"There is no career path"

with Nicky Elliot, entrepreneur and podcaster

Show notes:

Nicky Elliot is the embodiment of the lessons of her own podcast: there is no career path. From events business, to children’s clothing brand, to podcasting and consultancy, Nicky’s path has been winding.

Stepping away from her events business after the birth of her second child, Nicky opened a successful clothing brand in 2020, and closed it in 2023. And wow, Nicky is honest about her journey through it: exactly how much she invested in the company (life savings!), the healthy dose of naivety it takes to be a business owner, and why she decided that she just didn’t want to do it any more.

We had a really interesting discussion that ranged from how do we measure success, why founders need to be able to make head as well as heart decisions and how difficult that can be when your business is (a big) part of your identity. And why there’s no shame in saying ‘I just don’t want it enough’.

I loved what Nicky had to say about seasons – a recurring theme on the podcast. Your ambitions can move and so can your resources. Maybe you just don’t have it in the tank at the moment, you can come back to it when it feels right.

She also was honest about her experiences of mat leave, her first with her daughter was hard: ‘I loved her, I didn’t love ‘it’’, and the opportunity that Covid created for her to dedicate herself to starting a business on mat leave with her son. TLDR: It would not have been possible to start a business in her first.

We spoke about fundraising, ‘the juggle’ and Nicky’s approach to social media and how it’s changed. All favourite topics on the pod and Nicky has some great perspectives.

Listen to the end to hear Nicky’s tips for mums who are thinking about starting their own business but aren’t sure where to start.

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

 

About Nicky Elliot

Nicky is a serial entrepreneur, podcast host, mum of two, speaker and advocate for women in business and their stories.

Nicky is an absolute rock star, a mum of two, her motherhood journeys began with iVF and a preemie baby – it was during her maternity leave she launched her first business venture with wilder ones, a unisex kids brand this led her to pivoting to all things women business, their stories and sharing with the world.

Nicky Elliot’s Links:

Website
LinkedIn
Instagram

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 (00:05):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bumped Business Owner. Today I am with Nicky Elliott. Nicky is a serial entrepreneur, podcast host, mom of two, speaker and advocate for women in business and their stories. Nicky is an absolute rockstar, a mom of two. Her motherhood journeys began with IVF and a preemie baby. It was during her maternity leave that she launched her first business venture with Wilder Ones, a unisex kids brand, which has led her to pivoting to all things women’s business, their stories and sharing the world. If you want to be inspired to be brave, make change or simply be a little bit louder with your intentions. This is the podcast for you. Nicky, welcome. Thank you so much.

Nicky (01:10):
Thank you for having me.

Caroline (01:11):
I’ve got a seasoned podcast host who loves chatting to women and their stories, so this is great today. No pressure on me.

Nicky (01:18):
It’s brilliant synergy. I’m very excited.

Caroline (01:20):
I love hearing about moms who have started businesses, and you have started several businesses, but their career paths that led to that. So where did you start with your career? Let’s start at the beginning.

Nicky (01:31):
My first ever job was in events. I got a kind of summer temp job straight out of uni and kind of loved it by accident. I didn’t study anything to do with events, but I was always quite an organised person and a friend of a friend was looking for summer temp in a very small business that she worked in. Went there, got my feet under the table, got on really well with my boss there and within five or so years I think it was, I had essentially taken over the running of that business and then went on to set up my own events business when I was about 27 or 28, which was really awful actually in terms of how stressful it was. It was good as a business, it was successful as a business, but we got to a crossroads with the other business where it sort became clear that this is what my business partner and I needed to do, and I kind of took her on that journey with me because I was like, we can’t stay here. We need to do our own thing. We are great together. I’m the business head sales head, you are the delivery events person. Let’s do it. We did that and within nine months we’d been approached by a bigger business who we were winning work off and they asked if they could kind of buy us out with a share swap. It wasn’t actually that money changed hands, but we were essentially absorbed into a much bigger business and I was there for the rest of my events career because on my first day there I met my husband.

Caroline (02:58):
Oh, you met through work?

Nicky (03:01):
Yeah, literally met him on day one and I was there through having my daughter and then when I was on maternity leave with my son I was on leave from there. I had gone on to be head of operations for a group of companies at that point, so I had quite a big role in terms of job descriptions and all those things, if that’s what you’re into. But yeah, I was on maternity leave with my son. He was born in January, 2020, so I’m not sure if I need to say much more about that time. We went into lockdown so early in his life, my daughter’s nursery closed and priorities just shifted massively as they did for so many people and I just was like, I can’t go back to that commute. It was a two hour commute each way and I was doing that when my daughter was small. I was doing that four days a week and I was just, that suddenly felt absolutely barbaric and there was things that were great about that business and people that I absolutely loved. There were also people that were really challenging that were never going to change and taking everything into consideration, I was like, now is the moment to go.

Caroline (04:07):
Wow. Is your husband still there or did he move on?

Nicky (04:13):
No, he left before I did. My husband works in renewables now, so he actually had a complete career pivot as well.

Caroline (04:20):
Oh, that’s amazing. Love it when things happen at the same time, but wow, your early career path, you’re kind of living the twenties dream. It’s like the second time today on a podcast I’ve been talking about on paper, maybe not in the reality, but getting to where you did very quickly and in events. That’s what a lot of, I think women dream of.

Nicky (04:42):
Yeah, I mean I think it wasn’t something that interested me. I wasn’t like, oh, events, but when I started it, people were like, events is a big thing, and I remember my boss saying to me, oh, we’re going to this first event, which is called such and such, and I pictured myself there sipping on champagne. That’s how I pictured and obviously when I got there I was just working my ass off and we were rushed off feet and we were in every corner of the venue moment to moment and I was like, oh, it was a bit of a baptism of fire because I think people had glamorised that whole world to me. They were like, oh, events, that’s cool. So yes, I know what you mean, and I was really fortunate the way that I kind of fell into events in a small agency, I absorbed as much as I possibly could from my boss there. I really made sure that I learned a huge amount from him because I was interested and the business was small enough that I could just be a sponge. So yeah, I capitalised on the opportunity and because it was a small business, I really understood the nuts and bolts of it and felt in a position to set up my own, which really was ultimately something that I always wanted to do.

Caroline (05:50):
That’s what I was going to ask, did you always want to go down the entrepreneur routes then?

Nicky (05:56):
Yeah, dad was his own boss, like a local business owner, and he had set up his first business at the same age that I did, so it was talked about, there was no pressure from him, but in my head I knew that I was going to be the one to do it and he knew that I was going to be the one to do it and it was like, oh, are you going to do it? And yeah, it just felt like at that moment I almost didn’t have any other choice because I didn’t feel super employable. I am not a great employee, I don’t think because anybody who knows me will know that I am very real and very honest and I can struggle to filter my thoughts. I just was like, what job am I going to go into? I’ve got almost too much experience where it was too broad and people wanted to put me in a box.

(06:48):
I remember going for job interviews and it was just like I wasn’t niche enough, so yeah, really we had an opportunity where that business was closing and I was like, all this work is out there for the doing. We know all the clients. We set up a commission situation with our ex-boss, so we paid him a commission for the clients. We carried over, so it was all above board and we were like, let’s just go for it. My business partner was like, I don’t want to be employed, and I was like, you just have to and I will pay your salary and I will take another job in order to pay your salary so you can deliver the events. But this is what I mentioned earlier about how stressful it was. I put myself under so much pressure that I had anxiety attacks and the whole shebang, so it was a very stressful time. I don’t want to glamorise it.

Caroline (07:36):
Was it because the level of work you guys took on, because I’m always fascinated because events, it is like service-based business, isn’t it? Do you think it was that pressure of delivering something and not having the people there or did you have people and that was stressful as well? I know there’s a lot of people struggle on the people side of businesses.

Nicky (07:54):
It was just the two of us, but I think the stress was I basically had to take a full-time job to pay Nadia’s salary because we needed her free to actually deliver the events because we won work straight off the bat. So I think we borrowed, we each borrowed 2000 pounds from our parents that we paid back almost instantly because like you say, it’s service space. You don’t need a lot to get going, and we worked in corporate events, so the value of these events was tens of thousands of pounds. We were turning over a decent amount straight away. Obviously we needed to manage that carefully. The thing that was stressful was just taking on a full-time job that my heart wasn’t in and my head wasn’t in taking days off when I needed to pitch for new work. Then when we won new work, we were absolutely high as kites, we were completely buzzing. I still remember the feeling now, but just the pressure of then keeping that up was huge and I think the fact that we got approached by this other business that we were winning work off was just a lifeline really.

Caroline (09:01):
And would you ever do that again, that kind of business or not?

Nicky (09:05):
Hell no. Events is a young person’s game as well. I don’t want to over age myself, but quite quickly I grew out of wanting to be involved in the actual events. I realised quite quickly there was more money and more reward in thinking rather than doing, and I didn’t want to deliver the events when I started in events, I was the last person propping up the bar after every event. I was super, super sociable, but I got to a point where I was like, I’m not interested in actually delivering them. So I was behind the scenes coming up with strategy, running budgets, managing clients, but I didn’t want to be doing the do, so I’m definitely not interested in it now.

Caroline (09:47):
I love that. I also love the part you said about your dad. I think that’s so true because when I got made redundant from a VA agency, it was actually my dad was like, well, you could do it yourself kind of thing, and he’d run his own business and at the time I was like, no. But he planted that little Upsource seed about almost a year before I actually launched Upsource, and it’s such a privilege I think to have that. It would be great if it was our mothers as well. Hopefully we’ll be the first ones to be saying to our kids, oh, maybe.

Nicky (10:15):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, because there’s no education around entrepreneurship in school. This is the real passion subject for me. I ask people about careers advice they got and no one, absolutely no one got advice about entrepreneurship, about being self-employed actually being a viable career path. I do think that is changing. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of schools bringing in former students who are founders and entrepreneurs. I know that my school have done that, but I don’t think that’s a blanket thing, but I think it’s massively, massively important and it wasn’t modelled for me by school, and if my dad hadn’t worked for himself and known that as a potential avenue, I don’t think it would’ve been on my radar in the same way,

Caroline (11:03):
It’s so true about school as well. I don’t know about you, you say they bring in past pupils. I don’t actually know what my school will bring in, but my sister told me she’s on the newsletter for our school. They choose the ones that have done academically quite well and traditionally quite well, rather than looking at ones, oh, that person got all C’s but she’s doing great now. Do you not think that as well?

Nicky (11:26):
Also, my school have brought in people who’ve done very well financially, essentially they’ve got big businesses because that’s what they think people are interested in and I would love to see some balance reflected, but I would love to see, again, another massive passion subject for me is measures of success and what success actually means to you. I would love to see them bring in successful entrepreneurs who are successful on their own terms, whether that means building a business that works for them around their family or whether they’re just the happiest person in the world. It isn’t just the money.

Caroline (12:03):
Let’s start a motion here, everyone listening write to your old school and we’ll do the same and we’ve got to see that, but it’s such a good point of it is just like, oh, these are the ones that did really well at school and no surprise I’m seeing them go back to the school and saying they’d done well rather than inspiring the 90 other percent of other pupils there.

Nicky (12:23):
Totally.

Caroline (12:24):
So you finished your job, you had a Covid baby, very much so. How did you feel going back to work in that sense after your first child? Was it really hard? What was your return to work?

Nicky (12:36):
My return to work after my daughter was a massive shock to the system. It was so needed in so many ways because she’d been prem, I’d been at home with her for a long time and I hadn’t enjoyed my first maternity leave. I found it really, really difficult. The challenges that come with a prem baby followed by reflux and lots of challenges. I loved her, but I didn’t love it and I certainly didn’t love me. I found it very, very difficult. So I was gagging to go back to work in lots of ways, but then it was a very long commute. I felt a huge amount of guilt and confusion at just walking around and people having conversations with me. I was a normal person and I was thinking to myself, why are you talking to me like that? I’m this mum. I’ve just become defined by my baby and I found the transition back to work really freeing and such a relief in so many ways, but also weird because I felt like my identity had completely shifted. So yeah, first time around it was weird, but I only had one kid then one variable, so I managed outwardly, I managed okay, but having two was a game changer for me in terms of just tipping the balance the other way.

Caroline (13:55):
Oh, definitely as a fellow, I didn’t have a preemie child, but neonatal intensive care mom, I think that’s kind of not just the maternity but a symptom of I’m not, you’ve kind of gone through this different shift as well, so it’s like I’m not functioning. How are people having these normal conversations with me when internally I’m just not functioning.

(14:15):
I think there’ll be a lot of women who’ve been through those journeys will relate to that. I’ve spoken to mum friends who are the main earners in their household and they go back to work after their seconds and they’re like, wow, I don’t even know how to begin managing this, and we all do eventually, whether it’s changing something or you just getting into the routine. So it was covid and then at what point did you start getting the idea then for Wilder Ones and creating something new?

Nicky (14:48):
So I guess it was over the course of 2020. The first part is a blur. My husband and I both got Covid and he was really ill, so it must have been maybe halfway through the year everyone was on Instagram because it wasn’t, yeah, I was at home on maternity leave, but I was at home on maternity leave also with a toddler also couldn’t leave the house so he couldn’t go to baby groups. It was a blessing in a way to be on mat leave because it meant it didn’t impact my husband’s work at all, but it was incredibly hard for me having both kids and I think for me the idea came because I have a daughter and a son and I was getting very frustrated about clothing, about not being able to pass girls clothes onto boys, but you can pass boys clothes onto girls. Something I’ve spoken about at length, and so I had the idea for a unisex clothing brand and because I’m me and I can be very reactive and kind of impulsive, I was like, I’m going to do that. And I spent his nap times researching agents, researching factories, researching how the hell to actually do it because I wasn’t a buyer. I didn’t buy clothes that existed, my clothes were made from scratch. I designed them and I had absolutely no fucking clue. Dunno if I’m allowed to swear.

Caroline (16:15):
You are absolutely allowed to swear this is an adult podcast.

Nicky (16:18):
Than no clue what I was doing. Absolutely no idea. But I think actually doing that was really enjoyable for me. It was for me and it was giving me ideas about what I might go on to do and I was hugely naive about how successful it would be, how quickly it would take off, and I am a real advocate of naivety and business to a greater or lesser extent because I think if you don’t have a degree of naivety, you probably would never do anything. So yeah, I had a healthy dose of that and I just, yeah, the idea came to me and I just got on with it because I didn’t have anything else to do. Like I said, I couldn’t even take them anywhere.

Caroline (17:01):
So you weren’t missing out on mom’s coffees or anything like that. There is that element a little bit. If you’re trying to start something and it’s your first or second and your second might, while you had the challenges of two, it might have felt a bit freer not going through, you didn’t go through your second wasn’t preemie, right?

Nicky (17:19):
No, he wasn’t and I felt like a completely different person. I absolutely braced myself for another hideous year and then when he was born I was like, oh, this is fine. And it continued to be fine to the point where I was like, whisper it. I’m enjoying this almost. Because I found mat leave the first time, not just hard, but very boring, very, very, very boring because my daughter couldn’t be put down. Bless her. So I just had to schlep her around and I sung Twinkle, twinkle little star in the mirror at her 4 trillion times. It was just awful. But he could be put down. I’m sure he was the sum of all parts. I’m sure he was second baby and I was more chilled and he was more chilled and he hadn’t been prem and there was so much at play, but I just enjoyed it more and so for me, it is not something I could have done on my first mat leave. So if someone’s listening to this and they’re on their first mat leave and they’re like, how on earth, let me just be super clear, I could not in any way, shape or form have even put my brain in the vicinity of starting something on my first mat leave. So there’s absolutely no pressure on anyone. It’s only if you feel well and ready and keen and it’s night and day how you feel first and second.

Caroline (18:37):
And it’s good for you, I guess. Yeah. I’ve got a friend I was just chatting to and she’s been at home with the toddlers a lot and she’s written a poetry book I’ve got it next to me actually, and she’s like, this is my outlet. It’s like, oh, it’s good for her to write and she started a little business from it.

Nicky (18:56):
I think it can be so good for you if you’ve got it in the tank, if you are interested. If you are like fuck, and you can barely open your eyes and get yourself dressed, don’t worry about it, that’s normal.

Caroline (19:07):
Look after yourself or just try and function and it’s a season and ask for help. So you designed the clothes, am I right? I like to kind of get in the detail. Sometimes people are like, I really want to do this, but how on earth? Same. I’ve never had a product background. If I went to start a product business tomorrow, the only reason I might be able to do slightly okay is it’s thanks to this podcast. So you designed the clothes and then someone made them, did they make them in the uk? How did you go about finding that?

Nicky (19:38):
My factory was in Portugal, so I asked around for a pattern designer who would actually draw up the tech packs as they’re called the CADs, the drawings of the clothes in terms of measurements and stuff. So found her through a recommendation. I bought patterns online or I commissioned artists to design patterns and then I had a designer that I worked with who’d done my branding. So she and I arranged all the colour changes and things like that to make sure they were the right palette. Then once you’ve got the tech packs or the drawings, you send them to the factory and you’re like, can you do this? You send them the measurements, they create a proto for you, a blank one first. Then if you’re happy with that, if you tweak the measurements, et cetera, then you send them the files and they send you a version with the prints on it. So it is a long-winded process just to get one garment signed off. But that was all happening I guess over the course of the latter part of 2020 and into the beginning of 2021 because I launched on social media, Jan 2021 and then the clothing, I did a sort of long-winded launch and teaser campaign on purpose and the clothing launched in March.

Caroline (20:53):
That’s still really quick, isn’t it?

Nicky (20:55):
So that was all happening in the background and that was all totally me feeling my way, figuring out as I went along. I’ve had a guest in the past on my podcast who said to me, don’t underestimate the power of Googling it, and it’s just so true, so true. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to do a lot of research to find my agent in Portugal who essentially managed my relationship with the factory. I absolutely trawled LinkedIn. It wasn’t just like Google agent, oh, that’s the person. There was a lot of work involved in finding the right person, but that kind of all came together and I just figured it out from there. It was a lot looking back, it’s bizarre. It’s almost like an outer body thing.

Caroline (21:39):
You didn’t do it kind of thing. Yeah, I do feel like that a little bit in the early days of Upsource, the things I was doing on a nap time between morning sickness and then I’m like, oh, how did I do that?

Nicky (21:52):
I think that about my first business and I think that about this business because my first business, I was very young, people can start businesses really young and be really successful, but I was too young, really just wasn’t really stable enough. And then starting the clothing brand. People say to me, do you miss it? And I’m like, no. Things have moved on so much for me and it was so great and I regret nothing but it was so hard.

Caroline (22:17):
Do you mind me asking, so I know you’re big on being financial transparent, how much does it cost to launch a clothing brand? Talking about how service-based businesses, I put very little into Upsource and asked around favours and things like that. So it was about 1000 to 2000 pounds for Upsource. How much for a clothing brand?

Nicky (22:35):
Great shout. So for a clothing brand like mine, which is everything’s bespoke, you’re not buying stock that already exists. It was tens of thousands. It was like, I think I initially put 40,000 pounds of my life savings into it and I don’t want anyone to think, oh, she had 40 grand lying around so I don’t feel sorry for her. This is when it comes back to naivety. I was like, this is our life savings, but I will put it in and I will get it back soon. I will never get it back. It’s gone. So that was a huge, huge learning and that’s ultimately why I closed the brand down because to scale a clothing business is so hard. It’s possible, but you need to spend money on ads, which means that you have to have money in the business and you have to have the inventory to support scaling your ads to reach more people.

(23:24):
And because my stuff was being made bespoke in small runs, I launched a product several times that was sell out products. So you’re like outwardly, you’re like, wow, this is really successful. But once 150 of those things had sold, I didn’t have any more. So my ads agency were like, right, we need more because we can scale. We’re doing so well. I was like, I don’t have any more. And so the maths just didn’t work and I got to a point with it where I was either, I put significantly more money into it but accept that that’s not coming back for a long time or I wind it up and I didn’t really have a choice at that point. I couldn’t put more of our money into it. We simply don’t have it. So the writing was on the wall, the beginning part of 2023, and then my decision to wind up the clothing brand hit me in a moment almost as a visceral feeling.

(24:15):
It was like a wave where I’d been uming and erring. I’d been talking to Drew, I was like, maybe I’m going to scale back and I’m going to do limited collections, limited runs, and it’ll be this. And they’re like, people will be clamouring for it and therefore it’ll work. And I just had this moment, I was like, whoa, I have to stop doing this. And it was physical, it was so weird and I just went through to his office and was like, I’m going to stop. And that was it. And I think he was relieved as well because it is hard being the partner supporting someone who’s doing all of this stuff.
Caroline (24:48):
Do you think that was you getting to the point of maybe burnout? May I say, and it was just your body was like, Nope, we’re done.

Nicky (24:55):
Possibly. Yeah, and I think it was just too confusing and there was just too much going on and it wasn’t working as it was and I was like, I don’t think I’ve got it in the tank. And that’s something that’s really important for people because your ambition can move and so can your resources, what you have available to you energetically changes through different seasons of your life. You mentioned seasons before. I’m coming into a season where my youngest child is four, I’m out of the trenches and I energetically feel like I’m coming back to myself, but I didn’t feel like that for a long time. And at that point in the business, he was still a toddler, he was still in nursery. I work now, I was working very, very part-time, then I was like, I don’t have it, I don’t have it in the tank. So I stopped.

Caroline (25:48):
Oh, thank you for sharing. I think there might be people that maybe at that stage of that journey listening and it’s like I talked about this on another podcast recently, but it’s okay to just say actually it we’re done and there’ll be something else.

Nicky (26:02):
Totally. And I’ve said that to people before, someone was asking me advice, I’ve got this opportunity to do this, it’s an amazing opportunity but I’m just not ready. I was like, so don’t do it yet. You still can do it, but we’re all in a rush and we all think opportunities will pass us by. But it’s like you can park that and come to it when energetically you are ready. If my podcast has taught me anything, it’s that there is no career path. There is no ladder. If there is a path, it’s like a windy back alley or a coastal path or something, it twists turns coastal path. I like that it drops and I’m just like, okay, yeah, life is short but careers are long and it’s up to you. Just come back to it. And at that point in my business, I wasn’t there. I was like, this is not for now. Maybe I’ll feel it in the future. I very much don’t feel it in the future in the present moment. I’m like, I’ll never go back to that. But I didn’t know at the time and that was a comforting thought. Because shit changes.

Caroline (27:03):
Did ever consider just thinking about money investment for your business? Did you ever consider that?

Nicky (27:09):
Yeah, very solidly. And I was really going down that road. I had the deck together. I was speaking with a friend who is an investor who works in a big, big name in investment banking. He was giving me lots of advice and I was ready to go. And then he was like, yeah, you’re going to be pitching your women’s clothing brand as it was by then to white middle-aged men in grey suits and they don’t give a fuck about you being home for the school run whatever story you are telling me, don’t tell it to them, they’re not interested.

(27:44):
I was like that is not me. That is not what I want to put out there. And it’s also not what I want to model for female founded businesses looking for investment because I don’t believe that’s the only way it can’t be. That can’t be the future of getting your business invested in is only by middle-aged white men who you have to lie to about how important it’s to you. It was really important to me, but it was part of a much bigger picture around me changing my life around my kids. And if I couldn’t be honest about that, I just didn’t want to borrow of it. And again, it comes back to seasons and energy where weighing everything up, everything I had to do is try and secure investment. It felt like too big of a gamble and I was like, I’m not going to get it. And if you feel like you’re not going to get it, it’s because you’re not going to get it right. If I’d been absolutely bloody minded that I was going to get investment by hook or by crook, then I would have, but I just wasn’t there. I just didn’t want it enough. That’s what it came down to.

Caroline (28:48):
Oh, thanks for sharing. I think we can all relate to times in life where you like, I just don’t want this enough. I at one point used to sing and at one point I just quit and I never thought it’d be like that, but I was like, I just don’t want to do it anymore. And it’s like your life’s work. You’re suddenly like, oh, but this has kind of been part of my identity. And then you’re like, actually no, but it’s been fine. I just don’t want to do it.

Nicky (29:10):
But that’s why it’s really hard to listen. It’s really hard to listen to yourself when it is so entwined with your identity because you’re like, oh, I dunno what else I would do. That’s not enough of a reason not to stop If you are like, I don’t want to do it, that’s pretty fundamental. Don’t fucking do it then.

Caroline (29:26):
And I think that’s a really important what you said about becoming part of your identity. I work a lot with founders and now speak to lot to founders and I do see it, I notice it a mile off when they’re on the edge of their business being too much about themselves. And some do describe it as their other baby, but I think that there’s a little bit of a risk there of it being too much. And so I never describe, I try to avoid now describing my business as my baby, because it’s not.

Nicky (29:56):
So this is something that I’m so passionate about for women and it’s something that I used to speak about a lot with the clothing brand is in business you have to make head and heart decisions and if you can’t make head decisions, you shouldn’t be in business because not everything is heart. So heart is so important to women and I am such an advocate for women leaning into their soft skills so, so valuable. But if you can’t make a cold business decision with your business head on, you are not making the right decisions for your business. People who can’t let go of certain things because they love them too much, that’s not a commercially minded decision. So it hurts if you let go of it, it does hurt. It hurts your emotions, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And I think it’s a really important distinction.

Caroline (30:49):
It’s having too much passion for it. I read by another client actually wrote something about this about too much passion can interfere and it is that too many heart decisions can interfere

Nicky (30:59):
Absolutely

Caroline (31:00):
With the business. And I think that’s a really valuable thing to learn. Then if things do go wrong with business, which they do, it can’t go too much to destructing your life as well. You need to have something else.

Nicky (31:11):
Exactly. Passion and passion is super important. And there might be people that argue, no, I just loved it so much that I carried on regardless and I eventually made a go of it, in which case, great. But I also see people making decisions that I know are hard decisions, not head decisions and are not good commercial decisions. And ultimately businesses are commercial ventures and your livelihood is at stake. So if you can’t separate those two things, you could be in trouble.

Caroline (31:44):
That’s a really good moment to think on. And so it’s January, 2023, you are winding down. How did that stage feel once you’re done and it closed? Did you feel a bit lost while we’re talking about identity and things, did you feel a little bit lost then or did you have a great vision for what you were doing next?

Nicky (32:01):
Oh my god, no.

(32:03):
So I knew in my head for a little while before I announced to my community and then I sort of did an auction. I did silent auction where you bid and I just cleared all my stock. So some people were getting a dress for a fiver. I was just, just get rid of it and that was necessary because I had debt in the business and I just needed to pay off as much of it as possible and I didn’t want the inventory in my house. So that was a good way to go out because again, I created some buzz and momentum and stuff, but then it was like we’re done. And I honestly, it’s such recent history and I can’t even really remember.

Caroline (32:42):
Yeah, it was only last year.

Nicky (32:44):
Yeah, it was spring last year because in January I was uming and ing about the decision. I think it was about March that I made the decision. In the intervening period I’d decided to launch my podcast and I recorded the first episodes of that kind of January and February that had been percolating for a while. And I knew that through my journey I had met other female founders and they were amazing. They were running small businesses around their families. They had inspiring stories and they were just doing it, people like you. And I was just like, we are not hearing enough from these people or I’m certainly not, where are these women who are relatable and real, but their founders? They don’t have to be founders. A million pound businesses. They can be a founder of a lifestyle business that’s working for them, but we need to hear their stories.

(33:37):
That idea was there, and again, because I’m quite gung-ho, I was like, I want to do that. So off I go, I’m now just going to do it. So I was recording those and I always knew I was going to launch that off my Instagram platform. And then the two things kind of happened organically where I wound up the brand, the auction happened, the stock was gone. So I was like, right, we’re done on that, but here’s this new thing I’ve got to talk about. And so I launched the podcast and just found quite early on people agreed with me in the sense that they were like, yeah, the stories that we haven’t heard but we want to hear. And even though I did a pilot season of eight episodes and I was like, well, I’ll kind of see how it goes and we’ll see if I want to do anymore. Almost immediately I started recording new episodes because I was like, I want to do more and this is worth doing. And podcasts don’t grow overnight, so you have to lay the foundations and do it for quite a long time before it becomes a thing. But I knew that I loved it enough and thought it was important enough that I was just going to carry on regardless.

Caroline (34:39):
It’s quite addictive, isn’t it?

Nicky (34:41):
Yeah, totally. It’s so much work, but it’s just such a pleasure. It’s a privilege.

Caroline (34:47):
You are fantastic at creating content and building a community, which I’m sure, I mean from an external perspective you are. And because I know that is just such a challenging part for so many people, and actually I’ve been thinking on it from a different perspective recently. I’ve been thinking about outsourcing what people tend to outsource and it’s always like a thing, I want to outsource my social media and then it doesn’t go to plan. They don’t have a story they haven’t established, what’s the story they want to tell? So I was thinking it from my outsourcing hat of how people think, but it kind of led me to this way and it’s kind of like you’ve always known who you are targeting and what kind of story to tell. How did you kind of feel like, I don’t know, the courage just to kind of go for it on that side?

Nicky (35:29):
I loved it straight away when I started doing it for the business because I did have a marketing head on my shoulders. So my background in events, like events as marketing tools to a greater or lesser extent. So as soon as I understood what it could do for me, I absolutely lent into that and loved that On the clothing brand side to begin with, I did a very good teaser campaign around the launch. It didn’t look slick looking back, but the brand was slick, which helped. And some of the reels were good and I was being as slick as possible from the get go because obsessed with aesthetic and brand, I think it’s just of fundamental importance in terms of showing up as me and talking and stories and stuff like that. That’s just my personality. I have a performative aspect to my personality if you like.

(36:18):
So people who say to me, oh my God, how’d you do that? I couldn’t do it. This is not some amazing skill that I can teach you. But I’m not saying that to brag. I’m saying it because it is nothing great. It is, it doesn’t bother me. I can just show up. There are people that it bothers and they can break down the barrier and get better at it. So I’m not saying if you don’t have it give up now, definitely not. But I’m just saying for me that bit wasn’t difficult for people who don’t have it, it’s possible and the way that I do it has changed. When I first started showing up on stories, I was like, it was rehearsed and I had my ring light and a full face of makeup and I would say what I wanted to say and then get off and it had to be like that. And I’m glad I did it like that because I didn’t have the luxury of thinking anyone would want to listen to me. There’s a lot of noise on social media. So I had to say interesting and relevant things to what I was talking about that day and then I had to go away. But now I show up in every state and say, my standards have slipped, but it’s real. It’s much more real.

Caroline (37:24):
I think that’s going to be a trend. It’s just being more real in an AI world.

Nicky (37:29):
I think if that appeals to people, it appeals to them and from the clothing brand through to Wilder Ones and the podcast, I was never, for me it’s always been about community and I hate the word followers and I know that’s just the word that’s used, so I shouldn’t overanalyze it, but I don’t refer to anyone who contacts me or anything I share as from a follower, I think that’s hideous. I’m not Jesus, you know what I mean? These people are not disciples or followers.

(38:05):
I absolutely hate it. And for me, that’s not what it is because I’m not a leader. I’m not the leader. It’s a community and it is what it is because of all those people, which is why my account still has the business name rather than my name because that just doesn’t sit comfortably with me. That’s not like false modesty, that’s just the way it is for me because I toyed with that. Do I change it to my name? But I don’t really want to. And I asked my community and they were like, it means something to us now. Wilder Ones, the meaning of it has changed and we are the wilder ones. We women who are sort of trying to do things differently and breaking convention and I was like, oh my God, these are so much my people. The fact that it was something, it’s become something else to me and to them and they’re kind of saying it back to me. I was like, whoa, this is a thing. So yeah, it’s an amazing community and that’s what I want it to be. That’s what I always wanted it to be. I always speak to all of the people in my community all the time. We are messaging. I’m not some weird unattainable person. I respond to everyone and it’s a two-way conversation.

Caroline (39:13):
I can confirm that as you always respond to me.

Nicky (39:17):
I was like, who the fuck am I? I’m not anybody. I’m learning with everyone else. And the insight that they give me when I start conversations on my stories and we do polls, whether that’s about sexism or about mental load or stuff at work, the answers that people give me, the insight that I share, I learn from that and that all goes into my thinking and my writing and everything that I do. So it is, it’s an exchange.

Caroline (39:49):
Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. I love that. I’ve never really thought too much into the term followers, but it’s so true. And something I always like to share on these podcasts a little bit is people will be watching you and everything you do and the fact you do have two kids and while you’re out of the thick of it, as you said, you’re still in young, they’re still young and you’ve got a lot of ambitions clearly. How do you manage that alongside it with everything that comes with school, school holidays, what does your week look like in the world of Nicky? Have you got to a place where you feel like you’ve got what you set out to achieve when you had your second child?

Nicky (40:26):
It looks messy and chaotic. It looks like me working school hours. Yeah, I do pick up every single day. So if my husband’s here, he does drop off, but sometimes he’s working or sometimes he’s away. But regardless, I do pick up every day and that I therefore do afterschool clubs as well. So that’s me working six hour days sometimes. Like this morning I got up super early to get some work done ahead of my day because I had too much on. So it’s very flexible around my kids and school holidays are the same. I am the default parent and that’s the decision that we have jointly made because I don’t really earn any money at the moment. So sometimes there are clubs and things in the holidays, but mostly it’s me and it’s a juggle. It’s like can I get up certain holidays? Last year I was doing early shifts, I was working six till nine, so Drew would be with the kids six till 9:00 AM and then we would swap over and so he could start his working day. So it is a juggle massively and I don’t have as much time available to me in a way as I would like, but also I wouldn’t change it. I changed my entire life to be around my kids and I regret absolutely nothing.

Caroline (41:49):
Thank you for being so honest to that. It’s great. And real question for me, when does it start that you feel like you can get up earlier than your kids?

Nicky (41:55):
Well, it depends how early your kids get up

Caroline (41:58):
Well, it is just so inconsistent. I mean they actually did give me till seven yesterday, but most days it’s like six and if I set an alarm, so I just can’t face getting up at five because also if I set an alarm, I’m worried they’re going to wake up.

Nicky (42:10):
But are you a morning person?

Caroline (42:12):
Not really. But what I need in the morning is my alone time. I dunno if anyone else feels like that I do, but that’s just not been what you get in the early years. So I’ve not had that because I would be better if I had that space in the morning.

Nicky (42:27):
I think you have to lean into your natural tendencies. So I’m a morning person and by 4:00 PM I’m essentially a walking shell of a woman. You can’t get sense out of me after four o’clock. Arguably you can’t get out of me before then. So six o’clock I’m good. My kids get up about half six so they don’t sleep late, but they’ll go through to true or whatever. And if I know that that’s my only window for getting work done, then that’s for me, if someone’s a night owl, flip it, do it in the evening work seven till 10 or whatever once they’re in bed. I think when you’re a business owner, you’ve got to be, I do not glamorise hustle culture and working all the hours, not at all. And I also think it’s possible to work the hours that you want to work and not go mad, but sometimes we have stuff on, we have stuff that is a priority for us, even if it’s not for anyone else and we know that we want to get it done, then that for me is when I’m like, okay, because this week I need to edit an episode of my podcast.

(43:30):
I’ve got interviews that I’m also doing this week. I’ve got client work. And so all told that shaves hours out of my days and I’m left with a small amount of time, but all that editing and prep does take quite a long time. And therefore I’m like, well, I’m going to have to figure out when else to do some of it. It’s a juggle, but it’s still a juggle that’s far preferable to the life I had when my time was not my own.

Caroline (43:55):
And you had to apologise for leaving work becasue of something going on at school. I talk to moms all the time about this at the gate, successful women feeling bad that they’re leaving the office.

Nicky (44:06):
I dunno how I did it before, except that like you said before, you just do and you just have to and you figure it out. But it doesn’t appeal to me in any way what I did before. You have to prioritise, but it’s about your time being your own and you being in control of it. That changes the script completely.
Caroline (44:27):
Love that, changing the script. And so what would your advice be if we just end on, for someone who doesn’t work or hasn’t found their thing yet they’ve left their job and they consumed in the day-to-day of early years, they know for them they need to find something. Is there any advice you give on how they can start planting that seed?

Nicky (44:49):
Yeah, I mean, look, we spoke before about the costs attached to product based businesses. So unless it can work with product space when you’re not investing a huge amount in doing it from scratch, but your costs will be lower with a service-based business. And is there a skill that you have from your work or a hobby if you’re prepared to turn a hobby into work, which isn’t always a great idea, but is there a skill that you have that you can commoditize? Because so often women are experts at something. They have their thing that they’ve done. So for me, I have got a really operational business brain and so many women set up businesses but don’t have the benefit of the background that I have. So some of the work I do ad hoc is consultancy sessions with female founders who are sort of know what I’m doing.
(45:50):
And they might be really into marketing, but they actually need help with building a budget and rationalising their stock and tracking their inventory or packaging up their offer if it’s a service based thing. And then some strategy around that. So one of the guests I’ve had on the podcast is Elizabeth style. She used to work in fashion, she was like, I left buying and stuff. It was such a hideous industry. She was making comments on certain Facebook groups and people were like, oh, can I talk to you? Can I talk to you? And she was like, oh, all of this stuff that I know that just I innately know is really valuable to people who want to start their own brands or want to do this but don’t have the experience that I have. And so that’s what she does and I think that everyone potentially has that in them, but it’s just thinking about what yours would be.

(46:37):
And I spoke about this at the event that you and I met at, business partners can be really, really valuable. It’s not two heads when there’s two of you, it’s much, much more because the benefit you get from bouncing ideas around is sort of exponential. And it doesn’t have to be a friend. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be a friend if it’s someone that you’ve known in a work context that might be best. And my business partner when we set up our business was we were friends, but we were work friends and that relationship was very unique and is still very sacred to me even though we’re not business partners anymore. So yeah, just look at it really laterally. Think about everything you’ve done, everything you do, all the skills that you have, can you commoditize those skills? I bet there’s people out there that need to know what you already know. And that’s what I would advise anyone to do. And it can be big or small. It’s like VAs, right?

Caroline (47:38):
Yeah.

(47:40):
We’re so good at bouncing ideas off this.

Nicky (47:43):
So good at bouncing ideas. You are just a click up in terms of the experience that you’ve potentially had in other businesses. So the VA might perform some quite basic functions for your business, but absolutely fundamentally change what you can therefore achieve. But I just love that. I’ve got friends who do VA and as you know, and I just think it’s great. You don’t have to have plans to be some kind of multimillionaire if you know what you want to turn over to support your family or just pay so that they can go to childcare so they’re not on you 24 7. That’s okay.

Caroline (48:23):
There’s always work out there. I think having faith in that is a really good message, you’ve got the skills and it’s finding out who needs those skills and you don’t need to have it packaged out fancy. Maybe that’ll come.

Nicky (48:34):
Yeah, and women don’t believe in themselves kind of across the board, and that’s a much bigger conversation. It’s a much bigger problem. But just try and start there with like, well, why not? Because my absolute favourite saying is whether you believe that you can or you believe that you can’t. You’re probably right. There’s nothing truer than that. If you believe you can. Yeah, if you believe you can’t also, yeah. So that’s it. Just do it.

Caroline (49:07):
Just do it. Love it. Let’s end on that. Take a leaf out of Nicky’s book and just do it. Oh, that was fantastic. Honestly. What’s next for you, Nicky? Is there anything you want to share with us coming up?

Nicky (49:22):
Just my podcast. My podcast is coming up to, its one year birthday in March. I’ve got some exciting interviews arranged for that, that are going to kind of be a bit of a change from the norm because podcasting is hard work and I want to celebrate that milestone.

Caroline (49:38):
Do celebrate it. I can’t wait to listen. So where can we find you and your podcast, Nicky?

Nicky (49:44):
So on Instagram, I’m at Wilder Ones, and that is where I go deep on conversations around work and careers for women. So we talk about all those things that I was mentioning before. My podcast is women’s business, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts. I do public speaking. I’ve got a website, which is wilder ones.co uk. You can find out more about me. You can pitch to be on the podcast. You can pitch to be a sponsor of the podcast, can read about the talks I’ve done and yeah, just come into my world. I’m very welcoming.

Caroline (50:17):
It’s a lovely world. I’m so glad I found it. Thank you. Thank you so much, Nicky. Thank you.

Nicky (50:25):
Thank you for having me.


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.

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