Sunday 26 February 2017

'I felt like I failed my children...they were my inspiration for the business - I had lost sight of that'

Irish mum gave up full-time job to set up dream business - but it was a tough journey

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Laura, husband Paddy and her two boys Joe and Dan
Laura, husband Paddy and her two boys Joe and Dan

Waking up every morning being thankful for a job you love and a family that support you can seem to many of us to be the ideal - perhaps an unattainable - goal in life.

But this Irish mum-of-two was determined to make her dream of combining her love of family and business together to do just that; but the road there wasn't the easiest one.

Laura O'Mahony had always been used to pushing herself to the limits and taking on new challenges.

"Entrepreneurship was in my bones", she said, clearly evident from a CV which includes chopping up her dad's wood blocks to sell as kindling and establishing a lucrative lawn mowing business, all before the age of ten.

Moover Baby Truck
Moover Baby Truck

Always ahead of the curve, this young woman from Tipperary managed to bag a well-paid marketing manager role at her former college, not least due to her familiarity with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo - whose power and reach were only beginning to be realised at the time.

With a background in multimedia and a few years working in marketing at a local car dealership under her belt, Laura's one year contract in the role at LIT Thurles - which primarily involved the recruitment of new students (uptake was up 70pc in her tenure) - led to the contract being extended for a further two years.

But it was after the birth of Laura's first baby, Joe, that the trajectory of her career (and life) began to follow a less predictable path. Returning to the college after maternity leave saw an ownership takeover at the college and a subsequent cull of any employee on contract.

Not one to dwell on hard luck, Laura soon took up a short term contract at WIT in a similar role - but the jolt proved to be what she needed to realise what she ultimately wanted to do.

"I always wanted to work for myself but the real idea of setting up 'Happy In Your Nappy' came to me after I made a hand made baby gift (a nappy cake) for my cousin after the birth of her child," she told independent.ie. 

"She loved it and later that day I got phone calls from other visitors to the hospital ward asking where they could get one. I started it really as a hobby but, over time, I could see huge potential in the business and I decided to take the leap, left my marketing job and set up my own company."

Laura went full-time with the online baby store initially almost six years ago but it has only been the successful re-launch of the business this summer that she feels she is truly where she needs to be at. 

"The concept of the business grew out of being able to balance working with raising my children. I wanted to spend more time with them and this scenario allowed me the flexibility and enabled me to make the most of the time with them while they were small," she said.

Wallaboo Toddler Foot Muff
Wallaboo Toddler Foot Muff
Isabella Swinging Crib & Mattress

But shortly after the birth of her second son, Dan, Laura got a call "out-of-the-blue" offering her a part-time marketing job. It sounded ideal: working from home, deciding her own hours - and, what many new business owners miss most, regular income.

"At the start it was great. I managed to juggle a four month old baby (who was still breastfeeding) the marketing role and running the business; but over time the goal posts changed. The marketing role became more demanding; I was required to work more hours and to be in the office - it was becoming a full-time role.

"I was trying to have it all and be everything to everyone. I was trying to be the mother who drops and collects her kids, the wife, the businesswoman, the marketing manager and there was no room left for me. I was under severe pressure and suffering very badly with stress and anxiety."

Soon, the very reason that Laura gave up her full-time job became lost in the milieu. She felt that she "failed" her children by missing out on time spent with them while she was working and they "spent their summers in creche and summer camps". 

Laura and her two sons
Laura and her two sons

"They had been my inspiration to set up the business; the main reason so that I could work the business around them and be there for them. I had lost sight of that," she said.

"I made the decision to give up the marketing role and focus my energies on my family and the business." 

With a fresh new look, a new handpicked product range that "we have tried, tested and loved", Laura finally feels that she has reached a point where she has successfully combined her family and her business 

"Both myself and my husband Paddy are very involved in the business. We have completely restructured the business and it is now an online baby and nursery store.

"It’s a family business and one thing we understand is families and that is why we have handpicked a product range that makes life a little easier. We only chose products that we would use ourselves or have used ourselves for our boys." 

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