Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Help Santa Save Money with Price Comparison Websites!

With Christmas shopping in full swing, this week I thought I’d share a few top sites to help Santa find the best deals on everything on his list!

King of Comparison Sites:
Brought to you by Martin Lewis and the Money Saving Expert team, this is a great tool which covers books, music, dvds, games, perfume, electronics and more over several comparison sites all at the same time!

For General Price Comparison:
From cameras and iPads, dvds to toys - you can search for the best buys on a whole load of gifts. (Kelkoo also covers travel and holidays.)

Another fantastic MSE site that will give you the cheapest deals on music downloads and CDs.

Perfume and aftershave:

Save Even More!
Once you’ve found the best deal, search the Cash Back websites featured in the previous P4P post and see if the website you plan to buy from is featured. 
If so, make sure that you click through to the site from the cash back website (clearing cookies before this is always a good idea too).

Further discounts may also be available through voucher discount codes.

These sites are also good for money off vouchers for restaurants and online supermarket shopping (among many other things!).  It’s worth signing up to their mailing lists for up-to-the-minute deals.

I hope these sites are useful and manage to save you a few pennies.
If you have come across any other great comparison, cash back or discount sites, please share them with us by leaving a comment below!

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cash Back Sites - Lorraine Allman

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make some extra cash you could do worse than sign up with a ‘cash back’ web site. In this guest blog, Lorraine tells us how she discovered cash back sites for the first time and how they have now become a part of her normal online shopping routine. She also gives some top tips for getting the best out of cash back sites and making every penny count so grab a cuppa, get reading, and start earning!

I have to confess until 2 years ago I hadn’t heard of cash back sites until sat in the local pub with a friend one evening who started telling me how she was planning to spend the £200 that had accumulated in her cash back account. I looked at her quizzically and she explained that by simply completing most of her online shopping via a cash back site she was able to earn money that over time mounted up to a tidy sum.
Intrigued, the next day I had a look around and sure enough quickly came across the two sites she had recommended – Top Cashback  and Quidco.  Signing up was quick and easy, within minutes I was shopping online through the sites and potentially earning cash.  In my eagerness to start earning cash however I didn’t follow some of the basic rules of shopping via cash back sites and on several occasions didn’t actually get the best deal I could have.

Fast forward 2 years and I’ve received over £600 back in cash payments. It’s surprising how the cash has mounted up but I always try to renew my annual insurances such as car, household, pet etc. through a cash back site. This gets me into the habit of ‘shopping around’ for the best deal (I was never good at this to be honest, it was easier to just accept the renewal notice but times have changed and switching insurers is second nature now!) and if I have a larger one-off purchase to make then I will always see what deals are being offered through cash back as there are often discount codes available too.  There are also frequently good deals to be had by switching utility suppliers but be warned that if you’re switching request is anything other than straightforward you may end up losing out on the cash back. For example I was moving house and took the opportunity to switch electricity supplier while I was at it. I got a good deal and a potentially tidy sum (around £80) for switching via the cash back site but because of the house move and the meter installed by the previous owner, it wasn’t a straightforward switch so I had to speak with someone on the phone and ended up missing out on the cash back.

I’ve become wiser to the best way of using cash back sites so if you aren’t already using them you can benefit from my experience!  If you are already using them then it wouldn’t hurt to take a quick look through these top tips just to make sure you are using them to best effect.
So, here are my top tips for using cash back sites.  I hope you find them helpful and more importantly hope you start to reap the rewards soon.
·    Don’t buy through cash back sites just for the cash being offered no matter how tempting it is. You need to view the cash back as a bonus on top of any discount you might be able to get.
·    There are no guarantees that cash back will be paid out. Occasionally things can go wrong and for a variety of reasons you don’t get the cash.  Good cash back sites will often try to resolve any issues but this can be a lengthy process so again the key is not to rely on the money.
·     Always make sure you clear your computer history of web sites browsed as cash back sites rely on ‘cookies’ (small pieces of code which track where you’ve come from and what you’ve browsed) so if your history or ‘cache’ isn’t cleared the system may not recognise your purchase as a new transaction valid for cash back.
·     Not all cash back sites pay out 100% so think carefully about which ones you sign up to. The best bet is to use just one or two on a regular basis otherwise you’ll end up having small amounts of money across lots of different sites which defeats the object as many will have a minimum pay-out threshold so you may not see much of your money
·    Be careful with ‘click and collect’ options with high street stores such as Argos as they are often not included as valid cash back transactions. Check the small print before you click through to make your purchase.
·    I live in a rural part of Wales so for me online shopping is an essential. However bear in mind that if you are buying goods online rather than going to the store, you will almost always incur some kind of charge for postage which may then cancel out the cash back amount due (this is particularly true of very small cash back percentages such as 5% of the total sale usually excluding p&p, which for an item of say £50 will actually mean only £2.50 cash back. In this case if the p&p charges are equivalent or higher than £2.50 you’ll probably be better off popping along to your local store and buying the item.
·    Unlike my friend, don’t let the money accumulate in your cash back accounts. As soon as you exceed the threshold for transferring go ahead and request the payment. It should normally take just a few days to reach your account.

Happy saving!

Lorraine Allman is a busy mum and also MD at Speed Mentor Central® - a company providing access to online expertise and services for entrepreneurs and small businesses.  She has been running businesses for over 14 years including establishing one of the first online business information portals in the UK to running a highly successful business and educational research company.
You can follow Lorraine on Twitter @beindemand

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Mummy Money Saving Tips!

A while ago I asked some lovely Mummies for thier top money saving tips and this is what they came up with:

“Buy toys, equipment clothes etc at he NCT nearly new sales.”

“Join Freecycle - all sorts of unwanted items offered for free on there, or you can post a wanted if you need something.”

“Best money saving tip I would give is save as soon as you know you're expecting ... I can't believe how much money we frittered away whilst DINKies!! (Double Income no Kiddies)” 
Emma of

”Meal planning, before going shopping write out a list of 7 meals i will use for the week ahead and what i need to make them, then on my shopping list only put the things I NEED to stock up on, and stick to this list when shopping without going off buying 'deals' “

“Use online banking, regularly checking incoming and outgoing money.”

”Switch to 'own brands' everything taste the same its just cheaper to buy.”
Kerri of

“It's very basic advice, but I always buy in bulk for things like nappies & wet wipes as you're going to use them eventually & the more you buy the cheaper they are.  It pays to shop around a bit & know where the deals are on too as there's always one somewhere.”
Cathy, Taunton

"Making sure you have loyalty cards such as Tesco / Nectar as they come in handy at Christmas.  We only saved £15 in vouchers for Tesco this year but we doubled it so had £30 to spend on toys ... excellent money saving for us :)”
Joanne of

“I have a four year old and an 18 month old; one of my tips to save (or to NOT spend needlessly) is to give my eldest pocket money and to encourage a little bit of understanding.  So when we're in the supermarket and she's asking me to buy her something I can explain that it costs money and that she'll need to use her own pocket money!  It works... most of the time!  The thing you need to do is never give in, or they expect it all the time!”
Claire, Taunton for Tots

"Buy your toys second-hand from ebay (or wherever). Your kids won't notice or care and you will get three times as many for your money."
Vicky, Taunton

“Get the best value for Tesco clubcard vouchers by using them for days out and the sun (or other newspapers) £9.50 holidays are an absolute bargain. My girls love them.”

“I keep any paper that is blank on the back in a pile by the pc, the girls can paint and scribble all they like, I hardly ever give them new sheets, unless I think I'll want to send them to anyone, I also use it for any printing (maps etc) that won't matter.”
Elaine, Taunton

"Be a wise shopper and buying nearly new quality clothes for your little ones instead of splashing out on the high street! After all they grow out of them so quickly and it leaves you with a bit more cash for the other things... like a much needed latte or a well deserved glass of wine at the end of the week!"
Vicky, Looking Good Baby! Taunton:

“Join Sainsbury's Little Ones and Boots Parenting Clubs. Lots of vouchers/tips in magazines.”

“Stocking up when deals such as Sainsbury's 1/3 off baby and Asda baby week event.”

"Always check online for items you've seen instore. Websites like Kiddicare and Practical Puschairs have much better deals than in stores.”
Jackie, Taunton

"Join the local library - we buy some books new, some second hand, and borrow some from the library."
Georgi Rollings of

And my top tip is to visit comparison websites before you buy ANYTHING (either online or in store) to find out where the best deal is.  Then check voucher codes sites and cash back sites to see how much more money you can save! 
(There will be more on the best sites to use soon.)

What's your top money saving tip?  Please leave a comment below! :o)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Save money with the Utility Warehouse Discount Club - Julie Brooke


Save money with the Utility Warehouse Discount Club

You may not have heard of the Utility Warehouse before – that’s the secret to saving lots of money! The company does not advertise in the national press or on TV. Instead, it relies on personal recommendation; satisfied customers letting their friends, family and colleagues know about the savings they have made. The company passes the savings it makes on to its members – by charging less.

Price Promise
The Utility Warehouse Price Promise means you can benefit from:
·         The UK’s cheapest Home Phone
·         The UK’s cheapest Home Phone and Broadband bundle
·         The UK’s cheapest Mobile tariffs
·         The UK’s cheapest standard Gas and Electricity

Or they will give you back Double the Difference!

Charges, terms and conditions apply. For full details of the Utility Warehouse Price Promise see

Helping you switch
The Utility Warehouse will even reimburse up to £50 of early termination fees charged by your previous supplier(s) when you switch your services to them.

For a limited period (until 24 March 2012), the Utility Warehouse will refund up to £200 of early termination fees charged by your previous supplier(s) 

No minimum contract term
The Utility Warehouse is so confident that you’ll be happy with the money you save that most services have no minimum contract term, so you’re not tied in. If you're not totally happy with the money you save and the Utility Warehouse’s award-winning UK-based customer service team, you can go back to your current supplier's higher prices at any time!

The Utility Warehouse Price Promise means you can benefit from:
The UK’s cheapest standard Gas and Electricity Or they will give you back Double the Difference!

Charges, terms and conditions apply. For full details of the Utility Warehouse Price Promise see

You'll be amazed at how much the Utility Warehouse could save you compared with the cheapest standard direct debit tariffs available from their competitors. And once you've transferred your energy to the Utility Warehouse you can relax, confident in the knowledge you'll always receive a really great deal with their unique 'Triple Value' guarantee.

'Triple Value' guarantee
The Utility Warehouse provides customers with complete peace of mind on their energy bills. They compare their prices every month against the average of the cheapest direct debit tariffs available from each of the 'Big 6' suppliers*, on a like-for-like basis and will adjust their prices on a regular basis if necessary.
1.   For your gas, they guarantee their prices will always be cheaper than British Gas,    wherever you live in the UK.
2.   For your electricity, they guarantee their prices will always be cheaper than the prices charged by the regional electricity supplier for the area where you live.
3.   And for your complete peace of mind, they guarantee their prices will always remain competitive compared with the cheapest standard tariffs available from the 'Big 6' suppliers*.
*'Big 6' means the six major energy companies who currently supply over 98% of UK households, comprising: British Gas, E.ON, npower, EDF, Scottish Power and Scottish & Southern Energy. Guarantees and price comparisons are based on the OFGEM standard domestic usage profiles for low, medium and high users  on a like-for-like basis, and exclude Club Membership fee, surcharge for gas customers using an Independent Gas Transporter, dual-fuel discounts and online tariffs. Applies to residential energy customers who pay by direct debit only.

10% Extra Discount on Energy
You can get an extra 10% discount on the energy you have used (gas, electricity or dual fuel) after you have been with the Utility Warehouse for a year. Ask me for details!

Feed-In Tariffs (FITs)
With the Utility Warehouse Feed-In Tariffs, you could save money – or even make money – by generating your own electricity at home, using solar panels or wind turbines. The Utility Warehouse will pay you more than any other supplier for the electricity you generate. Ask for details!

Julie Brooke
Authorised Distributor
The Utility Warehouse
Telephone: 07817 032484

A note from Pennies 4 Parents:
This is not a sponsored post and I have received no payment in order to feature it.
I just think it is something my readers may be interested in finding out more about. :o)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

New Baby Presents that save money! - Rebecca Leek, NapNap

Here at NapNap we are always being told that the NapNap Voucher is a brilliant idea. We know! We are rather proud of it ourselves. And when people ask us how we thought of it, we are ready with our answer. When we had our first babies (and second and third!) we were given bundles of presents. Now this was obviously lovely and some were useful. However, we certainly now have enough babygrows and teddies between us to keep a baby army happy. At the same time, we had both chosen to use cloth nappies. 

Cloth nappies are much cheaper in the long run (especially if you are going to have more than one child) and are better for the planet and your baby's bottom. However, although they do work out cheaper, the initial buy can seem a lot. You can get started with a handful and ease yourself in but the idea of spending two or three hundred pounds feels like a fortune. In fact, it was what I spent the most money on when I was pregnant with my first (although I am the smug one now, pregnant with my third, not having spent any more on nappies since number one was born). So nappies would have been the best and most useful present. 

However, nappies are quite personal. Once you do a bit of research on the web, you discover that there are lots of different types. For example, will you choose a birth-to-potty, extending type that gets bigger as your baby grows? Or will you go for sized nappies where you need some in each size. It's a bit of a minefield. And that's why the NapNap Voucher was born - it can be used in lots of different places. So you can effectively ask for nappies for your new baby present but you still get to choose them yourself. The best of both worlds!

Disposable nappies are a false economy - they feel cheaper at the checkout but are much more expensive in the long run. We follow the philosophy of the NapNap Voucher with the other products we sell. Although some of the gifts in our online store, the Really Eco Baby Shop, can seem a bit more expensive than budget options, they are top quality, will last, are useful and are also kind to the planet. For example, our tin of crayons is more expensive than packs on the supermarket shelves. But we stock these because they are the only set of crayons that has lasted in this NapNap household. They are chunky, good quality, made of beeswax with no nasties, and come in a sturdy tin that is great to pop in the nappy bag. What other set of crayons lasts two years? 

So pop over to The Really Eco Baby Shop to see our philosophy in action. Do some guilt free shopping this Christmas. You will know that whether it's a NapNap Voucher, an organic baby-grow, or a wind-up toy, the gift will last and last. Be kinder to the planet and give a gift that won't end up gathering dust in a corner somewhere or getting broken before the 12 days of Christmas are out! - for advice an information on cloth nappies, where you can exchange your NapNap Voucher and much more. - gifts for all the family that are kind to the planet, including the NapNap Voucher.

Follow us on Twitter @napnaphq and @really_eco_baby

Find us on Faebook:

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Money Saving Expert (aka THE Best Money Saving & Advice Website in the UK!)

My regular followers will know that I am a HUGE fan of Martin Lewis and his website. 
You may have seen various links to his articles and videos in previous posts here on Pennies 4 Parents. 

Photo used by kind permission from Martin - thank you!

Many of you will know Martin as the fast talking money guy from TV shows such as DaybreakLorraine and Watchdog. is THE place to go for advice on saving money, consumer rights, finding the best deals on just about everything, reclaiming money, and a whole lot more!

Martin set the website up in 2003 for £100.  Today, it has 10 million monthly users and there is a 30 strong team behind him.  I wouldn’t like to even take a guess at just how much money his tips and advice has saved people!

I advise everyone to visit the site and sign up for Martin’s weekly email where you’ll get hot-of-the-press news and deals, advance warnings of sales about to start and really important advice that I don’t think you’d find anywhere else but really should be finding out about!

The website has a dedicated Family, Income and Benefits section: - a must read for any parent.
Here you will find advice on everything from Childcare Costs and Tax Credits to Student Loans.

Martin continuously campaigns to raise awareness of financial issues. His current big campaign is to “Make financial education a compulsory part of the school curriculum” - something that I think is really important for parents to get involved with.  For more information see here.  To sign the petition please click here.

You can follow Martin on Twitter: @MartinSLewis

And become a fan on Facebook

Find out more about him in this short biography video

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Money Saving Tips for Birthday Parties - Joanne McGowan, Act One Parties

Nowadays it is common to invite the whole class to your child's birthday party and this means entertaining, feeding and watering and party bagging up to 25-30+ children.  This can lead many parents to feel that costs are spiralling out of control.  It doesn't have to be this way and I hope the following tips will help you to create a fantastic party for your child that doesn't break the bank.

Tip No. 1 – Join Forces
One of the best ways to half or even third or quarter the cost of your child's birthday party is to join forces with another family in your child's class who has a birthday around the same time.  Joint parties are becoming increasingly popular (I entertain regularly at parties where there are 2 or 3 or sometimes even 4 birthday children).  If they are all in the same class at school they are likely to have the same friends so it can be a win win situation.

As well as significantly reducing the cost of the party it can also reduce the workload as you can split the organisation and jobs between the different families involved.

However, a note of caution, ensure that if you do join forces with another family that they have the same outlook as yourself on costs, type of party required and be clear about who is responsible for what in the lead up to the party.

Tip No. 2 – Shop around for venues
In my hometown of Guildford I know the price of venues can vary significantly for very little difference in facilities.  I will be writing about things to look for in a venue in a later blog but generally the closer to a town centre the more expensive a venue will become where as those on the outskirts can be considerably cheaper with similar facilities and generally more parking.  Schools sometimes offer a discount if your child is a pupil there but sometimes can charge a caretaker fee so don't assume this will be the cheapest option.  Some village halls will offer a cheaper rate if you live in the village and it is often worth seeking out halls that charge for the morning or afternoon rather than the hour as this can work out better value for a party.

Children generally don't care what a venue looks like, it is us parents that are bothered by things like that, so as long as it warm and dry and safe most venues can look good with a few decorations.

Tip No. 3 – The internet is your friend
For two reasons – if you choose to do a lot of DIY preparation for the party ie decorations, invites etc, there are many sites that will provide you with the inspiration and templates to do this.  The internet can also be a good place to find special offers for party bags, decorations and tableware.  Many companies will have a newsletter or a facebook page you can sign up to where special offers will be advertised – even getting free postage can be a good saving.

Tip No. 4 – The Early Bird Catches the Worm
By planning your party early not only will you get the pick of
party entertainers and venues but you will have time to research the best deals on party ware, party bags, decorations etc.  It will also give you more time to do some aspects yourself like maybe make some decorations with your child for the party.

Tip No. 5 – Feeding the 5,000
The thing that most goes to waste at a children's party is always the food.  Children generally eat less than you think and always have eyes bigger than tummies so controlling quantities is key.  Putting food in food boxes is a good way to guage portions effectively and means that children are given appropriate sized quantities and a balance of naughty and nice.  And whilst we may opt for locally sourced, organic produce at other times, when catering for a children's birthday tea all the supermarkets do great value ranges on party tea favourites.

For more information on Joanne and Act One Parties, visit:

Twitter:  @actoneparties

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Budgeting in Pregnancy…and beyond - Elise Mendelle, Bundle-O-Joy

It is easy to get caught up in the maternity industry and find yourself spending loads of money BEFORE your baby is even born.  First of all, it is an exciting time and you get caught up in the whole allure of being pregnant.  What are you going to wear?  Where are you going to shop?  However, it is a good idea to stop yourself before you go rushing out to the shops to spend a fortune for what will be a relatively short lived period.
You will only be pregnant for nine months.  You probably won’t even properly show for the first three, which leaves six.  The last month or two, most women are usually big and uncomfortable and don’t really fit into anything they initially bought anyway.  So that leaves a short 4 or 5 months, which in the grand scheme of things really isn’t that long.  I am definitely not suggesting ignoring how you look during your pregnancy.  I am just suggesting you plan your wardrobe and budget wisely.

A few key pieces will take you very far.  I would suggest:
1)  Great pair of jeans e.g. if you usually wear skinny jeans, you may get away with them during pregnancy.  Many women find boot cut jeans more flattering with a bump.
2)  1 or 2 vests – great for wearing under tops.
3)  Dress
4)  Basic top – I would suggest something black with ruching at the sides, or a wrap  top trousers / white top – the perfect outfit for work or looking smart.  Can be dressed up or worn casually.
In addition to these items, you can then buy a few more exciting, personalised pieces to mix and match with your staples. 
Finally, it is time to ACCESSORIZE, a great way to add glamour and style to your pregnancy. 
See Bundle-O-Joy’s blog post GET THE LOOK to give ideas of how to use pregnancy essentials to create different, inspiring outfits.
Other great ideas for saving money during pregnancy:
1)  Try ebay for great deals.
2)  Borrow clothes from friends.
3)  Visit NCT nearly new sales or charity shops.
4)  Some reasonably priced maternity labels – ASOS, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Gap.
Remember, the more you save during your pregnancy, the more you will have to spend on your baby!


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Starfish Accounting - Georgi Rollings

My name is Georgina Rollings, and I am proud mum to 15 month old twin girls.  I am also a business owner having set up a small accounting firm in March of this year. 

Setting up my company was surprisingly easy.  The difficult part for me was deciding to do it. 

I’ve always liked the idea of working for myself, but I was waiting for an idea to come to me, and one never did.  It took the complete shift in focus caused by the birth of my babies to give me the inspiration I needed. 

By creating my own accounting firm I have been able to use the skills and experience I have spent years acquiring to help other people and their businesses.  I am able to look after our girls myself instead of paying somebody else to do it.  At the same time I have started a new business adventure which is giving me more job satisfaction that I have had for years.

Starfish Accounting specialises in proving accounting services to small businesses and start up companies.  As a mumpreneur myself, I run a mumpreneur friendly company, offering practical accounting and business advice without the jargon.

It’s been tough starting up a business and running it with twins and very little childcare.  Luckily my parents look after the girls for an afternoon a week which lets me visit clients and have business meetings – and means that the girls get to be properly spoiled.  I’m also very fortunate to have a supportive husband who is also an excellent cook.  But I don’t get to have very many evenings off, and I usually end up working pretty late which is not good for my beauty sleep!

The pay off for me at the moment, other than my beautiful babies, is that I am my own boss, and I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of knowing I am helping my clients to run their businesses more effectively.  I’ll be able to ramp up the amount of time I spend working during normal working hours as the girls start going to nursery in a year’s time.  I’m really excited at the response I have had to my business, and the potential it has to grow.

If you run a small company, or are just starting out, and want an accountant who understands your business and your need to fit in around your children, then try giving me a call.  I offer a free hour long consultation, so you can even get some free advice!

If you are interested, then you can find out more at

Or find us on Facebook at 

I also blog about accounting and tax tips and advice at

Friday, 7 October 2011

One time, at Blog Camp....

Yesterday I travelled to Bristol for my first ever blogging event.  Being quite new to the world of blogs I didn't have a clue what to expect but what a fantastic time I had!

The event was held at M Shed in Princes Wharf in Bristol - a fantastic museum and venue.  I somehow managed to get there in plenty of time and along with some fellow early birds managed to fit it a cuppa from the lovely Martin at Morning Rush on Prince Street Bridge before the doors opened.

The day saw 4 different speakers offering their stories, tips and technical advice on all things blogging! 

Chris Mosler of Thinly Spread covered the ethics of blogging and gave our consciences something to think about.

Elisabeth Winkler of Real Food Lover and Writing on the Web gave us some great practical tips about building an audience for your blog and finding an "angle".

Phil Szomszor who works for PR agency Citigate Dewe Rogerson and has his own blog about social media and technoloday - The Red Rocket gave us an interesting inside account on how the PR world view us Bloggers.  He also had some great tips on how the 2 can work effectively together.

Lee Smallwood (find him on Twitter @leesmallwood) lead a fantastic discussion on how people can find your blog (or good old SEO!).  He provided some great tips, ideas and useful websites.

Lacing all of this together was our hostess for the day/IT whiz/Twitter feed writer, Sally Whittle, of Tots100.  A big thank you to her and assistant Kat for all their hard work in putting the event together!

I met some great people, learnt a lot (yet more things to add to the "to do list" but hey ho!) and got a day out of "the office" to boot!   Now, how do I add a contact page to this thing...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Our Green Room - Lois Griffin

This week I spoke to Lois Griffin who runs "Our Green Room" - an online and shop based interiors business in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire.

Can you describe your business and what you do?
Me and My partner run an online interiors business (OurGreenRoom) selling modern wall art, cushions and curtains. We run from the office and workroom in our home and also have a small retail space in Bradford on Avon (No.5 Weavers Walk), open on a Saturday. All the items are made by hand, here in Bradford on Avon.

How did you got started and what is the inspiration/idea behind what you do?
I have always been creative and been able to sew, I have also always had quite a strong entrepreneurial spirit and the two just came together naturally. We started the business from scratch, all starting from when I was decorating my bedroom and really wanted to find some wall art to match these beautiful, bright lime green cushions I had bought. The design on the cushion was fantastic, so bold and bright, but I couldn’t find any art to match it, or live up to it, anywhere. Shops seemed to be filled with the same old canvas prints, photos of buildings, swirly lines, close ups of flowers etc. I had seen it all before and I really wanted something a bit different, something that had the wow factor – nothing seemed to live up to these cushions!

In the end I decided to make my own wall art! The result really pulled the whole room together, and the fabric art looked fantastic alongside the cushions. Friends constantly commented on the art and cushions, saying ‘wow, where did you get those from?’ People started to ask me if I could make similar pieces for their homes too. So I started making things for friends and eventually began listing online. To say that demand outstripped resource, was then, and still is now a massive understatement! Everyone who sees our stuff, loves how refreshing and colourful it all is. We even have people considering redecorating a whole room just to tie in a few of our jazzy cushions! I spend quite a lot of my time now keeping up to date with fabric trends and we only use the most exciting and innovative designs available!

How many hours you work and how do you fit these around your family?
We have only just sorted out a regular childcare routine for our three children (yes we are mad). It was difficult because the eldest is 9 and the youngest is only 8 months, so they are all at different stages needing different things. We seem to constantly be doing appointments, clubs, school runs, parent meetings. I’m sure everyone with three kids knows how it is – a million things to remember and a very busy schedule!

The children are in childcare and school now 9-5 Monday to Thursday and we always have a Friday off to clean the house (grandma day). We try to be strict and turn our PC’s off between the hours of 4.30 and 9pm (eldest’s bedtime) but they tend to go straight back on again till the early hours! Me and Rob try to find two evenings a week to relax, go out or just watch some telly over a bottle of wine...although sometimes this ends up being a business meeting.

It is hard running a business with a small family, especially if there is a problem; I really feel the urge to sort it out and it plays on my mind, sometimes this isn’t great when you are supposed to be spending quality time with your family and I can get quite stressed.

Having said that, it’s great that I can take my child to the doctors, pick them up from school or a club, watch a play and not have to ask anyone. I have set my own hours at 9-5 but I could easily finish at – If I wanted to! Although generally, I don’t do that because my to-do list is endless!

What do you love most about your business and are there any negative aspects?
The negative aspects are the financial mayhem, far from rich we seem to be always juggling bills both personal and business and making a profit is extremely difficult these days. The flexibility however and the way that I get more time with my kids than when I was working full time, is worth the sacrifice.

What would be your top tip for someone looking to start their own business?
Network, meet some like-minded business people in your area, join forums, get involved. There are thousands of business owners out there who have plenty of experience and advice to give, and the value of that can sometimes be underestimated. I have worked for myself for 6 years, and believe me I have made  lot of mistakes along the way – but I have learnt from it and it would be good to pass that on.

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