It’s been such a long time since we’ve interviewed a special Maman and when the lovely Libby at Carousel showed off her new paintings in the shop to me a couple of months ago I was totally wrapped up by the story of where she got them from. As is so often the case an introduction from one Maman to another meant that just a few weeks later I was sat in the beautiful, light family room and kitchen of the lovely CheltenhamMaman, Jane Gray.
CheltenhamMaman HQ: Jane… so wonderful to be with you here in your home. We start every interview here at CheltenhamMaman with a question about the smaller people in your life… who have you got?
Jane: I’m mum to three…Luca – 14, Corinna – 12 and Frankie – 10.
CheltenhamMaman: And have you always been a Cheltonian?
Jane: Nope. I was brought up in Devon but as a child became obsessed with horses and three day eventing eventually taking it up professionally. That was really what brought me to Gloucestershire as it’s a pretty horsey county we live in!
CheltenhamMaman: Oh yes… don’t you worry Jane, I’ve read enough Jilly Cooper’s to know about what goes on in the horsey world in Gloucestershire believe you me!
Jane: Ha! Well it wasn’t quite like that but it was a lot of fun. Eventually I burned out and got married and fell into helping my then husband with his events company. Then the children came along and I was happy to devote myself full time the majority of time to being at home with them, dipping in and out of the business when needed. It was only when we sadly divorced 5 years ago that I started working in a traditional sort of job.
CheltenhamMaman: and was that a shock?
Jane: It was an adjustment certainly. It was a great job and I loved doing something that wasn’t Mum related but after several years I just couldn’t keep all of my plates spinning and I started to get a bit stressed. It was unhealthy for me and for the children – as a single mum I was never able to be in the right place at the right time and the mum guilt just got too much. I had to leave work and I’ve spent a little bit of time now planning out my new ventures.
CheltenhamMaman: It’s a familiar story that we hear so often. Even when employers are as flexible as they can be we just can’t be everything to everyone all the time and sometimes it’s our own standards that we can never quite meet! So tell us how you are making work work for you and your family?
Jane: Well it’s early days but I have a couple of new ventures that I am pursuing. The first is through my love of art and design. When I split up with my husband I moved into rented accommodation and was on such a tight budget I really struggled to make a house look the way I wanted it to. I was desperately searching for unique but affordable art and I came across a range of individually painted pieces of art that I could actually afford online. When my order arrived I just fell in love with it and all of my friends commented on it all the time. I looked into the costs of importing the paintings and after a lot of tooing and froing secured the UK rights to distribute the range in the UK. I set up ArtRocks earlier this year and am just developing the site and working on expanding the range. I am looking at adding other products to the site soon but I want it to fit in with the fun and contemporary image I like.
CheltenhamMaman: I love them. I think my favourite is the cow… does he have a name?
Jane: No… not yet but you’re right – I should name all of the animals. My favourite is the zebra I think. I’ve been taking some commissions as well – people send pictures of their pets or family members and my contacts create the paintings in the same style as the core range – we’ve had some fantastic art produced as a result of bespoke orders and I’m always excited to see the next request that comes through. It’s a really new concept but where else can you get unique paintings for as little as £70.
CheltenhamMaman: It’s a great idea and looks like it must be keeping you really busy on top of being a single Mum to three kids but that’s not all you’re up to! Tell us more?
Jane: Well my other passion is nutrition for children and for years now I’ve been working on a tool to support parents with weaning. I set up my website Baby Weaning almost ten years ago as my ex husband had a severe peanut allergy which meant as a family we couldn’t go near the shop bought baby food options. I got really into recipes and developed this tool which I’ve recently been refining even further to the point that it is now a ready to go downloadable template for mums to use from day one of weaning for the first 6 months of the weaning process. It’s a really comprehensive meal by meal, day by day plan and hopefully a good resource so you can introduce a wide range of foods in a sensible order.
CheltenhamMaman: It’s a fab tool and we love a Maman with sooooooo many skills – you must be rushed off your feet?
Jane: Yes but aren’t we all?
CheltenhamMaman: so in the future where are your businesses headed?
Jane: I’m just throwing everything into both of my projects and spending quality time with the kids. They are getting older now and we always assume things get easier as the children get older but it’s not true. Physically teenagers are easier than babies but emotionally and logistically they need so much from you as a parent – especially in the digital age. It’s a minefield and I’m still getting used to life as a MumBoss but it is great to be doing something I am passionate about and that I can build over time. My Kids are of an age where they are brutally honest too about what I am doing and definitely have opinions of their own which I (mostly) find helpful!
CheltenhamMaman: any tips you can offer to anyone else taking the plunge?
Jane: Enjoy the very steep learning curve, There’s so much information on the internet that we can all now teach ourselves. I did invest in an online digital marketing course which has been invaluable and I would recommend it. I also swear by the Canva app for all of my social media and graphic design requirements – it’s saved me a fortune! I would also say to keep going, it can be really tough especially when trying to start something on your own – something I’m sure a lot of the Mamans out there will agree with, it’s comforting to know that there are others out there in the same boat plugging away!
CheltenhamMaman: that’s really useful – the more we share the more we all benefit. What can Cheltenham Mamans do if they want to know more about any of your projects?
Jane: Well definitely visit the Baby Weaning site to make use of the template – eventually I’d love to develop a range of foods so watch this space and as for the art you can see much of it online but I’m always happy for people to come and view the paintings here – I can also discuss any bespoke requirements anyone may have. I’m also a member of the MumBoss club so it would be great to collaborate with any other MumBosses who may have skills or ideas to share. I’m always up for a run with other Mamans too, how about a Maman running club Kate?!!
CheltenhamMaman: Brilliant. Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me. You clearly don’t realise how clever you are juggling all of these things and I have the ultimate respect for you doing it all on your own. Welcome to the club… look forward to seeing more of you.
You can follow Jane’s projects at ArtRocks on Instagram (where she holds regular monthly competitions to win paintings) or Facebook. You can also visit the website here. You can also follow Baby Weaning on Facebook .