Suzanne was one of the first people I met on my MumBoss journey and from day one was a real inspiration to me. She’d had children and then had an idea – which is common – I meet people like that all the time – but what was different about Suzanne was that she did something with that idea and despite the process of taking her idea and making it into a successful business sounding like a long and scary pathway – she just did it. Step by step. What can be more inspiring than that? Nom Nom Kids pouches and snack bags are now firm favourites for mums looking to give their children snacks, smoothies and purees in a hassle free and environmentally friendly way.
CMHQ: So Suzanne thanks so much for meeting me for a much needed glass of wine and a chat about your story. Every interview at CheltenhamMaman starts with the same question. Tell us about your small people?
Suzanne: Well I have two. Stanley and Nancy. Stanley is 6 and at school. Nancy is 4 and starts in September. She does four days a week in Kindergarten at the moment.
CMHQ: So how do you manage the school holidays?
Suzanne: With difficulty and determination! No… I’m lucky to have some grandparents to call on for help and the great thing about being a MumBoss is that you can work around the kids so some early mornings and late nights usually feature.
CMHQ: Before we delve into your experience as a MumBoss – what did you do before the children came along?
Suzanne: I studied clothing and textiles in Nottingham with a view to getting a job in fashion but I sort of fell in love with computer aided design – it’s a semi creative part of fashion and when I left uni I found a job at Pepe Jeans helping them integrate CAD and doing some of their textile designs. As I got to know the business I went on to manage the design process. Within a year Pepe relocated to Amsterdam and I went with them with a view to staying for 6 months,of course that became twelve years as I fell in love with the City. There was a point where I was working between London, Madrid and Amsterdam which I managed to keep up for around 18 months before an opportunity to work in sourcing arose at Tommy Hilfiger back in Amsterdam which I jumped at.
CMHQ: Serious career girl then. How did marriage and a family infiltrate this jet set life?
Suzanne: Well my friends were responsible for my marriage. They planted us side by side at a wedding in 2003. We became friends which later developed into a long distance relationship and we got married almost 10 years ago near Ledbury. Gaz initially moved to Amsterdam to be with me after we got married but struggled to find work so he moved back to the UK and the relationship became long distance again. Eventually I gave in and agreed to move back and he landed a job in Stroud and I started looking for something in Gloucestershire.
Cheltenham was clearly the place to live and when I found work at SLG (a cosmetics and toiletry product development firm) everything fell into place. After a couple of years developing cosmetic sets I fell pregnant and took my year of maternity leave with Stanley. Within a week of returning to work I realised I was pregnant again and I must admit I wasn’t really ready for it. My maternity leave with 2 children under 2 seemed like an endless blur of no sleep and childhood illnesses and I realised that any holiday allowance I had would be sapped up looking after the kids not to mention the nursery fees made it financially ridiculous to return to work.
CMHQ: Familiar tale sadly. So had you already had the idea?
Suzanne: Nope. I spent a lot of time trying to find “the” idea. I toyed with a couple of options – a breastfeeding scarf came close but I decided the product wasn’t unique enough. When Nancy was four months old we went to the US and I found some (really badly designed) reusable food pouches in the supermarket and they got my mind buzzing. As a mother of a child going through some serious food anxieties I thought that the product had real potential to help mums like me.
I returned home and started putting my ideas into a design and researching what was available on the market. There were a couple of options, some not reusable and none as easy to fill with a wide side opening and gusset like the one I had in mind. I used the website Ali Baba to find some potential manufacturers and started to discuss my ideas with them. Most of the manufacturers had very firm ideas about what they would and wouldn’t do and I had to fight my corner quite hard about the elements of the design that I just would not compromise on. I also got my old sourcing contacts involved to physically check the facilities and processes of the factories. It took time and I had to change suppliers more than once to ensure the product was to my standards.
CMHQ: So the original pouch was born. What made it unique?
Suzanne: Lots of things – it’s dishwasher and freezer proof, BPA and phthalate free, it has the wide side opening to fill from and the spout is at the top so it’s familiar to babies and toddlers. The design is child friendly – it’s taken from a mural I painted on my kids bedroom wall and that’s what makes it special – it’s a talking point for meal times. Something to take our attention away from our phones and get us chatting to our children as they eat.
CMHQ: And more products followed on?
Suzanne: Yes. The monster pouch was the second product. A bigger pouch more appropriate for hungrier toddlers and older children. The original remains the best for weaning younger babies. Then about 7 months ago I launched the Monster snack bags which have been a really great addition – I love the snack bags and so do my customers. They last for a really long time and they are the perfect solution to the cupboard full of little tupperwares where the lid never matches the box. They are just the right size for a small portion of treats or a healthy snacks and as an added bonus they store lemons for your gin and tonic beautifully.
CMHQ: And you have an overseas outlet now?
Suzanne: Yes – the products have been really popular in the Netherlands and I have a lady over there who distributes and sells them on my behalf so I suppose you could say it’s become a global enterprise!
CMHQ: So what stage are you at now? Are you comfortable with where the business is at or do you feel the need to change?
Suzanne: I think we all need to be constantly evolving our businesses and with Nancy starting school in September of course I feel like it might be time to take the business to the next level so I’m getting some help on the marketing and strategy fronts and starting to look at what parts of my workload I could be delegating or outsourcing to free up more time for growth and development.
CMHQ: And looking back – what would you have done differently?
Suzanne: Easy… ask for help more.
CMHQ: and do you suffer much with the dreaded mum guilt?
Suzanne: I don’t have much at the moment but I do have house wife guilt. Working for myself has allowed me to be with the kids after school and kindergarten, cook them proper meals and I don’t work during the day at weekends but it does eat into my time with my husband (although he is also an entrepreneur so we’re as bad as each other), time for myself and the time I have to keep the house in order. I am really happy that what I have chosen to do allows me to drop and pick up the kids from school, go to classroom visits, sports day, concerts and if they are ill it’s no problem (although slightly frustrating).
I really didn’t like going back to work when Stanley was one so I loved that Nancy stayed home with me so much longer. She went to a local nursery for a few hours one day a week when I took on some paid social media work and slowly built up her days to the four days she is doing year. I don’t have any guilt about Nancy now being in four days as she had so much time off with me initially and she starts school in September so it’s good preparation for her.
CMHQ: And what are you most proud of?
Suzanne: I am really proud of what I have done. I have learnt so much about listing products, SEO, social media, running competitions but it is time for me to work out how to grow the business and what areas I need help with to achieve that. I’m finding that quite daunting as it is taking me out of my comfort zone. Since starting I have managed to help quite a few other people get started on their own businesses offering help on building their websites and running their social media, getting started on Amazon which has been really fulfilling and I’m proud of that too.
CMHQ: And tips for other MumBosses just starting their journeys?
Suzanne: I could have hired a team to get my products off the ground and it would all have happened much faster but I wouldn’t have learned all of these new skills. It’s really easy to get caught up in the newness of everything at the beginning and to want everything now but there’s a lot to be said for plodding away and making it happen yourself and your way without external influence.
Also I really recommend the MumBoss Club – I’ve made such an incredible new group of friends and colleagues all begging up each other’s businesses and it’s really helped me (as a natural introvert) to come out of my shell. I have come to every single event and have learned something from every one even if it was a subject I thought I knew really well. Even if it’s just to have your confidence boosted to know that you are doing ok it’s worth just coming along. Sharing that everyone feels the same and has dips in their confidence really makes you feel normal.
CMHQ: Thanks so much Suzanne. Your pouches and snack bags are a regular feature at the weekly Push It Real Good walks in the park and us Mamans must all be spreading the word about the versatility of your range. They really are life savers!
Suzanne: I so love seeing local Mums using them – it makes my heart happy! In fact I can offer 20% off to Maman readers on all products – they can just visit the Nom Nom Kids site and quote “CheltMaman” for their discount.