Where on earth does the time go?
As the Co-Founders of Digital Mums we can not believe how fast the last five years has gone and, more importantly, just how far we have come!
It’s because we’ve hit our 5 year birthday that we have been doing a lot of reflecting over the past few weeks and we have a big announcement to make. Major changes are afoot at Digital Mums but before we let you know what’s happening we’d like to take you through the headlines of our journey to date. It’s been an incredible one.
It feels like yesterday that we were registering digitalmums.com with GoDaddy and Companies House. We quit our day jobs and took that leap of faith into the entrepreneurial world filled with optimism. And by January 2014 we were working at our kitchen tables and running the first ever pilot of the Digital Mums vocational training.
For those of you that don’t know how Digital Mums came about, we started with a problem to solve. That problem was the digital skills gap. We read that by 2020 the digital skills gap would cost the UK economy an estimated £63 billion (no joke). We thought we could be part of the solution.
Our original idea was to support small businesses in Hackney with their digital skills gap by helping them with digital marketing. However, we soon realised that we could only help a small number of them. We realised if we were going to make a big impact on the thousands of other small businesses across the UK that we needed an army to help us.
And then it clicked. We knew that mums needed a more flexible way of working as maternal unemployment was at a 25 year high. We also knew that technology had made flexible work possible, by allowing us to be connected wherever we were, at any time.
We realised the army we needed was mums. If we could help them create flexible careers for themselves, they could then help businesses with their digital skills. So, on 13 October 2013, Digital Mums was born. We knew what we had to do and so began our mission - and the launch of our #WorkThatWorks Movement - to help as many mums as possible to find work that works for them.
As entrepreneurs, we set our sights high. This business wasn’t just about making money, it was about changing people's lives. So with the help of the Big Issue Invest and Big Venture Challenge we set up a Social Enterprise and Bursary Fund.
We designed an online vocational course to train mothers to be Social Media Managers and get them ‘job ready’. No one had ever attempted this before. We were the first! And we wanted to measure our success based on graduates finding jobs, not just on them passing our course.
We haven’t been able to find any other training providers that deliver vocational training 100% online for such a fast-paced digital career. We only know of one other organisation that has attempted to do this type of training online and they gave up after their first attempt (we’re definitely not judging, it’s tough!). This meant that there was no one we could learn from. We had to test everything out ourselves and continue to test until we figured it out. Five years later, we are still doing that
We definitely didn’t get it right in the beginning, but as entrepreneurs, we were optimistic. Some might say idealistic :) But that’s an important trait for an entrepreneur as any negative doubts might put most people off setting up a business and taking on such an enormous challenge.
A timeline of Digital Mums training
The first product we designed, now known as the Advanced Diploma in Social Media Marketing, was launched in September 2014 where students work with a real business. We imagined that this would work for all mums.
Total students trained by end of year: 35
We realised that our Advanced Diploma worked really well for those with a relevant background in marketing/communications/media but for others it was too challenging. Learning a completely new skill set and handling a live business at the same time wasn’t for everyone. So we went back to the drawing board to design a vocational training product that didn’t include the real business element. One that any mum with any background could succeed in.
Total students trained by end of year: 255
We were really excited to launch our new six month Diploma in Social Media Management Course in 2016, designed specifically for all mums from all backgrounds.
To aid our mission to help as many mums as possible find work that works for them, the Course was designed to be as affordable as possible and to reach so many more mothers than the Advanced Diploma. We had big plans for this product.
Total students trained by end of year: 580
This year we ran our Diploma in Social Media Manager Course and it worked amazingly well for some students but others found that they needed more individual 1:1 feedback and support. We take feedback really seriously at Digital Mums and as a result we added additional 1:1 feedback in written and face to face formats. This naturally had implications on the overall business delivery costs and so we increased the price to cover these extra staff costs.
Total students trained by end of year: 1,280
To date we are so proud of the Advanced Diploma and Diploma in Social Media Marketing Course. We have continued to make improvements based on customer feedback, for example introducing live lessons with external experts.
Total students trained by end of year: 1,500+ (and counting!)
Results and success
Despite the challenges that delivering such a pioneering product throws up, from the perspectives of our customer our Diploma in Social Media Management Course does everything we hoped it would.
Our latest customer satisfaction survey shows that:
- Our graduates strongly agree that they are more employable as a result of completing the course (9/10) and that they feel ready to apply their skills as a Social Media Manager, (8.5/10) which at the end of the day is what our training is all about.
- Our graduates rate their overall satisfaction with the training as 8.5/10
- 4 in 5 of our graduate pool go on to find rewarding work that works for them
- 92% of our students complete the training, which is pretty incredible when you consider that the average online training course has an average of 5-13% completion rate!
Our graduates have gone on to work in big brands, agencies, startups, media companies, public speaking, run their own workshops, set up their own consultancies, set up their own agencies and many have won awards for their groundbreaking work and campaigns. The businesses that hire our graduates know that they are getting extremely high quality candidates. We've been told by some that Digital Mums go for interviews, their CVs are instantly moved to the top of the pile. One client even said that when they heard the candidate was a Digital Mum they didn’t even need to interview her - she was just offered the job on the spot!
This is because our graduates are all self-starters and experts who have undergone over 350 hours worth of intensive training, while juggling work and family life. They stand out from other the candidates in the market. Even our competitors have been known to hire them. And why not, they are the best!
A time to reflect
We are so proud of what we have achieved in the last five years. We've built a huge community of talented female entrepreneurs who support each other on a daily basis via the DM Collective. These women inspire and motivate us to keep working at it every single day. Hundreds of women have been able to change their lives and the lives of their families by creating flexible careers for themselves.
It seems rather fitting that as we reach our five year anniversary, we take a moment to reflect on where we have come from, what we have achieved and what the future holds for Digital Mums.
We have gone back to our mission, our values and our original ambition of supporting all mothers. And we have some concerns.
Our social media vocational training is incredible value for money, particularly when you consider it costs £9K to train as a Teacher, £8K to train to become a Programmer and that it includes a whopping 350 hours of CPD points. However, we know that the cost puts the learning opportunity beyond the budget of many families in the UK as it stands.
What we have learnt over the last few years is that vocational training can’t be done on the cheap. It’s just not possible. It involves a complex delivery model with a large team of people. And the fact that social media changes so frequently there are big costs associated with keeping the content up to date as well.
At the moment, every single penny that we make from the Diploma in Social Media Management Course is spent on the large team that is required to deliver and develop it. This is very risky for a business, particularly a small, young business like Digital Mums. So what this means is that for this course to be viable we would need to increase the price.
However, this would exclude even more mothers from studying with us. Kathryn and I come from working class roots and our mothers were cleaners. We didn’t set up Digital Mums to support affluent mothers only.
When we first set up Digital Mums our ambitious mission was to develop an army of modern workers equipped with the digital skills needed by businesses to adapt to the changing working world. We wanted to transform the lives of millions of working mums and we wanted to see a digital mum in every business across the UK.
If we continue as we are, we will only be able to reach a select number of women and it. Yet our mission was always to transform the lives of millions of mums.
So we have a big announcement.
So what does this mean for our existing vocational courses?
It is with deep regret that we have to suspend our Diploma in Social Media Management Course from February 2019. We will no longer offer the opportunity to do this course because despite the fact that it is incredibly successful from a customer perspective it simply does not work for us as a business at this moment in time.
For all those signed up to train with us in November or January, it's business as usual. We'll still be delivering the Diploma in Social Media Management Course to the same high standards as we always do.
It could have been easy to just carry on as we are, but as social entrepreneurs with a big mission, we need to make sure we're achieving the mission we set out to accomplish whilst building a sustainable business.
The Advanced Diploma (our first born) will continue as it is so there is no change there. It’s just back to the drawing board on an accessible social media training course that will hopefully be able to benefit a wider range of mothers.
Due to the fact that we are removing this product from our suite, unfortunately, we have had to reduce the size of our team. This means saying goodbye to some amazing team members that have joined us on our crazy rollercoaster journey over the last 5 years. We have learnt so much and have built an amazing team who believe in our mission and have made Digital Mums what it is today. So to all of them today, we say thank you for believing in us and supporting us on our journey.
And a big thank you to our students past and present too. Our aim is to develop a kick-ass social media course that is affordable, but that still teaches social media in an engaging and innovative way. However, this will not be vocational so will not have the same practical/hands-on feel because as we’ve discussed above it’s simply not possible to deliver vocational training on a budget.
Don’t forget that we also have the Digital Retox, which is very much up and running. Based on past student feedback, we’ve made a few changes to the design, which you can read more about here.