Taking stock of a new delivery of sheep, organising her daughter’s birthday party and getting ready to travel to a trade show.
It’s just an ordinary day in Lynda Harding’s life, as the mum of six juggles family life with an ever-expanding business.
Lynda’s part of a rising number of parents who – often spurred on by increasing child care costs and the need to fit work in around family – decide to combine home with business.
It’s become such a modern-day phenomenon that it’s even spawned its own name – mumpreneur. And last month the term was one of 70 new words to make it into the dictionary.
For Lynda, the practicalities of running not one but three successful businesses – including one that’s about to go global – means life is pretty hectic.
‘I’m super-organised and a queen of multi-tasking,’ she laughs as she takes a brief break from work.
‘It is quite an unusual title but there’s thousands of mumpreneurs out there now.
‘When I go to the trade and consumer shows there’s really lots of mums and dads who are coming up with the ideas and seeing a gap in the market because of their own personal experience.’
With all her children still living at home, Lynda certainly has a lot on her plate.
But she’s starting to see her hard work pay off now that her latest invention has been taking the lucrative baby product world by storm.
Lynda’s personal experience with her youngest child, Bradley, gave her the idea for Ewan the dream sheep, a sleep aid designed for babies and toddlers.
When Bradley wouldn’t sleep she found that holding him up so he could hear her heartbeat helped settle him and that nugget of information created the basis for Ewan.
The cute and cuddly sheep has been fitted with a sound device that plays a real heartbeat and other comforting sounds, designed to recreate what it feels like to be in the womb.
Since January, Lynda’s sold more than 12,000 Ewans, he’s already been named 2011 gift of the year and she’s currently looking to get her flock distributed abroad.
‘We’ve been out of stock because he’s been so popular,’ she adds. ‘We’ve had a mad rush on orders. We’re getting really good feedback.
‘You always hope that the product is going to work but it’s when you go out onto the market that you get the real feed back.
‘We’re selling him in the UK, he’s creeping out into Europe and we’re talking to global distributors. Ewan’s going global.
‘It’s nice when I get emails from parents, it’s amazing.’
From her home in Waterlooville, Lynda combines being a mum with being the managing director of her own company, Easidream.
Bradley, now nine, 11-year-old Amy, William, 12, George, 19, Harry, 20 and 22-year-old Bernard, 22, all have their own needs.
The oldest lads regularly help their mum at trade shows and of course young Bradley knows he was the inspiration for Ewan in the first place.
Lynda began working on Ewan when Bradley was about two, so it’s taken seven years to get to where she is now.
She explains: ‘Whereas the previous five weren’t too bad at settling off to sleep, Bradley was a real struggle. I thought “I’ve done this five times before what’s going on?”
‘He was a particularly fractious child and that made it extra hard to get him off to sleep. I found it was a worldwide phenomenon. There are thousands of children out there who need this extra help to settle them off to sleep.
‘I found that soothing sounds and holding him up to my heartbeat helped him settle off to sleep. There wasn’t anything out there at that time to do that so I thought “I’m going to design something myself” and it all spiralled from there.
‘I’ve always had this inventive streak and then Bradley came along and I thought “I’m going to bite the bullet and develop it and take it to market”.
‘Now I’ve got the buzz, I can do this.’
She adds: ‘Parents have told me he helps them nod off to sleep and Bradley does quite like Ewan. I’ve had quite a few mums who’ve bought one for older children.’
As well as Easidream, Lynda runs a nursery school and a children’s party venue.
In May she took Ewan to the Baby Show at the NEC in Birmingham and within just a few hours she’d sold out. She’s already featured on ITV show Daybreak and has just returned from the week-long Earl’s Court Baby Show.
So what’s a typical day like for the 46-year-old?
‘I try and get up by 6-6.30am, turn the computer on and look at emails,’ says Lynda. ‘Then I get the children up and organised. The older ones can look after themselves but the younger ones need help.
‘I do the school run and then come home and talk to distributors, stores and answer emails. I talk to the nursery manager and the staff and do the admin and look at the numbers.
‘It does involve juggling it all about and keeping an eye on Ewan and we’re developing some small new products at the moment.
‘The phone’s always ringing and by now it’s usually time to collect the kids from school, feed everyone and help them with their homework. And then I’ll be working at night until at least about 8pm. I spend a lot of time on the computer, a lot of time liasising with people and talking to the graphic designer about packaging and things. Something that you think is going to take five minutes will take a whole day.’
She adds: ‘I’m used to working from home. The nursery has been open 21 years so it’s not really any different for me. I’m juggling everything so it’s good to have it all based at home. Having said that I’m quite envious of my close friends who can have a break from work.
‘Sometimes I do get preoccupied with work. I’m working from home and it all has to be sorted out. The kids will say to me “Mum, you’ve got to come out of the office” or “You’re going to need that computer surgically removed”.
‘When the younger ones go to bed I’ll carry on working until the early hours.’
Around 60 per cent of new businesses are set up by people like Lynda, who find working from home allows them to fit in being a parent.
She says people who think they have a good idea for a business should go for it – if they’re certain they’re not going to be wasting their time.
‘When I came up with the idea for Ewan I did lots of research to make sure there wasn’t anything else out there already. You want to make sure you’re not reinventing the wheel. So you need to make sure that it is new and inventive and then take all the help you can get from the banks and places like Business Link. If you know it’s a good product just focus on achieving your goal.’
She adds: ‘I think if you’re an organised person you can do it. I’m very lucky to be able to have a home where I can also run a business from. If you’ve got a mind set to step from one thing to another, then go back to work and then back to mum mode, you can do it.’
Like all good inventors, Lynda’s full of ideas for new products and ways to grow her business. For now though she’s focusing on making Ewan the success she believes he deserves to be.
Every time she receives an email from a parent who says he’s helped get their child off to sleep, she’s thrilled.
‘When I sit down I do have to pinch myself,’ she adds. ‘The kids are OK, everyone’s OK. There’s always another challenge every day that I want to overcome but hopefully I can do that.
‘I like to think that I can be an inspiration to other mums and dads. That they can think “Well if Lynda can do it, I can do it”.
‘There’s always a gap in the market, if they have a good idea and a family as well – and they have the right mind set – it is possible.’