I was in two minds about posting this article on my own blog. I wrote it for the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) UK Chapter’s magazine, Touch Matters. I was so proud when I saw my words in print! And so I decided that I would share the article – there’s not much about baby massage, it’s all about running a business really. But that’s a huge part of my job – a huge part of any small business owner’s job – and I thought maybe an insight into the hard work required to get a business up and running would be interesting. And with it, a reminder about the importance of supporting all different types of small, local and independent businesses.
My First Year as a CIMI…
At the end of August last year, a non-descript envelop dropped thought my letter box carrying inside it my certificate announcing that I was a fully Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI) and thus starting me on this fabulous path: small business owner, business mum, mumpreneur… I am confident that I teach quite nice classes, but when it came to running a business – well, lets just say it was a steep learning curve!
As I come to the end of my first year as a CIMI and look back over the last 12 months, it’s impossible not to laugh, to despair, to celebrate: the worries over class numbers; faltering (and expensive) attempts at sales and promotion; the miscommunication that could have tainted my business; deliberately avoiding anything out-with my comfort zone; the amazing reviews; the recommendations; the community of other business mum; and the demand that encouraged me to put on extra classes.
In September last year, I excitedly chose dates for my first ever course of Baby Massage as a certified instructor. I cobbled together some adverts to put on my Facebook page and I waited to see what would happen. The answer was not much! I ran my first course with three mums; a friend, a friend of a friend and an actual bone fide customer. Only one paid for the course. I decided that advertising was the answer and without much research or experience threw some money at adverts in a local family magazine expecting to be inundated with enquiries. Nothing. My second course ran with three mums. I begged friends to share my posts, I left a trail of flyers in my wake… I just hadn’t realised how hard it was to get noticed and to persuade people to book.
Gradually, recommendations started steering new mums in my direction. In one year, I’ve worked with over 120 families. This September, rather than a class of three mums, I’ve got three fully booked baby massage classes – and a follow-on class too! I get genuinely excited when a mum or dad messages me about a class. It is a huge privilege to be chosen by them. When I receive a review on Facebook, or a lovely message after a class, you can’t remove the grin from my face. I am thrilled that the parents and babies are enjoying my classes as much as I am. I had no idea what a difference we Infant Massage Instructors can make to individual parents.
From the very beginning, I was eager to offer Dads’ Workshops. Once again, I was very disappointed with uptake. Not one dad signed up to my first class. It was only when chatting to a friend, also a new dad, and in trying to persuade him to attend my session did I realise I had made a spectacular error. He asked a question that both horrified and amused me in equal measure; ‘what do the babies do when the dads have their massage?’ That’s a different type of massage service!
I’ve tried a few things that just haven’t worked. I paid way too much for venue hire in one instance. I ran classes with such small numbers I was running at a loss. I ran out of money completely. I cut corners on basic marketing tools. I put off building a website because I was just a bit scared about not knowing what to do. I avoided creating a mailing list or using MailChimp for the same reason. I wanted to write a blog but didn’t think anyone would be interested. I’d like to do more Facebook Lives and videos but I just find it a bit embarrassing. I lost sleep over GDPR. I cursed Facebook and the bloody algorithms!
Earlier this year I realised the error of my ways. I had my set work hours i.e. when I was teaching a class. I didn’t leave any ‘work’ time for all the other stuff and just tried to cram it in around all my other life stuff – did I mention I have three children aged 6, 4 and 2, and I’m studying for a Psychology degree with the Open University? I started tackling the scary stuff by learning about it first. I connected with fantastic local mums running other business and I have made some friends for life. I’ve also been amazed at the friendships I’ve made online with fellow CIMIs in Scotland and around the world. If I have a question, I know who to ask. I’ve learned a huge amount my watching what others do. I might be a sole trader, but I am definitely not doing this on my own,
I was so naïve about how easy running a business was; people just make it look so simple! I have learned so many new skills and I am incredibly proud of where I am today. I am an Infant Massage Instructor running classes that people benefit from and talk about with their friends. I also seem to be getting the hang of advertising, social media, mailing lists, websites, blogging, record keeping, accounts and spreadsheets (although HMRC and self-assessment is terrifying!)…. I know I’ve still got lots to learn but I really can’t wait for what is to come; I might even have a proper, clever business name by next year!
Thanks for reading xx
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