This week for my Mums in Business series I’m delighted to be featuring Laura who set-up Pink Spaghetti PA Services in the Woking and Staines area. After having children Laura realised that she needed a job that worked around her children and their commitments; to be there everyday at the school gates and never misses a concert. Pink Spaghetti has allowed her to do just that, by setting up this franchised business as a virtual PA to support other business and individuals who need it. I love the sound Laura’s day and it seems that no two days are the same.
I must say that I’m a little taken by this Pink Spaghetti idea myself. It sounds really interesting and something that could work well around the children. Have a read of Laura’s story below and how she has gone on to be nominated for awards, and how Pink Spaghetti works for her…..
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and Pink Spaghetti for the Staines and Woking area?
I’m Laura, Mum to Gracie (6) and Poppy (3) – together with my husband, we all live in Ashford, Surrey.
My professional background is in corporate Marketing, specifically Market Research in Operations roles, where I spent 15 years of my career. Starting a family lead to a change in career in 2016 – using transferrable skills and a genuine passion for helping people, I decided to make a big change, one that would still enable me to assist people, but also to guide them and help organise them. I enjoy working in a methodical and structured fashion, and either wanted to help others work more efficiently, or to do the work for them, by means of outsourcing.
Pink Spaghetti gives me exactly that – a business that offers small business owners valuable support in areas where they don’t know how to do the task, don’t want to or simply don’t have time. I take on anything from the bizarre to the mundane – sourcing reindeer for a Christmas event and attending a customer’s wedding as a paid witness have featured alongside travel booking, running events, creating marketing plans and managing email newsletters. It’s the perfect solution for so many small businesses that don’t want to or can’t afford to commit to a member of staff, part time or full time. We don’t ask clients to sign up to minimum spends or contracts, we really are a ‘pick up, put down’ service.
Our USP is our flexibility, the range of services we offer and our outstanding customer service. When people think PA, they often think of secretarial duties but we offer so much more than that. We don’t just post onto your social media platform for you, we help grow your following strategically. We don’t just sort filing for clients, we create processes and procedure to use moving forward, to help them work smarter.
What were your motivations for setting up Pink Spaghetti?
My main motivation was my family – I am Mum to 2 fabulous little human beings called Poppy and Gracie. At the time I started my business, my eldest was going to be starting school that year and suddenly I had to be able to accommodate a much shorter day – I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay in my current role and do the school run so it was time for change.
I started to look for a job that would allow me to work from home with more flexibility. At that point I hadn’t even considered being self employed and running my own business!
I saw a post on the forum from another Mother with the same dilemma and someone had mentioned Pink Spaghetti Virtual PA’s. I didn’t even know what a VPA was so I looked Pink Spaghetti up and loved what they did. I had been a working Mum, the pull between work and home is intense sometimes and there’s a real frustration around not being able to do it all! I loved the solution they offered – an extra pair of hands to give you that 25th hour in the day. It was such a simple idea, but for small businesses who don’t have the finance or the inclination to hire a full or part-time member of staff, paying for someone by the hour as and when it’s needed, is a great solution!
I started to think about whether I could be the VPA offering that help to small businesses. I worked in Market Research and had been with the same company for 9 years, and in the industry for 15 years.
I couldn’t put the Pink Spaghetti idea down. It would be a huge change – was I ready? Did I want to give up my career? Joining the team meant buying into a franchise – could I afford the initial outlay? I’m not a risk taker, and walking away from my career felt risky.
But my gut said it was the right move – for me, for family life. I couldn’t think of a reason not to do it – so I signed on the dotted line and my husband and I toasted to my new company!
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
It is a juggling act but it’s one that works well and feels manageable. I do the nursery and school and then I start work at 9am, which could mean working in my home office, attending / running a networking event, visiting a client or meeting a prospect for a 121 – every day is different!
I love my office at home – it was my daughter’s nursery but she got turfed out so Mummy could have an office, but she went into a bigger room so there were no complaints!
The role offers so much flexibility – I am here if my children are ill and not at school / nursery. If they have a Christmas play, I can attend and haven’t got to book time off. When the school holidays are here, I arrange my work so that I can be with them more. If they want to have a friend to play after school, I can accommodate.
When my workload is busy, taking time off for a Christmas play for example can be a struggle, it’s not always as easy as it sounds…but, since I manage my own time, if I log off for a few hours in the morning, I can log back on in the evening and catch up.
I would recommend it to other parents wanting more flexibility – it’s been one big tremendous learning curve and it’s not for the faint hearted but the support has made it all manageable. I often wonder how life would have plodded on if I hadn’t taken this opportunity – I would be getting home late, not seeing much of the girls, my eldest would be in breakfast club and after school club, and while there is nothing wrong with those choices, I personally wanted to be the one standing at the school gate doing the pick-up and drop off just as my Mum had.
As a working Mum, buying a franchise has been the perfect happy medium for me, I couldn’t carry on working the hours someone else had defined, and I couldn’t have gone it alone completely either – the things I have learnt about running my own business, would have taken years for me to learn from scratch on my own if I wasn’t with the franchise.
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
There have been a few – this year has been particularly good! In March I won Franchisee of the Year at the annual Pink Spaghetti conference. There are now over 30 Pink Spaghetti PA’s within our network so I was up against some stiff competition! I won because of the varied work my business undertakes, how my business has grown, my presence on social media and my networking capabilities.
Last month I was announced as a finalist in the category of ‘Business Services’ in the Best Women in Business Awards 2018 – I was whittled down from 700 entries so was incredibly proud! The final was this month and unfortunately, I didn’t win but I did have an amazing evening.
Making it through as a finalist and winning award have been really good for PR. It’s all well and good telling a prospect that you are very good at what you do and are confident you could really make a difference to their business or their life, but winning an award or even being nominated helps those around you understand that you don’t just talk a good talk, but that you can walk the walk too.
What’s your top tip for Mums who are thinking about setting up their own business?
It is incredibly time consuming, both physically and emotionally so if you’re going to go into business, give it everything you’ve got and make sure you have a genuine passion for your business – when times get tough, it’s the passion that motivates you and pulls you through.
Make sure you have a good support network around you – while it might only be you setting up, most people need good friends and family around to support them with everything from your launch and spreading the word that you now exist, to lending an ear when you remember you haven’t got a work colleague or boss to talk to, to emotional support when it all starts to feel like hard work – which at some point it will! And that’s OK to admit.
I have the most incredible support network – my friends and family are incredibly supportive. My husband and parents in particular are always there for me. But I also have the most amazing support network in my follow Pink Spaghetti PA’s up and down the country. We all talk regularly in our group chat, sharing everything from successes, stresses and new finds.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Mums in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Bag All Done, Inscripture, The Fit Mum Formula, and VeeLoop