This week on my Parents in Business series I’m delighted to introduce Christina who runs Hummy Mummies for South East London. In fact one of the groups literally takes place just around the corner from our house.
This is a really positive and inspiring interview with Christina on her business, how she manages the balance of family and working life, and how her top tips have helped her to grow the business. I really like her take on not getting it right on Day One, and how it’s important to get yourself out there whilst continuously learning and refining. Here’s Christina’s story…..
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
I was an actress/singer for several years and then changed direction to work as a talent agent in Soho, London. After nine happy years I left to have my daughter but never returned, as the (much loved!) lifestyle was no longer right for me. I found my way into teaching primary music and from there to founding my first choir, Vocallective, in 2011. I met with Hummy Mummies owners, Richard Swan and Catherine Allison, last summer when they were looking for someone to take over the South East London branch of the business. Hummy Mummies is a great name for a brilliant concept. It’s a modern, daytime choir for mums and carers of young children where they can bring their little ones along and let them play/cuddle/feed while THEY sing (“Wind The Bobbin Up” is a world away from All Saints, Aretha Franklin and KT Tunstall, to name but a few).
There are four groups: East Dulwich, Peckham, Catford and Crofton Park. It’s relaxed but stimulating, uplifting and fun for both parties, and there’s the added bonus of meeting other mums and making friends. Plus there are performances, which are great fun. In the majority of mum and baby activities the onus is on the child: this means that if the child is out of sorts, doesn’t feel like engaging or falls asleep, the time/money is wasted. At Hummies it’s about the mums. It’s an added bonus that if their child prevents them from coming for any reason, they can go to one of the other classes on that week if they don’t want to miss out.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
The main push for taking it on was that I had always wanted to make my biggest passion – working with choirs – my main job instead of something I did “on the side” of school teaching. Dealing with the policies, rules and regulations of schools (not to mention behaviour management!) literally gave me migraines and made me miserable. Escaping it always felt like an unrealistic goal, so when this opportunity came along I grabbed it. Being able to run it alongside my other choirs, Vocallective and Vocalise made it even more attractive.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
Balancing work and family is never easy, of course. When I’m leading my choirs I’m out and about, but fundamentally I work from home. There are several strands to my business: heaps of preparation to ensure that I’m working at a high standard musically, admin and communication to make sure my members are happy and crucial marketing to ensure new members keep coming through. At this level I’m a one-woman band so it’s a big workload. My daughter is 11 so although she is quite independent, she is at a crucial age as far as schoolwork, emotional development and the use of technical devices (!) are concerned. Luckily this job means I can do the school run. If my daughter is unwell, I can easily take her with me and 4-8pm is always family time.
The downside of working from home is – unless you’re extremely self-disciplined – there is no escape from the work. Emails, calls and social media matters are on a loop and it’s hard to put them off if I can deal with them whilst walking the dogs or waiting in a queue. Even so, I end up in my office most evenings catching up and by the time I flop down in front of the TV my husband is off to bed! But neither of us works in the school holidays so that balances things out, thank goodness.
Since setting up your business what has been your biggest success to date?
As I only officially started in September last year, I still have many heights to scale in the Hummy Mummy business! One of my four branches was sold out in the first term and had a waiting list, which was a brilliant. Then this term several mums bought membership without even having a taster session, based on word of mouth recommendations, which was amazing. They didn’t want to end up on this term’s waiting list! Also my first Hummy Mummies showcase in December was fantastic. Mums from all four branches (who had never laid eyes on each other before) getting together to perform as one big choir was a real buzz and a very proud moment. That showcase was in a local church, but the Spring Showcase (on the 30th March) will be very different. I’ve chosen an edgy new pub called the Ninth Life in Catford – a multi floor venue inspired by festival culture. It’s going to be brilliant!
What are your top tips for parents who are thinking about setting up their own business?
There are so many tips it would be impossible to pick one! I still have so much to learn. The first one would be: try to use whatever guns you have in your arsenal to keep yourself on an even keel. Don’t allow yourself to get so bogged down when things aren’t going well that you can’t take a step back and get things in perspective. As with most things, good and bad periods come in waves. “This too will pass”. I use meditation, EFT (tapping of acupressure points) and exercise to keep my mind and body balanced and boosted.
If you really believe in what you’re doing and are passionate about it, don’t let the fact that you, your situation or your skills are not “perfect” make you procrastinate. No one can get everything right on Day 1 or Day 1000! Someone once said to me “it’s not what you know, it’s who you are that’s important” and I’ve never forgotten it at times of self-doubt. The crux of my business is that I am a person who is obsessed with the joy of music and singing, and that’s what I’m offering. I’m so happy and grateful that lots of people want to share that with me – it’s incredibly rewarding.
Thank you so much Christina for letting me feature you and Hummy Mummies on my blog. Keep up the good work and all the best for the future.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents 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: MuMar, Little Bundle Box, and Space at 61.
(Image by Elle at Yellow Bird Photography)