This week on my Parents in Business series I’m really excited to be introducing Shona who created Space at 61. Space at 61 is literally just a short skip and hop from my house and I’ve attended an amazing event here. It is real privilege to be featuring a local business on my blog.
Here Shona tells us how she manages this event space whilst also offering marketing services to her clients. As a local business owner her top tips of maintaining local contact and connections is hugely important, as is keeping up to date with all the latest trends. Take a read of Shona’s story below…..
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
Hi. I’m Shona. Having spent the first 10 years of my career working for large Media and Finance companies as a Marketeer, I decided after the birth of my first child to set up my own neighbourhood business, a Cafe/Deli which I did from scratch renovating an old unit into something lovely with the help of a fantastic designer and building team. I loved the business, but after 3 years it wasn’t proving financially sustainable, so I turned the cafe into an events space for hire in 2016, and I have found this to be much more popular. Most recently in the summer I started to offer Marketing services to my small business clients again under the name Shona Chambers Marketing.
Space at 61 is my venue business, we hire out for lots of different events but have a real focus on entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Many of the people who use us are small business owners. To help create community around them we host monthly networking meetings which are well attended by usually 30 small business owners, and we have recently extended that into the evenings too. The large majority of attendees are women, but we don’t specifically market the meetings that way.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
I had my son in November 2008, I was one of the typical parents that goes back to work following maternity leave and feels like I no longer fitted. I found it tricky negotiating a back to work scheme that suited me and my family and my employer, and eventually it all just felt like hard work to even go to work. I think also like many parents I felt more open to ideas and new ways of working after becoming a parent. Its such a cliche but you just want to be around for your kids and sadly corporate life hasn’t quite caught up with the way most modern parents want to do things. So it was really a case of what else do I feel I’d like to do, and setting up a cafe, or a food business had always been an interest, so I perused it.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
I’d love to say I am the person who has the best work life balance ever, but the truth is sometimes it’s a real struggle and other times everything goes smoothly. I’ve looked after my youngest child from birth until the present (she was 3 in October) myself, and I am just starting to look into a nursery place. I’ve had to do things around her and I’d say she’s had some great experiences because of my unusual job. My son is now 10 and of course during term time is out of the home 6 hours a day, but in the holidays I have all the same juggles as many self employed parents.
Since setting up your business what has been your biggest success to date?
Last summer we had a TV ad filmed in the venue for Cheeky Panda a brand of eco tissues, the shoot was 2 days long, and it was amazing to see how they transformed the venue into this amazing set, you wouldn’t recognise it in the ads that aired on Sky and Channel 5. The ad has led to lots of other exciting filming opportunities as well so its a matter of one thing often leading to another.
What are your top tips for parents who are thinking about setting up their own business?
Am I allowed to say it’s three tips in one? 1) I really believe in finding local contacts who do a similar thing to you if not the same, they will understand you and help you nuture your new business. 2) Get yourself visible, it’s so important to maintain a profile across social media, if you can’t be found you cannot sell. 3) Keep learning, it’s very important to keep up with developments in social media, marketing and technology. If you work alone, look for opportunities to do that via courses and groups locally.
Thank you so much Shona for letting me feature you and Space at 61 on my blog. I loved reading your story and good luck in 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: Freshly Spiced, Hesford Media, and LioBites