Life after redundancy: how Digital Mums helped me start my own business

2016 has got a bad rep but for me it will be remembered for the birth of my second child — and as the year I decided to jump off a cliff.

This time 12 months ago I was heavily pregnant, contemplating what a second child would do to my finances and trying to work out how to fit the school run in around a job which ran 24/7. Going on maternity is stepping into the void work wise, it carries on without you, people come and go, technologies change. I’d found it hard to fit back in when I returned first time around. I wanted to do something to keep up with the latest trends in digital and go back in with some new ideas.

When an advert for Digital Mums first popped up on my Facebook feed I’ll admit to being skeptical. The ads kept coming, The blogs from former students were positive. But you know what they say, if it sounds too good to be true… Not in this case.

I had an interview for the course over Skype while breastfeeding and my course started at the beginning of June. A week later I was called in to work to be told my role was being made redundant.

I know redundancy isn’t personal but as anyone who has been there will tell you, it feels like it is. Journalism wasn’t just a career, it was a passion. What could possibly replace the buzz of working on a breaking story?

Sometimes you need a push out the door, and for me this was it. I’d often thought about doing other things, wanting to spend more time with the children, to travel. But after 14 years of continuous employment, the threat of no longer having a job was terrifying. I decided to take the plunge.

I had started following some Digital Mums on Twitter who were all happily juggling work, children and seeming to have a life at the same time. One even went on a family gap year in Ecuador and carried on working for Digital Mums. If that’s not flexible working, I don’t know what is! When Digital Mums launched their #WorkThatWorks campaign I was confident I had made the right decision. In the words of MotherPukka, it was a meerkat moment.

What I particularly liked about the Digital Mums course was that it sets you up with a real business and you run a social media campaign for them. This really is live learning. I was teamed up with a brilliant organic skincare company Nom Nom and ran an 8 week campaign on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook which aimed to build an affinity with the brand among potential customers.

Throughout the 22 week course you are supported not just by the Digital Mums team but a group of your peers. All have nicknames. Named after Mary Berry, at first we hoped this meant something to do with cake. But while we didn’t get to taste any of Mary’s lemon drizzle, we got plenty of laughs, support and chat about anything and everything, not always digital. We met up via Google Hangout every Tuesday night to have a chat and during the week we fired questions at each other about platforms, scheduling tools, tips, tricks and etiquette on WhatsApp. Not only did it boost our confidence but it gave us the opportunity to see different campaigns, B2B and B2C, in action. Having to critique each others’ work helped us see what worked well and what didn’t.

Now it’s December and my final report is in. I hit all my targets and learned a huge amount along the way, not just about Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest but LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Instagram. I now think nothing of chatting via video call, something I would have shied away from 6 months ago.

I’m setting up a Cambridge-based social media consultancy, Chesterton Social. Cambridge is a wonderful city to live in, a centre of innovation, and has a thriving independent scene from lovely shops you could spend all day browsing in to fabulous cafes, restaurants and pubs. Chesterton Social celebrates all the brilliant things happening in and around Cambridge offering social media advice, campaigns and a blogging service. For updates and to get in touch, follow Chesterton Social on Twitter @CB4Social.