Welcome back to Mama You Can, a series started to started to share inspirational stories of Mama’s who have changed career direction, started their own business or negotiated a more flexible role to fit in with family life.
This week we have Claire Gillespie who owns Oglee Poglee. Claire was another Mama who sent me some really helpful words of encouragement when I decided to take the plunge and leave my full time job. I was really inspired when she told me her story so asked her to share hers this week.
I’ll hand over to Claire to tell her story…
Mama You Can: Claire Gillespie
Hello, I’m Claire Gillespie, wife, mother of two boys and owner of Oglee Poglee. A child focused business centred about make believe, fun and creativity. Our motto is “Creativity without constraints”.
Oglee Poglee allows kids to explore their own ideas without rules and limits. With no instructions to follow or pictures to emulate, kids find their own way and the results are astounding. Through craft parties, craft kits and creative workshops Oglee Poglee encourages children to put those incredible imaginations and busy little fingers to work.
When did you decide to change direction in your work life?
I have always had jobs I loved. Jobs that combined my organisation and communication skills with my creative flair. Before children, I worked for an arts charity as an exhibitions organiser working with some of London’s top contemporary craftspeople. I was surrounded by craft, design, ideas and talent and I loved every minute of it.
Once my first child arrived I took a year off with the view of going back part time. Things had changed in that time and It quickly became obvious that I wasn’t ready to give up being a fulltime mum and that my previous role wasn’t going to work part time. So I worked part time for a bit, sometimes in London but mainly at home. However, it wasn’t to be and after the birth of my second son I was made redundant.
I always wanted to be a stay at home mum and there is so much about motherhood that I adore. However, I know now that to be a really good mum I have to look after myself as well as the children. Not just physically but mentally and for me working on a project is when I am at my happiest. I have never been very good at relaxing and I thrive on a challenge. So once my youngest started preschool I started running craft workshops in my town. I would drop him at preschool then run like the wind to the church hall, set up, run a children’s craft workshop and then rush back to pick him up. It was crazy and exhausting but I knew it was the start of something exciting, a new part of my life was beginning.
Was it a quick decision or something you thought about for a long time?
After taking redundancy, I struggled. I felt like I had lost my identity and everything I had spent my twenties working towards. I missed the office banter and a team to share ideas with. Knowing me so well it was my mum and friends that pushed me in the right direction. Mum encouraged me to start volunteering to get my confidence back and a phone call from my friend gave me the boost I needed to book the church hall for a term and start Oglee Poglee. I only had a very loose idea of what Oglee Poglee could be but they believed I could do it and gave me the push to get started. So I suppose starting my own business was quite a quick decision but one that I have never regretted.
How did you feel in the lead up to the decision?
Starting your own business is scary, especially when you do it on your own with a tiny amount of money and no guarantee it will work. I was terrified that no one would like Oglee Poglee. What if they didn’t understand the concept, what if no one came to the workshops, what if ……….. that little voice inside your head can come up with all sorts of things for you to worry about.
But, after Oglee Poglee began I was like a different person. Okay so I had added a lot of extra work to my role as a full time mum but it gave me a focus other than the children. I worked when they were napping, at preschool and in the evenings. It was invigorating and exciting, scary and exhausting but it worked for me.
Now you have taken the plunge how are things going?
Five years later and after a lot of learning, numerous mistakes and lots of hard work Oglee Poglee is a successful business. I have a team of part time staff and run the business from my home. We run children’s parties across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire at the weekends and then in the week we sell handmade craft kits as party bags online via Not on the High Street. I still run the craft workshops that started the business off but now they run in four venues and consistently sell out. The boys are both at school now so I have more time to work on the business but the biggest success for me is the flexibility it offers me as a parent. If they are sick or I want to help out at school I can change my work plans easily or catch up in the evening when they are asleep.
Oglee Poglee can take over the house and I have a very supportive husband and family. The children have benefited from all the creative resources we have and are never short of cardboard and craft supplies. My youngest is very much the little inventor and loves a snoop in the Oglee Poglee office for bits he can use. When the business hits busy times of the year like Christmas then things go a little bit crazy in the house and sometimes not all the chores get done but it’s only for a short time and the kids don’t care.
What advice would you give to other Mama’s who are thinking about making a change to their working life?
Go for it. Life as a parent is tough, finding a job that is uplifting and rewarding can help balance you rather than drain you.
Someone once told me that success is different for everyone. Most people equate success with wealth. For me success is balance, running a business and being there for my children. There is no right way to live life so find out what is really important to you, focus on it and be brave.