Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, where her father was in the Air Force, Suzy settled in Oxfordshire with her husband, Christian, and together they were successfully running a Personal Training and Physiotherapy company. When RAF Brize Norton advertised for a Physio Locum for a few months, Christian grasped the opportunity to work with the Armed Forces. Three months turned into two years and Christian was invited to join the RAF.
On their first re-posting to Portsmouth, Suzy quickly recognised that the transiency of military life meant adjusting her working life as a personal trainer and, after another Service-related move in 2013, the arrival of their first child confirmed Suzy’s determination to generate income from working at home.
“Belle was a couple of months old and I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum for as long as possible, so I needed to find something that would allow me to generate income without having to leave the house. I was on the lookout for a product. Something I could easily store/ stock in my house and sell online.”
Inspired by pioneering Australian and American teething jewellery, Suzy embarked on designing her own products, and found a factory who was willing to work with her in small quantities. Single-handedly, whilst caring for an infant, Suzy created a logo, developed packaging and built her own website. Mama + Belle Teething Jewellery was born with the click of a mouse one Thursday evening.
“I remember the excitement of launching the website. It took 10 minutes after hitting the ‘go live’ button for my first order to arrive, and I cannot tell you how excited I was. I was at home, with my baby asleep in her room, and I had made money. Not much, but it had started. Within a few days the business was busier than I could have ever dreamed.”
Their second daughter, Delilah, arrived in 2016 after their third Service-related move, and Suzy’s business Mama + Belle continued to thrive in online sales and through retailers including John Lewis. As the face of the brand, Suzy had been receiving emails, messages and phone calls from mums with whom Suzy’s story had resonated and were looking for guidance on how to set up a business of their own. This ignited a passion, and a purpose, in Suzy that she hadn’t been aware of before.
“My business had allowed me the privilege of being a full-time stay-at-home mum, and I knew of so many others who would have loved to do the same but their finances simply didn’t allow them to. That’s when I realised that I wanted to start a mission that was about empowering and educating mothers with the tools they need to start their own business, or level-up their existing business to help them achieve the lifestyle they and their families deserve.”
Suzy’s fourth business, Mothers of Enterprise, was launched in May 2018 with the aim to empower, inspire and educate mums into building and growing a thriving business whilst raising a family. Suzy has been immersed in growing awareness for the brand this year, and encouraging members to join the community via the website and social media channels, where examples and advice are shared freely. Suzy is currently working on releasing the first MoE training course, the ‘Success & Happiness Mindset Academy’ in November and the ‘Create & Launch Business School’, next year.
On Mama + Belle, supported by a small team of fellow mums and military spouses, Suzy’s B2B and B2C sales channels are growing. They are preparing to expand internationally, building relationships with distributors in Turkey, South Africa, Japan and America.
In just four short years, Suzy has built two very different, but equally as promising, businesses, notwithstanding four house-moves and the arrival of two children. This intense period hasn’t been without its challenges, Suzy admits:
“Going into both businesses I had no experience of either industry. With Mama + Belle, I had never worked in the backend of retail and had no idea how to set up a wholesale operation. With Mothers of Enterprise, learning the art of creating and delivering digital courses has been a massive learning curve.
“The challenges are constant: funding, skills, mentorship, competition in the market place, keeping up with the changing social media arena, time to manage both a family and business etc etc. I could go on, but I think the very nature of being in business means you’re going to face challenges. I believe that if you’re not facing challenges then you’re not pushing yourself or your business forward.
“One element is key: self-belief. After experiencing success with Mama + Belle, I’ve started Mothers of Enterprise with a whole new understanding of the importance of believing in yourself when you’re going into business. That’s where the strength in having a community around you to draw on is vital.”
When asked how she would advise fellow entrepreneurs and military spouses considering business, Suzy naturally had much to share.
“I don’t believe entrepreneurship is for everyone. That’s not always what people want to hear. I think if you’ve got a service or product that been thoroughly validated (I don’t believe we can always trust what we think is a good idea, hence validation is so vital) and you have an overwhelming passion to deliver that product or service to the best of your ability, and you’re willing to overcome every obstacle that will come your way, then definitely go for it.
“Entrepreneurship is not the easiest of paths to travel, and people often have false delusions of grandeur about it. Those early years are tough and you need to be able to stick it out so you don’t end up in the 80% of start ups failing in the first 3 years.
“This is my favourite quote about entrepreneurship: ‘Entrepreneurship is being willing to live a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can live the rest if your life like most people can’t.”
“X-Forces arranged the loan with ease and efficiency. I’m excited to be joining their community of Armed Forces entrepreneurs and sharing knowledge and connections for mutual benefit.”
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