Spotlight on Spouses – Willow Hearne
Business Name: (Owner) British Babies
What is your career background?
I was working full time in the NHS as a Pharmacy Business Analyst before starting our family. It unfortunately wasn’t something I could continue with thanks to my husbands impending posting. Prior to working in the NHS I was a Business Manager at an independent bridal and womenswear boutique.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was part of a networking group in one of our previous patches and I had a desire to have my own online retail business. It had to cope with postings across the country, but that was as far as my plans had got. They were such a fantastic group of supportive, knowledgeable women that helped me formulate my ideas and plans into reality. Having a young family made it an easy transition from previously working in the wedding industry to children’s wear.
How did you move from the idea to the actual business?
I attended various trade shows, visited potential suppliers, conducted market research and spoke to as many different people as possible to gain as much information and feedback as I could. I went through X-Forces to get my business loan and they were a great source of help with producing my detailed business plan and cash flow forecasts. Then the funding came through and the manufacturing commenced!
How do you spread the word about what you do?
Social media is the biggest part of our marketing. Being an online visual business, it’s really important to have a strong social media presence and finding the right influencers are also key. Customer reviews and repeat custom are also really valuable to us.
As a Military spouse, what has been your biggest obstacle when trying to balance work/ kids/ your spouses military commitments?
I had my third baby 3 months after British Babies went live and then we moved house 12 days after that. That particular posting was also only 9 months long, so we moved again within that year. The juggle of moving house twice with children in tow and my eldest starting school was really difficult and essentially I had no option but to slow things down with my business. I had a low key 12 months slowly building the brand and now having settled into our next posting, I can really begin focusing on my business again.
What has been your proudest moment?
I have recently been selected as one of Sage’s Power 50 companies supporting military veterans and spouses as part of their sponsorship for the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney. That and getting orders through — every time I get one I feel very proud that someone has chosen one of my designs to buy.
Why is work so important for you?
Having my own independence as a military spouse means a lot me. I hate being referred to as a ‘dependant’ and how your career as a spouse seems to be placed second to the military. I wanted to stay in employment or self-employment to keep some continuity of my own learning and experience. It is very easy to lose your own self-worth and confidence when out of the workplace for a while and with frequent moves. It can be really demotivating so creating something for myself that could move around with me seemed better than being unemployed!
What advice would you give fellow Military spouses who want to start their own business?
Do lots of research and speak to as many people as possible. You can never have done too much research when looking at prospective markets, target customers, business plans etc. Networking, especially in the military community is key. Most patches have so many other spouses who either are or want to be self-employed so don’t be afraid to meet up with them for a coffee and get those ideas flowing. When you start looking, there are many other spouses in the same boat across the country and the internet is a very powerful way for us all to connect with an underlying understanding about what it is like to be a military spouse.