All4Women Entrepreneurs is a monthly feature where we put the spotlight on amazing female entrepreneurs starting businesses in South Africa. This month we spoke to Shannon McLaughlin (who started baby product business, Ubuntu Baba) to find out how she balances motherhood and entrepreneurship.
A mom-preneur is a woman who balances motherhood and entrepreneurship. Motherhood often requires creativity and effective problem solving, which are also vital to entrepreneurship, so it’s no wonder that the two often go together.
Shannon McLaughlin, the founder of Ubuntu Baba is testament to this. After having her first child and struggling to find the perfect baby carrier, Shannon designed her sought-after Ubuntu Baba baby carrier in just four months. She has been successfully juggling entrepreneurship and motherhood since 2014, and this is what other entrepreneurs can learn from her journey.
1. Have an incredible product
Ubuntu Baba carriers were born out of Shannon’s own need for the perfect baby carrier. As a mom working from home Shannon needed a carrier that was both comfortable and convenient but couldn’t find one that would suit her needs.
“I first designed the carriers to suit me then I gave carriers to different moms and took in their suggestions altering the carriers as I went until I had a product that would suit a variety of carers and babies,” she says.
“This was a huge investment, but it definitely paid off in the end because it was with those suggestions and adjustments that we ended up with the carrier we have today,” says Shannon.
2. Be your own cheerleader
Running a business isn’t easy. There are days when even though you are doing what you love, things just don’t go your way. Shannon says on days like these it is crucial to your success not to feel sorry for yourself; instead you should become your own number one fan.
“A positive mindset is a must and so is being your own biggest supporter. You can’t actually afford to have ‘feel sorry for yourself’ days because there is no time for that. If you feel that happening, you have to snap yourself out of it,” says Shannon.
3. Learn to delegate
Having been a freelance web designer, Shannon had never managed anyone before her team at Ubuntu Baba. Eight months into running the business, Shannon had to hire staff to share the workload and the responsibility of making Ubuntu Baba a success.
“Once your business gets to a stage, you start to hire people to help you, and being ‘the boss’ didn’t come naturally to me. It’s a strange place to be and one I had to become familiar with quite quickly,” she says.
Although taking on the leadership role took some getting used to, Shannon says delegating the work and responsibilities of running a business was necessary and definitely made her life easier in the long run.
4. Be willing to learn
At the beginning of her business journey, Shannon admits she knew little about producing baby carriers, but learning from her father’s experience in manufacturing and accepting his guidance throughout the process of producing the carriers was vital to her success.
“We bumped heads a lot. I would have an idea of how I wanted to do things and he would have suggestions on how we could achieve the same goal in a completely different way based on his experience. It was a difficult process, but I learned a lot from it and it was all necessary,” she says.
Shannon also has a mentor who offers her guidance and advice through her entrepreneurial journey based on his experience as an entrepreneur.
5. Look for opportunities to collaborate
The world of business can be competitive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work with your competitors. Shannon is part of a community of entrepreneurs who service the same market of modern parents. Some products sold by these entrepreneurs are promoted and mentioned on Shannon’s Ubuntu Baba online platforms. In turn, these entrepreneurs do the same for Shannon and Ubuntu Baba.
“I have a great relationship with other people running SMEs. We collaborate, share ideas and give referrals. We sometimes compete, but we don’t let that ruin our relationship – competition is healthy,” explains Shannon.
Shannon is also part of a community of babywearing mothers offering support, advice and sharing their experiences on the Ubuntu Baba website. It is through this forum that mothers and caregiver who are curious about babywearing and Shannon’s products can engage with Shannon and other moms to get an idea of their experience and what they can expect from the product as well as advice on how to use it.
“Babywearing saved my life. The transition from being pregnant to becoming a new mom was difficult for me. I missed out on the support of other moms going through the same transition. The blog adds the aspect of support and community,” she says.