When having your first child being a mother is a new experience and every day is a learning curb. Weaning can be a scary process for some mums, how do you start? what do you start with? what if they have an allergy? So many different mothers say different things and it all becomes confusing and scary, but then we have hope, the book that probably brought comfort to most mothers, Annabel Karmel’s weaning and toddler books. We both read Annabel Karmel’s books and we both loved them, so you can imagine our excitement when we interviewed Annabel Karmel. Not only an inspiring business woman but a mother, juggling both jobs and inspiring mums, thus being the ultimate ‘mumpreneur”.
AK: I actually started working life as a musician – I was a talented harpist. It was the tragedy of losing my first child Natasha, who was born healthy but who died at 13 weeks old from a viral infection that led me to change direction into the field of nutrition.
It wasn’t a diet related illness but I was understandably cautious when it came to ensuring that my second child, Nicholas, was provided with foods that optimised his health. Feeling vulnerable when he became fussy I struggled to find enticing recipes to encourage him and so set about devising my own. I shared my recipes with other mums and, fuelled by the discovery that they were proving popular with others, set about compiling a book, which was finally published two years later after being rejected by over fifteen publishing houses.
I’ve since gone on to write 40 books, selling more than four million copies worldwide. I’ve also turned my hand to pre-prepared meals, weaning equipment and recipe apps. I’ve also grown a vast online following of mums in need of advice and inspiration.
RM: How do you know your baby is ready for weaning?
AK: The general rule is that babies should be weaned from around six months old. But make sure your baby is ready to wean. Pushing a young, reluctant baby will make the start of the weaning process upsetting for you both.
RM: What advice could you give to mums on getting fussy toddlers to eat?
AK: It can be hard finding foods to tempt your tot – especially when almost every child will go through at least one phase of fussy easting. If you have a fussy eater in tow I would get them helping out in the kitchen.
Most children love cooking and it’s amazing how being involved in planning and preparing of a meal can stimulate a child’s appetite. Children like to assemble their own food, so you could lay ingredients out in bowls and let your child fill and fold their own wraps or choose their favourite toppings for their home made pizzas.
I would also get together and eat as a family, as this really can make a difference.
Taking the focus off your child’s eating and refocusing on social chit chat at the table could help.
Presentation is also another key to getting a fussy eater eating. The way your child’s food is served up can make the difference between your child accepting and refusing food. Cutting up fruit and popping it onto skewers or straws or making mini portions in ramekins immediately becomes more appealing
RM: What has to be your favourite toddler meal?
AK: It has to be my Chicken, Tomato & Veggie Risotto Chilled Toddler Meal that you can find in Tesco & Sainsbury’s. It’s a quick, tasty and convenient way to make sure your little one gets all of their important goodness. Tasting just like homemade and inspired by my favourite recipes, the dish is low in salt, contains no artificial additives or preservatives and provides 2 of their 5-a-day.
RM: Who is your inspiration?
AK: I have recently written a book called Mumpreneur, a practical book full of inspiring stories and advice from the women behind Britain’s favourite businesses.
For the book, I interviewed Chrissie Rucker the founder of The White Company and her story really struck a chord for me. It all began over 20 years ago when Chrissie spotted a gap in the market for affordable but beautifully designed, good-quality white bed linen. Having recently met her then boyfriend (now husband), Chrissie wanted to show him that she was ‘excellent wife material’!
She invested her £6,000 savings to establish The White Company as a mail-order business and started with a 12-page brochure from her boyfriend’s spare room. Twenty years later The White Company is one of the UK’s fastest growing multi-channel retailers with 50 stores across the UK and a reported turnover of £150 million.
RM: How have you managed to run a successful business and manage family life?
AK: It’s all about finding your guilt threshold. Of course everyone feels guilty about leaving their children to go to work but some mums wouldn’t be good mums unless they had a career as they would be miserable and frustrated, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
It takes real confidence to return to the working world after having children – whether that’s as an employee or becoming your own boss.
It’s important for women that motherhood is valued in its own right but equally true that having children shouldn’t necessarily be the full stop at the end of a CV. Shattering the glass ceiling with a changing bag over your shoulder is no longer limited to the realms of fantasy. However, it’s vital that you believe in yourself, which makes confidence as important as competence.
The great thing about running your own business whilst raising a family is that you have the freedom to work to your own schedule. Juggling the dual demands of work with family life is no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination; I remember completing my first recipe book in between the children’s naps, managing a busy toddler group and running a house. It’s difficult keeping all the balls in the air without dropping one occasionally!
RM: How would you describe a day in your life?
AK: No two days are ever the same but normally I’m devising new recipes with tasty flavour combinations or livening up bland baby food. I’m often at meetings discussing new partnerships and opportunities or posting pictures on my Instagram. I always make time to have coffee with my kids or go shopping and I often take my three dogs – a Cocker Spaniel, Samoyed and Golden Retriever – for a walk around Primrose Hill.
RM: What advice would you give woman out there who want to set up their own business?
AK: It takes real confidence to return to start-up a business after having children – and self-belief is absolutely vital in order to succeed. Confidence is just as important as competence – if not more so.
The more you believe in yourself and in your chances of succeeding, the more likely you are to do just that. Of course, we all have doubts from time to time – the danger is if those doubts spiral out of control, creating unnecessary anxiety and negative self-limiting beliefs which prevent us from doing something that we really want to do (and, deep down, know that we can do).
RM: Would be your top 3 tips on creating a successful business?
AK: Research and plan: Take time to plan and test your business idea. Friends and family may tell you what you want to hear or try to dissuade you because of their own fears. Look to someone who will give you honest, informed feedback.
Eye up the competition: Always analyse the competition to see how you can gain that edge in a competitive marketplace. Knowledge is power.
The opposite of success isn’t failure, it is not trying. If you seldom fail there is a good chance you’re playing it too safe, and there’s lessons to be gained from not succeeding first time round.