How I make it work …..the mum who owns her own business

Meghna Patel, Director of Mahi Naturals

This week’s interview is with Meghna Patel, Director of Mahi Naturals — a distribution business importing and selling natural products. Meghna tells us about the challenges of running your own company around young children and the importance of having a good support network around you.

  1. Tell us about yourself and your family

I previously worked for Vitabiotics where I did the brand management and media buying. After 7 years I wanted a new challenge and bought a small distribution business importing and selling natural products. I have been running my own business for 6 years and work from home. I have two boys aged 3 and 5yrs who are at nursery full time and school respectively. My husband is a management accountant for an investment bank.

2. What work do you do?

I import natural skincare and personal care products from Australia and USA and distribute to retailers and wholesalers in the UK including Wholefoods, Planet Organic, QVC and Amazon. More recently we are starting to export to Europe and Asia too. Our ranges include Hope’s Relief — natural skincare for Eczema, BodyVerde — Vegan skincare and Woobamboo — eco-friendly oral care products.

3. What is the best thing about your current situation?

I can work around my family and have flexible hours. It is great to be able to drop and collect my children without worrying about being late/rushed for a job or having to dress smart! During the holidays I can easily take days off when needed for museum trips etc which is lovely. As my office is at home I can also catch up in the evenings when needed although I try not to work too many evening to have time to switch off and maintain some sort of work life balance (see below)

4. What is the hardest thing?

Knowing when and how to switch off! Until last year I was working until 11pm every night and not getting any real break from work. As my main supplier is in Australia I would end up waiting until they had logged on to get responses to emails which meant going to sleep late. I would be in bed checking emails and check them again first thing in the morning which was a bad habit. Holidays are not the same as I still need to do some work each day. We are currently a team of 4 and hopefully as this grows I can fully hand things over when away.

The first years of having both children were tough as I was trying to work around feeding and looking after my babies and all whilst sleep deprived. With my second son I was on 2 months hospital bedrest so I had to set up a mini office in the hospital with all my files and papers etc which was interesting!

5. How do you make it work?

I am incredibly lucky to have a very supportive and hands on family who I can rely on to help whenever needed with childcare, cooking meals, errands etc. The business would not have been possible without their involvement and encouragement.

6. What advice or tips would you give to someone else in a similar situation?

Before you embark try and ensure you have a good support network to help out when needed and that you can rely on. It will make juggling meetings, work trips and when children are off nursery/school with sickness much easier. If possible having a mentor or sounding board for the business really helps as day to day you will be so involved with every minute detail of the business, it is easy to forget to periodically take a step back and analyse the business, objectives, vision etc.

Make a conscious effort to keep some time each day for yourself and a break from work otherwise you can end up stressed out and unpopular with your family!

Thank you so much Meghna.

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