Tiffany London, 41, Mum of two and founder of maternity occasion wear brand Tiffany Rose
It's been 10 years since I started my maternity occasion wear label, Tiffany Rose. When I think back, it's hard to believe so much has happened in what feels like such a short space of time.
I started the business (which was more like a part-time hobby) when I was 31 and I ran it from a tiny rented flat in South London. I was so excited at the possibility of creating a business from scratch and felt really passionate about my idea - to offer stunningly beautiful, unique and glamorous maternity designs to pregnant women. Many of my friends thought I was crazy but I saw it as a massive opportunity that I didn't want to miss.
A few years later I was married with two young children and a thriving business that meant we were bursting at the seams. I still have vivid memories of our spare bedroom and sitting room filled with boxes and clothes rails, my days filled with a random mix of telephone calls, nappy changing, sending emails, feeding, processing orders, playing - and then racing to the post office behind the most enormous pushchair, packed with customer orders and of course, my two toddlers!
It's hard for me now to imagine juggling two young children with a demanding home-business, but I guess I always had the bigger picture in my mind, which was the huge possibilities that lay ahead if I could get this to work. I looked permanently exhausted, but I didn't mind.
So the decision to finally get a lease on our very first office was very exciting. It opened up so many opportunities for us, not to mention that we could finally employ staff, which was life changing for me.
Several years later Tiffany Rose HQ has moved again and we are now very proud to have a slick and efficient warehouse, a busy and creative design studio, offices and a showroom of beautiful maternity designs. My husband has now joined the business full time, we currently employ 18 members of staff, have secured fantastic partnerships with our British manufacturers, and this year we received a very special award from HRH The Queen in recognition for our growth in international sales.
There have certainly been highs and lows along the way, and I have had to quickly develop new skills as the business has grown, including the art of delegation, time and people management. One of the things I always avoided in life was speaking to large groups of people, but there's no getting away from it when you manage a growing team of very bright people, and through lots of practice I'm getting the hang of things now.
When you have a never-ending list of tasks and responsibilities, I find it's helpful to list your priorities in order of importance versus urgency. If you can't complete everything in time, you will feel you're at least going in the right direction.
Granted time feels scarce, especially when balancing work life with children. Yet it's all too easy finding yourself making promises that you can't keep, or filling your diary with too many self-imposed deadlines. It's hard to say no but it's better to keep your life as simple as possible in order to keep the stress levels down and to stay sane.
Delegating was something I also needed to practice - it wasn't something that came naturally to me - but I now really enjoy it. It's impossible to control every single aspect of your business, and you have to trust that you have good people around you to help.
Think carefully though about which parts of your life to delegate, remembering what is most important to you and what you absolutely have to be a part of. I know that I didn't want to delegate my children and I'm very lucky to have a supportive husband and between us we share the school runs, sports day, school plays and homework etc.
Work is a huge part of our lives and I want my kids to know how important it is to do something they love. My husband and I are always very positive about work when around the kids (even on the toughest days!) and we love to involve them so they feel part of it. At weekends when we need to get things done in the office, they enjoy coming along and helping out. Our daughter (now 8) loves the design studio and has taken up sewing. My 6 year old son loves IT and says he can't wait to build his own website. So here's hoping we'll get some extra support in a few years ....!
Tiffany Rose launched in 2003 and specializes in elegant and timeless maternity occasion wear. Collections include maternity evening wear, red carpet gowns, wedding dresses and stylish day wear. Designs have been worn by pregnant celebrities including Emma Bunton, Una Healey, Holly Willoughby and Myleene Class.
Follow Tiffany London on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TiffanyRoseUK