Power maternity leave

Setting up a business on maternity leave is becoming a popular trend, with new mums making up a significant proportion of today's entrepreneurial community.

We speak to the women who have done just that, to discover what inspired their leap of faith, and whether it paid off...

Hilary Collins

Big Wave PR

I had enjoyed a high-flying career in PR, but when I became pregnant with my first child, my experience in the workplace took a negative turn. This unfortunate episode became the catalyst for something new in my life. I had always dreamed of setting-up my own PR business and my maternity leave opened a new door.

At first the balance between work and ‘being a mum’ was tricky. But months of breastfeeding had given me hours of opportunity to brainstorm ideas, create copy for the website and develop launch strategies. My daughter had a rare condition and couldn’t go to nursery for the first two years, so I was very lucky to be able to look after her at home and set-up my own business. During the first few months business was slow but by the end of the first year we had landed a few major brands. The business has continued to flourish, and we’ve received multiple awards. I’ve also had two more children, which has been another challenge with running a successful business.

Sadly, maternity leave was almost non-existent with my boys, but I did work from home, so I was on-hand to breast feed and look after them whilst keeping an eye on my inbox. I was also very fortunate to have an exceptional mother-in-law who supported me throughout. My advice for new mums would be to remember that they’ve just done an amazing thing – they’ve created a new life! So, don’t rush back to work unless you must. However, there’s always a balance and mortgages need to be paid etc, so if you have to go back to work very quickly make sure you schedule some extra special time for you and your baby.

To discover more about Big Wave PR, visit www.wearebigwavepr.co.uk.

Julie Wilson

Cheeky Chompers

Amy Livingstone and Julie Wilson started award winning nursery brand Cheeky Chompers when they were on maternity leave with their first children. Julie Wilson shares with us their inspiration, award winning global success, challenges and top tips!

Amy and I were lucky to meet through having children however we never imagined we'd set up a business together soon after! The business came out of our experiences when our babies were teething and we were constantly picking up and sterilising dropped teethers – ‘Why doesn’t someone invent a teether that stays attached to the baby’ we thought …..

We launched the World’s first chewy dribble bib the Neckerchew in 2013 and haven’t looked back! We make all our fabric products in the UK and have designed a range of stylish and innovative everyday parenting essentials to make parents’ lives that little bit easier. All our products are practical, attachable, machine washable and stringently tested to worldwide standards.

Our award winning Cheeky Chompers range is now nine products strong, offering the Neckerchew, Comfortchew, Neckerbib, Chewy the teething hippo, the Cheeky Blanket and an adaptation of our Neckerchew for older children and adults with oral sensory stimulation needs. In 2017 we launched the Muslin Collection comprising four innovative products made from 100% super soft organic muslin: Neckerchew, Neckerbib, Comforter and our latest innovation the MultiMuslin, one beautiful teething muslin with six clever uses. We launch stylish new designs every Spring and Autumn and we have just launched our latest product Attach & Chew silicone teething rings.

We appeared on Dragons’ Den 11 weeks in to business with the Neckerchew and whilst the dragons loved the product they did not believe our projections. When it aired a year later we benefited from a fantastic PR boost and traffic to our website had an astonishing uplift during and after the broadcast. It’s amazing the recognition that early appearance has brought us. We’re pleased to say that we smashed all the figures the Dragons’ dismissed within a year of business so we’re one of the ones that got away!

We founded the business with our own funds and support from friends and family and continued to fund our growth from company profits, with no external investment.

We’ve enjoyed rapid growth and are delighted to have sold more than one million Cheeky Chompers products around the world. We are the baby gift of choice in many high street stores such as John Lewis , JoJo Maman Bebe, Boots and overseas export accounts for over 70% of our turnover as we export to 36 countries with the USA, China, Taiwan and Australia being our largest. Our most recent highlight was being honoured with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, the UK’s highest accolade for business success. We never expected a trip to Buckingham Palace when we started out during our maternity leave!

However, it hasn’t been all plain sailing. Neither of us had backgrounds in retail and it has been a steep learning curve understanding barcodes, pallets, MOQ’s and the export documentation! We invested heavily in IP and then successfully gained first to market positioning in key markets, but have had many battles enforcing our IP. We have fought hard to manufacture our products here in the UK and maintaining a market appropriate price is a constant consideration and we work hard to constantly innovate, refresh and stay one step ahead which means you can never get to the end of the to do list! All that coupled with a growing team, 2 on maternity leave and our young children and families it’s all about effective juggling. Running your own business is certainly not the easy option - but definitely very rewarding!

We have loved developing our own business and team, creating opportunities for new products, new customers and new markets. Our journey has been an exciting one and way exceeded any expectations we had. The pace and challenges of running a fast growing company is really motivating as is the constant feedback from happy customers. Five years into business we go from strength to strength with exciting new designs launching this year and further expansion into China... watch this space.


  • Listen to your gut feeling- trust your instincts!

  • Make sure you have identified a genuine gap in the market then make the solution the best It can be from all angles..then go for it

  • Actively listen to your customers and constantly deliver the best product or service you can to meet their needs

  • Do something you’re passionate about and excites you - this motivates you at work and home!

  • Prioritise a work/life balance. Look after yourself- setting up and running your own business is challenging. While it’s rewarding you need to be prepared to weather the high and low points

Visit www.cheekychompers.com