Steph chats to us about motherhood, building a brilliant brand and her work/life balance during these unusual times.
Steph founded Don’t Buy Her Flowers in 2014, leaving her brand marketing role to pursue an idea she had following the birth of her children. After receiving eight bunches of flowers when she had her first baby, Steph realised the well-meaning bouquet soon lost its shine when she was the one left to fill vases, all while juggling a newborn and feeling rather overwhelmed.
She started sending packages to her friends who were managing the early days of motherhood, and she saw the real joy a thoughtful, tailored package, that was all about encouraging them to take a bit of time for themselves, could bring. With a background in brand marketing, Steph knew she could “sell” a product but the journey to building a retail business was new and unnerving; despite admitting she’s never worked harder in her life, it felt exactly like the right path.
Don't Buy Her Flowers wants the people receiving one of their packages to feel loved and cared for, and know that someone has thought about them by choosing a gift package that is just right... whether it’s to celebrate, commiserate or offer the next best thing to a reassuring hug when you can’t be there. Originally launching for new mums, Don't Buy Her Flowers now offers packages for all occasions, including gifts for him, workplaces, couples and more!
Head over to the Don't Buy Her Flowers website to explore your bespoke gift package options!
I have three children, aged 10, 8 and 3 and along with my husband Doug and our cats Batman and Leia, we live in Richmond. Doug and I both work so the last year has been… challenging? In theory my job is more flexible as I run my own business but that also means I’m responsible for not letting it fall apart and paying people, so not that flexible! During the last lockdown Frank, the youngest, has been able to carry on with nursery which is a huge help.
March to June last year is a total blur, I don’t know how we did it. The business has grown year on year since launching in 2014 but just before the first lockdown was announced, Don’t Buy Her Flowers really took off – people wanted to send thoughtful gifts and what we do was just what they were looking for, so it’s been busier than ever. I’m very aware that I can’t complain because we’re very lucky that it’s gone that way – I know plenty of business owners who are facing a really grim time – but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge it’s been pretty intense. I’m writing this as we head towards 8th March and it is going to be a very happy day for all of us.
Please complete the following sentences:
To me, being a mother means…
A series of contradictions. Never feeling ‘done’. There’s someone needing something to eat, something to wear, something to find, a chat about a random thing they’ve seen or thought of. There are a lot of lists, always something to do, which sometimes leaves very little headspace. And yet you LOVE them. Like, if anyone else put those kind of demands on me I’m pretty sure I’d want to cut them out of my life.
Of course some days I can find them pretty annoying – we have spent a LOT of time together in the last year - but most nights when Doug and I are in bed, one of us will mention something one of them did or said that day and then we’ll say how much we love them. Even the annoying bits.
The best thing about being a mum is…
Watching these little bundles of arms and legs become actual people, with ideas and comic timing and emotions (oh the EMOTIONS).
The hardest bit about being a mum is…
Learning to be gentle with yourself. It was a long lesson to realise that while it felt ‘people’ had expectation of me, a lot of it was on myself. And I don’t think that feeling ever goes away because the role is constantly changing as they change – what they need from me now will be different when they’re teenagers or adults, and they’re each different so it’s never the same at one time. But if I can acknowledge that I won’t automatically have all the answers and not punish myself for that, I think that’ll help.
My journey to motherhood was…
I always wanted kids, we were lucky as that was all pretty straightforward but I definitely felt overwhelmed in those first months especially. That sitting on the sofa with no energy, all leaky and exhausted and growling at my husband because the hormones were raging… It was a total shock, as it would be because you’ve never done it before and your body and mind have just gone through something huge, but I guess up to that point I just hadn’t given it much thought and it felt like no one had warned me.
The reality is that even if they had tried, I probably wouldn’t have heard it. I started a blog before I started the business and wrote quite openly about motherhood and relationships and that was very cathartic because lots of people said they’d felt the same. Feeling part of a community of women who could be honest definitely helped – especially at the time when there was a lot less written about motherhood and the impact it might have on work and relationships and your mental health.
It might look like everyone else knows what they’re doing, and some people will want to convince you that they know what they’re doing, and they’ll shout loudly about knowing what they’re doing, but no one does.
My favourite thing to do to relax is…
Ironically, it used to be having weekends with no plans. Then we had a pandemic and there were a lot of weekends with no plans. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next! An early night, time to myself for a walk, being with my oldest best mates when it’s just very easy.
Do you feel you have a good work/life balance?
Sometimes I do and often I don’t. The reality of trying to grow a business is that there is always something to do and this year in particular, when home and work have been so blurred, I’ve regularly been out of balance. I feel like the ‘return to normal’ might be opportunity to have a reset, not to get to the points of overwhelm I regularly felt before the pandemic. But who knows – we’re also in that ‘rush hour’ phase of life, where we have small kids and a business that requires a lot of work and still want to have some sort of social life, and sometimes it’s hard to fit it all in.
The two older kids have a bit more understanding about my work after the last year of all being at home. They’ve said ‘Mum, are you ok?’ and ‘you look a bit stressed?’ a few times, and it felt weird initially but you know, running a business is tough and I think it’s ok if they learn that and learn some empathy. I don’t mean that we have to excuse working and say ‘oh they’re learning from me’ – they’d also learn from me if I was at home full time or had a "normal job". But I’m not just mum and it’s ok if they know that, and that it’s not always easy. Being an adult is not always easy. It is what it is, but I’m trying very hard not to feel guilty about choices I’ve made because I do love working and I love my kids so I’m trying to make it work with both in a society that is still getting used to mothers who work if we’re honest.
Any advice for mums thinking of starting a business?
Before you get started, accept you won’t be able to do everything you did before and run a business on top. That might mean a conversation with your partner about what they can do better, it might mean eating more beans on toast for tea and culling your social life for a while, or getting some help with anything you can outsource. I’ve seen so many women try to just do more and then we wonder why less women start businesses.
Getting something off the ground takes a lot of work and focus, so something has to give.
Lastly please tell us the first thing you’ll do when we’re out of lockdown and allowed to see loved ones or go to the pub?
Eat and drink in a restaurant with people I love while continually hugging them, sitting uncomfortably close. I want closeness. And food that doesn’t require me to cook it or clean it up. IMAGINE. I actually can’t at the moment and worry I’m going to become a recluse because while I definitely want this to be over, the unknown is a little overwhelming. Hugging my parents is at the top of the list.
We couldn't agree more - big hugs incoming! Thanks for chatting with us, Steph!
This week we’re celebrating International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day with the high-flying women in our lives! As a little treat for you, our lovely Frugi customers, we’ve partnered up with Don’t Buy Her Flowers to give you the chance to win a Mother’s Day Package worth £85!
This package includes a selection of their most popular products, from gin and chocolate to some relaxing tealights and hand cream – it is all there and all for her. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win, simply click below and fill out the form to enter! This giveaway ends midnight tonight (14th March) and is open to UK entrants only. Full Terms and Conditions can be found here.