18 Apr #meettheboss x Mother Feels
#meettheboss : Joanna Thompson of Mother Feels
In my #meettheboss feature today I interviewed the founder of startup ‘Mother Feels’. A brand that deals with the real everyday emotions of momma warriors worldwide, by turning it into art! If you’re not following her on Instagram yet… what are you messing about at?
HOLY MOLY, Jo has even gone and done a shiny gorgeous desktop/screensaver for you to download, which is perfect for reminding all of us that are self-employed and running our own businesses, to be honest with ourselves and embrace our emotions. Aaaaand it looks god damn gorgeous on our computers tooooo 😛 ( the download link is at the bottom of the interview).
Tell us a little about what you do…?
I am a Brand Strategist and Trend Forecaster by trade, but since mid-2014 and having had two little girls in a very short space of time, I’ve traded it in (for now) to being a full-time mum by day, pattern creator at night. I run Mother Feels, selling paper goods inspired by the emotional patterns of motherhood. I still have the odd day of more low-key freelance projects, or university lecturing to keep me sane which is always fun.
Where do you work from?
Anywhere comfortable, when my children are hopefully asleep! I work from my sofa in the evenings, or the study if I’m trying to be focused and organised, even my bed if I’m doing things very late at night! The kitchen table sometimes gets used when the kids are playing playdoh and I can squeeze in 20 minutes of social media stuff before they’re over it and want me to build a den. So wherever I am when I can squeeze in the time. In the future, I have dreams of coffee shops and creative studios… but they aren’t so appealing at the moment whilst I have two busy little things nipping my ankles every five seconds and knowing that if I did dare venture to them now, I would probably get thrown out with the amount of noise they would make, or cake they would scoff!
How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been in the Trend Forecasting industry since graduating in 2011, freelance since 2014, but the Mother Feels gig only started last year, when I needed to have a creative output to wind down in the evenings and get rid of some of the stresses and emotions of crazy days with two fierce little ladies 14 months apart.
What was it that sparked the idea to create your company?
It started out as me just painting and drawing patterns based on how I had felt that day, and writing a little sentence or two about the emotions I had felt, which then developed into an Instagram account based on a wider range of motherhood emotions so I could keep them in one place and keep track of the journey. It definitely helped me work out how and why I was feeling certain things, as believe it or not I’ve always struggled to talk about my emotions so writing, creating or just making jokes have always been my chosen ways out of opening up. This has really given me the confidence to just speak up about how I actually feel rather than the happy go lucky front I put up a lot of the time.
The idea behind the prints was born out of talking to my good friend (well, trying too, we had all four of our kids in one room going wild so any mum knows how those conversations work, you try you’re best!) and she suggested creating the designs into prints. She said she imagined them on her walls in frames as a series, and I ran with the idea, even though it took me a while to be confident with it, as I guess with most small business beginnings, there’s a lot of self-doubts if people actually like your style, or understand the concept. This then led me to the creation of postcards and prints to share the ‘feels’, so others could send these to their mum friends to let them know they feel the same, open up, or help them through a tough time. There is a donation of £1 per sale of the postcard packs and prints that go to Home-Start UK, to help those in need of family support and friendship.
Do you have a morning routine?
Other than getting my girls fed and dressed, not at all! I need to work on how I’m balancing it all because a lot of what I do is in the evening, which is sometimes unrealistic after busy days with kids and a partner who’s work schedule is very demanding. I also have a habit of setting myself unrealistic goals with the most minimal time, so that’s another work in progress. If I’ve had any orders I will try and pack them first thing with the help of the girls playing with paper and pens, and then post them off before I take them out somewhere. But other than that, I just go with the flow of the day. I try and think about what I’d like to post on Instagram that day, but often what I post on social media is inspired by the feels of the day, or what I am up to, so I think for now it’s pretty organic. I also don’t want it to get into being something it’s not like forced, planned, and unrealistic, because then it’s not honest, and honesty and openness are what ‘Mother Feels’ are all about.
How do you get organised day to day as a working mama? Any organisation tools or techniques?
I try and do a big plan for my actual life on Sundays, such as; where I’m taking the kids out, who we’re seeing, meal plans, etc… so I try to work out then, if there is anything I really want to do for Mother Feels such as; times I might be able to fit in a bit of time to dedicate to it. Other than that, I take each day as it comes.
Have you ever rebranded or considered it?
Not yet no as it’s still early doors. I have changed the copy on postcards a bit to make it easier to understand the idea behind it and added a few branded cards to explain the emotions and to share our website, but other than that, I think I will see how it goes. Having done rebranding projects in the past I know how important they are to make sure you remain relevant and connect to your audience, whilst not losing what you stand for.
Any secret tips for creating new brands?
Working out your core audience is key. Understanding them and their needs is crucial, and the tone of voice you use to speak to them is even more so. Be honest and real with them, there is nothing worse than brands trying to act like something they’re not just to try and get sales. Also, having a point of difference and sticking to it. Do your research and work out what sets your new brand apart from the rest. People have great ideas all the time and rush to make them a reality without working out if what they are actually doing is a fresh take, or even desired by their audience. Research, understanding, and honesty are key.
‘Where do you go’ or ‘who do you go to’, for support and motivation?
I have a lot of good friends with their own small businesses who have helped support me along the way, as well as those that have been an inspiration to working out what Mother Feels is and how to go about it. Some of these include Alex from BoneWhiteChina, (http://www.bonewhitechina.co.uk/) Sophie from Sleepydoe (http://www.sleepydoe.com/ ) Abi from Claude and Co, (https://www.claudeandco.co.uk/ ) Rox from StudioNL (http://www.studionl.co.uk/ ) and her monthly Hustle Groups (http://www.studionl.co.uk/category/hustle) and Bella (http://www.arabellajames.com/) who is a strategist and trend forecaster too. The list could go on and on, to be honest, I have a lot of good pals doing good things.
What has been the most difficult thing you have come across in running your company as a working mama?
Time, but mainly feeling guilty. I think guilt is just life when it comes to motherhood though, whatever you do and however, you do it. I felt guilty I needed to do something alongside than being a full-time mum, in case that meant I then wasn’t giving my all to my kids, even though I know I do. I felt guilty that I couldn’t make Mother Feels exactly perfect going against my perfectionist nature but have learnt its way more wholesome this way, doing it organically with mistakes made on the journey. Also, feeling guilty that it has made me even worse at replying and contacting my pals because I’ve added another very time-consuming thing into my already hectic life. But guilt can consume you as a mother so I’m trying to avoid that as much as possible and enjoy the journey.
What do you wish you knew before you started your company?
I thought I was quite aware of what I was letting myself in for having been in the branding business but I definitely wasn’t aware of how intense the digital world can be. With the hashtags and the posting at particular times and the raising awareness, and Facebook business just blows my mind. I’m still getting to grips with all of that but I don’t know if I ever will.
Do you ever outsource any of your work?
I used to in my old job, but even now when I do freelance work I work solo.
How do you achieve balance around your work schedule and family life?
I don’t, but I know I need to work on it. Having time for yourself with young kids is one thing, let alone when you have a small business you’re venturing into. I don’t think it helps that as a mum you always put everyone else before your own needs (even basic things like hair brushing, I tie both my girls hair up every morning but don’t have time to even brush my own, what’s that about?!) I have recently realised I don’t need to do as much as I think, and actually the kids don’t have to do amazingly cool things every day even though you’re pressured into thinking they have to. I think it’s all about planning where you can, and making time for the most important things when you can and as it suits you as a family. My other half’s job means we don’t have a solid weekend family slot, so even finding family time is like finding gold, which is why I find taking each day as it comes the best way.
What do you value most when working with other companies, freelancers + brands?
Honesty. Not pretending you can do something that you can’t. Not pretending you are something you’re not or even small things like being honest with timings and what you can achieve. Just be honest and open and if you’re still learning, openly admit it and work it out with the person you’re working with. They’ll have a lot more respect for you.
Any big launches or events coming up in your calendar we should know about?
I’m currently working on some more designs for cards, as well as different colour schemes, so keep an eye out on my Instagram for the launches of those. I’d love to do a collaboration in the future, so we will just have to wait and see what’s in store and keep feeling the feels along the way.
You can catch Jo and her brand ‘Mother Feels’ on Instagram HERE, Twitter Here and get some gorgeous postcards and prints on her website http://www.motherfeels.bigcartel.com/ . Perfect as a gift to yourself or your best mama mates 🙂
Ready to set your screens on fire?
Here it is the grand prize – a free wallpaper download of a ‘Mother Feels’ print to use on your desktop, laptop/ MacBook screensaver whatever, this is the best day ever!