Mother and Baby

13 Inspiring Businesses Started By Women On Maternity Leave

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…
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Lynda Harding, SweetDreamers founder

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.
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Natalie Massenet, Net-a-Porter founder

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.
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Jackie Novels, Meals for Squeals founder

Jackie used her maternity leave to set up baby-food cookery school, Meals for Squeals. ‘While I was weaning my twins, who are now nearly two, my background in cookery meant lots of friends asked me for advice on recipes or to make some food for their children,’ says Jackie, 37. ‘Meals for Squeals was launched and I never looked back. I teach groups of up to six parents at a time, with classes organised according to the age of the children and the stage of weaning they are at. I also run cookery parties in people's homes (for instance, for a group of friends who met at antenatal class and have similar age babies), run evening classes at local secondary schools, and run an after school cookery club for primary age children.’
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Amanda Peffer, Blade & Rose founder

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. 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.
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Kate Cotton and Louise Ferguson, Skinny Tan founders

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.
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Jenny McLaughlan, Gumigem founder

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. 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
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Yasemin Drury, Funky Giraffe Bibs founder

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.
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Cheryl MacDonald, YogaBellies founder

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.
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Gemma Johnson, founder

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.’
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Rosie O’Carroll, e-book author

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!’
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Ellen Diament, Skip Hop founder

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.
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Hilary Collins, Big Wave PR founder

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.’
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Amy Livingstone and Julie Wilson, Cheeky Chompers founders

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.
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