Welcome back to the ‘Mama You Can’ series.
For those reading for the first time this is a series I have started to share inspiring stories from mama’s who, after having children, have decided to change the path of their careers. This series was inspired by my own decision to leave my role of over seven years as a Business Director at a media agency to pursue a life in blogging and vlogging here at Surrey Mama. I discovered when I told the social media world about my decision that I wasn’t alone and that there were so many women in the same situation as me with amazing stories to tell. Every Thursday I’ll be sharing different mama’s and their stories and I hope you find them as inspiring as I have.
For the second in the Mama You Can series I’m really excited to be sharing the story from Julie Clabby who set up the brilliant Busylizzy Family Club (one of which runs in my local Weybridge). It’s a really inspiring story and the start of Julie’s story is something we can all probably relate to.
I’ll let Julie take over now and share her story…
Mama You Can with Julie Clabby
My name is Julie Clabby and I’m the owner and franchise director of Busylizzy Family Club.
I set Busylizzy up shortly after having my own children, Lucy and Oliver in 2011. I had moved from London to Surrey, given up a career and great social life and found myself with two children under two years, lonely and living in Guildford.
Before Busylizzy I was a management consultant, specialising in operational management and launch of new leisure facilities. When I had my children, it quickly became apparent that returning to my day job was not going to offer the flexibility I wanted for my family. Leisure is an unsociable industry – my time was required out of hours and weekends. I wanted to see and enjoy time with my family. I was also aware that with two young children only 13 months apart in age, that juggling the soon to be school run was around the corner making working back in London impossible. During this time, I was also miffed with the lack of quality and flexibility in my new ‘mummy world’. I had to leave my two children in a crèche if I wanted to workout at the gym, I had to pay for baby / toddler classes in termly blocks that offered zero flexibility and it wasn’t unusual to attend kids classes in dusty halls. It was like stepping back into 1985 armed with a cheque book!
I decided to do something about this and launched Busylizzy Family Club in 2011. The idea is simple, parents pay a monthly membership fee, download the Busylizzy app and use it to book and enjoy any combination of classes we run each week. Busylizzy has gone on to completely transform the way parents attend classes with their children. Our members pick and choose their sessions each week, cancel/ reschedule classes at the tap of a button (because life with a baby is unpredictable, right?!) and meet a whole community of new local friends.
I was terrified when I first set up the business. I resigned from my job, spent 3 months sourcing venues, meeting instructors and building a website and CRM system. I wasn’t sure if parents wanted the service or even shared my vision so it was a great relief when we started to see lots of members joining and reading the lovely reviews.
Three years after launching the first club in Guildford, I decided the time was right to franchise the business. We were getting interest in neighbouring towns and have even picked up a few local and national awards. Setting up the franchise was like setting up another new business all over again! From operating systems, legal agreements and marketing to a very expensive photo shoot and trademarking – everything was covered. Exciting but another scary experience! I was now working two jobs – running my Busylizzy club in Guildford and setting up systems to launch others.
Thankfully, others shared my vision and passion for Busylizzy and we have 15 Busylizzy branches in the U.K. – and lots more territories available. We even won the British Franchise Association best emerging franchise award in 2016!
Life today is busy but I lOVE it. No two days are the same. My time is spent supporting our franchisees and helping them run their business, liaising with my head office team (there are 8 of us behind the sevens) , speaking to other mummies embarking on their maternity leave and career changing journey and further developing the Busylizzy brand. We have lots of exciting updates planned over the next 4 months.
My children are now 8 and 9 years old and we have moved from Guildford to the South Downs where we can enjoy county life, bike rides and walk to school. The business is structured so I finish at 2:30pm every day (as all our franchise owners are also encouraged to do) so I can pick up my children from school and take on the role of mummy/taxi – Beavers, Brownies, swim lessons, golf, gymnastics and trampolining all feature on their schedules…Phew!
What advice would I offer anyone starting a business?
If you have the opportunity to do something different and for yourself, do it! I speak to hundreds of women every month who have enjoyed their career but find themselves at a natural turning point whilst on maternity leave. Use this opportunity to do something new and release your dream. Buying a franchise is a great opportunity to step into self employment but with the full support of your franchisor. I’d recommend the British Franchise Association website for a list of good franchise businesses. There are lots of fabulous businesses to choose from!
Secondly, make sure you do a business plan. It sounds boring but I made so many expensive mistakes when I first launched my business. Now, I don’t have a day go by without a spreadsheet entry. A business plan is your road map to success. Write it and then use it to track your results against your predictions. Without it, you cannot measure performance of success.
Thanks so much to Julie for sharing her story.
You can follow the Mama You Can series on this blog every Thursday – if you’re a mama thinking about changing your career direction check back for more next week or if you want to share your story please do get in touch.