This week on my Mums in Business series I’m excited to be featuring Amanda who created The Little Story Telling Company to share her love of science with children. Its aim is to inspire children of all ages through stories and workshops.
Here Amanda shares her journey, and her very awe-inspiring set of accomplishments with us. If you are a Mum reading this who would love to set up their own business, then also check out Amanda’s top tips as she explains how to believe in yourself, not to be afraid of failure, and not to dismiss things, because there is always a solution. I agree with all of those points, so if you’re looking for business inspiration then read on, and check out the competition at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a signed copy of Amanda’s book: The DNA Detectives – To Catch a Thief
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and The Little Story Telling Company?
My name is Mandy Hartley, I am 43 years old and I live in Norfolk with my husband, Jon and two children, Annabelle (10 years) and Harry (8 Years). I have a PhD in genetics and I have worked with DNA for over 15 years. My business involves performing stories and workshops to children to give them an understanding of difficult scientific concepts like DNA, natural selection, evolution and inheritance and to inspire them with a love of science and literacy. All my stories and workshops are designed to fit with the curriculum for KS1 and KS2 in terms of science and literacy.
I am also an author and I have written a series of “The DNA Detectives” books. These are the first fiction books for 7 – 12 year olds where children use DNA to solve a crime. The idea behind the books is as well as an exciting adventure children will learn about DNA, cells and forensic science. The first book “The DNA Detectives – To Catch a Thief” is accompanied by web links and a live workshop to provide a cross curricular resource for science and literacy. The second book “The DNA Detectives – The Smuggler’s Daughter” is coming out in March/April. I have also written articles for “The Week Junior Magazine” and “Primary Times” and act as a science consultant for a publisher on various science books.
As well as this I am in the process of creating a science laboratory in Norfolk for children aged 4 years – 18 years. It will be a state of the art laboratory offering children in this area hands-on experience of methods currently used in the field of genetics.
Finally, I have created a GCSE Genetics workshop for secondary schools which I am currently applying for funding and will hopefully be rolled out next year. The idea is to produce an applied workshop which demonstrates to pupils how the genetics they are learning about is used by people working in this field. This will be followed by an A’ Level workshop.
What were your drivers and motivations for setting up The Little Story Telling Company?
When my children were born I was working as a Laboratory Manager for a company in Norfolk. I was trying to manage a full-time job on a part time basis and it became apparent to me that this was an impossible task. The work load was far too great and trying to balance this with sleepless nights, trying to be a good mum, keeping my home running and being there for my children and family wasn’t working.
My work, home life balance was completely wrong and I think everyone was suffering because of it. I knew something had to change so I decided to leave work which was terrifying. I wanted a job where I didn’t feel tired and stressed every day, which I could fit into school hours, a job which meant I didn’t have to rush every day to pick up my children from school. I wanted to create a job for myself where I could have control over my workload, my future and where I could follow my passion which was to inspire children with a love of science.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
I am really lucky as I can run my business within school hours and holidays which means I can spend the majority of time with my family. I try and take the whole of August off so we can enjoy the summer together. My husband is self-employed too so we can juggle taking and picking the children up from school if necessary. I am also very lucky that it is my own business so I can limit how much work I take on so I can maintain my work/life balance which is the key to keeping the whole family happy.
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
I think one the biggest successes since setting up my business is being able to spend more time with my family and feeling less stressed about balancing my home and work life.
In terms of my business everyday it is rewarding seeing how much pleasure children get from my workshops and stories, seeing how much they are learning and being able to inspire them with a love of science. Having my book published and being able to hold the book in my hands was incredible. Hearing the feedback from children who love the story and haven’t been able to put the book down is like a dream come true.
What’s your top tip for Mums who are thinking about setting up their own business?
I had really strong reasons for setting up my own business otherwise I would never have considered it. I wanted my family and most importantly myself to be happy something which in my current job was never going to happen due to the workload. So, consider what is your reason for wanting to leave your current job? What is it you are looking to achieve by doing this? What is your goal? I think it always drives you if you consider your goal.
I had to think about what I could do – What kind of job did I want? What was I good at? What did I enjoy? For me I loved working with children, I was creative with a huge imagination, I loved science and reading and I wanted to do something to help children learn. What are your strengths? Can you turn a hobby into your business? Have you got something unique to offer that other people don’t have? For me teaching children about DNA is something not many people are able to do and it has been key to the success of my business. Also, although my training was as a scientist in a laboratory I have been able to use this experience in another application which is to teach children. So maybe you can use your experience in your current job in another application – maybe to train others, be a consultant?
Making that leap was terrifying. I had worked as a scientist for 15 years it was all I knew. In a way it was my safety blanket. But actually, I am happier now than I have ever been. Setting up my own business really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I have just taken it one step at a time. Word of mouth is an incredible thing and if you are good at what you do word will spread! Initially I kept my prices down and did some workshops for free for people so they could get a flavour of what I could do and to get into the schools which was really tough! This allowed me to build my business. It is amazing how you branch out and I am always thinking of different ways to get my message out there to children about science. It started with workshops and stories and has ended up with me writing a series of books – something I would never have thought possible when I first set out.
I would also suggest networking at events related to your business and actively seeking out contacts who you think would be useful. I have made some incredible contacts this way which has enabled me to write articles for children’s magazines and to work with people like the public engagement team at the Sanger Institute.
Sometimes I get sent an email or I am asked what seems like an impossible task and I used to often go into panic mode and assume I couldn’t do it. But now I have found if I go away and think about it a solution comes to me. Often, I surprise myself and think wow I really can do that! So, don’t dismiss things straight away – the solution is in you!
I think just believe in yourself and don’t be frightened to fail. If this doesn’t work out there are always other options. If you don’t try it you will never know. At the start my business was very small, but give it chance to grow. See failures as a chance to look at what you did and think how you could change it or do it differently to make it work. It is all part of the process and I have had plenty of these. Don’t be afraid to dream. I feel lucky every day and I would never be where I am now if I hadn’t been brave enough to take that leap. Good luck with your exciting ventures.
Competition to win a signed copy of The DNA Detectives – To Catch a Thief
I am very excited to be offering one of my lucky readers the chance to win a signed copy of Amanda’s first book: The DNA Dectectives – To Catch a Thief. This is a fiction book for 7 – 12 year olds where the children in the story use DNA and forensic science to solve a crime, allowing children to learn about science and DNA, as well as enjoying an exciting adventure.
If you fancy getting your hands on this book for your child, simply complete the Gleam competition mechanic below. The competition is open daily until 11.59pm on the 23rd April 2018.
Thank you so much Amanda for taking part in my series, it was lovely to interview you, and I wish you the best of luck in the future.
If you would like to be part of my Mums in Business then just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in my series: Healthy Living London, LoveKeepCreate, and what2buy4kids.
Competition Ts and Cs
- Entry is open to residents of the UK only.
- Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification.
- The competition opens on the Friday 13th April and ends at 11.59pm on Monday 23rd April 2018. Entries that are incomplete, illegible, indecipherable, duplicated or which contain profanity will not be valid and deemed void.
- To enter, applicants can visit The Little Story Company website, visit The Little Story Company page on Facebook, visit The Pramshed on Facebook, Tweet, follow The Little Story Company and The Pramshed on Twitter, and/or comment on this blog post.
- All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition.
- No responsibility can be accepted for entries lost, due to computer error in transit.
- The prize is as stated and comprises of 1 x signed copy of The DNA Detectives – To Catch A Thief. The prize is not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.
- Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers’ terms and conditions.
- The winner will be announced on the Tuesday 24th April 2018.
- The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions at any time and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition.
- In the event of a prize being unavailable, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.
- Unless stated otherwise the winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries received by the closing date 23rd April 2018 at 11.59pm.
- Reasonable efforts will be made to contact the winner. If the winner cannot be reached within 24 hours of being notified of their win, or they are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random, or in the event that the promotion is being judged, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the runner(s)-up selected by the same judges.
- Confirmation of the prize will be made in writing/via online correspondence to the winner(s).
- Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize.
- Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered over this decision.
- Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time.