Animal Welfare to HR & Running a Product Based Business
“I have always wanted to have my own business, even from a young age. We used to have a bit of a family
joke about what my next business idea would be, as I was constantly coming up with something new!”
From a 3 year “uni stopgap” in animal welfare, and a brief stint in debt collection, to HR and starting her own product based business (all while raising 3 small children), I’m delighted to introduce Charlie! Charlie’s story is honest, inspiring and humble.
What do you do now?
I am currently on maternity leave from my job as an HR Administrator at a University. I have also recently started my own business selling baby changing bags which I have designed myself.
What do you love about it?
With my HR job, I love working within a small and friendly team doing a role which I
am familiar with and isn’t overly challenging.
In my own business I absolutely love the flexibility of working for myself (although
doing this around 3 children does have its own challenges!). I enjoy engaging with other
parents and small businesses and selling a product that I really love and have worked
hard on. I get out what I put in and I like to have that motivation and challenge.
What did you do before?
After finishing university I needed to start earning money quickly and so got a stop
gap job at Dogs Trust until I was able to find something that I wanted to do long
term. However, I loved the job and 3 years later I was still there. I then got to a
point where I really wanted a career that I could progress in and so got a job at a
debt collection agency to gain some office/call work experience.
Why did you decide to change?
I hated the role so much and after 6 months I was ready to look for another job
but fortunately I secured a 3 month secondment in the admin team which I enjoyed
much more. It was then that the option to take a role in their HR team came about.
How did you decide what to do instead?
I had already decided that I wanted to pursue a career in HR (I felt it suited my skill set
and I liked the idea that you could progress) and had started a home learning
course in HR. I loved this job so much. It was so varied, helping others and building
really good relationships. The employer put me through my level 7 CIPD.
But I was then made redundant whilst on maternity leave. I then got a part-time
job at a university in the HR team. But I hadn't realised how expensive childcare
was and it was becoming apparent that with those costs, I wasn’t making enough money.
In hindsight I also think I went back to work too soon (after 5 months) and ended up with
post natal depression. It was at that point I realised that it was more important for me to
be with my daughter and not be under financial stress than pursuing my HR career - as
for me I felt like that could wait.
I got a night job at a supermarket. It worked perfectly (although I was shattered as the
hours were 10pm-7am). Once my daughter was entitled to get some free hours at
nursery I went back to the university where I’d been working previously, and that’s
where I am now, though currently on maternity leave.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I have always wanted to have my own business. We used to have a bit of a family joke
about what my next business idea would be, as I was constantly coming up with
I know that I will never do very well for myself if I am working for a business, my own
self doubt prevents me from moving up the career ladder and I fear
applying for promotions etc. But I also think that having children massively
changed my priorities. I want to be around them and watch them growing up,
and as long as I am earning enough money to live comfortably, I would much rather put
my office career on hold for that to happen.
The idea to design baby changing bags came about after I had struggled to
find a changing bag that I felt to be stylish and practical. I thought it was definitely
something there was a demand for. It just so happened that it all timed perfectly to
launch whilst on maternity leave.
We’d love to know more about your journey from then to now!
My journey to setting up my own business has been a long one...4 years to be
precise. This was due to several things:
1)A lack of experience. I have had to teach myself a lot along the
way. I ended up getting a business coach which was what I needed to
really take the final step
2)Finding a factory – this took over a year. I contacted well over 50 factories
in the UK but just couldn’t find anywhere that could cater for my small quantities
at a price that was affordable. I also spent 4 months thinking a factory were
making my designs only to find that they had just been messing me around
(perhaps due to my obvious lack of experience - I feel people think they don't
have to take you seriously sometimes). So, I had to think of other options and
after a lot of research into staff welfare and quality, decided to use a factory in
China, who are able to produce the small quantities I needed at the high standard
I was looking for (which comes at a price).
3)Personal issues - life did get in the way. I went through postnatal depression
and a break up and that just completely took over. I just couldn’t face anything
else. But then I decided that this was the time more than ever that I
needed to get going so that I could become financially independent. I am pleased
to say we are now back together and we have since had twins!
How has life changed?
I am on maternity leave and the business is still quite new, however, I can definitely see
that it will offer me so much more time with the children. I can work my business
totally around my lifestyle. It does mean that evening time is my work time and
sometimes I can still be working at 11pm when really I should be getting some sleep in
(the twins have me up at 5am with 2 or 3 wakes in between). That's the downside to
having your own business I guess, you can't switch off.
I often get asked how an earth I manage to run a business around 3 young children, but
honestly I think the business has saved my mental health. Having suffered from post
natal depression after giving birth to my first, I really feel like having the business this
time round has given me something to focus on. I am naturally a worrier and an over
thinker so if I end up with too much time on my hands then I can get myself very anxious
and stressed. I have had a lot of issues in my personal life to deal with in the 7 months
since the twins have come along and I feel like if I hadn’t had the business to distract
me, I could easily have ended up in a similar situation I found myself in after my first was
I have requested a 12 month career break from my HR job at the University, mainly
because the cost of childcare for 2 (3 in the school holidays) would leave me out of
pocket each month. I enjoy the job, but not enough to be making no money! By the time
I would then be due to return the twins would be entitled to 15 hours free childcare
which makes all the difference. I am excited that this then gives me a further 12 months
to focus on my business and to be able to enjoy extra quality time with the children.
What do you want for your future?
To be financially comfortable and able to run my business from home. My
thoughts might change as the business evolves, but right now I don't want to
have to employ people or rent premises. I want to be able to do it all from
home by myself (although I would love to see my bags in a store one day!) For
me a happy life is a successful life.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to find and pursue a career or job they
I know it’s cliché but really just do it!
Life is too short to be in a job you don’t like or doesn’t fulfil you.
We spend such a lot of our life working, it's important you are doing something you love.
After doing a job that I hated I would never put myself in that position again. I wish I
had set up my own business years ago and often wonder where I would be
now if I had. But then I probably wasn't ready then, and the jobs I have done instead
have given me the skills and confidence I have needed to do this now.
Where can people find you, follow your story and check out your beautiful products?
You can find me on Instagram @jessie_bear_blue where I try to mix up business
and family life to give a little insight into the behind the scenes. I also have a
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