Love For The Mama Chats to Steph Douglas
I stumbled upon Steph Douglas via Instagram. The first post I ever saw of this gorgeous woman was in a video of her dancing like a nut with her kids to Mark Ronson - Uptown Funk ft. Bruno Mars (bet you want to listen to the song now). I genuinely laughed out loud because though I did not know this woman, I instantly liked her as this is what I do on a regular basis with my kids.
The woman had moves but on closer inspection of her Instagram page, I found out she was the boss of her own growing business. Steph created Don't Buy Her Flowers with a simple aim: to provide thoughtful gift packages for new mums. The reaction was only positive and people love them and not only because they are wonderfully and thoughtfully put together but because you are also buying from a woman who runs this business with her heart and her family.
I was so happy when this boss lady with a wicked sense of humour said yes to an interview...
1. Why did you set up DBHF back in 2014?
The idea for the business came when I had Buster and I received more flowers than I had vases for. It struck me as bonkers that the go-to gift for new mums was another thing to care for, when you’re doing more caring than you’ve ever done in your life. After that, I’d give friends that had babies a little package with chocolate and a magazine, or something that was just for them and they were so grateful – and often emotional – I wondered why no one was doing this. At the same time I’d gone back to work and didn’t have the same passion for my job, while looking to the future and wondering how on earth I was going to continue working in central London once the kids started school. I never planned to run a business – I was very happy taking a salary from someone else – but I guess everything aligned and it just all made sense.
2. You mentioned in a Mamas and Papas video clip that you didn't set up DBHF until your youngest was 2, though the idea came to you when you had your first baby, was this a conscious decision?
I honestly don’t think I had the energy or will to do much for at least a year after each baby, other than keeping them alive and getting used to our new set up. Then when it was time to return to work I was very happy going back to my previous job because it was what I knew and there was enough upheaval going on without changing jobs too. I liked the familiarity of the job and people and even the journey to work. I’ve met women that said they felt really creative just after having babies, but I just didn’t. And there is nothing wrong with that! It worries me that new mums might feel a pressure to ‘do’ something with their maternity leave. Fab if you want to, but no one should feel like they have to. Soon enough you’re out of the baby zone and we’ll probably be working until we’re 70 (which is a cheery thought!) so a bit of time out is ok. It’s not ‘just’ being a mum – being a mum is enough too.
3. You blog about all things, was this something you were doing before DBHF? Or something that started with the business? (Why did you start to blog?)
I started Sisterhood (and all that) before starting the business – it was after I’d gone back to work having had Mabel and the idea for the business was building but it felt like such a massive leap. I set myself the task of starting the blog because I knew it would test how focused I was but also required me to learn first hand about social media. I love writing. I love relating to people and the whole business is based on that idea of empathy, so I needed to prove to myself that I could do that first. I honestly believe that no one is feeling something that a million other people haven’t felt before them – about relationships, motherhood, your body, friendships, work. But a lot of the time we feel like we’re the only ones and that can be really isolating.
4. What do you enjoy most about running DBHF?
If I’m really honest I didn’t enjoy a lot of the first two years!! I felt pretty anxious about each next phase, and also not very confident in myself at times and it was just hard work juggling it all. We moved the business out of the house to premises in September last year and that has changed our lives. Running the business from home was the right thing to do, and it meant we could test out the concept without borrowing lots of money. I’d do it again, but it’s only now I realise how invasive it was. My favourite thing is seeing it grow, the increase in orders, the feedback – we get a lot of repeat customers and I love that because it means we’re getting it right. It’s all more enjoyable now there are more people involved too!
5. When you get moments of doubt, how do you tackle those feelings?
It’s got easier the further along we’ve got because I think an inner confidence grows that you don’t have at the beginning, or at least I didn’t. Generally, Doug is my go-to when I’m having a wobble. He is very numbers based so he’ll point at a graph of our sales, which basically shows that we’ve consistently grown since launch. He dropped me off at our warehouse the other day and I was feeling coldy and a bit sorry for myself as I was working and he was going off to have fun with the kids, and I got a text just after saying ‘I’m so proud of you’. He believed that I could do this from the start and I don’t think I could do it without his support. I also have support of lots of lovely women – as well as women I’ve met through blogging and business networks, my oldest best girls from home are ferociously supportive. You would not want to cross them! I feel weepy when I think of them because they’re just such brilliant, daft, hard-working women. As well as getting strength from others, I’ve learnt that if you run a business you have to stop and reflect on achievements because you’re never finished. There is always more to do and that can feel pretty disheartening so you’ve got to celebrate the wins.
6. What has been your proudest moment so far with DBHF?
There have been quite a few. I had one driving back to our HQ in Stroud the other day. We’ve got premises, staff, happy and loyal customers and loads of plans. That feels pretty good.
7. You did a post in 2014 about your husband when he was diagnosed with cancer when you were pregnant with your first child, where did you guys seek your strength from in such a difficult and emotional time?
It’s a weird one – looking back we just got on with it, but there wasn’t really much option to do anything else. Obviously we had family and friends who were brilliant. They put aside their own fear and focused on helping us, which was pretty amazing. Doug is a very strong person – he has more focus in him than anyone I know, which makes him brilliant as well as infuriating! But when he commits to something, he commits. One thing that he taught me was about staying in the present. There’s a bit of you that wants to know what happens next, and what if this doesn’t work then what, and what happened to someone else diagnosed with the same…it can lead to a very dark place, but also it’s basically wasted energy on something out of your control, so focusing on the now has become a bit of a life lesson. We learned a lot about each other and I think it still helps us all the time six years on. When the shit hit the fan, we pulled together.
8. You are honest and take the piss out of yourself through your Instagram and blog, why do you think that's such a healthy attitude to have in this crazy journey we call motherhood?
I think this whole thing started because I’m a talker and would say to mates ‘god this is hard’. Really quickly I found that speaking honestly with others made me feel less lonely and less like I was getting it all wrong as you soon find that everyone feels the same – even that person that always looks like they’ve got it together while you feel like a sweaty, leaky mess. Also I’m shit at photography, so even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do the beautiful Instagram.
9. How do you kick back and relax?
Gin. And just being with Doug and the kids with no plans of a weekend. They’re a really lovely age where they get sarcasm and can play games and they make us laugh. I love a dance in the kitchen with them. And box sets, of course.
10. Finally, if you had to pick one gift set, which one would be your favourite?
Gah! Ok, I’ll go with the Care Package. It’s one of our best-sellers, and was the idea that started the business. It’s also the one that is most likely to make the recipient cry because it really says ‘here, sit down for ten minutes’ and knowing someone recognises you need some TLC is really powerful. I’d add a COOK Food voucher as well, as I think whether it’s new parents or get well or just having a rubbish week, they all need some great food that they don’t have to prepare.
You can follow Steph Douglas on Instagram @steph_dontbuyherflowers and shop the gift package range at http://www.dontbuyherflowers.com