Welcome to the first in our What Happened Next blogs where we hear from Digital Mums at least one year after they have completed our training as they share their work life stories so far.
First up is Victoria Kearney, 43, from Walthamstow, East London. She is married to Paul, 40, an electrician and they have a six year old year old son called Frank. She was one of our very first Digital Mums and here she tells us her story so far...
Work life before Digital Mums
Work was always a big part of my identity, and after studying Fashion at Central St Martins I went on to work for many years internationally both in wholesale and as a buyer for a variety of luxury brands. Commuting was often a plane to New York, and I loved the buzz of operating globally and out of various London fashion houses. I thrived on the work but was often exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed - most definitely parallels my child rearing experience!
Having a family wasn’t remotely on the radar, but after meeting and marrying my lovely husband it seemed a natural progression. When Frank came along we felt we were complete.
I started a new three day a week job when he was seven months old with a UK based loungewear designer, which despite a commute to West London suited us well. Unfortunately, I was made redundant three years later when the business closed.
With an almost total lack of decently-paid permanent part-time work in the fashion industry, I decided to take control of my employment and do freelance wholesale … which was what can only be described as feast or famine thanks to its seasonal nature! Childcare became beyond difficult and I was starting to lose confidence.
My lightbulb moment
Walthamstow has an amazing and active online community and is particularly supportive of local families. In March 2014 I spotted a recommendation on a Facebook parents page by a local mum, Kathryn Dyer, to check out a trial social media course which offered the possibility of flexible employment. I was one of the original pilot Digital Mums! My wholesale work had hit its leanest levels, and I just thought why not. I’d learned how to be a Mum, why not up-skill in other areas? Frank was also about to start school and I worried how I would manage to fit in his needs. This sounded like an opportunity to take back control and give myself a skills update.
Life since graduation
After I graduated in September 2014 I was introduced to a local property business, the Stow Brothers. Another Digital Mum had done a terrific job setting up four social media channels but then went on maternity leave, so I landed the job of running their social media on 12 hours a week. This fitted in well with my ever-decreasing fashion wholesale work. Then as I felt braver I took on a couple of other social media clients including a food pop-up, a childrenswear business and a designer lingerie brand.
My confidence went from strength to strength and within six months I started to run social media training workshops, which were both fantastically terrifying and lucrative! I had become #supersocialmum BUT my work life balance was all getting out of kilter.
As I didn't want to miss out on opportunities, I was saying yes to absolutely everything. I loved the work but something had to give. Stow Brothers was still very much my primary client and I especially loved the work I was doing with them. We sat down talking and they came up with a brand new and flexible role for me as their Marketing Manger. I now do 12 hours social media, 12 hours marketing for them and no one else.
I work the equivalent of three days a week, two fixed mornings in the Stow Brothers' office (a 10 minute walk to work after the school run – result!) and the rest at home flexibly. Amazingly, I have no need for childcare as I can do it all in school hours and the odd evening. I’m there for Frank's drop-off and pick-up and I’ve never had to miss sports day, parents evening, nativity, any of it!
With a sole client my balance has been officially restored. And although my territory has effectively shrunk from worldwide to Walthamstow I love it! They are an inspirational young company and team who not only deal in property but also actively support community ventures, charities and fundraisers in the locality, all with the most brilliantly positive attitude.
Currently I’m working on the Walthamstow Garden Party, a festival linked with the Barbican – we’re one of the main sponsors. It’s such an exciting project to be part of. I'm also working on a a fundraiser gig with 808 State, an Olympic themed street party, crowdfunding for an art project with the William Morris Gallery and a bike tour of the local murals. It’s all very varied and huge fun.
Being a local parent has been a massive positive for my position, I’m totally connected to my area so I’ve found marketing a Walthamstow business an easy progression. Exemplary time-juggler too, what mum isn’t?
Before the Digital Mums course I’d barely touched anything other than Facebook, but it completely opened my eyes to the big new world of social media and how it could help connect and market smaller businesses effectively. It felt exciting, fresh, and progressive. The course and the brilliant women I met along the way totally boosted my confidence and inspired me to fearlessly look outside of my usual career.
Why I have #workthatworks
Apart from school holiday clubs I have no childcare costs, and I’m there as Mum whenever I need to be. It’s marvellous. I never dreamed I could find that balance when I think of my former crazy career. I do miss the buzz of fashion but I certainly don’t miss the travel and tiredness.
I’m so pleased that I’m relevant and that my new social media and marketing skills have earned me a job I enjoy whilst not having to compromise on being an available mum and wife.
I’m really excited to see where the fantastic Stow Brothers go as a company and that I’m along for the ride.
So my post-Digital Mums life is not so much a happy ending but more an exciting future. And one that’s a perfect flexible fit for my life.