Our Featured Mumpreneur this time is Ciara Dowling
Of Early Years First Aid. She teaches paediatric first aid which is an essential skill to have for all parents and people who work with children.
When did you start your business and why?
I started my business at the end of 2011 but didn’t start doing classes until February 2012.
I had taken voluntary redundancy at the start of 2011 and planned on staying home with the children. I wanted to update my first aid skills but in paediatric first aid instead of the occupational first aid which I was already up to date in.
When I looked into doing one in my area I discovered that most of the paediatric courses were in or around the large cities and very little in the more rural areas and towns. The idea grew from there.
What is your role within your business?
First aid instructor, accounts, sales, purchasing, marketing and IT and everything else involved in running your own business.
What do you like doing most in your business?
Without a doubt the teaching side of it.
I love teaching first aid in such a way that it takes the fear out of it for people. It is great to see people coming in nervous but leaving full of confidence.
I also have an accounts qualification so unlike a lot of people in business I don’t mind that side of the business either.
What do you like doing least in your business?
I can safely say the IT side is my least favourite but having now done a couple of courses in websites and Facebook usage I have a better understanding and can see the massive benefits it brings to my business.
Facebook has become a massive part of my advertising. I’m lucky too that my husband is very IT savvy so has helped a lot in this area.
How many people do you work with in your business?
Me and my poor underpaid (free) IT consultant but I am currently looking at hiring another first aid instructor in the next couple of months with plans to hire another 1 or 2 by the end of the year.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Just by not being able to find a paediatric first aid course in my area.
Really was a case of seeing a gap in the market but that gap is filling quickly. Now I will continue to give high quality, reasonably priced courses in smaller towns.
If I work hard to provide a good service I hope that word of mouth and good marketing helps me to continue to grow.
What is the best thing about being a Mumpreneur?
Being able to work around the children. I tend to work when my husband isn’t so we have very little need for childcare and the children are normally with me or him.
I can also work around school holidays with a bit of extra planning coming up to them. Mairéad really helped me in relation to the planning side of my business to enable me to do it successfully.
What is the worst thing about being a Mumpreneur?
It can be stressful when it’s a particularly busy time and you are trying to fit work around the kids and like any working parent feel you aren’t getting the balance right.
Also that other people think if I’m working from home I’m just doing nothing so it’s a good time to call in or phone.
What is your biggest challenge juggling family life with running a business?
Getting the balance right.
All working parents are the same whether you are a Mumpreneur or employee for somebody else. We will always debate with ourselves if we are spending enough quality time with the children or too much time on work.
It can be a vicious circle as you need to work, to make money, to pay the bills, to relax, to spend quality time with the children.
Also my housework has gone to pot but I’m coping with that more than I expected.
What business training did you have before or since you started your business?
I was an accounts technician prior to starting the business so was aware of how to do accounts and the legal side of setting up a business.
I am also a qualified credit controller so understand the importance of collecting money in a timely fashion to maintain cashflow.
I did a FÁS (now Solas) networking course which was aimed at people setting up a new business. This was useful as it helped me see I was going in the right direction and also introduced me to people who had different skill sets to me.
The people helped me with the marketing, IT side of setting up a business and I helped then on the accounts, legal side of setting up a business.
How has this helped you with growing your business?
The training really helped with the marketing side of things as I hadn’t a clue and one of the group had been head of marketing for a very large Irish company so her information was amazing
Have you received financial help in setting up in business? If yes from whom? E.g – bank, investor, etc.
I received a very small grand from FÁS towards a bit of my training and towards a laptop and advertising. I was lucky to have my redundancy money so have taken a chance with that to avoid getting loans.
It took massive pressure off me in the early days when I was only getting a few people per course however it was a risk. It’s the best risk I every took.
How important do you see networking to help your business?
My initial networking group was invaluable and I do see networking as important but find most of the networking groups out there at the moment don’t suit me as they have very early morning meetings or daytime meetings.
With children those types of times don’t suit me
What Social Media networks do you use to promote your business and how effective have they been?
I use Facebook but it was slow to take off. It has taken 2 years of hard work for it to become really useful.
Now I would fill 50%+ of my courses via Facebook. I do pay Facebook to promote some of my posts and class it as an important advertising cost.
I plan on using some of the other social media networks but could do with learning more about them first.
Do you think there is enough support for mothers who are also business people?
I do think the support is there but it is targeted at all business people and that 9-5 work practice.
My main problem as a mum is being able to do relevant courses and training around my children without large childcare costs as there is very little spare cash if you are starting a business.
What are the biggest challenges facing you right now?
Branching out into other areas of paediatric first aid when many of the organisations have no or little funding for such courses.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Happy customers may tell their friends but unhappy customers will tell everyone”
I really believe that my customer is everything. I will try to make sure that they enjoy my course, learn from it and are happy they got value for money.
What advice would you give to other mothers who are thinking about starting a business?
The same advice I was given.
Treat your customers with respect and how you would like to be treating in a similar situation.
Be prepared for it being more time consuming then you expected but just like our children more rewarding too.