We go behind the business with Kate of Moozle teepees.
Tell us a little about your business.
I'm Kate, the designer of Moozle teepees. I started my business several years ago, but then stopped when I moved to Amsterdam to concentrate on being a mum to my little girl whilst living here for a year. Well, we've been here five years now and one little boy later and we have no plans on moving back 'home' to Wales in the immediate future. I started my Moozle business again from here in Amsterdam and have been busy designing and making ever since. I have a background in fashion and textiles design, so working with fabric and colour is my 'thing'. I made the first teepee as a surprise for my then 8-month-old daughter and just kept on making them. I'm happy that they seem so popular with families around the world; the power of the internet is astounding, in many different ways.
Describe a typical working day.
I work from home and plan my time around school runs, ballet classes (not for me!), swimming lessons, play dates, sunny days and everything else. It is a juggling act that somehow manages to work, most of the time. My usual day consists of the school run at 8.15, drop off Dolly (my 6-year-old daughter) at her class - she goes to a Dutch local school - at 8.25 and then (except Wednesday) take Dex (my son, nearly 3 years old) down to the voorschool. I do all of the school runs come rain or shine (not to mention snow and ice!) on our bakfiets. I actually love that I don't have the expense of running a car here, I feel like I have more freedom on a bike and it's one of the things I like most about living in the Netherlands. Luckily, I have a friend whose daughter is in the same class so as we both work from home we do alternate pick-up days. Two days a week I get to work until 11.45 a.m. and two days until 1.45 p.m. I usually take teepees that I packed up the night before to the post office on my way home, then at home I check emails, print out orders, answer enquiries and start sewing. It often feels like a race against time to pick the kids up - I always seem to be running late and I'll often put the kettle on for a cup of tea mid-morning but don't get around to making it! When the kids are home after school sometimes they are happy to play for a while so I can carry on working (my work space is in the main part of the house so I'm right there if they need me) for an hour or so before dragging them outside to play before it's time for dinner. Once they are in bed and we've had our dinner it's often 9 p.m. before I can get to work pressing and packing teepees ready to post in the morning. Den will sand wood and get the poles ready into sets for the tents. My mum and stepdad also help with the wooden poles by cutting and drilling them ready and sending them in batches for us to finish off here. A lot of work goes into each teepee. I have a few friends who like to come for a coffee morning once every couple of weeks and we'll sit around my table chatting and cutting out fabric appliques for a couple of hours. It's a fantastic help for me and I make sure I have the nuts and chocolate in! We actually have really good catch-up time when we do this; there's something about being busy with your hands that makes the conversation flow freely.
How do you manage childcare?
I fit work in around school and extracurricular activities but I am looking for the right person who can come and help me regularly with childcare and some teepee work. It would be great to have some help and also to widen the kids' network of carers. I feel that they are missing out by not having grandmas and aunties, uncles and cousins nearby. Both of my kids are very clingy and dependent on me. I do question whether we are doing the right thing by bringing up our kids away from the rest of our families. I also have concerns about education here, mainly due to my terrible Dutch and not being able to help them later on. But overall it's a fantastic opportunity for all of us and it just feels 'right' at the moment.
How do you balance work commitments with family time?
Family comes first. However, they probably would disagree with this as I seem to be working too much. Because I work at home, it is hard to switch off sometimes; there's always something I should or could be doing. I try not to work on Friday evenings and have at least one day at the weekend to do family stuff together, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. When the orders pile up and Den is home from work to spend time with the kids, it's often the only time I have to crack on with making the teepees.
What do you like best about running your own business?
I love what I do. I love that I can work from home and also be there for the kids. It can certainly be frustrating and working on your own isn't for everyone, but for me it feels right. I have a Dutch accountant/legal company to deal with all of my tax issues, but other than that I'm responsible for how I plan my time, my finances, my design decisions and my business direction. I would like some advice on growing my business and find it challenging to source certain things here with everything being in a foreign language, but there are challenges wherever you live.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
How do you find time for yourself and what do you like to do with that time?
I love to get out on my bike, go to a market or just cycle around the city taking photos or Instagram pics. I just wish I had more time to do it! I try to do a yoga or Pilates class once a week (I sit down at my desk on the sewing machine or the computer and stand ironing teepees in the evening, so I get a bad back if I don't make time to stretch). There really isn't time for much else!
Where does your support come from? Do you have a business mamas network?
I have a great family and friends. My friend Beth, who I knew from university in London, just happened to live nearby when we moved to Watergraafesmere. She recently set up her own label of homewares and accessories and we often brainstorm about design, web selling, marketing, sourcing etc. It is great to have like-minded friends to throw ideas around with - I'd like to do it more often. I think I need a design business mamas network!
What is the most important piece of advice you would pass on to a parent planning to start their own business?
Start slowly. Do something you love. Don't start your business and expect to be able to support yourself financially straight away, especially if it is a web-based business. It takes time to get a web presence. Do your market research and if you are setting up a design-based business be original - it is the ONLY way to stand out and create a niche for yourself.
Photo credit: Kate Clarkson