How I’ve juggled motherhood with running a successful business
Ahead of Mother's Day, entrepreneur and family woman Gayle Hunter talks balancing her time, managing sales orders and keeping promises as a mum...
Name: Gayle Hunter
Company: The Lifestyle Hunter
Company description: Lifestyle Hunter sells a range of high quality, luxurious yet affordable lifestyle products that give a ‘lifestyle boost’ and that little lift in confidence. Our Lifestyle Hunter products are part of the Luxelu brand, which represents “Luxury for Less” and is sold exclusively on Amazon Marketplace.
Started in: 2014
Describe your start-up barrier:
When I started Lifestyle Hunter, I was dedicated to spending more time with my family and had promised my daughter that I would find a way to do that – however I had really enjoyed working on my previous web development business, which I had launched in 2001, and didn’t want to lose my independence.
From a personal and business perspective, many start-ups such as ourselves have a strong level of family involvement, which can at times seem tricky to navigate.
I have worked in partnership with my husband for 16 years, first on the same business and now on different business entities from the same room, so there’s a need to make the most of each other’s expertise as well as being able to work independently.
A challenge for any growing retailer is managing the fulfillment of customer orders when you need to travel for business and leisure – or dedicate time to your family – and when the volume of orders varies throughout the year, especially with seasonal products.
What were the practical steps you took to ensure you could run a successful business while raising a family?
I spent one day a week trialling different business ideas alongside my original web development company, working on a project basis to find a business idea that worked financially and that allowed me to balance work with other lifestyle priorities.
I drew on my own strengths and pulled on the insights and expertise of my husband where I needed it; for instance learning about specific promotions that had worked well for him.
It’s always been important that we keep an understanding of our respective areas of expertise and that we take responsibility for separate business divisions, so that we can work independently whilst supporting each other personally as well as maximising the performance of our business entities; we both have financial stakes in each other’s respective businesses which adds an additional motivation to support and share in our successes.
It’s also vital from a personal perspective that we both ‘switch off’ where possible at the weekends and evenings, aside from the inevitable nuts and bolts of running the business.
We use Amazon Marketplace and, to manage demand for order fulfilment, have outsourced this aspect of the business to the Fulfilled by Amazon programme – this means that we can run the business from anywhere in the world whether on holiday or at international trade fairs, and can be assured that we will be giving our customers world-class fulfilment of their orders.
What was the outcome?
I have been able to spend significantly more time with my family, spending five months out of the last 24 months overseas with my husband and children, as well as more time with them after school and at weekends.
Meanwhile, the business has grown year-on-year since 2014, with this current financial year seeing a growth of 35% over last year, to an annual turnover of half a million pounds.
What three questions should entrepreneurs ask themselves while balancing business with family commitments?
- Being able to spend more time with my family whilst growing a successful retail business has not happened by accident. It is something that I absolutely determined would be a measure of my success. What is it you want in terms of work-life balance (or your own personal success measure), and how are you going to make that happen?
- How can you work smarter and not just harder – to get the most out of the hours you are prepared to put in? Outsourcing key parts of the business can make a big difference, but you need to determine which parts of your business are the right parts for you to outsource. They need to be partners that are a good fit for your business, and can do things better, faster, and more cost effectively than you could do yourself.
- How can you upscale your offering without directly increasing the amount of personal time required to do that?
What one piece of advice do you think business owners should take on board?
Plan the outcome you want to realise, then keep that at the centre of your mind at all times.
Is there anything you would do differently?
No, but the philosophy of continuous improvement is essential. If any mistakes are made, the value in them is learning from them and improving from the learned outcome going forward.