In the concluding segment of her captivating three-part blog series, Lauren Yaxley, the visionary Founder of LY Copywriting, sheds light on the extraordinary journey of mothers who create and run their own agencies.
With a focus on the distinctive challenges they encounter, Lauren unveils the stories of these determined entrepreneurs who navigate the hurdles of limited time, childcare responsibilities, and personal obstacles with unwavering determination.
Prepare to be inspired as she showcases their resilience, flexibility, and the powerful legacy they are building, leaving a lasting impact on the business world.
Challenges that come with children
There was a common thread that ran through the answers and input I found when preparing for this article and that’s, as a mum and agency owner there are never enough hours in the day or days in the week!
But whilst we share many collective challenges around childcare and more, some individual hurdles make what we’ve achieved all the more impressive. Rebecca shared her experiences raising a child with autism and the challenges this brings, from homeschooling as a result of struggles with the mainstream school system to the sleepless nights that are a permanent fixture for some parents of children with autism. She also shares:
“When we realised that a mainstream school wasn’t going to offer the level of support we needed for our son, I set about securing him a place at a specialist school which, with lengthy and complex EHCP applications, almost became a full-time job in itself.”
“This followed a year of homeschooling before COVID whilst also being MD of Fountain until 2020. When you’ve got a child with autism you have to plan everything, and I had to work really hard to make sure our son got the support he needs. Luckily I had a fantastic support system in the shape of my husband Marcus and the other founders of Fountain”
Kelly also touched upon the planning and preparation that comes with being a parent:
“There’s no room for spontaneity or change when children are involved. You’re constantly juggling and have to be regimented.” When it comes to work, she adds “I hate missing opportunities, but I know I’ll regret missing time with my daughter more than I’ll regret a professional opportunity.”
One of the biggest challenges Kelly faced was the journey to becoming a mum. She revealed:
“I felt like IVF was a stigma.”
And this brings up a wider conversation around the challenge to fall pregnant in the first place and the impact this can have on someone’s personal and professional life.
Claire H shares her challenges from the early days and the perceived flexibility of being your own boss: “The perception is that when you’re self-employed you can work around your family but in reality, with freelancing, if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. If you’re employed, then you can take time off and still take home the same each month. But when you work for yourself, if the kids are sick, you can’t work so you don’t earn.”
Personally, I’ve found one of the most frustrating parts of building an agency is having to miss out on networking opportunities. These are often held in the evenings, clashing with the kid’s swimming lessons, sports activities or just being able to be home to put them to bed and spend that quality book-reading, nonsense-talking time that happens before kids’ bedtimes.
Claire E shares:
“It’s not really feasible for me to leave my sons with the challenges we have at home, so I do a lot of networking on LinkedIn as face-to-face networking isn’t an option.”
Whilst Jem reveals her solution:
“Social media is my networking”.
As powerful as LinkedIn can be, I can’t help but feel that showing your face at in-person events is an effective way to build connections that could turn into clients and that as parents we can be penalised for not being available for evening networking events or the crack-of-dawn but childcare-clashing breakfast events.
Practice what you preach
I wanted to offer roles with true flexibility around the demands of being a working parent. If you work 9-5 three days a week, you’re still missing 3 drop-offs and pick-ups. So, if you want, and only if you want, to still do most of the drop-offs or pick-ups, then I think it’s important to offer a way of working where it’s not only possible but actually preferable to spread the hours over the week. That may mean working 20 hours but over four days or whatever works for them.
From nativity plays to sports days, I’m all about making sure work doesn’t get in the way of the moments that matter for parents. Being the boss means leading by example, so if I’m ducking out early to watch my son be a pterodactyl and flap around his school hall, then the rest of the team should get to work around theirs too.
The flexible nature of the roles I’ve offered as I’ve grown the agency means that I’ve attracted some brilliant working mums, looking for a way to use their grey matter but still be there for the people who matter.
Similarly, Claire H reveals:
“We’re an all-female team with only a few of us that have kids at home. This wasn’t deliberate, they’re all fierce and brilliant and we’d welcome anyone who shares our same mindset.”
Helen says “For the first 7 years we were female only, but not through a deliberate choice. I just find that female teams attract female teams. But the next three hires in a row were male and it changed the culture positively. We’re now a team of 10, with 4 of us being working mums.”
“When I set borne up, I had no idea what it meant to ‘create a culture’, but setting up a business while I was also a mum meant that I had an understanding of the environment people needed to be able to flourish while living their lives.”
Loving agency life
People talk of climbing metaphorical mountains, but I think my path has been more like a pyramid. It’s taken just weeks to sprightly sprint up some steps and then has taken months, if not years, to crawl up others. I’ve sat on some, I’ve skipped past others and sometimes even taken a step back for a while.
However, slowly but surely, my career has gone from freelancer to small but ambitious content marketing
All hands were on deck for moving day to our new office in February 2023
agency almost solely thanks to recommendations and referrals. Today, we’re a team of 6, work in the office a few days a week then work from literally anywhere else the rest of the time – whether it’s the beach, a bench or even the bath (not all together).
Looking to the future
I’m not looking to become a 50-staff-strong agency with offices in London, Tokyo, New York or wherever the latest trending place is to have an office. Whether success is a certain turnover, profits, or the number of bums on seats, success looks different for everyone.
That said, we’ve got big plans for the business, to work with bigger clients, grow the team to 10-12 and stay focused on offering truly flexible roles and be rewarded by the loyalty this brings.
I’ve come to realise that it’s OK to be ambitious and that being professionally ambitious, AND a good mum isn’t mutually exclusive. It’s about quality, not quantity.
A ‘sign’ of things to come (installed in April 2023)
Leaving a legacy
Finally, this brings me to the subject of legacy as an agency owner: What’s the end goal? Close, sell or pass down? I might not need to decide now but it’s at the back of my mind whenever I make a bigger business decision, and this seems to be shared by other agency founders.
Rebecca shares her thoughts on how she’ll leave a legacy:
“We’ve set up a leadership team who lead the business. Together we’re building something that delivers excellent work and results from happy people.” Even with the many challenges Rebecca has
faced over the years when asked if she’d do it all again, she replied:
“Yes, because of the way I can now support my son and the freedom that being a founder has given me – I don’t need anyone’s permission to leave at 2.30 pm to pick him up.”
Claire H shares her thoughts on the future:
“The short to medium-term goal and my 3-year plan is that when my youngest daughter starts school, I can be a breadwinner so that my husband can take a step back for his health.”
Longer term, Claire H says it’s the legacy she leaves with her daughter that she thinks about:
“I want them to take their own path in life and I want them to see a powerful mum that’s in charge of her own destiny with a great work ethic. And I want them to know that off the back of bad stuff, you can build something amazing.”
Helen, however, says she’s a “live in the present kinda girl” and there’s something to be said about living in the moment and enjoying the wins for what they are rather than being too focused on what’s next.
For me, will my tenacious toddler want to take over when she’s older? She certainly seems to have almost impenetrable negotiation skills and a way with words. Or perhaps my empathetic and emotionally intelligent five-year-old son will grow up to take LY Copywriting Ltd into the future.
Perhaps neither will show the slightest bit of interest. And that’s OK too. Perhaps my legacy won’t be the business itself but giving them the belief that they can do anything they set their minds to.
The only ceilings they need to smash are the ones they set for themselves and whatever they want to do, I hope I’ll have shown them that you can not only build something from nothing, but build something special.
Finally, thank you
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this article. Thank you also to everyone who has helped me along the way, from the very early days to just yesterday. You’re all pieces of the LY Copywriting puzzle and I’ll be forever grateful for your support, advice and – when times have felt particularly tough – encouragement and ego boosts!
My work and my business are incredibly important to me and have become a huge part of who I am.
So here’s to another 10 years of building the sort of agency that, when I’m old and grey, I can say that, as well as my two children, I made something that mattered. And here’s hoping that when I’m even older and greyer, I’ll be able to sit back and say, in the slightly paraphrased words of mid-nineties emo-slash-grunge band Green Day…
“For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while. Was something unpredictable, but in the end, was right. I had the time of my life.”
Thank you so much to Lauren (and all of the contributors!) for such an important and hugely helpful series.
We’ve really loved being able to host this guest blog, which gives such a rich picture of all the challenges and rewards of setting up and running an agency whilst also being a mum.
If you are a mum running or starting an agency and need support, please do get in touch with us!
Lauren Yaxley started LY Copywriting Ltd. in 2013 and it’s grown from a full-time freelancing career for one, into a growing copywriting and content marketing business for 8 (and counting).
Coming from an agency background, and having worked in marketing roles for the Home Office and blue chip companies, Lauren channelled her passion for writing into a freelancing career, initially offering copywriting and content marketing services to businesses in and around Norfolk.
6 years on and she now work with a team of seriously talented content marketers, providing copywriting, blogging, social media management services, and more, to brands across the UK and around the world.