Meet the small business game-changers, Circle In, supporting mums back to work!
One of the most rewarding things that we've found as Mums in the 'small business mumpreneur sphere' has been the connections that we've made with other likeminded women. Jodi and Kate, from Circle In are no exception. It's uncanny, how their journey is aligned (almost in synchronicity) with our own. From those very early days when we each had about 50 followers on our Instagram, right up to recent weeks when we hit the 1K milestone we've been watching closely and encouraging each other along the way.
We are so invested in what Jodi and Kate have created. As Mums who have returned to the workforce, we only wish that the resources Circle In provides to their members were available to us back then. We love a good small business story and wanted to share the experiences and lessons learned from another start up business with you all.
Take it away ladies....
Tell us - what made you both decide to step away from ‘employment’ into being ‘self-employed’?
It has been an 18-month journey for us, but we knew when the time was right. In the end, it was an easy decision for us as our values and priorities shifted and now aligned with Circle In. We are both incredibly passionate about driving real change and helping other women. We experienced the parental leave journey ourselves and have spoken to thousands of other women, so we understand the challenges first hand and now want to help women behind us. In addition, having our own business enables greater flexibility with our families and this is of huge importance to us both.
Not at all. We have never looked back. Need we say more…
We’re all about the ‘real’ stories of behind the scenes in ‘small biz’ life - How long was it from the conception of Circle In to its launch?
We had the idea around 18 months and to be honest, we worked pretty hard on the idea during our second period of parental leave. We both then returned to work and spent our nights and weekends working on Circle In. It was tough, as we were juggling work, family and a passion project (soon to be business). We pivoted a number of times and the product we have now launched is entirely different to our initial idea, but that’s the start-up journey! Jodi left her job in May 2017 and Kate in October 2017. We launched 30 October and now work 4 days a week (and most nights!) on the business. Having a day with our kids is still a top priority for us.
Tell us about your partnership? How did you meet, why did you decide to work together and how do you compliment each other?
We met 8 years ago at NAB and instantly connected. We have since been through 2 rounds of parental leave and shared a very similar journey. The commonality of our life experiences has ultimately bought us to this point. You just know when you meet the right person and who you can work with. It’s a bit like ‘finding the one’! Our relationship is built on trust and respect, which is so important when working in a small team. From a skills perspective, we are similar but know that two minds are better than one.
We balance each other out and know when the other is having a rough day, so we are genuinely always looking after each other. We know when the other needs to have a break, switch off and have some family time!
What would you say has been the biggest learning curve throughout this process?
It’s definitely harder than it looks. So much harder! You seriously live and breathe your business so it’s hard to find ‘me’ time. At the same time, it’s the most rewarding thing we have every done outside of having kids.
Our biggest learning is the need to be flexible and adaptable. We have changed our idea so many times, but you need to accept feedback and be open to pivoting and accepting that the direction needs to change.
The other key learning has been the decision of when to take the leap and move from a passion project to full time. This is when things get real and scary. You question everything - can we really do this and will it work?
One of the hardest and most difficult decisions we have had to make was taking the final leap, but it’s like everything in that once you do it, you never look back.
Did you do it ALL yourselves, or at some point did you decide to ‘outsource’? If so, what what is that you outsourced and what was your experience?
We definitely outsourced! In the first 12 months, obviously it was just us as we were in planning stage. Once we moved to development and implementation, we used trusted advisors and experts around us to help. We sourced the best web designer, brand agency, copywriter, photographer and the list goes on. As a small business with no revenue, we had to keep costs tight and so we also did a lot ourselves. Canva is amazing and there are so many incredible resources out there that will make your life easier. We have taught ourselves a lot through online tutorials – how to record podcasts, how to film videos, how to create insta posts etc. Our biggest learning is to outsource what you are not strong at or what is consuming most of your time. For example, one of us was trying to edit our podcasts and videos which was taking hours and still not looking great! We ended up using Fiverr and got our podcasts edited for $5 each! So now we are smarter at when to outsource and knowing what the best use of our time is.
You know we are all about the ‘planning’ - do you guys regularly set aside time to review, report and ‘plan’?
Absolutely and we always have. We are very similar in that we love a good ‘to do’ list, WIP and strategy. In fact, the first document we ever produced was our business plan and we still refer to it regularly. Having good operational rigour is critical to a successful business. It is important to find time to work on the business and not in it. We find Monday mornings are best for us and this is when we work through our WIP and plan the week ahead. We also use this time to review our analytics, dashboards and reports. Once a month we work on strategy and try to make this a fun and relaxed day, often at one of our houses.
We’ve noticed you’ve had some great exposure in the press. Did you guys do your own PR or engage professionals?
We are proud to say we have done it all ourselves. We have a great story to tell and so did not hold back in reaching out to media and pitching different angles. We have worked really hard on this side of the business but it’s definitely paid off. We built a media strategy, defined the media and influencers we wanted to target and went from there. Again, it is about having the confidence to reach out and put yourself out there.
If you knew then (when you started) what you know now, would you do anything differently?
To be honest, no, as the journey is a roller-coaster and the ups and downs are part of the ride. We have definitely got to a better place because of the challenges put in front of us. Seriously, we had some really tough meetings early on and setbacks that almost made us stop going. But it is these times that make you and your business model stronger.
Launchings a business takes time and this can be frustrating as you just want it to happen quickly, but it’s important to follow a plan, research your market and make sure you are meeting a real need. We are also big believers in taking a MVP to market and not waiting for the perfect final product.
Obviously, a lot of your content has been curated using collaborations and the expertise of others in a specific field. Can you give us any tips on how you formed these collabs and what your experience has been?
Like everything, it is about having the confidence to reach out and ask. Everyone we have worked with is a new contact and all formed over an email, Instagram connection or cold call. Look at us… we reached out to you ladies over email and look at the relationship we have now formed! It is amazing how supportive and generous people are. You just need to approach it in the right manner, be succinct, engaging and offer something in return. Collabs are now one of our favourite parts of the business!
And finally, the question we ask all of our guests - how do you mange the juggle between motherhood and business? (apart form all the fabulous resources over on Circle In ;-))
We won’t lie, it’s a difficult battle. The delineation between work and family is now harder than ever, as having your own business means it’s hard to switch off. Since launching Circle In, we work harder, are doing more hours, but have more flexibility with our kids. It is working for us now but there are times when we need to step in and tell the other to step back for a while. We really try to keep each other true to this and look out for one another. At the end of the day, it’s a marathon not a sprint and our family will always come first.
About Circle In.
The right tips and advice to support you at every stage from announcing your pregnancy, planning parental leave, going on maternity leave and returning to work. We have everything covered to help you manage your career.
One day at 2AM Jodi Geddes was feeding her second baby when she had the idea for Circle In (and pitched it to her close friend, marketing expert Kate Pollard.) It was born from frustration at not being able to find smart, insightful and practical advice affecting working mamas.
18 months and over 1,000 conversations with working mamas and experts later, our online community is finding it’s feet in the world. Whatever your question—or if you just need a friend—you’ll find the answer here. As working mamas, we know the juggle is real. We know it’s exhausting, beautiful, incomparable, confusing. But thanks to our insider knowledge, we also know how to navigate it with sass, humour and vision. We believe in choices, information and post-work wine. We don’t believe in work life balance, but we know how to find work life harmony. We believe in being real rather than social media cool. We’re great mamas, good friends and excellent advocates.