Making plans, adapting them, weighing up pros and cons… a lot of thought goes into how to continue running a staffed business while also expecting your first-born baby. As the Founder and Managing Director of Belfast-based digital marketing agency Search Scientist, Louise was keen to ensure that her staff and clients would be able to carry on as normal, even if she was out of the office for a significant period of leave.
In the run-up to Cassie’s birth, she was repeatedly warned by other agency directors and business mentors that it just wouldn’t be possible to successfully run the business and keep staff engaged while also providing full care to a baby. Online too, there was a dearth of advice on how to combine pregnancy and motherhood when you are the sole director of a small, staffed business.
“So much of the difficulty in planning was not knowing how I’d feel after the baby arrives,” she says. “I’d no idea at what stage I’d feel ready to leave my baby in someone else’s care while I went back to work. There was a real risk that the business I’d invested six years in could go belly up if I didn’t manage it correctly – while also juggling a new born baby.”
In the many months of business planning in the run up to her due date, what particularly disappointed Louise was the lack of advice and stories online of women who run their own business, while having children. All Google results led to maternity pay info, not real stories about how sole directors coped with running a team while pregnant and having a baby.
The transition wasn’t easy. Louise ended up working right up until the day of the birth, and returned to work a lot earlier than planned. There were staff changes, client issues and administrative stresses to navigate, while she learned how to breastfeed and cope with minimal sleep.
But as Cassie approaches her first birthday, Search Scientist is doing better than ever. It has just been shortlisted as one of the top Google AdWords agencies in the world at this year’s Google Premier Partner Awards, and it recently won a marketing contract with a top university over bigger, London-based agencies. Cassie has become an honorary staff member, popping into the office every once in a while, and Louise has managed to find a work life balance that allows her to happily split her time between her two families.
“My staff are like my second family,” says Louise. “In fact, my pregnancy made me realise just how important they are to me, and how important I am to them. Search Scientist is my baby, and now it has a sibling. And I care massively about both my babies.”
“I want to let other women know that it is possible to be the sole director of a staffed business and have a baby at the same time. You are not alone”.
“I would love to chat to any other women who are in a similar situation to offer encouragement and advice”.
“The more us women in business can help each other – the more we’ll succeed”