trust these people were putting in me. Some were juggling full time jobs while getting set up, others quit their jobs to focus solely on their business – and I think I felt each and every worry along the way. But I also got to share in their triumphs – whether that’s putting out a successful piece of marketing or taking on their first client.”
Six months on and the feedback Sarah has received from the pilot members continues to be really positive. One member, Rachael, said “All of the scary parts of setting up my own VA business have been taken care of; the legal templates, terms and conditions and guidance with regards to insurance policies.” Feelings that are echoed by fellow pilot member, Katrin, who says. “As I reach the end of the set up phase I know I would never have felt as prepared starting up a business on my own.”
But it isn’t just having step by step directions in business start up that has put the new members’ minds at rest, it’s having a successful businesswoman by their side while they did it.
“Sarah has given a lot of her time answering queries and she never makes you feel like anything you ask is silly or pointless,” explains Rachael, “it’s very difficult to put a price on the advice of someone who has been through the exact same situation as you and successfully come out the other side.”
“I didn’t envisage becoming a mentor of sorts,” says Sarah, “but I’m glad that my experiences can help others find the work they want. Just because we want to do the best for our families, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to make the most of our talents!”
Do you like the idea of being your own boss and running your own Virtual Assistant business? Like the thought of working flexible hours that work for you? Then we can tell you how at http://myvabusiness.co.uk