Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies might be best known for her crafting credentials and multiple businesses, but the entrepreneur is also a master of juggling a successful career and two children too! We caught up with Sara to find out more about achieving that work life balance, keeping her kids grounded and the best parenting products from the most recent series of the show.
“Motherhood is everything that I thought it would be and more. I love it. My boys are four and seven now and I've got a little niece as well as we’re big family people. I always spent a lot of time with my mum and I spend even more time now with my parents and with my in-laws. One of the best things about parenthood is you get to make the lives of the grandparents and give them something incredible and I just look at how wonderful our family is and think yes - I’ve been a big part of making all that happen.”
"Those kids have unconditional love for me and I often lie in bed with them at night and think one day you’re gonna be all grown up and you’re not gonna want to hang around with me anymore so I'm just gonna make the most of this time now. I love that they need you for everything and I am shaping the individuals they become."
Her two boys, Oliver and Charlie, may be ridiculously adorable, but they were rather unimpressed when they watched their mum on Dragon's Den for the first time.
“We had a watch party for the first episode going out and that was the first time they’d seen it so we had a party with all our friends and family and it was on the big screen and I remember Oliver was watching it and he couldn’t quite get his head around it and after, he came over and said ‘well that wasn’t really Dragons’ Den mummy was it?’ I said what do you mean? He said ‘well it’s not a den, it’s a room, and they’re not really dragons’ and I think in his head, he probably thought I was dressing up as a dragon and sitting in a cave somewhere because I said I was going on Dragons’ Den. He was five at the time and I understand as a five year old that’s probably what you’d think it was going to be. So I think I've been a huge disappointment to the kids from the Dragons’ Den perspective.” Sara jokes.
How do you keep your kids grounded?
"It really means a lot to me to keep my kids grounded. It’s hard because I want to give them everything I didn’t have, and I have the money and the means to give them everything but giving them material things isn’t gonna make them a better person. A couple of years ago, Simon's mum and dad wanted to take them to Thomas Land for the weekend, and they had the best time and the kids were buzzing and they wanted to go back there.
"I wanted to have that experience of going to Thomas Land with them, so I wanted to just book and take them a few weeks later and Simon wouldn’t let me. He said no - ‘that's not an everyday thing, it’s a treat that’s a once a year thing. They've had that experience and I don’t want them to think that this is a normal thing that kids do all the time’ and I know that it was really important for it to be special and for it not to become every day but then it meant that I missed out and I think it's about doing what's right, not what is always the most fun or the thing I can do."
"When I was young, my parents really didn’t have much money at all. It would always be camping holidays and I was always the kid at school with the school bag from the car boot sale and it didn’t affect me growing up and I want my kids to grow up like I did - appreciating things and appreciating the value of money. I also had to work for things, it wasn’t just given. And Simon was the same - we both came from very working class families. We are absolutely on the same page on how we want our kids to grow up.
"Simon and I, if we go on holiday just the two of us, we’ll go somewhere quite expensive to a nice posh hotel but if we’re going with the kids, we won't, because I don’t want the kids to think that’s what a regular holiday looks like. Last weekend I took the kids to Haven and we stayed in my friend's caravan cos that’s what we would have done as kids and they had the best time. It just shows, it doesn’t have to be expensive material things - it’s just about making memories with the family."
Achieving that work life balance
"What I find is to be successful you’ve got to be in the moment in whatever it is you’re doing. There’s no point trying to be multiple things to multiple people at the same time cos you’ll fail at everything. I always said, I didn’t want to be that mum who was at the park pushing my kid with one hand on the swing while doing emails on my phone with the other hand. I didn’t want to be that person. So I acknowledge and I accept that I don't have as much free time with my kids as what other parents have, but what I don't have in quantity I make up for in quality.
"I’m really diligent about leaving work on time and getting home and having those couple of hours with the kids at night and if they want me to go in the bath with them or whatever I’ll just do it. I’m one of those mums where the answer is yes, now what’s the question? And I'll do anything those kids want to make sure that the time they have with me is the best time it can be, so when they’re not with me, I still know they’re having a great time with their grandparents or with their dad, and I don’t pine after what I can’t have. I accept that at that point, I’m on TV, or I’m in a meeting or I’m having to travel somewhere and I’m giving work 110 per cent of my attention.
"I’ve done it before when I've been away from home and you spend ages sat flicking through photos and then you start feeling guilty that you weren’t there for something and the guilt riddles you. I remember missing sports day one year and I was distraught that I wasn’t going to be there to cheer them as they ran over the finish line but Simon was there and the grandparents were there so the kids still had a great time and I thought right, well I can’t be there for sports day but I’ll definitely be there for the nativity this year, so instead of focussing on what I missed out on, I congratulate myself on what I had been able to do. Don’t focus on the negatives, focus on the positives."
Sara’s advice for mums starting their own business
"It’s all about being present in the moment and not letting mum guilt creep in. Mum guilt is the one absolute killer and it just eats away at you but it’s within our control so I just think, if you do want to be everything and have the successful career and be a successful mum, you can do it, but you’ll only achieve it if you build yourself up and be positive about what you’re achieving, not riddle yourself with guilt about what you’re missing out on.
"I know loads of mums who have started businesses from home. Furloughpreneurship I think they call it - where people have had a bit of a security blanket and they’ve taken the opportunity to start a business. My advice for those parents is to just remember why you started the business. If you started the business because you want to be able to work flexibility around the family, don't compromise everything with the family to give it to the business cos you’ll look back at that time and resent it and I think that’s the biggest thing.
"I started my business before I had a family and I could give work my everything but when I had a family I had to wind that back a bit and work less. And I had to remind myself why I started the business - so I could have both the business and the family. So, don’t look back when you’re older and think 'I missed out on so much when the kids were little because of the business', because really, was that worth it?"
Sara’s top parenting products of the series
"It’s really easy as a mum to buy a load of rubbish that I didn’t really need just because I saw a load of other people had them so when we get parenting products coming in the den, which we get quite a lot, I really have to think 'is this a gimmick or is this actually making my life easier'. It wasn’t that long ago that I had a baby so I can look at something and think, it might look good, but it’s a gimmick. And I think that’s what I have sometimes over the other dragons. I’ve been there, done that, walked the walk. We get a lot of birthing products and pregnancy products so in that space, it definitely gives me a USP to draw in on my own personal experiences.
"The products that have really stood out for me are the ones that have been in the parenting space. You shouldn’t have favourites - it’s like children - I haven’t got any favourites but the two I’ve really enjoyed working with this series is Willsow Books and EasyTots."
Willsow Books: The The Carrot Who Was Too Big For His Bed
"Willsow Books are plantable children's books and because I've got kids that are right at that age I think it's really important that kids understand where their food comes from. With my four year old Charlie, I got a note from the teacher one day and he said we’ve been learning about where our food comes from this week and Charlie knew all about it, not like another kid in the class when we asked where did milk come from he said the Tesco Van.
"Our Charlie knows all about it cos my mum and dad took an allotment when I had the kids cos they knew I didn’t have the time to run an allotment, but they wanted the kids to see what raising the hens was like, where our eggs came from, and growing all of the different vegetables we eat, so the kids really understand and love that, so when I saw these plantable children’s books I just thought this is brilliant cos for all I’ve instilled into my kids, not all kids have that benefit. The idea is that you read the book all about the carrot for example and it doesn’t feel very educational, it’s just like a story, and when you get to the end of it, you cut off the last page in the book and you plant it, and a few days later - cos kids like to see immediate results - the seeds start growing and I just thought it’s absolutely genius and the kids loved it."
EasyTots Weaning Set
"What really impressed me with EasyTots was that Helen was a fantastic entrepreneur - really driven, understands the niche in the market and where she’s going after it and she developed a great product based on consumer feedback and research so it's a tray for babies. I know when I was younger and had Charlie, you’ve all got those IKEA high chairs but the food goes all over, the pots are going on the floor and this is a special tray that’s got like a suction mat underneath so it sticks to that mat and the kids and toddlers can’t lift it up so it keeps all the food organised in front of them for them to eat from it and when you’re ready to go, you just pop the lid on and you pack it into your bag. I just love the product - it took me right back to when I had my children and you’d see one of the other mums with one of the latest gadgets and you’d all have to have it, so I thought she’d done a brilliant job of finding a niche within her market.
"So by the end of the last series I felt like I was in the baby space! I remember turning to Touker and saying hey you - i’ll be taking you on in the baby space now."
Dragons’ Den airs Thursdays, 8pm on BBC One or catch up on BBC iPlayer