As well as prepping for your baby’s arrival and getting to grips with being a new mum, maternity leave is a great opportunity to take some time to boost your career – or build yourself a new one...
...Which is exactly what these smart mums did! Check out the 15 mums who started their own business whilst on maternity leave.
Lynda invented the iconic Ewan the Dream Sheep while on maternity leave with her sixth child. 'He cried constantly and it was a nightly struggle to settle him to sleep,' says Lynda. She tried everything to soothe him and eventually discovered that one of the most reliable ways to soothe him was to dim the lights, switch on the vacuum cleaner and rock him while in his cot. Unable to find a product to do all this, Lynda started planning Ewan and the SweetDreamers product range.
1) Lynda Harding, founder of SweetDreamers
Pregnant with her first child, Isabella, Natalie started online luxury fashion empire Net-a-Porter when she was 33 years old. ‘I couldn't believe you could be sitting in your apartment in London and be clicking on a Victorian jacket in Wisconsin, and that someone in Wisconsin could send it to you!,’ the former fashion journalist told Vogue. Natalie and her then-husband Arnaud raised £1.2 million to launch her business from her London flat with a team of 15, which has since grown to become one of the most world’s most fashion-forward shopping destinations.
2) Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter
Blade & Rose is a children’s fashion brand specialising in high quality leggings with fun designs on the bottom for babies and toddlers. Mum of two Amanda, while on maternity leave with her four-month-old daughter, started the company after she found herself constantly pulling down her daughter’s dresses and shirts to cover her nappy.
3) Amanda Peffer, founder of Blade & Rose
Amanda now has stockists across the UK as well as in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Greece, Japan, US, China and Dubai. Both of her children have modelled for the brand and her husband gave up his job to work full-time for the fast-growing company so it’s a real family business.
The Essex-born founders of tanning brand Skinny Tan started their business while on maternity leave in Australia – where there is no maternity pay. They came back to the England where they had a successful launch after securing investment on BBC's Dragon's Den, becoming the fastest selling tanning brand in the UK.
4) Kate Cotton and Louise Ferguson, founders of Skinny Tan
Jenny worked in pharmaceuticals before launching baby teething jewellery brand Gumigem when on maternity leave with her second child in early 2010. He was a big teether and grabbed at everything, which gave her the business idea. After months of research and development, Gumigem was born – resulting in a necklace that looks like a nice piece of jewellery, but has a dual function as a safe teething item for your baby.
5) Jenny McLaughlan, founder of Gumigem
Jenny has already developed the range further and intends to continue this by adding more shapes and designs. Read our mums’ reviews of the Gumigem Duchess Gumidrops teething necklace.
Dribble bib company Funky Giraffe was set up in 2009 by Yasemin. Having worked for a major retailer herself before becoming a mum, she was aware of the cost of production, the mark up charged by companies and knew what she wanted for her son. So she set out to produce fun bib designs at a reasonable price.
6) Yasemin Drury, founder of Funky Giraffe Bibs
Cheryl was made redundant while on maternity leave, which is why she started her own yoga teaching business, Yogabellies. ‘While I was pregnant I realised there was a real need for more activities suitable for pregnant women so YogaBellies was born – a form of yoga that is suitable for both new mums and mums-to-be,’ says Cheryl.
7) Cheryl MacDonald, founder of YogaBellies
Jessica started Little Ducklings Boutique which sells brand new beautiful Portuguese knitted clothing.
8) Jessica Bartlett, founder of Little Ducklings Boutique
"Whilst I was on maternity leave with my beautiful son, I found myself spending a fortune buying him lovely clothes from all sorts of websites. So one day I decided to do my research and I managed to start my own baby’s boutique called little ducklings boutique where I sell gorgeous Portuguese baby clothes at affordable prices. "
Gemma’s started planning her family finance website My Family Club when she was pregnant with her first child in 2006, in an effort to help mums save money on family essentials. ‘I then raised funding during my second pregnancy and the website launched in 2012,’ says Gemma. ‘The business is a family finance website for parents with children aged up to 16 years old and we have over 220,000 subscribers to our site – a number that’s growing.’
9) Gemma Johnson, founder of myfamilyclub.co.uk
When Ellen’s son Spencer was born in 2003, she invented her first product – a nappy changing bag. She saw in a gap in the market for changing bags that were functional, looked good, were unisex and didn’t cost lots. After launching her first design, she and her husband created Skip Hop, which to this day sells parenting products that are clever and look great.
10) Ellen Diament, founder of Skip Hop
Amy and Julie invented the Neckerchew, a unique combination of a dribble bib and chewy teether, while on maternity leave with their first children. From their own experiences of losing, or having to pick up and re-sanitise, teethers for their own kids, they saw a gap in the market for their product and so Cheeky Chompers was created.
11) Amy Livingstone and Julie Wilson, founders of Cheeky Chompers
Hilary set up her own PR business, Big Wave PR, on maternity leave. ‘Within a year we had bagged Carlsberg as a client and have never looked back,’ says Hilary. ‘My daughter, now eight, was under Great Ormond Street and on steroids for the first 18 months and by working from home it meant she could stay with me and not go to nursery where she may’ve fallen ill.’
12) Hilary Collins, founder of Big Wave PR
Rhianne started Cley Celebrations which is a children's party supplies store, in August 2017.
13) Rhianne Ford, founder of Cley Celebrations
"When I found out I was pregnant in the April of 2017, I was working a desk job at Camden Council. I’d always loved the idea of running my own business and thought that this might be the right time to start thinking about starting it. So, before I even went on maternity leave I was determined to start something and use what I thought would be “free time” get things going."
"No one has time to be running around last minute and in between work hours trying to get gifts and party supplies for children's parties and I thought that this would be an easier and less stressful way to organise birthdays!"
Fed up with a messy handbag? Yep, same here! Dinara launched her business Bag All Done while on maternity leave, which sells handbag organisers.
14) Dinara Khusainova founder of Bag All Done
Rebecca has an award-winning business making gifts by engraving pieces of oak.
15) Rebecca de Jager, founder of Hugo's Workshop
"It started when I was on maternity leave with my first son in 2013, after my husband came home with a wood engraving machine as a very strange and unexpected gift for me!"
"I then went back to work part time so carried it on as a side hustle. I found it too difficult to work, look after my son and the house AND run my business so I knocked it on the head."
"When my second son was 10 months old in 2016, I decided to start up the business again as I had 2 months of maternity leave left and I didn’t want to go back to work in my regular job."
"So I went into my garage, dusted off my engraving machine, restarted up my business facebook page and 2 years later I have a business that is really starting to pay off. It’s taken a lot of hard work and long, long hours but it’s been totally worth it!"
Photo credit Jodie Humphries
Rosie used her time on maternity leave to publish her own e-book, titled, What They Forget To Tell Me About Life With A Newborn. ‘I wrote the book while my baby slept in the day and it kept my brain ticking over in between the nappy changes and endless breastfeeding,’ says Rosie. ‘The most challenging part was working my way through the publishing process – organising and uploading a cover and working out the Amazon publishing forms (international banking codes anyone?) Proof reading the book with a baby brain was also a challenge – but hey, that’s what Grandmas are for!’
16) Rosie O’Carroll, author 'What They Forget To Tell Me About Life With A Newborn'
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