In this day and age women shouldn’t have to choose between having a job they enjoy and spending as much time as they want with their children. Of course everyone makes different choices but we think they should be allowed the choice to have both.
But the reality is a shocking 70% of women leave the workforce because they find it impossible to combine their career and family life. Three quarters feel there is just not enough flexibility. There are so many things stopping mothers from finding a satisfying job that they can fit around their family – the astronomical cost of childcare, bosses unyielding to part time hour requests, skills becoming out of date in our fast-paced world.
There are so many amazing and talented women out there who are struggling to fit their work around their family commitments and are fed up with their work-life balance.
Digital Mums are removing these barriers by providing mothers with social media management skills that allow them to set their own hours and work from anywhere. They take the natural talents and skills of mums, add some innovative social media training and produce high-calibre social media managers.
We caught up with Co-Founder Nikki Cochrane to find out more.
Can you tell us about Digital Mums and how it came about?
Kathryn and I started a consultancy focused on helping local businesses in Hackney with their digital marketing. Our idea was to grow that business until we could leave our jobs and work on it full-time. However, pretty much every client we worked with asked us to manage their social media for them. As we were both still working full-time, we just didn’t have the time to do it so we were trying to figure out how we could outsource that part of the business.
Around that time Kathryn had seen a report from the Fawcett Society on skyrocketing maternal unemployment. We started talking about it in a cafe and it just clicked – social media management was a perfect job for a mum. That was in October 2013, which is when we incorporated Digital Mums and we haven’t looked back since.
How do you become a digital mum? What skills and experience do you need?
Anyone can become a Digital Mum as long as they’re a woman with children! At the moment we only take a relatively small number of students each month. The application process usually starts with a call with one of our team and then follows up with an application form to assess which Programme is the best fit for them.
We actually offer two programmes, which slightly differ from one another. The first is our Strategic Social Media Manager Programme which is for women who have a background in PR, Marketing, Journalism and Communications, or previous social media management experience. Students are matched to a real business to run a social media campaign for them over five months.
The second is our Community Management Programme. This is very similar to our other programme, but students create their own campaign to run rather than develop one for a real business. This one is for students that don’t have much direct experience with marketing or social media, and are looking to completely change their career. After nine months of testing and piloting we’ve finally launched this publicly, and we’re really excited about it.
How much can mums earn?
We recommend a salary of around £12 an hour for mums when they first graduate while they cut their teeth in their new career. This can go up very quickly depending on the nature of the work they’re doing and the type of client they’re working with. We’ve had mums work for as much as £25 per hour and even had one mum get offered £30 per hour, which she turned down because she had too much work at the time!
What sorts of companies do you work with?
It’s a real mix. We’ve worked with companies varying from huge charities like the RSPCA to one-man bands trying to find a route to market. We generally try to work with mum-focused brands as mum-to-mum marketing just makes sense and social enterprises, as we’re one ourself and like to support the community as much as possible.
But all businesses can benefit from social media and the companies we work with reflect that. Our graduates have worked with drinks brands, tech apps, accountants and everything in between.
What jobs did you both do before launching Digital Mums?
I used to work for M&C Saatchi, which is where I really got into digital marketing and tech as a whole. When we started Digital Mums I was working part-time at The Bakery, a tech accelerator matching brands and agencies to tech start-ups.
Kathryn was the Head of Digital Communications at a social enterprise called the Innovation Unit, which used to be a part of the Department of Education. They do a lot of work looking at innovative learning practices from around the world and seeing how they can apply them to schools within the UK. Her work there had a huge influence on the development of our training and is a big part of why it’s been so successful.
How did you fund the business? Did you receive any external funding to launch or grow the business?
At the beginning the only thing funding the business was myself and Kathryn bootstrapping it and working part-time jobs. After a year spent doing that and validating our business idea, we had enough proof of concept to win £50,000 worth of investment from the Big Issue Invest. They’re the investment wing of the Big Issue (the magazine) and invest in socially-focused businesses across the UK.
We knew we had a great idea that both mothers and businesses wanted, we just needed the capacity to get on with making it happen. Getting that funding allowed us to start working full-time on our business and to hire staff to help us out.
What do you do to recruit new signups?
As you’d imagine with our focus on social media marketing, our main customer acquisition channels are through social media and social media advertising – Facebook ads for the most part. We’re lucky to have an amazing group of women doing our training who believe in us and what we’re doing, so a lot of our sign-ups come through referrals.
We’ve also had a lot of success with PR, and content / email marketing. One article we had in the Mail Online generated 1200+ email sign-ups for us which was absolutely amazing (and definitely stretched our team’s capacity to deal with them!). How we market is a constantly evolving process, where we’re always testing and refining what we do so that we can get better and better over time.
How important is social media to your own business?
Social media is absolutely vital for us. It’s the lifeblood of our business and without it I wouldn’t be talking to you right now! We use it for everything -connecting with our Digital Mums in training, building relationships with influencers, selling our courses.
What are your top social media tips?
Two immediately spring to mind. One of the most common mistakes we see on social media are people using social media to broadcast at people. There’s a great book from Gary Vaynerchuk about this called ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.’ Social media is about understanding the platform you’re using and then using it to connect with your customers. It’s not about shouting at people about your business. You have to add value and you have to engage with your customers authentically. If you don’t, you won’t succeed with it.
My second tip would be to delve into who your audience are and let that determine how you interact with them on social media. You’d be amazed at how many businesses wade into social media without a clear idea about who their audience are – what their interests are, what tone of voice you should adopt, when they’re online. One of the first thing we get our Digital Mums to do is to create user personas during their training. These are detailed breakdowns of their different audience segments. This allows them to figure out what social media channels will work best, what sort of content they’ll engage with and which influencers to build relationships with. Once they have that in place they start testing these assumptions over time to see what works best.
What has been the most challenging part about running your own business? How have you overcome those challenges?
The biggest challenge was definitely the first year when we had no money. We were bootstrapping everything, building our training in the evenings and weekends while working elsewhere. We went a full year without paying ourselves, which tests you at times. It was definitely not easy and made me really appreciate the ‘hustle’ that you have to put in as an entrepreneur. Having a co-founder made it much easier to deal with as when either of us were struggling we had the other to help keep our spirits up.
What top tips can you give to women launching their own business?
here’s lots of support now for female entrepreneurs setting up in business, particularly tech-focused businesses. Join meet-ups and attend networking events – we have found there’s a huge community out there and it’s great to meet other entrepreneurs and hear their stories. Apply to programmes such as the Angel Academe (a mentoring programme for female entrepreneurs in London). If you are torn between becoming a sole founder or getting a co-founder, I’d advise getting yourself an awesome co-founder who shares your passion and vision. It can be really hard launching a business by yourself and a dynamic team can be invincible.