This is what Beckie has to say about my interview and her page –
Beckie Sanderson owner of Miss Digital Media interviewed The Simple Mum about writing, blogging, building a brand, and publishing children’s books.
The purpose of the interview was to write an inspirational and informative guest post for Beckie’s Classroom Blog, to help other aspiring authors, bloggers and businesses with tips on how to create a brand, write a blog, publish a book and build an audience.
Check out Beckie’s Classroom Blog for helpful articles tips and advice on branding, design, online marketing, self-publishing, and more.
Beckie is always looking for other businesses to collaborate with! Please get in touch with her if you would like to contribute a guest post to this blog.
Miss Digital Media offers a variety of services to help businesses to boost their brands, publish books and promote their businesses.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jo Coombs & Robert Papworth the owners and founders of ‘Made By Mums’ which is a new marketplace for mums, dads and carers. It is a platform that was made by parents for parents. It is set up to help parents sell their creations and support their families while doing so.
I am a big supporter of small business so was excited to do this interview and find out more about Jo & Robert and how Made By Mums can help small business owners sell their products.
Made By Mums is filled full of amazing, unique gifts and the mantra for the site is ‘handmade for every occasion’ which it certainly provides.
Tell us a bit about yourselves?
Jo: We’re Jo and Robert, co-founders of Made By Mums, living on the currently-not-so sunny island of Jersey with our two daughters aged 6 and 3. We also have Penny, our little tortoise shell cat, who likes to photobomb when we’re trying to photograph my finished crochet projects! You may have seen her pop up on various posts.
Made By Mums is a handmade platform for mums and carers to sell their creations online, and for everyone else to find perfect and unique gifts for every occasion. I might have said that a few times, can you tell?
Robert: I spent about 2 minutes explaining what we’re doing to someone the other day, and after all that they just said “oh, Etsy for mums?”. So yeah, Etsy for mums…
Jo: But with lower costs!
Robert: Yeah there’s a bit more to it than I think. We’re a selling platform, but we want to do a lot more than that.
What inspired you to start up your selling platform Made By Mums?
Robert: It was a bit of an evolution, really. If you told us this is where we’d be today back when we originally started talking about it, I’m not sure we’d believe you to be honest!
Jo: It was me learning to crochet that started it all (laughs). I was having a few issues with my pregnancy and needed something to help me with my mental health. I wanted to make something for the baby, and learning a new skill was both challenging and rewarding. Just what I needed at the time. Then I discovered that there were so many different techniques, and I kept hooking things and discovering that there are so many gorgeous yarns and patterns…. And well..
Robert: Yes and that seems to justify the ‘yarn room’ we now have upstairs…
Jo: Oh totally! The idea started when I was looking to see if I could sell the items I was creating. I looked at various places but the costs were all too high, and things seemed needlessly complicated, so I just left it at that for a while. But Robert’s a web developer in his day job and mentioned that he could build me a website shop of my own.
So it started as an idea for a shop for me, and ended up being this massive project that’s taken on a life of its own. I love how just simple ideas can bloom like that!
What is your favourite part of your business?
Robert: Tough question! Well when our makers make a sale, on the email they get, it tells them part of the process is to do a happy order dance.
Jo: We *might* have done the odd dance ourselves when a sale comes through (embarrassing!). I love being able to help our makers – they put so much love and work into what they do – it’s just such an honour to help support it all. Especially because we know that the sales they make through us can help raise a little extra money for the day to day, always helpful.
Robert: It never gets old to be fair, it probably never will! We love all the positive comments we get on social media too. People can be so kind and it makes all the work ‘worth it’ when we know how much it’s appreciated. So thanks everybody!
What sort of things can we expect to find on ‘Made By Mums’?
Jo: Oooh, everything really. As long as it’s handmade, or the maker has put their own embellishment or spin on it, we’re happy for them to list it.
Even though we’ve probably got like 200 categories or something by now, every week someone seems to have something that doesn’t fit anywhere. So we’re always tinkering and adding more categories. It keeps us on our toes!
Robert: As well as the categories, we’ve got collections for everything we can think of. Easter gifts, birthdays, weddings… baby showers. There’s an amazing range of items on there, well over 1,500 I think. Whatever it’s for, I’m pretty sure you’ll find it on the website somewhere!
How do you help other small business owners?
Robert: We really wanted to offer fellow parents and carers a fun, friendly and inclusive way to sell their creations, and help support their families.
Jo: Emotionally as much as financially. I found adapting to life with our first little pickle a struggle, like many people do. So us being able to add to the emotional support and network available to new mums is definitely a big part of it.
Robert: Our reach is growing all the time and it’s amazing how much interaction we have now on a daily basis. On our Facebook page and elsewhere. Jo’s great at being able to hold multiple conversations at the same time. Rather her than me, I’d just get confused!
Over 200 makers have signed up since we started back in 2018, it definitely seems to be picking up fast this year as well. We’re pleased so many people are choosing to get involved, we used to like doing a little post on social media when a new person joined, now we have a separate ‘welcome Wednesday’ post to make sure everybody still gets a ‘hi’.
What plans do you have for the future?
Robert: Well there’s a list somewhere with about 10 billion things on it that we’d love to do. But with it being just the two of us, we always have to prioritise. I’ve recently been able to change my work to dedicate one full day a week to it, but it still feels like I have two full time jobs at the moment!
Jo: I’m a stay at home mum and our youngest started nursery this year. So I get a couple of hours to myself to catch up on website admin and chat to our makers on the issues of the day over on Facebook! Maybe do a little bit of hoovering before the monsters come back and mess it all up again.
Robert: We’re really trying to highlight our makers as much as possible, I think we’ll definitely try and do more of this if we can. We’re very proud of our ‘Maker Stories’ series, where each week we feature a different maker, who gives us a little bit of background on the inspirations behind their own small business.
Jo: They’re always such fab reads, it’s amazing how many new mummies seem to turn to crafting or pick it up again from their own childhood. It is very therapeutic! I also plan to catch up on sewing in all the ends on various blankets, and typing up some patterns that are currently scribbled down in my notebooks. We have lots of ideas for Made By Mums, but we’ll do one thing at a time, and do it well. We’re proud of what we’ve done so far and want to continue helping support other parents and carers through such a big life change. Oh, and have another cup of tea. There’s always time for another cuppa!
I had the opportunity to interview the brilliantly funny Jarred Christmas who is an award-winning comedian & star of CBBC’s ‘The Joke Machine’ and ‘The dog ate my homework’.
New Zealand born star Jarred is a sought after headliner famed for his quick-witted spontaneity and improvisation skills, he is a regular at the Edinburgh festival and at comedy clubs around the globe. He was named ‘Best Compere’ at the 2016 Chortle awards scoping this award for the second time.
As well as children’s TV he has also featured on shows such as Never Mind the Buzcocks, Mock the week, Russel Howard’s good news, 8 out of 10 cats and has also taken part in Lets Dance for comic relief and Celebrity mastermind.
Jarrred has now teamed up with champion beatboxer Hobbit and together they have created The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show that they are performing together at theatres around the UK.
How did you first get into Comedy and at what age did you know you wanted to be a comedian? I first started doing stand up comedy when I was 18 way back in 1998, but I guess my passion for getting people to laugh at me started when I was about 10 years old, when I started doing Theatre sports. Which is improv comedy like ‘who’s line is it anyway’. Where I grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand they had school competitions that I started doing comedy improvisation through my school years.
What has been your career highlight so far? Oh my gosh there has been so many. Just the other day myself and Hobbit did The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show at the Southbank centre and we sold out 2 shows in one day. That was incredible to perform in such an incredible and iconic building.
I also done stand up at Sydney Opera house, which was amazing and I did a televised gig with Steve Martin.
Those 3 things have been pretty incredible.
Let’s talk about the Pot noodle Ads, as they look like they were a lot of fun. How did that come about?
Yeah they were heaps of fun. I just auditioned for them, I remember having to go in and perform material about my relationship with food. I had a routine about full English breakfast and I did that and they loved it. I got cast in the advert and amazingly the director was Taika Waititi who has just one an Oscar for the film JoJo Rabbit. I knew him from back in New Zealand as he started out as a comedian. Yeah we had a lot of fun on a lot of those pot noddle ads, I did it for 3 years, It was great.
Which is your favourite of the Pot noddle ad that you stared in? Oh I can’t choose they are all so good. I guess the high school musical one was a lot of fun. It was just fun learning dance routines and being paid for it I guess.
The little black dress the Beyonce one that was a good one, Oh yes how could we forget.
Do you enjoy playing the mean joke master in BBC’s ‘The Joke Machine’?
That came about because I did Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs panto at the New Wimbledon Theatre with Priscilla Presley and Warwick Davis and the producer of the Joke Machine was in the audience and really liked what I had done and knew that I was a stand up as well so got in contact with me. He asked me if I would be up for doing this creative show we have got and I thought it sounded like a huge amount of fun and it was.
They filmed the kids telling the jokes then I sat in the studio for 5 days watching kids telling jokes ranging from awful ones to quite sublime and brilliant ones. Every now and then a joke would come up where I thought I have got to remember that one that was brilliant.
Then other jokes came up where I was like not this joke again.
What advice would you give to people wanting to get into comedy?
Just get out and do it. It is the only way you are going to know if you are any good at it. I think a lot of people say it is something they really want to do but then they get to the end of their lives and they never did it. It is just a matter of finding out where you can perform and getting out and do it If you don’t like it at least you can say you tried.
So you have kicked off your new tour The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show. I understand that you started this show off for adults. What made you decide to change it into a kids show?
When I first worked with Hobbit we were hosting a hiphop comedy night in central London. Where I got booked to host the show and he got booked as the house band and we didn’t know each other. We found that we were on stage for the whole time together and we had a laugh backstage so we thought let’s just mess around on stage. We ended up hosting that show together for a year and a half and when it finished we just thought let’s take what we have been doing here and make a late night mess around adult show of beatboxing and comedy and that went great.
We then both realised if we stopped swearing and being rude this could be a great family show. Also it coincided that my kids were a bit older and interested in what I was doing and wanted to go to comedy shows. So part of it was a desire to develop a show that my kids could go along to as well.
I run ideas past my children and if they just stare at me blankly I know I need to go back to the drawing board. I think now they are so used to me running ideas past them they now go ‘yeah that’s a good one’ instead of laughing.
Who is a tougher crowd Adults or Children and why?
Well they are both tough for their own reasons and they are both brilliant for their own reasons too. I mean you are never going to get drunk heckles at a kids show, well I hope not.
What you do get is absolute randomness and chaos you have no idea what they are going to come out with, no idea what they are going to do and that is hugely enjoyable. You are never going to get a straight answer out of a kid, they are going to throw constant curve balls at you. I love that aspect of kids shows and just the sheer enjoyment they have, adults can be a bit cynical at some times.
We do still every now and then do an adult version of the show and it tends to break through cynicalism as it is just such a positive and enjoyable show that even the adults embrace the silliness of it.
What can we expect to see in your new kids show The Mighty Kids beatbox comedy show?
What you can expect is a whole heap of fun, it is hugely interactive for kids and for parents. The beatboxing is insane, Hobbit is just amazingly talented. It is fascinating watching just how the kids are just enthralled by what he is doing. I bring the silliness and buffoonery and host the show and get the kids up and interacting and hobbit wows them with the beatboxing skills. On top of that he is funny as well.
Is it a show that parents will enjoy as well?
Parents love the show as well as the kids, because it started as an adult show we are aware of what is funny for the adults. Being a dad myself and going to shows with my kids I hate it when I walk out a bit bored so something that engages me to I am well up for it. It is more of a Ben & Holly than a Peppa Pig.
What have you got coming up next?
We are doing the tour and at the same time we are developing our new show to take up to the Edinburgh festival this year. We have also got a tour of New Zealand in May that we will be doing Auckland and Wellington and other smaller places around New Zealand so it will be a pretty busy six months for The Might Kids Beatbox comedy show. We are in talks to see if we can develop it into a TV show.
I have got a podcast called Three Foreigners Walk into a Bar which is on Union Jack radio and then I am doing stand up all over the palace. Hobbit is doing beatbox shows all over the world with his group the Beatbox collective.
Now I am not a natural speaker and find it easier to hide behind a screen typing than being in front of one or even speaking in person. However when I was asked to be on the show it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. I accepted the offer straight away.
I have to admit from when I accepted the offer until last night when I stepped into that studio I have been so on edge and nerves were seeping in. On the way to the studio my heart was pumping so fast with anxiety and nerves it felt like it was going to pop out of my chest. I had to give myself a stern pep talk in the car to try and relax a bit and stop worrying before going inside.
In the waiting room I was sat listening to Charlie live on the radio interview someone else feeling the butterflies in my tummy start swirling. I was texting Dino saying how nervous I was and he was trying to reassure me I would be fine.
Once I walked into the studio and met with Charlie I felt so much better he was so nice and friendly. As soon as we began talking I relaxed completely and started to feel a bit more confident. It is amazing how quickly fear and anxiety can disappear when you take on those fears.
Charlie was very easy to talk to and genuinely interested in finding out more about me, my blog and children’s books, being interview on BBC radio turned out to be an enjoyable experience.
In the end the interview went really well, I was able to answer all the questions without hesitating or mumbling and got to promote both my blog and my children’s books to the radio audience.
I was on such a high afterwards and buzzing from the experience. I am so glad that I accepted the invitation and pushed through the anxiety to show up and talk on the radio. The accomplishment of being interviewed over the radio will stay with me for a long time, it is an amazing achievement that I am so thank full for the opportunity.
“Everything you have ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear”. George Addair
I am honoured to be interviewing the inspirational Katie Silverthorne who is a best selling author and also the owner of a thriving business called Memory Zoo.
I have read Katie’s story a few times now from the bestselling book Mumpreneur on Fire 4 and every time I have read it I am blown away by how determined and positive she is in the face of suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. In spite of her health she has built up her business Memory Zoo where she turns old baby clothes or clothes from someone that has passed away in to beautiful handmade keepsakes. Her business has gone from strength to strength and she now employees 3 other seamstresses to help with the demand.
Tell us a bit about you?
I am originally from London but now live outside Bristol. I am married with one child and a lovely big dog. I love to sew, knit, crochet, write and generally create anything and everything. The whole family is very creative, and we have a lot of fun making terrible messes!
I also love walking – especially in woodlands or up in the hills. I find it soothing, relaxing, stimulating and enlightening all at the same time. It’s complete nourishment for the soul.
What inspired you to start making Memory Bears?
Initially, I made a bear for my daughter when she was 1-years-old. I was folding away all her baby clothes and putting them into a box in the attic. I couldn’t bear to see them disappear forever and never be seen again, so I made a memory bear to remember her baby days.
What is your favourite part of your business?
My favourite part is training my seamstresses – I am so incredibly proud of them and the work they do. They really are brilliant! I also love creating something for my customers that I know they are going to absolutely love. It’s such a thrill to see so many of the items I have made, so loved. I am particularly fond of the cushions that I make in honour of someone who has passed away – it’s such a privilege to be entrusted with something so special.
How do you manage your MS around your business and motherhood?
I’ve had MS for 15 years now, but I am continually learning and developing. My needs have changed over the years and so has my approach to dealing with it. To start with, I have realised that alcohol, sugar, late nights and stress play a role in how ‘bad’ my MS becomes at any given time. I am therefore careful about my diet and often say ‘no’ to late nights. This means that I have the energy to do the things that are genuinely important to me – going for fun days out with my daughter, planning and creating new ideas for Memory Zoo, walking with the family.
I also have acupuncture twice a month to help deal with MS-related pain and fatigue. Oh, and never underestimate the importance of planning! Life is a balancing act but so is everyone’s. I just have a susceptible early warning system!
How did you feel when the book you co authored Mumpreneur on Fire 4 became a bestseller?
It was truly fabulous. I had never really talked about my MS before I wrote for MOF4, but now that I’ve started talking about it, I can’t stop! It seems to be so helpful to so many people, and I am so grateful that something that has shaped my life and made it a somewhat rocky journey can be an inspiration to others. That’s a fantastic feeling!
What plans do you have for the future?
So many plans! The first part of this year has been about making sure that the new systems I’ve been putting in place for Memory Zoo work and my seamstresses are trained, happy ans ready to go. I am currently narrating the audiobook version of MOF4 in my home studio which will be due out for release in the next few months. I have more audiobook work following after this as well, which is very exciting. I am also currently writing my full autobiography as 3000 words for the MOF4 chapter wasn’t really enough. There is so much more to say!
I am privileged to be interviewing the lovely Catherine Greer from Somerset who runs her own business called Cats Creation, where she makes the most amazing arm and hand knitted items as well as stone art decorations. She also runs classes to teach others how to arm knit and does all of this around her young son.
Tell us a bit about you?
I always loved making things at school and was often the only girl in the woodwork classes. This didn’t put me off though and I was often much better than the boys.
I wasn’t sure what to do after sixth form so I went to college to study my other love, horses. I spent three years studying equine studies and completed a animal science degree at Plymouth university.
After uni I still wasn’t sure which direction to go in so I ended up driving HGV lorries for a international horse transport company based in Wiltshire. I spent a year on the road, attending races, stud farms and equine events all over the UK and Europe. This took its toll on me so I left. Skipping ahead a few years I decided to apply and join Hampshire Constabulary as a PCSO. I worked here for four years and loved it but I really missed being in the country and wanted my life to slow down a bit. Working shifts meant that if I wasn’t working I was sleeping. I decided with my now husband that I wanted to move back to Somerset and live the ‘good’ life! We bought a house, renovated it and now live in it. We try and produce all our own vegetables in our garden and recently got some chickens. I love taking part in the local flower and vegetable shows with our produce and have sometimes brought home some metal.
I’m very keen to show my son how to grow his own vegetables and would love to see more people growing their own too. You can follow all my adventures on my Facebook page.
What inspired you to get into making hand knitted items and what made you decide to start a business selling them?
I got into arm knitting after trying to use knitting needles once. I got very frustrated with how long it took to make anything so I googled how to knit quickly (or something similar) and up popped a video demonstrating arm knitting. Let’s just say the rest is history! That was 6 years ago!
I’d always been involved in my friends Christmas fair and every year I used to find a product to make for it. One year I took snoods and sold out on the first day. This gave me the fuel to think I could make more and sell them properly.
If you had to pick one what would you say your favourite item you make is?
Snoods are definitely my favourite items to make. Even though I now make hundreds every year I still get great pleasure in knitting them and seeing people enjoy wearing them. I get very excited when I find a new wool too.
Don’t get me wrong I love knitting the luxury giant blankets and cushions too but snoods hold a special place in my heart.
Where do you get the inspiration from for new creations?
Most of the things I’ve ever made, I’ve made them because I either couldn’t find them on the market to buy or I couldn’t afford to buy them, So I’ve often just given them a go. Sometimes my mind gets a bit carried away with ideas but I love experimenting with different materials and products to see what happens.
Where do you want to see your business in the future?
I’ve only recently gone self employed and taken my business on full time. I would love to be able to continue to work from home to fit in around my son. In the future I would like to see my items and products in more shops across the country. I want to keep the handmade feel to my items so I want to keep sales at a manageable level without sourcing more staff. Hopefully I can achieve this and maintain it.
How do you manage your business around your son?
Up until recently I’ve only managed to work when my husband is around to look after our son or when my son is asleep in the evenings. He’s never allowed me to work during the day when it’s just the two of us so I gave up trying. I would spend the few hours in the evening knitting as much as I can whilst also promoting my items on social media. He has now started nursery a couple times a week so I’m using these periods to spend quality time in the HQ producing stock and completing orders.
Catherine is offering all readers a 10% discount on her products if you buy via herFacebook page using code simple1.
You can find Catherine’s beautiful handmade products by using the below links –
He is here to share with you an insight into children’s book publishing and how Blue Falcon Publishing can help authors get their children’s stories out into the world.
Tell us a bit about you and how you got started in the children’s publishing industry?
“My desire to write is very much rooted in my love of reading and writing a book is something that had been on ‘life’s list’ for many years!
Wanting to pass this love of books onto my children, I started to play with the idea of writing a children’s story. After completing a writing course, and after much coffee drinking and many screwed up pieces of A4, Escape from Nettle Farm (in its first incarnation) was complete! It then went through many painful re-writes and edits to get to the stage where I was ready to say, ‘Finished!’
I wanted to write something that would be fun and exciting for parents to read to children, or for children to read independently. I was delighted with the feedback – Escape from Nettle Farm was a finalist in the 2017 People’s Book Prize and received the Red Ribbon Award in the 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Awards. It was also reviewed by American magazine Story Monsters Inc – ‘Written well, and paced perfectly to keep young readers engaged.’
I had more books to share with the world, but my publishing experience hadn’t been brilliant. I wanted a publisher who gave a fair deal for the author (lower prices, good royalty rates, advertising post publication, etc.) I couldn’t find one, so I created one!
I published my second book through Blue Falcon – My Bunny, a rhyming picture book that was a finalist in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Awards. The process was so much better, and I decided I wanted to help other authors on their journey. I have since appointed a marketing director and we are currently working with 5 other authors. I have also just released Spy Danger, the second in the series to Escape from Nettle Farm – all since March this year!”
Can you tell us a bit more about Blue Falcon Publishing?
“Blue Falcon Publishing are a small, independent company based in Northamptonshire whose focus is the publishing of children’s fiction books to encourage precious family time reading. We are passionate about bringing together enchanting stories with phenomenal illustrations to inspire imaginations and encourage a love of books that will last a lifetime!”
What is the difference between Blue Falcon Publishing and traditional publishing and what can you offer authors?
“Our vision for the company is to give our authors the best possible experience. We offer contracts on a partnership basis, which means we occupy the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Put simply, the main difference between us and a traditional publishers is that as the author, you bear some of the financial risk of publishing your book. The reward for this is a fast, effective and professional service with very generous royalty shares – far higher than you would enjoy with a traditional publishing contract.”
What makes Blue Falcon Publishing stand out from other children’s publishers?
“We are working hard to build an exceptional brand reputation, and we take customer service very seriously. We believe that a satisfied customer is the best business plan of all, so we want our clients to be delighted with their experience. Another aspect of this is the quality of our books. We are selective about what we publish. We are not a self-publisher, and we seek reward and recognition for each title we take to print. To work with you we need to believe in your manuscript as much as you do.”
What are you looking for in the authors that come to you?
“We are looking for talented, self-motivated children’s authors who are ready to invest in their own success and make their dreams of becoming a published author a reality. If you think you have what it takes, you can find lots of information at www.bluefalconpublishing.co.uk or alternatively, email us at email@example.com.”
What I have received from my service with Blue Falcon Publishing
The service and knowledge that I received from Blue Falcon Publishing was well worth the fee they charged. They have been amazing from start to finish helping me every step of the way and have always been on hand to ask any questions that I had. They also arranged for the very talented Stephanie Jayne to do the wonderful illustrations for my book ‘Pete the Cheeky Parakeet’.
Their service hasn’t stopped there either since my book was published in October they still keep me up-to-date on the sales process of my book and what they have been doing behind the scenes to help promote it. They have also been on hand to help me with marketing ideas and to contact local schools and shops on my behalf if needed.
Why not take a look at my other posts on inspirational people –