"Parenting is a tough gig"

with Charlie Rosier, founder of Babbu

Show notes:

Babbu is Charlie Rosier’s fourth business, so she has a lot of wisdom to share.

Like me, and a lot of mums I know, Charlie’s transition from ‘ambitious career woman’ to ‘mum’ wasn’t easy. And for both of us, maybe you too, it meant that we didn’t enjoy those early mum days as much as we could have. We were too worried about other people’s perceptions about our commitment and drive.

Now, Charlie has really leant into motherhood – she says that it was ‘owning’ motherhood, investing in her relationships (everyone needs a sleepover club!) that made the difference.

Charlie has achieved some amazing things, but is really honest about the journey. Partnerships with household names don’t happen overnight! But, another mum with a mission, Babbu’s purpose is their guiding light.

If you’re struggling with mum guilt, feeling judged for your parenting decisions, or you’re starting a tech business with no tech experience, Charlie has some wisdom that you’ll want to hear.

Listen in for:

  • Charlie’s business journey up to Babbu. How personal it felt to close a business previously
  • The entrepreneurial model set by both Charlie’s parents (as I said on the pod, it’s rare that we get a guest whose mum was also a business owner!)
  • Why people start businesses, and which category Charlie falls into
  • How pregnancy coloured her experience of being a business owner and vice versa
  • The judgement Charlie felt as a mum for working, even though it was so important for her as an individual
  • The Babbu experience – raising money, the Children in Need partnership
  • How important it is to be honest about the journey when it can sometimes seem like everyone is an overnight success
  • The mission and purpose with Babbu, how this guides partnerships and business decisions
  • Mum guilt, ‘balance’ finding your tribe as a parent and investing in relationships
  • Tips for launching a tech business with no tech experience

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

 

About Charlie Rosier:

Charlie Rosier is passionate about advocating for children’s mental health, family well-being, early years’ education and gender equality.

As the founder of Babbu, she is committed to delivering their mission – to connect the world’s parents and give them the tools, resources and expertise to thrive.

At time of recording this episode the Babbu app has been launched in partnership with Children in need during Mental Health awareness week.

With the Babbu app they have unpacked decades of science and their own experiences as early years’ teachers, to provide parents and caregivers with weekly personalised content, non-judgmental support and daily play ideas. Making parenting easier and more enjoyable.

Prior to this Charlie Founded and led Cuckooz Nest, where she spearheaded innovation in childcare, creating a flexible, affordable alternative for working parents.

All of this alongside mumhood.

Charlie Rosier’s Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

Transcript:

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:28):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business Owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and today I’m welcoming Charlie Rosier. Charlie is passionate about advocating for children’s mental health, family wellbeing, early years education and gender equality. As the founder of Babbu, she’s committed to delivering their mission to connect the world’s parents, to give them the tools, resources, and expertise to thrive. At time of recording this podcast, the Babbu app has been launched in partnership with Children in Need during mental health awareness week with the Babbu app, they have unpacked decades of science and their own experiences, early years teachers, to provide parents and caregivers with weekly personalised content, non-judgmental support and daily play ideas, making parenting easier and more enjoyable. Prior to this, Charlie founded and led Cuckoos Nest where she spearheaded innovation in childcare, creating a flexible, affordable alternative for working parents. All of this alongside mumhood. So welcome Charlie. So pleased to have you today.

Charlie (01:28):
Thank you so much for having me. That was a great introduction.

Caroline (01:32):
Yeah, I mean, honestly, I can’t wait to delve in because I love the fact you are another woman who this isn’t your first business and we’ve got so much to chat about your learnings from your first one and then where you’re going with your second one and everything that’s involved in that. And I’m so passionate about everything you are doing with Babbu. So Charlie, tell me what was your career prior to being an entrepreneur? What led you down this path? Did you always think you were going to be an entrepreneur?

Charlie (01:58):
I get asked this question a lot actually. And actually Babbu is my fourth business, not my second.

(02:06):
I’ve been doing this far too long and I should be much, much richer by now. But my early career, so I did law at university and then I didn’t want to be a lawyer and then I ended up working in building in property. So I worked for a property developer and I loved that so much. And my first 15 years of my career was working in real estate and that was in the countryside in the uk, in London. And then I moved to Hong Kong to work over there. And then my first business I did started in Hong Kong. And what led me to it, I think probably a lot of people, I reckon there’s probably two main reasons people start the business. One is they’ve experienced something in their personal life which is super compelling and they’re like got to fix this problem. Or they’re like, I’m really tired of being good at my job and making someone else loads of money.

(03:05):
I can just do this on my own. And I think for my first business I probably fell into that camp. I was already reporting into the CEO of the business at a very young age and being given loads of responsibility and we just kept having conversations about promotion and this, that and the other and they just never came to fruition. So I just was like, you know what? I’m just going to do this myself. And I said this a lot in book asks, I think because my dad had his own business and so did my mum, I think the world of being entrepreneurial was just known to me. So I think that’s a big part of it and a lot about what we talk about and I talk about is role modelling and making children aware of opportunities that exist in the world and showing them that you can be a female leader, you can run your own business, you can do this, that and the other. So yeah, I think a benefit for me was that I could see that from a very early age and therefore it didn’t seem scary to me and I just jumped into it with zero experience. And to be honest, it’s taken me 10 years to really figure out what it means to run your own business.

Caroline (04:15):
That’s the point of being an entrepreneur though you don’t not necessarily settling on the first business. And I love that your mom was an entrepreneur because so many, including myself, dad’s are entrepreneur so they see it. So what did your mum do?

Charlie (04:27):
I mean, she was an interior designer and my dad was a property developer, so she it, her background was science.

Caroline (04:35):
You could see the property where that came from.

Charlie (04:38):
She was like, again, why am I paying? You could do this. This is within your skillset. And so she was like, yeah, okay, I can do that. And then she absolutely loved it and I think it was great for her. She’d been out of work for such a long time being a mum to four children. I think she probably wasn’t her lifelong ambition to be an interest designer, but she really loved it when she did it and gave her some independence and her own income stream and all that kind of stuff.

Caroline (05:01):
Love that. And you saw her do that after she had that break for the four children. And so when you had your first your child, were you running a business then or how did this fit in? How did that work?

Charlie (05:15):
I was, so it was my second business when I’d come back to the UK and I was actually going to raise money for that business. I was flying back to Asia to raise money for the business and meet my best friend who was at the time living in Australia and she was going to come on board as my co-founder and I found out I was pregnant. So yeah, it was poorly planned on both sides and I kind of have such mixed feelings of it looking back. On one hand it didn’t stop me in any way. I was like, well, I know I told my friend, I was obviously super early and she was so enthusiastic for me. She’s like, of course we can still do this business. And I was like, okay, let’s go do it. The other downside of it is I was so aware that I was raising money and starting a business whilst pregnant, and I think I didn’t allow myself to really enjoy pregnancy and then consequently motherhood because I had this thing in my head about not being seen as a competent business owner and all the things that I think people worry about the perception of what it means for their career when they become pregnant.

(06:29):
I really embodied that. So I, but I just got on with it. And then as I say, because I worked for myself, there was no maternity leave, there was no kind of cover or anything. So I kind of started taking my little one back into the office super early. After two weeks she’d come in and then after about six weeks I was doing about three days a week at work. And then I wrapped that up to a full week pretty quickly. And again, at the time I was like, happy mom, happy baby. I really wanted to go back to work. It was so important to me for my identity and for the business and everything else. And my daughter’s obviously absolutely fine. She’s not damaged because I wasn’t around. But equally I feel especially now with everything I know about early years education and the importance of those relationships and that time with the primary caregiver, I do lament it a little bit that I should have had a bit more of a balance I guess.

Caroline (07:24):
Thank you for sharing. I wasn’t running my own business, but I had a hard relate with that career wise from my little one and went back very quickly and I think that’s it. You don’t really know this stuff about early years until you are in it and then suddenly everyone tells you how important it is. And you’re probably two years in and you’re like, shit, I’m like, you then take all that blame on yourself. I was like, what have I done to my first child? And there’s early years, but I’m glad you had your right reasons and like you said, you led yourself down the right path. What was your business then at the time?

Charlie (07:59):
It was a hospitality business, which was really intense 24/7. So we were kind of launching and operating buildings of apartments that were for corporate use. So when, I dunno, we were preferred accommodation provider for Google as example. So when Google, this is pre pandemic obviously, Google would send someone over from San Francisco to work in London for three months and they’d put them up in our accommodation. But you are always on call for people losing their keys, getting locked out, a gazillion things, the boiler’s broken and it was a lot. And I remember one time I had to go break up a what was essentially a house party and I was about eight months pregnant.

Caroline (08:40):
I was about to say, Charlie, you are amazing for doing this type of work. How incredible for your daughter just to be around that kind of thing. Such an entrepreneurial woman, what she has seen a very young age with you. So like you said, what they see their parents do as well is amazing. So how did you come up with Cookies Nest then? Was there a time where you were like, I want to be around my daughter more while I’m working? How did that look like?

Charlie (09:10):
There’s two things really. One was because I was going back basically at six weeks old, I was looking for childcare and pretty much no nursery or child minder would take her. They were like, you mean six months? And I’m like, no, six weeks.

Caroline (09:28):
I love that. They were like, oh, bless your brain. You mean six months.

Charlie (09:32):
Exactly. No, I know what I mean. So really, and as I said, my family, my mum at the time still is living in France. There just wasn’t this village you’re meant to have. And so really we were left with nannies and nannies are great and they can be great. We ended up having a great nanny, but she also needed a full-time job and I wasn’t necessarily looking for full-time care. So I found it really hard to find flexible and affordable childcare for when I needed it. Also because I didn’t do NCT or anything like that. So I really didn’t have my gang of moms and I think I was probably quite early for my friendship group. And so yeah, I kind of wanted something that was affordable, that was flexible, that had an inbuilt community and also that basically it was okay to be a working mom.

(10:26):
I felt such judgement from those childcare providers of even thinking about going back to work and obviously everyone has an opinion and I am sure that some people are very right, that it was ludicrous, but equally at the time that was my situation and my circumstances. So yeah, so Cuckooz Nest was basically built around my own need and wants. So back to that, what makes me do it in the first place, not wanting to miss out on all those kind of firsts. So my daughter learned to walk at the Cuckooz Nest, and I remember Jane, our nursery manager, flung over the door. It was like Charlie, she’s walking and I could get there in time to see that rather than if it just happened in a regular nursery. All that stuff you don’t see and you just get an update at the end of the day that they did this, that and the other. And the crucial part was that we were around, I was around other working parents, people like me who wanted to maintain their identity. Their work was important to ’em, but they also wanted to be near their baby. So that’s how that all started really.

Caroline (11:27):
Oh, I love that. And thank you so much for sharing. It is, there’s such a hard judgement for moms who are, I think it is a struggle, just a different struggle than others are on. It’s like have that need to go back to work or continue with your mission and be a mom at the same time. And especially if you are early on in your friendship group, don’t fit in with NCT, which happens a lot or don’t do it even if you do do it. Also, I think if you go back to work quite quickly, which was my experience, you miss out a lot with your bump. Well, mine was Bump and Baby, but you miss out with that group, don’t you? Yeah. So it is kind of like you are automatically different and you need to find, it takes a while to find your people. Do you think that’s true?

Charlie (12:11):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean I know my sister’s just had a baby and she did I think bumped baby as well. And again, really there’s a lottery of who’s going to be in your cohort, whether they’re going to be similar people to you and whether you’re going to get on. And then, yeah, I think a lot of bonding does happen when typically it’s the moms that are off with the baby and they’re doing all the classes and stuff and they’re building that community and that friendship. But if you’re not, then it can be super isolating. I mean, I think it’s isolating and lonely either way. But yeah, I definitely feel like I felt different, not a regular mom because I was doing things and then you kind of embody that guilt and it kind of sits with you for a long time.

Caroline (12:55):
It does, it does. I think literally, I think I had to have a second child to then understand actually this was also partly my personality and I’ve got to lean into it to recover from that guilt. So I think anyone else who feels, I think it’s a really good conversation to have today that anyone else who just feels this is who they are, that I think you can’t really change who you are. Even motherhood, if you are got this strong calling for business and running a business, you’re just going to end up having to make it work a different way. And you came up with Cookies Nest and what happened with that? How did that work? Were you a solo founder? Did you get fundraising?

Charlie (13:31):
I was not a solo founder, so my friend who I’d started the hospitality business with also was the co-founder for Cuckooz Nest. We raised some money for it. Yes, we raised some money to open it. Obviously there’s quite a lot of capital required to get the space up and running. And we did a crowdfunding round as well. So yeah, I mean again, I knew absolutely nothing about Ofsted and early years education. I was just like, this needs to exist in the world. And again, it was really hard. I thought that you can, this is what I mean about, or maybe I’m just super slow, but it is taken a long time to figure out business. So I think I was just like, this needs to exist. I ran a couple of focus groups, but I probably did them with my friends or people like me who would just be like, yes, this is an amazing idea. And I didn’t think through how long it would take to find good staff, how long it would take to actually get customers. Because the big thing I learned there was obviously your children are your most treasured possession. And when you’ve got a brand new nurse, when you’ve got no offset rating and you’ve got no customer reviews or anything, getting those first parents and children through the door took a lot longer than I thought it would.

Caroline (14:46):
And I guess pre covid as well, it was a very specific customer because you wanted ones who wanted to work there as well, and there would’ve been less of those pre covid. I imagine now with more flexible working, you’ve got people who’d work from home traditionally and be really up for that. You are not the first founder on this podcast. We’ve had Sasha from Olio who wanted this model. There’s clearly a need for it, but I’d literally just come off a podcast with Rachel at Koru Kids and it’s just such a systematic issue. It’s really hard for a founder to do anything in this space. A systematic issue with the structure of childcare, not just running a business here that could be really grateful. Well, the economy and the people, but you are coming up against so much.

Charlie (15:33):
Big fan of Rachel. In fact, I’m having coffee with her today. Yeah, I think our whole system is broken. I mean, I’m sure you’re aware of all the statistics around the second most expensive childcare system in the world. It is a privilege to be able to send your child to nursery, which means therefore it’s a privilege for children to receive education at the most crucial point in their brain development. So obviously I’m extremely passionate about it and it was a really tricky business because of all the things again that I was naive to ratios. And that was the biggest challenge really. And finding in any business, if you have a member of staff off sick or they’re on annual leave or whatever, then you can survive. But in a nursery business, you have to get cover for that person because you have to maintain your ratios, which means you’re paying twice for your staff. Costs are ridiculously expensive. And then the whole mission of Cuckooz Nest was to try and make childcare affordable. And yet you’re coming up against the same issues that every nursery across the UK has, which is how do you keep your staff motivated and pay them a good salary and keep the cost down. Yeah, exactly. But it took us a long time to crack, but once we did, it was running perfectly harmoniously. We were gearing up to open our second site. Wow. And then the pandemic came.

Caroline (17:06):
Yes. So the pandemic and then I saw lead you to Babbu, and that’s the thing with all of these things, could you be the best founder you are for Babbu if you hadn’t had your businesses before? And I fully believe that these things would’ve all led you here, especially Cuckooz Nest, obviously. And so what happened in the pandemic? How did that feel when obviously you’re a mom as well, so what age was your daughter? Three. Three. So yeah, so you are also suddenly finding yourself at home with a 3-year-old, but how did that feel with Cuckooz Nest as well?

Charlie (17:39):
So I was running those two businesses. The hospitality business was still alive and Cuckooz Nest.

Caroline (17:43):
Wow.

Charlie (17:44):
Running two businesses and had a tiny baby.

Caroline (17:47):
Were also kind of the world being open, sort of reliant businesses as well.

Charlie (17:51):
Exactly, a hundred percent. And then immediately, very, very quickly that all unravelled so quickly. And so unfortunately the hospitality business died in the pandemic. So I was dealing with that April, may. June was dealing with the death of that business, which I took very, very personally. And Cuckooz Nest was closed, but we’d moved to doing a lot of stuff online. So we were doing circle time for all of our customers and their kids. And actually my colleague sent me the video from three years ago and I was like, oh my gosh, that’s exactly where Babbu started on this Zoom call.

(18:35):
And juggling doing all of this with my little girl at home as well, which obviously was the first time in three years. I was like, well, how do you entertain a child? How do you educate them? What do you do? And so that’s where the idea from Babbu came from really. And so yes, we lost 90% of our members for Cuckooz Nest in that first lockdown because most of our customers were freelance. Obviously they themselves had horrendous economic impact and a lot of families moved out to the countryside or they went back to their home countries in Europe or America, wherever. But we built it up again. But then I was kind of becoming clear on what Babbu was going to be, and I was like, I can’t do two businesses again. It’s just not feasible. So we had a break in our lease, and so we’d made decision to close down Cuckooz Nest and focus on Babbu, which as you say, one door closes, another opens, and Babbu would be here without the pandemic and without Cook. So yeah, it’s all a journey.

Caroline (19:43):
I love that. So with Babbu, when you started to go all in, and obviously you had the idea during the pandemic, and obviously Babbu would’ve been fantastic for everyone to have during the pandemic, wouldn’t it? How did that then translate taking that idea from that world into a world which is more open?

Charlie (20:00):
Yes, obviously in hindsight, I wish that I’d acted much faster, but again, it’s just time and place. Just personally

Caroline (20:08):
Wise, how fast can you work on a tech app as well

Charlie (20:13):
And still trying to keep another business afloat and dealing with the aftermath of closing a business? And I’m sure other people would’ve nailed it, but I just didn’t for whatever reason. And and then obviously I think because of that, the Babbu proposition and everything has changed what parents need and want and are struggling with now is different to what it was three, four years ago. And so we’ve adapted a lot. It’s still very much around earliest education because that hasn’t changed, but it’s less about, I think what’s really become apparent to me is parents don’t need another thing to do. They’re not all this fear wondering of if you don’t do this, your child’s going to be damaged and not.

Caroline (21:06):
Yeah, no, it’s so true. We’ve already talked about our feelings of damaging our first child and we can’t be alone in that. That’s what I’ve learned from this whole journey is that if I’m feeling this, tonnes of other women are.

Charlie (21:17):
Yeah, exactly. So it’s become a lot more about the parents supporting the parent, and if the outcome is that the child has had the benefit of earliest education and has had a, I guess it’s more about the parent now than it is about the child. The child’s like the byproduct with the parents a conduit. And then understanding that the parent also doesn’t need to be overloaded with yet more information, just kind of delivering concise information when you need it. And the other part of it, which has taken us time to figure out is the community aspect of it as well. So going back to cookies, as I said, that kind of peer to peer community, how supportive and nurturing that group was, many of whom are still friends today. How do we build that in a tech product without it being another forum of

Caroline (22:14):
Another membership kind? I was thinking that the other day, I have to say, someone sent me another membership the other day and I was like, I can’t do this. But yeah, it is that making something special, isn’t it? You are with Babbu.

Charlie (22:25):
And trying to cut through the noise and cut through the BS that surrounds, I think being a parent and it’s like it’s how do you build a really supportive nurturing world around children and those caring for them so that we all thrive? I think it’s just such a tough gig being a parent.

Caroline (22:46):
And that’s why you are here to help us with that. And so did you go down the fundraising route and what did that look like for Babbu?

Charlie (22:55):
I did go down the fundraising route. It was harder than I thought it would be. I think a couple of reasons. One, it was my fourth business I’ve raised for every single one. So it’s not like I had my friends and family around. I tapped out my network,

Caroline (23:16):
Charlie’s back…

Charlie (23:18):
I’ve been back to Asia twice for raised money, that just wasn’t an option. So it was starting a lot of conversations fresh and building those relationships with investors from scratch, which takes time. And also I was kind of raising money when I didn’t really have a product. It was just a dream and a pretty deck, and I was still managing Cuckooz Nest. So all those things aren’t optimised for fundraising, but we did it. We have some great investors. All of them are super supportive and I’m grateful for that. But we haven’t raised millions, and sometimes I think we do need to raise millions for a tech business. People do it for a reason. So we’re figuring out.

Caroline (24:05):
And so tell us, because you’ve just had this amazing launch and partnership with Children in Need and how did that come around? I think I saw something on LinkedIn about it, the amount of work you’ve put into that. And I think that’s such a good reality to share is that I think sometimes say in a couple of years time when Babbu’s a household name, everyone would be like, oh, it was easy. You’ll be like, I’ve been plugging away at this. And just say, give us an idea of what that looks like.

Charlie (24:31):
Yeah, I try to be as kind of honest as possible about the startup game because it’s very much a game, but also I think it’s so easy to feel that everyone is winning all the time and this is happening overnight people, but it obviously really isn’t. So yeah, I kind of outlined how many months or days it had been since that first call and how many meetings and how many phone calls and et, et cetera. But yeah, so they actually approached us, which is amazing. They approached us through LinkedIn and I’m obviously a big advocate for LinkedIn, but it was on off, on off. And that was more due to issues on their side of things. There was a key member of staff was unwell for a long period of time and various other bits that, and you got to remember you’re dealing with a charity and a big charity.

(25:20):
But eventually we got there and yes, as you mentioned, we launched during Mental Health Awareness Week. And the thing is for BBC children Need, I think what they’re looking to do, two things. One is that they’re looking to be an all year round campaign rather than just this kind of condensed November TV thing. And they’re also looking to move very much into children’s mental health rather than being around serving disadvantaged children or vulnerable children, therefore all children, but it’s around mental health now. So I think for that reason it worked very well for them. We are very much aligned on our missions and what we want to do. So yeah, it’s been great. It’s a long-term partnership. So as I keep saying to people on the phone, it’s like this is step one we’ve just launched. There is a much bigger kind of game plan at play, which does involve some BBC talent, which I’m very excited about and some longer term fundraising efforts on our part and everything else. But yeah, it’s great to be working with a household name like BBC Children Need. We are also launching with another big charity very soon. Our business model for Babbu is buy one, give one. So for every paying customer we give a licence to a disadvantaged family for free, and we do that via charity partners. So having charity partners align with us is very much part of our business model and making sure that we stick to our mission, which is to democratise access to earliest education and support.

Caroline (26:53):
For all children. Yeah, I love that. And I guess that’s more of, because with something, if you carried on down Cuckooz Nest, it would only be just with our childcare state of the minute for certain types of parents, wouldn’t it? Where now you’re going into something that really could reach all children.

Charlie (27:09):
That was the plan. And obviously I love the Cuckooz Nest model and I think in some ways it’s easier, like a known thing, you know what nursery is, even though it was a slightly different setup, but very hard business to scale. And obviously that sector is under immense difficulty at the moment in terms of funding and staffing and everything else. So yeah, I think with the tech business, the ability to scale is just so much greater and with that comes the ability to reach so many other people that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do with a physical space or a more expensive product.

Caroline (27:44):
That’s so true. And so as a mom and business owner, what have been your learning? So the structuring your time and your work kind of thing, I do think this being your fourth gig brings a lot more perspective potentially. Am I right on that or what do you think? I can imagine. I know I’ve worked with founders, my business Upsource, I work with founders all the time and I can really tell the founders not on their first gig. It’s just a bit of more perspective in a healthy way, in a good way. And do you think that’s kind of helped been something that you’ve learned over the years?

Charlie (28:23):
Yes and no. I think definitely losing a business gave me a great deal of perspective. I said I took it so personally, it really was a terrible time for me, I guess mentally. And then coming out of that and being like that failure doesn’t define you, that business, you’ve gone on to have other business, I dunno. And so I think yes, there’s definitely an understanding and I think age as well. And I also think motherhood is massive part of that. I think that if I look back to what I was like in my twenties, I worked insanely hard to the point of hospitalisation and burnout and I’m like, what were you doing that for? Who are you doing that for? And I think when you have a child, you’re a bit more careful with yourself, aren’t you? And your mental health and your wellbeing.

(29:20):
And especially I think with Babbu, I talk so much around the impact of parents’ mental health on their child’s mental health. There’s a statistic which I learned the other day, which I can’t stop going on about, which is children with stress, parents of five times more likely to self-harm. And I just keep that in my head and I’m like, there’s no point in getting yourself completely worked up or working to the bone if it’s going to impact child in that way. There’s obviously nothing more important to me than my child and their health and wellbeing. So yeah, there’s a bit more perspective in saying that I’m not very well balanced.

(29:55):
I do, my laptop sits at the dining table, it never moves where I’m at right now. We eat around it, I’ll be on it. And catching up on how her day went at school, my bank holiday wasn’t a bank holiday day, it was working. So yeah, it is hard to find a balance and I think, I don’t know if anyone necessarily has it, my biggest lesson or trick that I’ve learned is to just time block my diary. So I keep a track of where I’m spending my time and my daughter has a colour and she has allocated time.

Caroline (30:29):
Oh, my family has a colour. Yeah, it’s pink. If anyone wants to know.

Charlie (30:35):
Mine’s blue. So I think, and that’s a good way to keep track of it. And again, I also call, is that a sales meeting, that marketing, is that a team? So I can kind of get a sense of how are you spending your week? Are you optimising it for everyone’s interest? Yeah,

Caroline (30:56):
And I guess for you as well, that’s important, not just your daughter, I said it’s about looking after you and it’s kind of like, is there Charlie time in that calendar

Charlie (31:06):
Slash me time is one colour for, but no, I’m not great at that. But there’s only so many hours in the day on there.

Caroline (31:16):
And when you have a mission I guess, which you do with, well, that’s a very hard thing to balance. While you will balance something, you realise you can’t get burnout like you did in your twenties. Do you think you could have continued a career like that and motherhood?

Charlie (31:31):
I think my life would be very different. There’s definitely friends. So that was when I was living in Hong Kong. There’s definitely friends who have stayed in Hong Kong and probably still very much have, because Hong Kong is a very work hard, play hard environment, but everyone has a housekeeper. They basically have full-time childcare. It’s set up to be allow you to do that. So yeah, I think I would have a very different lifestyle and not one that I want ultimately.

Caroline (31:58):
And that’s a really good point in those sort of countries where everyone has a housekeeper and a nanny. I’ve heard of that. So we’ve had some women on the podcast who are open with that as well. It’s like my life is different because I can do this. What has been your support system and network with the childcare? Have you found anything that works for you with your structure?

Charlie (32:21):
Yes. So the other thing that happened during the pandemic was the breakdown of my relationship. And so I have invested a lot in what I call the sleepover club. So I take in vast quantities of children for the night.

(32:40):
But then I get all those nights back. And so that’s really how I’ve survived. I think the last three, four years of being a solo parent is with that support. And I don’t think I would’ve invested so heavily into it if I wasn’t on my own, but I’m so grateful for it and I’m so grateful for the friends that have been there during that time and the dads that have become role models for my daughter and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, I think you need to really find your tribe as a parent and invest in that because you just never know when you’re going to need those people. Even my next door neighbours now I can count on them for sleeping an emergency when you suddenly got to go somewhere or I don’t know, visit or something, then it’s like, can you just,

Caroline (33:36):
There’s someone who can help. Isn’t that nice to look back on from Charlie who didn’t fit in the mum tribe though, and now I know, I can’t even imagine going through a relationship breakdown and everything during the pandemic, but to come out on that side and you’d be like, oh, okay, I did all right. I found my tribe.

Charlie (33:54):
Yeah, I think absolutely. I think one of the things I’m most proud on is how I’ve navigated these years in terms of maintaining a steady ship and maintaining my daughter touch wood is happy child. So yeah, I think it took me really owning being a mother to, I know a lot of people talk about parenting out loud, but I think the more you do it and the more you normalise it, the easier it becomes because then you’re able to ask for help rather than be this stoic career woman who doesn’t talk about her children and therefore doesn’t feel able to ask for help when she needs it or leave early for sports day or whatever it is. So yeah, I think you really need to lean into it as much as possible to get stuff out the other end, if that makes sense.

Caroline (34:46):
Get support for you. And then also as you are someone, you have a team at Babbu, it’s hopefully only going to grow. And so that must be super important for you as a company culture that people can parent out loud, right?

Charlie (35:02):
Absolutely. Yeah. I’ve got several people off this week, half term

Caroline (35:09):
We’re still here working.

Charlie (35:11):
You’re like, what? We’ve done something

Caroline (35:12):
Wrong, Charlie, honestly, why am I here?

Charlie (35:16):
I think yeah, you have to be, and I think you have to just trust people, don’t you? And everyone’s got stuff going on. I’ve got younger people in the team who don’t have children yet, but are caring for elderly parents and you have to just let people, and especially because we are a remote first organisation now, we don’t have an office anymore. You just have to trust that people are doing their job and so far everyone is. And I think the thing that ties it all together is everyone is passionate about what we’re trying to do, care about what we’re trying to achieve. So I think that makes a cohesive team

Caroline (35:54):
And how can you not, I think with what you guys are doing. And have you had much experience on the mom guilt side? I think I saw an article you wrote about mom guilt as being someone purpose led as well, that sometimes you have to make decisions and choices, which I think all career parents do. Have you had any particular experiences from mom guilt in that sense?

Charlie (36:16):
I think all the time. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I dunno, society just makes you feel guilty or it’s just inherent that you’re not doing enough. But yeah, all the time I worry about what decisions I make are having on her. The fact that she’s an only child is that somehow going to ruin her life.

Caroline (36:42):
She’s got sleepover club, she’s fine.

Charlie (36:45):
Sleepover club aren’t going to be there when I’m old. She’ll be the only one looking after me. I worry about the impact of the separation, about all the house moves. I worry about the fact that I’m always working and I talk a lot about being present with the children and quality time, blah, blah, blah. But as I say, my laptop sits on the dining table all day long. Of course I’m guilty about that. I’m guilty about the fact that yeah, she’s in place scheme this week because I’m working and a handful of kids there. So yeah, that’s constant guilt.

Caroline (37:15):
Constant guilt. I have a theory on this because one time my husband turned around and said to me, he was like, I spend so much time with the kids compared to my dad. I’m doing so well, pat on the back because of flexible working kind of thing. And I was like, the difference is mothers are spending less time. Well that’s how we feel with our careers and stuff is we’re not being stay at home moms. And that’s why I wanted, do you see where this is? You are there patting yourself on the back, which you should be. It’s great, you’re mom and dad and all, but at the same time can you see why moms just feel worse kind of thing. And that was my theory around it when he said that one day and I was good for you that you get to look back and think I’m doing better. But even though I had a working mom and divorced parents as well, so she was like main Bre and her in our house and all of this stuff. It was, but even though I don’t even really think I’m actually around my kids more than my mom was, but I still think there’s the inherited the societal guilt kind of thing there.

Charlie (38:15):
You are kind of made to feel selfish for wanting to work and not be around your children 24/7

Caroline (38:21):
Or enjoy every minute. I was in urgent care yesterday. Imagine if I walked around going, enjoy every minute.

Charlie (38:29):
You’ll never get this weekend back.

Caroline (38:32):
I’m like, good.

Charlie (38:35):
Yeah, no, guilt was a lot. And a lot of us aren’t choosing to work for pleasure either. We’re choosing literally to make ends meet, put food on the table, form the house, blah, blah, blah. So well all

Caroline (38:47):
Our mortgages now are based on two people and obviously that’s even harder when you are no longer with your partner and things. So you’ve got to work even harder as a single parent. I can only imagine. And I imagine there’s a lot looking up to you for everything you are doing and will hopefully take things like sleepover club and leaning into and not being afraid to ask for help. Has that come from it as well?

Charlie (39:10):
A hundred percent. Yeah. I think I used to be a proud person and a very aloof person. And even in business, I would never have friends in the office. Everyone would go for drinks on a Friday or whatever and I would never go. I was like, I’m not your friend. This is a professional environment. And I think then I, when I launched Nesta became so much about me and my journey as a mom and everything else. I had to be visibly a mother and everything else. Then the amount of stress that comes off your shoulders when you’re not pretending, you’re not holding stuff back. And everyone talks now about bringing your whole self to work or your authentic self to work. And I think there’s so much to be said for that, right? Like whats and all this was my crappy weekend. We were in a e or whatever it is. I think it just makes you human and people can relate to it so much better. And then you’re able to ask for help, which we all should be able to do. There’s nothing wrong with help.

Caroline (40:12):
No, no. I think that I look back on times I’m like, oh, I wish I’d asked for it more. Nothing. So I think that’s it. You never think, oh, I asked for help too much kind of thing, do you?

Charlie (40:22):
No, no. I think sometimes you feel guilty for putting on other people and everything else, but as I said, you’ll soon find out who your friends are and who aren’t and that’s what is more valuable than that. You don’t want to be wasting your time on people who aren’t going to have your back when you need it.

Caroline (40:43):
Yeah, I think that comes with age and motherhood as well, doesn’t it? When you see and realise, okay, they can’t handle this, that’s fine.

Charlie (40:49):
I don’t need a hundred friends.

Caroline (40:52):
I don’t need that many friends. Yeah, that’s so true. What’s been a particular standout tough time of business? I think we kind of answered this one with when you lost, was it your first business you lost?

Charlie (41:06):
Second.

Caroline (41:07):
Second. How did you kind of bounce back from that? I’m sure there’ll be people feeling they may be listening to this at the end of a business coming to the end of a business. How do you bounce back from that?

Charlie (41:18):
I think I don’t have the answer to that. I think that at that time that it happened because there was so much happening in the world as it was June 2020 because I had Cuckooz Nest, because I was literally picking up the pieces with my relationship with my daughter. There was no time for sitting still and sitting with that feeling and licking a wound grieving it. Exactly. So I just got on with trying to fix Cuckooz Nest and then obviously this idea for Babbu was percolating and it was a bit of a distraction to be starting to work on some app designs and stuff. So I think really I, through all traumatic events in my life, I think the only way, and I’m sure psychiatrists will tell me it’s not healthy, it’s not a good coping mechanism.

Caroline (42:16):
I’m not a psychiatrist,

Charlie (42:19):
Get stuck into the next project. And I think business and people obviously give me energy. And so that was really my therapy for it. And I think to some extent I still carry a lot of that grief for that business and that kind of, oh, it was your fault, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But at the time you do what you do, you have other things that require attention

Caroline (42:44):
And it was June, 2020. I think we can all identify with that time. The

Charlie (42:49):
Only thing I can say to anyone whose business has just gone under or is not looking like it’s going to survive is that your business doesn’t define you. This failure won’t define you. And it’s happened to so many people, amazing, amazing business owners who are now big gazillionaires, have all had failures, have had crushing failures, have had millions of rejections. So yeah, just try not to take it personally really, especially right now,

Caroline (43:21):
I think. Yeah. Oh my gosh, especially right now. I mean everyone’s all the so no, I agree. I think that’s actually fantastic advice. I think we can take things very personally in work. It’s hard not to, especially when it’s your own. But I think yeah, you’re absolutely right. And recognising that hold onto grief and that’s okay and you’ll work on it if you need to when it’s ready kind of thing. I think that’s good to embrace that. And I’d love to give a little bit of insight into Charlie because I’ve heard a bit that you didn’t get on The Apprentice one time and wrote a letter to Alan Sugar, and I think this is brilliant. I feel like sometimes we just need to, it’s good to understand the person behind this. So why did you do that and what was that all about? When did you apply?

Charlie (44:09):
I love that you found this.

Caroline (44:11):
I know I dig deep.

Charlie (44:14):
This is the problem is self-promotion. There’s just so much stuff out there about me that I should probably,

Caroline (44:20):
Don’t worry, I probably feel the same, but this is great.

Charlie (44:24):
So because I literally used to be so obsessed, I guess I’m so obsessed with business, and this was early days, I think it was series of The Apprentice where it was actually about being his apprentice, not about now getting £200,000 whatever. And it was less…

Caroline (44:38):
It was still relevant. I feel like that show these days isn’t relevant. The whole You are Fired thing, it’s just so not 2024.

Charlie (44:46):
But at that time he was more respected. I mean I guess he still is. But yeah, I didn’t get through the casting, so I got to, I don’t know, interview three or whatever. And I just felt so cheated because in my mind I’m like, there is no one better in this world to be his apprentice than me. So I literally wrote him a letter just being, and this was back in the day when you also wrote letters. I used to be a land and we would write letters to people, find out who owned the Land on Land registry and you’d write them a letter. So I remember posting that letter and yes, it was basically like, so Alan, your casting team, your producers have made a monumental error.

Caroline (45:32):
That’s brilliant.

(45:33):
Did you get a response?

Charlie (45:34):
I did not get a response.

Caroline (45:38):
You could just tweet him now. Tweet him. Tell him I sent you a letter dated…

Charlie (45:45):
Massive mistake.

Caroline (45:48):
Yeah, look at me now. Look at me now.

(45:53):
Utterly brilliant and I love that. I just think it shows the personality of people who go on to achieve things like you are with Babbu. And so thank you for sharing that and letting me ask the question. So coming to a close, thank you so much for sharing your journey. What are your top three tips for someone with no tech background wanting to launch a tech business or something they know that will change the world?

Charlie (46:18):
My top three tips are, I guess one is to, okay, first of all, don’t let this whole, I’m not a tech bro thing intimidate you. I think anyone can run a tech business if you find the right team around you. Second of all would be don’t go in super early to building tech. There are so many ways to do it cheaper. And I’ve learned this the hard way, especially now with AI and everything else. You could build stuff. There’s this guy on LinkedIn who I wish I knew about three years ago, who builds you an MVP and gets it in the app stores in 10 days. I’m like, amazing.

(47:01):
And then the other one would be to focus on, I think we all get, or certainly a lot of people get caught up in this VC world raising loads of money, but actually, and right now the market’s telling you there is nothing more important than revenue customers, sales customers that love you. And so I’d probably be like, yeah, spend less time worrying about the tech and thinking we’re a tech business, we need to really invest in this rather than what is the problem we’re solving for our customers and start doing it without the technology, I guess would be my advice. And then when you know exactly what you want to build, find that guy on LinkedIn and build it in 10 days.

Caroline (47:44):
That’s really interesting. I feel like that’s clearly a shift of the times, isn’t it? Because a year ago or two years ago, you might have been tech for the fundraising tech, tech, tech and now it’s about customer, which is a really interesting takeaway from that.

Charlie (47:57):
But I mean honestly, I feel like five years ago or longer, I was speaking to this very wealthy businessman in his eighties and he was like, you didn’t raise money for your business if you wanted to have a business. The business had to make money otherwise it didn’t exist. And I think we’ve just lost that really important thing. It’s like it should make money. It’s just stand on its own two feet and then you raise money to really…

Caroline (48:26):
Scale it.

Charlie (48:27):
Exactly. So yeah, I think as hard as this environment is right now, it’s also a really important lesson for us all. But it’s painful.

Caroline (48:36):
Go out and get customers and make some money. I feel like that’s something my dad would say to me, I’ve gone full circle and turned into my dad. There we go. Oh no, Charlie, that’s really brilliant and thank you for that. And it’s wonderful to speak with someone who’s gone on such a journey like yourself. So where can people find Babbu and become a customer and be a fan of yours?

Charlie (49:03):
Either go to our website www.babbu.co.uk or go find us in the app stores. And yes, I would love, I’d love a download and I’d love some feedback.

Caroline (49:16):
And also did you say for every paying customer you’re going to help someone else. It’s not just for you. And where can they find you if they want to learn more about you, Charlie?

Charlie (49:29):
Oh, LinkedIn obviously.

Caroline (49:33):
Excellent, follow, follow. Well thank you so much again, Charlie, and enjoy the rest of your half term.

Charlie (49:39):
Thank you. Yes, remind me it’s half term. Thank you so much.

Outro

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.