recommended family holidays blog

mothers in business - recommended family holidays

Name, Age (optional), Job Title, Where you live
Mrs Lucilla Paull, aged 38, director of Recommended Family Holidays, live in Northamptonshire
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Lucilla Paull, married to James and I am a mum of 2 boys, William and Ben aged 5 and 7.
Briefly describe your business.
Recommended Family Holidays is a website based business that advertises family friendly holiday cottages in France, UK & Ireland, villas in Cyprus, ski holiday accommodation and worldwide luxury hotels that are ideal for families.  All of my holiday properties have family friendly features such as swimming pools, playground, kids clubs, babysitting, early dinners for kids in catered properties and dishwashers/washing machines in self catered properties.  We also specialize in holidays that are recommended by other mums and dads who have already been there and experienced them – some of the best holidays I have been on have been those recommended by others.
What were you doing before you started this and what made you decide to go into your current business?
I used to work advising on the accounting treatment in derivatives in various investment banking, treasury divisions in the City of London, New York and various other locations across the world.  It was a highly technical job that I could mainly work from home for but occasionally had to travel to my clients.  Sadly I recently became disabled and as a result I could no longer travel to my clients so had to think of something else to do that allowed me to work from home, work when I was well enough and something that would fit around the children.  So, I set up – a completely new challenge.  I didn’t know how to build or maintain a website or anything about advertising and marketing – the only thing I could do was the accounting!  It has been a very steep learning curve.
How long have you been doing it?
I set up the business 2 years ago, about 3 months after my initial idea.  I had the idea whilst sitting around the pool on our summer holiday in France sipping a beer.  In the car on the way home, I designed the structure of the website on the back of a scrap piece of paper, wrote down loads of ideas and when I got home I started learning how to go about implementing my ideas.
How does it fit in with family life?
The business fits around both the kids and my disability perfectly.  I am lucky to be able to take the kids to school and pick them up every day.  If they are poorly, or it is the holidays, as I work from home it is not a massive problem.  During the school holidays I tend to wake up early and do my work in bed before they get up and then pick up the computer again at the end of  the day when my husband gets home from work.  The invention of a Blackberry was perfect – yes, it probably means you never get away from work, but I see it as allowing me the flexibility to do other things – I check my emails regularly so if there is a problem I can fix it pretty quickly.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
Everything!  I didn’t know how to do any of it and I am still learning! 
What are the best bits about working for yourself?
The best bit is the flexibility.  Some days I do a full day’s work and also into the evening, other days I might answer one of two emails on my Blackberry.  I used to run around like a lunatic trying to juggle home, work and the kids – regularly working through the night on very tight deadlines and playing time zones – New York at night, Australia and Hong Kong in the early hours and London during our working day.  There were never enough hours during the day and I felt like I was missing out on the kids
What are the worse bits about working for yourself?
One of the hardest things is the isolation – it is difficult not to be able to bounce ideas off other people, or if you hit a problem, it is hard finding anyone to help.  Joining online network groups of other mums in business can be useful – they know what it is like juggling everything but finding someone in the same business as you for advice is hard. And of course, the money – income is not guaranteed and when you set up a new business, you have to expect to not make a profit for at least 3 years.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time / plans for the future?
I have just launched and  The key to my business is volume of quality holiday properties on the website and this will be target over the next 5 years.  In the short term, now that I have a steady, strong number of visitors to the website – around 8-10,000 unique visitors per month – I am looking for someone to help me with bringing in advertising income – an area of business that I know nothing about.  So, if you are a mum who previously had a career in PR or advertising, can work on a generous commission only basis and are looking for some work that will fit around your children then please give me a shout!  As a sideline in order to supplement my income, I am also going to start designing and implementing websites for other people – I have had to learn how to do this myself and how to get the website listed high up on search engines like Google.  Initially I am planning to offer my services to local charities so that I can gain more experience and help a good cause all at the same time, however eventually I hope that this will also offer me another avenue to use my skills, allow flexible working around the children and at the same time supplementing the family income and keep my brain working!
What advice would you give to other parents wanting to set up in business?
To set up your own business you have to be highly motivated – it is really hard work!  Draw up a plan for your business and then pass your ideas by your friends to see if they think the idea will work – choose honest friends as you really need their feedback!  Get as much advise as you can before you invest significant time and money.  Identify where your strengths and weaknesses are – where are you most likely to need help and who do you know who might be able to help you.  Be realistic with your goals and timelines for setting up the business and also your targets on profit – my dad used to say to me if you gather enough information around you, the decision on whether or not to do something will make itself.
Top tip for a good work/life balance?
At the beginning of each week, I put together a plan of action for that week – what I need to achieve, what I would like to achieve and then I largely stick to it.  When you run your own business there is a tendency just to work, work, work but if you have a plan based on working just when the kids are at school then you tend to get the balance about right. 
Favourite place to take the children (locally)
My kids love swimming, nothing fancy like flumes or anything, we just take a ball, a couple of dive sticks and off we go.
Article By Lucilla Paull

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