I am first and foremost mum to Robyn and Barnaby and secondly the founder of Willow HR Consultancy. Those who have met me may have picked up that I am quite loud (I can’t even yawn quietly), energetic, enthusiastic, smiley, eternally optimistic and I get too excited discussing and debating business ideas (better than trains or stamps I guess)!
Five years ago, I sat cross legged on my living room floor with an old laptop, and a baby and a toddler running round me, and took the big decision to start a business. I knew nothing about running a business at the time, but I did know that I needed flexibility to be with my children as a single mum and I knew quite a bit about HR, so I thought I would give it my best shot.
Turns out, I was a bit alright at running a business and five years later, I have a team of six consultants, a long list of fantastic clients and a big fancy office for us all to sit in.
There was no magic formula, it was; sheer determination + tonnes of hard work + courage + blind faith + stubbornness + sleepless nights + humility + asking lots of questions + lots of listening + kindness of strangers to give me their time and advice…..and probably a lot more I have forgotten.
I originally joined the SMBN because I needed to find my tribe who would understand how equally hard and rewarding it is to be a business owner AND a single mum, and I was massively drawn to the energy of Julie, as our Chief. But now, I have accepted Julie’s request to be a partner so that I can do more to help the group as a whole, and individual members to start, develop or grow their business.
I want to share what I have learned with you, and I want to support all of us to learn from each other, for the benefit of the group, ourselves and our precious babies; big and small.
I am Nehaya; Mum, Fitness Instructor, Wellness Coach and now the Head of Members’ Wellbeing and Engagement for the SMBN! Supporting others has always come naturally to me whether in my professional or personal life, and so I jumped at the chance to be more invested in the SMBN: I know that the three of us can make a difference not just for all the single parents, but also for the children being raised facing that same stigma and struggle, which so many are still oblivious too.
I became self employed so that I could develop an individual centred bespoke support package for people struggling with low self worth and motivation: I had seen how the care sector had let down so many families and children by constantly using the same “one size fits all” solution, instead of working with the person’s styles and interests to create a more realistic programme and therefore gain better outcomes.
I quickly learnt that as great as my experience and expertise in these areas were, I had no clue on marketing, advertising or what a Business Plan was! It was then whilst networking that I discovered how the words “mum” and “divorced” were toxic in business, being tarnished with the stigma of being lazy, unreliable or wanting a handout. After being in £40k jobs and the top, this was a new low. So when I met Julie and the SMBN, it was a breath of fresh air to be with people who got me.
I am hoping that my role will allow all of the members to feel safe and supported no matter what is going on. Whether it is an emotional or physical battle, we are here to fight it together and not feel alone anymore. My virtual door is always open, waiting with either a hug, a joke, or just a listening ear.
I am Jules; mum to Kaylyn, my Angel and Oxygen. I founded the SMBN (Single Mums Business Network) in 2019, when I was all too aware of the negative stigma around single mums specifically, and any group that I joined seemed to focus on the challenges rather that what we could do about it, and be proud of our status instead of ashamed to say ‘single mum’ out loud. As hard working women with strong career histories it should not be embarrassing to be public about having to manage one household per income and finding a way to make work work when there are many barriers to flexible working or childcare. My story is a long one and is contained within the blogs of this website, but my experiences mean that I understand why some single mums don’t make it, and some children are left without mothers. It is too heart-breaking and the driving factors are easily solved with the right leadership.
I had a strong full-time work history from 15-35 and intended to continue this post maternity, but then I realised work and childcare do not sync! I lost my home, credit score, dignity, nearly my life, and I fought to make work work, embarking on a law degree and setting up a business in adversity, marketing on zero budget and studying with tears in my eyes and hunger, the only thing that kept me going was the vision of looking into my daughter’s eyes when she was ten and saying ‘I did all that I could, I did not give up’. But I understand why people do! on work, and life! It was beyond tough. My oldest friend accused me of not wanting to put food on the table for my child when I was in-between work and freelancing contracts. I realised that if the woman who knew how hard I worked all of my life doubted me, then I had my work cut out to explain the issue to society, and that is what I have tried to do ever since. With a thriving (multi-award-winning) business and steady freelance work I realised it was time to take on business partners to help me nourish and grow the SMBN. Every single member fights every day, some turn over six figures, some cannot afford electric this Christmas, but they are fighters, and they invest in us to help them, and help each other. We have a lot of people to educate, for the good of the economy and to ensure no child is left without a mother (or father).. back to it.
Jules x SMBN