RedBalloon came about because I wanted to create something meaningful and build a company based on having fun, creating great memories and providing a wonderful customer experience. I wanted to work for a company that I was happy to get up and work for in the morning. And I knew if I could do that, other people would want to work there too.
But the main motivation for starting RedBalloon was that I wanted to see my children. I was tired of feeling guilty when I left the office at five on the dot to pick up my children from daycare. Don’t get me wrong, turning RedBalloon into a profitable and successful business was hard work, and it didn’t happen overnight. But it has allowed me the chance to see my children grow up and play an active role in their lives.
I’m not going to sit here and say it’s been easy juggling motherhood and building a business, and sometimes I wonder if I do either one of them as well as I could. But we’re all human at the end of the day, and we all do the best we can with the resources we have. I am blessed to have a team of wonderful, hard working and hilarious people working alongside me every day delivering meaningful experiences to our customers.
I have an associate with young children who works part-time at RedBalloon and freely admits that she is a far better wife and mother because she is able to work, contribute and exercise her creative brain with her peers each day. I also worked too hard on my career to pack it all in when I had kids. And I think I am a better mother because I have other interests. I tried to compromise by working from home.
RedBalloon thrives because of its great team. Part-time roles, the flexibility to work from home or take time-in-lieu are not ground-breaking or innovative on our part. Yet the spirit in which all these are offered may well be.
Right now, with a recent string of pregnancy announcements at RedBalloon, I am on the hunt for childcare places close to the office. Everyone’s contribution here is valued equally as highly, no matter the hours they work, or whether they are working virtually or sitting at a desk in plain view.
Having said all of that, being a woman in the business world is very normal to me. My mother and grandmother were both brilliant business women, and I remember watching my mother head off to work in her suit every morning and thinking to myself “gee, that looks fabulous”. The point I make is all about choices.
The reality is after the birth of a second child it becomes even more difficult for parents to manage the expense of childcare and maintain a career. Not everyone has the financial freedom to choose not to take paid work once they become a parent.
And while parenting teaches you so many valuable lessons about yourself and your organisational skills, it may not give you the outlet to practise the vital skills you studied long and hard to acquire, because that is a passion you hold outside of your role as a parent. That is the point: many parents want the flexibility of staying connected to their chosen field because they personally feel that connection helps them be better parents, feeds their passions and helps them financially.
My top 5 tips for working mothers:
Take time out when you need it – being a mother can often mean that you have to be able to respond to the unpredictable. For example, if your child is sick, take the time out to help them get better.
Make time – if, like me, your weeks are really busy, time management is really important to ensure that you spend time with your family.
Set boundaries – be clear with those that you work with and yourself about the hours you work. If you have agreed that 5-6pm is dedicated 'home time', make sure that you stick to this.
Identify your strengths and use them to your advantage – find other people who can do the rest. Surrounding yourself with a strong support network will help you balance your role as a mother and business decision maker.
Be realistic about the goals you set for yourself – no one has superhuman powers and no one can do everything and be everywhere at the same time. And remember that everyone’s definition of “success” is different.
Naomi Simson left a corporate career in marketing to set up RedBalloon in 2001. RedBalloon has now been listed in the BRW fast lists for the past six years.