Published on November 9th, 2013 | by Kelly Rose Bradford1
Lone Parents Mean Business: from childcare to doggy daycare!
Tracey Longmuir is a single mum to an eighteen-month-old little boy. She runs a hugely successful pet care company in the Lincolnshire countryside – a business she built from scratch at the very start of her pregnancy.
When did you become a single parent?
At the end of October 2011, when I was four and a half months pregnant.
What career were you in at the time?
Unbeknown to me, I was 10 days pregnant when I started my business, but prior to that I was in print management for a global company, managing their largest UK retail client print team.
What made you decide to take start your own business?
I had a family member suddenly die which made me realise how precious life was. At the time, not having a family of my own and working 24/7, we (me and my then-partner) decided to move from Leeds to the Lincolnshire countryside and change our whole lifestyle. Having having used dog walkers for years with my own dogs, I decided to put my experience to good use. I set myself the challenge of trying to set up my business within six weeks to try and re-balance my life and possibly start a family
How do you juggle it with parenting?
Until my doggy daycare centre opened in August I split my week between using childcare and taking my son out dog walking with me, grabbing minutes when he was asleep for phone calls. My office and admin time was in the evening between 9pm-1am when he was in bed. Now he is in full time childcare and comes to doggy daycare with me over the weekend.
What is/what has been the biggest challenge?
The tiredness and how it obscures your judgement, your focus and your perspective. And sometimes the challenge keeping yourself from the edge. And learning to ask for help.
What advice would you give other lone parents who want to start their own business?
Research as much as you can about the help that is out there and available for you and child, but also with your business. Draw on local businesses and networks to support you, and don’t beat yourself up about every little thing you get wrong -you’re only human not superwoman/man!
What is your biggest fear as a lone parent?
Finances worry the life out of me, and also that my son will get bored when he is at work with me.
How do you think lone parents are generally perceived by society?
I kept my baby quiet for weeks whilst I was splitting up with his father, as I didn’t want customers to think of me as unreliable, irresponsible and as someone who was going to leave them high and dry! That was silly because they were all amazing! One one customer became my birth partner and one put me up for nearly four months when I became homeless! Many more fed me and kept me going through some very dark times. I think society would be more tolerant if they understood how serious circumstances have to be for you to do it alone.
Have you ever experienced any negativity as a single mum?
A lot of the negativity arose in the early stages of my pregnancy at my local council office when I was trying to obtain help, but more recently I have been struggling to find childcare that is understanding about my business and son’s needs. The whole experience of trying to find something that fitted my budget has been the most negative of all.
Is it harder for lone parents to be self employed/entrepreneurs?
I think it stands you in great stead for being hardy, resilient and motivated! Having said that though, not having any support to allow you to switch off, sleep and eat has been hard for me. But then there is also the drive and passion you feel as a lone parent to feed, clothe and provide shelter for your child – and that stands you in good – if not better – stead to be self/employed.
Do you think there should be more help for single parents?
Yes I do. My life was made harder by having no family support after my son was born, and although the health visitors were understanding there was little they, or anyone could really do – I had to find my own way which meant working day and night whilst adapting to being new mum.
Are you a one off among your family/social circle, or do you have lots of lone parent contacts/support network?
I’m a one off in the situation I’m in. I do know mums whose husbands are away for lengths of time, but for them there isn’t the constant pressure of the financial situation that single parents are faced with every day.
How do you split childcare/access etc? Was this easy to arrange?
My ex has never seen his son, so I guess that’s been the easy part!
Tell us more about your business?
My business was born out of a love for dogs and the desire to enjoy life and run a business with the same passion that I used to put tirelessly into my career as an employee. IsIs Petcare provides all round pet care, dog walking, training, pet-sitting, boarding and now a doggy daycare centre. I’m expanding into providing knowledge and advice promoting more responsible pet ownership and I now have eight employees!