IMO Chats To : Gemma Whates From All By Mama

I first heard about All By Mama at Christmas, around the time I was starting this blog. My husband had heard about them from someone at his Hockey club, which then lead me to assume that the All by Mama ladies played hockey, not true apparently! Anyway I digress, All by Mama is a rather brilliant website where you can buy lots of gorgeous handmade items, made by some very talented Mum’s (mama’s, mummy’s, moms or mothers :) You name it you can buy it, there are beautiful prints, jewellery pieces (I’ve got my eye on this necklace), clothes, bunting, candles, the list is endless. I got in touch with one of the founders, Gemma to ask her some questions.

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Introducing us to All by Mama, who is it that runs the business and what are your backgrounds?

All By Mama was Co-Founded by myself and my mum Hilary, we are a Mother and Daughter team. My background is in marketing and Hilary’s is too, she has worked within the publishing industry for many years, has a degree in Fine Art and ran her own business in the 80’s and 90’s. I have worked within shopper marketing agencies for the last 10 years on clients such as Disney and Mars. Hilary is an avid crafter herself (you should see her spare room!) and I am a new mummy to Leonardo, which takes up all my time when I’m not working so I can’t really remember what hobbies I once had (that happens quickly doesn’t it!!) unless drinking Gin counts! We are both really passionate about supporting mums who want to work flexibly around their families and follow their creative dreams. We are just over six months ‘old’ and we now have a small team who support us and who all work remotely and flexibly around their lifestyles.30

How did the idea of All By Mama come about?

I had the idea for All By Mama during my maternity leave with Leonardo, who is now 2 ½. I knew I wanted to find a way that I could work more flexibly around my son, I quickly realised that I couldn’t be the only mum to want to do that (!) so I started reading other ‘mumpreneurs’ stories for inspiration. I was determined to be the master of my own destiny and it’s a great inspiration when you read about other mums who have started businesses with young families. It gave me lots of confidence that it was possible. I spent a lot of time thinking about what my skills were and how I could apply them to something. Alongside that I was also spending time on social media during the lonely night feeds and ended up buying lots of handmade things for my son, many of which I found were being made by other mums, and I loved the idea that what I was buying was supporting another mum who ran a business around family life. It was really a combination of those two things that led me to the original idea. I knew I couldn’t maximise the potential alone and the original idea needed more work. I approached my mum, we changed some things around and she developed the idea a bit further and then we launched the business as Co-Founders.

What were the first steps you took, to get the idea off the ground?

We spent a few weeks working on getting the name of the business right. It was originally something totally different that wouldn’t have worked in the same way so I am glad we spent time on that. Then we just wanted to get something started, anything! It almost wasn’t important to us what we did first as long as we set ourselves on the road to turning the idea in to an actual business. I think that first step is sometimes the hardest and you just need to pick something that will get things going and get on with it! So we got a logo designed and did some brand identity work. It then felt very real. That was the point that we knew there was no turning back, that logo needed to be a business! So we wrote our business plan, worked out how we would finance our plans and spent time on the vision for the business. Then it was eight months of working every evening until the early hours, as we both still had jobs in the day time at that point, before launching in November last year.

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You’ve been running All By Mama for just over six months, have you started to see the business grow & take off?

It’s been an amazing time and things have moved quickly! We’ve seen month on month growth since launch and we’ve won some great awards which have really helped to raise awareness. We’ve had good luck wishes from Kirstie Allsopp and Baroness Karren Brady has said that she thinks the business has great potential, which was a real inspiration! I think if you’ve never run a business before, like me, it’s very hard to know what to expect before you launch. We are operating in a very competitive and crowded industry so we need to make sure we can differentiate ourselves. Our focus is on developing our brand and growing our base of Mamas, if we get that right everything else will follow.

How do you work, are you set up at home or in an office?

I work from home, around my son’s routines and often late in to the night, especially on the days where I have him at home with me. It’s great to be able to work around his needs at the moment and working flexibly is at the very heart of our business as all our Mamas have that lifestyle too. Lots of emails happen in the evenings in our business! Hilary also works from home and often covers the day shift as her children have all flown the nest!! As we grow we do plan to move to an office environment but we will never lose the flexible working ethos that means so much to us and we don’t see the business operating in a traditional 9-5 sense. Our business will always support flexible working and we hope that  being in the office won’t need to become a mandatory.

What’s your average day like?

The nice thing about it is that there is no average day! No two days are the same and I love that about running my own business. It varies from the mad morning dash to get my son to nursery on the precious days that I have childcare and then on the days that I don’t it’s a little bit of answering emails on my phone throughout the day but I try to stay away from sitting at the computer until bed time. These days are more about being a mummy and enjoying spending time with my son. It can be stressful at times if we have an urgent matter that needs my attention and I do sometimes need to enlist the help of CBeebies and
chocolate buttons but I think it’s about the balance and I’m not too hard on myself when that has to happen! One thing that is guaranteed is working late in to the evening, I can’t remember the last time sat down and watched a film but I’m happy with the lifestyle and it works around my family life for now.

How can someone start selling on All By Mama?

We love to hear from creative Mamas. There is an enquiry form to complete on our website or they can email info@allbymama.com and we will send some more info across. If you are a creative mum please get in touch with us!

How many sellers do you currently have?

We are currently working with around 160 Mamas and that number changes on an almost daily basis as new Mamas join us and others suspend their shops as they go on maternity leave. We have some great plans for our community and are looking to introduce networking opportunities soon.

There are lots of big websites out there, in a similar vein to yours, what do you think sets you apart from the rest?

Everything we feature at All By Mama is made by a mum working around family life. Our Mamas are all running their business around the joys and demands of looking after their children and we celebrate that achievement. We are far more than just a marketplace, we are community and our Mamas all support each other. We also offer our Mamas the chance to feature on our homepage and write an interview for our ‘Meet a Mama’ page. We really want our customers to see the person behind the products and our Mamas have a chance to introduce themselves, talk about their motivations and inspire others. Mamas can also attract investors via their shop page. One of our Mamas has secured a great new opportunity through this already. It’s a competitive industry but there is plenty of room for everyone and competition only shows demand.

Father’s day is coming up soon, do you have any ideas for great gifts on the site for this?

We have our Top 10 Gift ideas featuring on our website which include some lovely prints, key rings and a very popular breakfast in bed kit. You can take a look here.

What are your hopes for ABM?

We have big dreams for All By Mama. Our vision is to develop a globally recognised brand and community, supporting flexible working for mums who want to run a creative business around family life, providing them with the reach and customer base they require to make their business a success. We want to create a passionate and supportive community. There are so many Mamas out there making the lifestyle work for them and it’s great to bring that together in one place.

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Thank you Gemma! Go have a look at the All By Mama site. Maybe you need a Fathers Day gift idea or something for a friends birthday? There’s loads to choose from and whilst you’re there take a look around and meet some of the Mama’s who are selling on the site :)

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