Steph Douglas, mum to Buster (5) and Mabel (3) answered every new mum's dream when she started her own business, Don't Buy Her Flowers, in 2014, offering practical/delicious/luxurious gifts for mums in those difficult newborn weeks. With a successful business, young family and quick-off-the-draw social media activity, we want to know how she does it all...
How did Don't Buy Her Flowers begin?
The idea came after I had my first baby. I sat on the sofa feeling weepy and leaky and a bit in shock and flowers kept arriving – more than I had vases for. Lovely family and friends sent them as congratulations and to acknowledge my (major!) part in having Buster, but it just struck me as bonkers that at a time when you’re doing more caring than you’ve ever done in your life, the go-to gift is another thing to care for.
After that, when friends had babies I’d send them a magazine and some chocolate in a jiffy bag – things that were for them - or leave food on their doorstep if they lived nearby. They were so grateful, and often emotional, and I wondered why nothing like this existed. At the same time I’d gone back to work and started a blog called Sisterhood (and all that) which was all about honesty and being in it together and that went really well. Other women had found motherhood as tough, ridiculous and funny as I had and the popularity of that gave me the confidence that I could ‘do’ something, so I handed in my notice. It was terrifying.
It can be hard to juggle a career and family life. What, if anything, do you feel you've sacrificed by choosing your current lifestyle?
The biggest sacrifice is probably sleep. The kids have hit an age where they generally sleep all night and if I hadn’t started the business I think I’d probably feel less tired by now! Evenings are often spent working after the kids are in bed, while friends are jazzing up their houses our money is going back in to the business… but it’s all about the long term goal. We are working it all out, but it’s really exciting to be creating something together and Doug and I feel more like a team. We’ve become a bit more equal at home and that has been critical. You can’t do everything you did before and run a business on top.
What's your top tip for mums on maternity leave?
God I don’t want to be a cliché but try to enjoy it. Babies are hard work and mums, especially new mums, are incredibly hard on themselves. I now know that no one finds it easy – some people are better at making it look like they do, but all mums have self-doubt and feel lonely and anxious. Don’t feel like you have to be trekking about proving you’ve still got it and you’re coping.
Also, if you can go back to your old job, go for it. It might not be your dream job or what you see yourself doing for the next 10 years, but motherhood is a major upheaval and I found it really reassuring to go back to my old job and see familiar faces, and that then gives you a bit of a breather (and some cash!) to plot your next move if you want to.
What's the best gift you've ever been given?
I have a wishbone necklace from Doug that he gave me before I started the business. He’d written a note along the lines of ‘I believe in you. Go for it’.
What's your favourite product from DBHF?
Oooh, that’s hard! Ok I’m going to go for our newest package that has just launched – The Time Out Package (see below). It includes our Care Package, which is our best-seller, plus a COOK voucher plus a MILK Beauty voucher, so the recipient can order prepared meals delivered to her door and book an at-home treatment such as a massage or manicure for a time that suits her. I just think it’s the dream package for a new mum or anyone that needs some TLC. The very first notes I scribbled down about Don’t Buy Her Flowers included at home beauty so I’m really excited to see how it goes. (MILK Beauty is only available to London addresses currently; we send everything else UK-wide and Internationally on request).
Make us feel better about ourselves. What's your biggest mum fail?
So many! OK, when Buster was potty training and I went out without wipes. He did a poo at the side of the road and I had to use Mabel’s cardigan to wipe his bum. In fact most of my fails are around bodily functions. It’s what kids do.
Are there any other mums out there who inspire you?
Loads! All of them! I think we’re a very exciting, pioneering generation where we have options; stay at home, work full time, do your own thing, retrain. None of them are easy – there is no easy option – but every mother I know is doing her best to find something that fits her family’s circumstances. Unfortunately we often seem to think we’re not doing enough or the media tries to pit us against each other. Frankly most of us are too busy worrying that we’re cocking it all up ourselves to notice what other people are doing.
Where do you hang out with the family?
Mostly very close to home, in St Margarets near Richmond. We do a rotation of parks, local swimming pool, and a pub called The Aleksander that does great pizza and wine and they give the kids colouring. We can be more adventurous when the kids are bigger and we’re less tired.
What's next for DBHF?
We’ve only been going for 18 months and it’s been awesome – sales are growing every month and each time we get a piece of coverage we see another climb. I’m also really enjoying creating a team – it’s not just me anymore! The next stage is about continuing to reach more people and staying focused. Our packages are all about the recipient; the idea behind the business is based on insight and I don’t ever want to lose that.