Tanja Peters, the founder of Coochy Coo, talks about being her own boss and how she managed to set up her own business while she has small children.
How to create a company when you have young children
Tanja Peters has been living in Dubai since 2005. She and her husband, Tim, have three children, Milo, 6, Kenu, 3 and Numa Lou, 7 months. Peters is the founder and managing director of Coochy Coo Middle East (www.CoochyCoo.net), a baby clothes and accessories brand.
Why did you decide to set up your own business?
When I was on maternity leave I was saddened to see that the baby shops in the malls were all selling the same items and they all came from big global brands.
There wasn't a single shop where I could find a gift I really loved for my best friend who'd just had a baby. So I stitched her a pillow out of organic cotton with the name of her son on it and filled it with wool. That was the beginning of Coochy Coo. The Guardian Angel pillow was our first product.
What's the best thing about being your own boss?
If one of my kids falls sick or has a school concert, I just rearrange my day and work in the evening. That's what I love about being an entrepreneur.
On a day-to-day basis, I have breakfast with my kids at 6.30am, then I take them to school and work at my desk from 8am until noon. We have lunch together at noon and then I work again from 1pm to 4pm.
What's been the hardest part of running your own business?
To find good people you want to work with and who share your attitude towards the company. In our first year, the personalised Kindergarten Bag came back five times from production and each time the name Jack was spelt wrong. We now follow a strict quality control system where our employees work towards a reward system to minimise mistakes. We've also started to write instructions in local languages to avoid unnecessary errors.
Have you managed to achieve a work/life balance?
Yes, and I can say that quickly and without hesitation because eight years ago I filled out a questionnaire with a work coach while I was still employed by a big corporation. It revealed that I was stressed, unbalanced and deprived of free time. I filled out the same questionnaire two years ago and the results were completely different, showing that I feel balanced, healthy and happy.
The funny thing is that I probably work more hours in my head today, but I feel completely different because I'm truly passionate about what I do.
What does balance mean to you?
I am an ambitious "project pusher" and I'm only happy if I'm working on tons of different projects at once. If solitude and relaxation make you happy then you wouldn't agree that my life is balanced.
I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all formula for work/life balance, since it's about what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. I think it's very easy to reach a work/life balance in Dubai because, with the help of a nanny, you have the time to do the things that make you happy, whether it's working for a charity, travelling or meeting up with friends. I think it's about being aware of what's important to you and setting priorities.
That's not to say it doesn't take commitment, time and a certain amount of resources to achieve balance successfully.
How do you manage to do it all?
I have two wonderful nannies who help us raise the children and allow me to go to work. I have a very supportive husband and the fact that he travels frequently gives me space to work late at night. I have great parents who come out from Germany three times a year and allow my husband and me to go away for short trips without the kids, and I have a great network at school where we share car lifts, drop-offs and pick-ups.
• Use technology to your advantage With a Blackberry or iPhone, I can easily email, order tickets to a play or send a tweet about the latest arrivals of the new summer collection all while I'm at the park with my kids.
• Stay healthy Like most working parents, I don't have time to get sick. My family and I drink tons of elderberry juice to boost the immune system. We also eat lots of fruit and veggies and I exercise at least two to three times per week.
• Use time wisely I've sent emails between midnight and 3am. I don't suggest you cut out sleep, but if you can't sleep anyway, you might as well be productive.
• Get help when you need it I used to create all the kids' birthday party invitations alone. Now I let a paper company deal with the invitations. For the last party I hired a football coach. You can't do it all.
• Schedule time for yourself and your partner You are the most important person: without you, the house of cards will collapse. There was a life before kids, so don't forget to go on some fun date nights.
• Push away guilt Only when Mummy is happy will the kiddies be happy. I once read that it takes just 20 minutes of intensive playing with children per day to make them feel appreciated and content.
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