When Cas McCullough and Erica Perry met at a homeschooling social group it wasn't just their sons who hit it off, these two dynamic women found they have shared business and family values and complimentary skills.
So when the opportunity came to buy into the new and rapidly growing Support a WAHP online business they put their heads together and made it happen.
They now swap business tasks and child-minding activities to keep the ball rolling for a young business.
We caught up with Cas and Erica to find out how they make this balancing act work and how their attention business planning and marketing is making a difference for their WAHP community.
Tell us a little about yourselves, what's the day to day life like for the small business owners of the Support a WAHP and who makes up the team?
Cas: Like a lot of women I thought I could just send my kids off to school and then go back to work full-time. Life had other ideas. When my 7 year old was in grade one, it quickly became apparent that he wasn't coping with a traditional education. He is autistic and also a bundle of energy and that combination just didn't work at school. So, we made the decision to home educate and we love the lifestyle.
Usually I start my day with an espresso in hand, at about 6.30am in the morning and do some work before we head out for the day, whilst Erica does most of her work in the evenings, once the rest of the family is in bed. We both usually go back and forth from the computer throughout the day if we're at home and make full use of our iPhones when out and about..
The team is made up of six people at the moment: Erica Perry and myself own the business now, Amanda Powell is staying on as a consultant for a few months and we also have some work at home mums assisting us with moderating our very active Facebook Page: Carmen Franz of Frazipani Blankets, and two new moderators Rachel Ballard of Violet Spice and Annette Page from Nettie’s Handmade. My 11 year old is an absolute whizz at Wordpress and he often helps me problem-solve when I get stuck with a plug-in.
What do you see as the key purposes of Support a WAHP? What do you want to achieve through it?
Cas: Support a WAHP is about supporting the global community of parents and people who work from home, by providing relevant information, networking and marketing opportunities. Through Support a WAHP we want to continue with the fabulous work that Amanda Powell did and provide an outstanding and value-for-money resource for WAHP’s and we want to continue to be innovative in what we do.
We want Support a WAHP to be the place work at home parents and people go to for quality information, networking and marketing of their businesses. The reason this online community took off in the way it did was because working from home can be isolating.
Amanda started Support a WAHP to connect isolated work-at-home parents in her community. So many mums work from home now because it not only meets their lifestyle needs but because it can be really daunting going back into the corporate workplace after having children.
What (or who) inspires you, that encourages you to reach out and make Things happen?
Cas: I am inspired by so many people! I really love Mari Smith. She’s amazing in how she markets herself. Personally, as a creative artist myself, I have been inspired by the Etsy team. Websites like Etsy have really put handmade and work at home into the spotlight.
Another personal inspiration for me is Justin Herald. He started a T-shirt business with just one shirt and it was his economic philosophy I used to start up my original work at home business, Mumatopia. He's also very passionate about social ventures and being able to use wealth to make a difference in others' lives. That is something which really speaks to me as a person.
I am also inspired by parenting expert and author Pinky McKay. She’s been a work at home, and home educating mum and now grandmother for many years and has built an incredibly successful business around her family life. Locally, I belong to a community of business women and we inspire each other every day! My kids definitely inspire me. Their innate curiosity and ability to find stuff out has rubbed off on me and it's part of the reason why I've gotten back into sewing again.
On a more personal note, I'm also inspired by life's experiences. A few years ago I had an ectopic pregnancy and nearly lost my life and that was a huge wake-up call for me. I believe every day is a gift and I don't want to waste it. I've also experienced postnatal depression and know how hard it can be to work through. Having something positive to focus my energy on is very therapeutic!
What do you enjoy most about the business?
Cas: I enjoy learning about other work at home businesses. There are so many innovative ideas out there! I also really enjoy writing about business and the challenges faced by working from home. Being a creative person at heart, I also love creating ideas and making them happen.
Erica's head is going to explode from all the ideas I keep throwing her way. Erica enjoys handling the basic day to day running of the business such as the book work and the more monotonous stuff that doesn't interest me so I'm able to focus on my creativity.
What's been the hardest part or experience you've had since starting the business?
Cas: Well, we’ve only just begun but, for me, the hardest part has been figuring out the technical side of running the website. Everybody does their websites differently and you get a feel for how to do things eventually. We also recognise that we are the new kids on the block and that we need to build a rapport with the Support a WAHP community.
It’s not hard exactly, but it’s something that will take time. I'm also just trying to find my feet with regard to managing two businesses. I sometimes feel like I have a split personality on Facebook and need to figure out how to switch gears more easily.
Erica: For me, the hardest part was being away for the first week we were in business, trying to help Cas whilst staying with family who had unreliable broadband, or dialup! I wanted to be more involved and also wanted to be able to help Cas more. Then when I returned home, it was all about getting my head around how everything worked, which I'm starting to find my feet with now! Also, I am starting to find it easier to resist the temptation to stare at the Facebook page all day, as like Cas, I have a home and family to care for, including a one year old boy!
What's been the best thing for the business that you just stumbled upon?
Cas: The amazing networking opportunities. Some fantastic ideas have come out of synergies with other businesses who are part of the Support a WAHP community. We have some exciting plans for the future that will really benefit our community of work at home parents/people. We're also loving learning about innovative ideas to bring into our marketing mix. Learning all the ins and outs of social media has been really fun and beneficial to both of our businesses.
What do you think has been the most successful promotional activities you've explored to getting the word out about Support a WAHP?
Cas: The In the Spotlight competition is very popular. Each week five businesses are randomly selected to be featured and our followers get to choose one to be interviewed for our In the Spotlight page. The winner gets to give a lot of insight into them and their business. We plan on doing some new competitions in the future as well, just to keep things fresh.
The other thing we’ve done recently is to change the way we do our sponsor shoutouts. Everybody is doing shoutouts on Facebook these days so I think it has more impact for our sponsors if we take a little more time and actually look at their websites each week to see what new information we can share with our Facebook followers. Since we’ve started doing this, the feedback has been great!
We'll be trying some different things in the coming weeks and months and that will be heaps of fun to see what works and what doesn't. Most importantly, we want to do what works for our followers and advertisers.
You have a flourishing number of followers on Facebook - what do you think has been the best way of getting your name out there on Facebook?
Cas: I think that there was an obvious need for this service and since Amanda started up, a number of other similar businesses have popped up on Facebook. One thing I’ve noticed about Amanda and one thing I try to do myself is just be genuine and real. People identify with you more if you are more focused on connecting with them.
We don't go and self-promote on other business pages. I'll only tag another business if I feel I have something of value to add or if the focus is on them. Facebook is about people getting to know other people and if we create a welcoming and warm feel to our page, we know that people will want to join our community.
What are the hopes and plans for Support a WAHP this year?
Cas: Initially, Erica and I want to tidy up the website a bit. When Amanda started Support a WAHP, she only had a small community of WAHP’s in mind and didn’t set up the website with so many businesses in mind. So, we will regig things a little to make the website more user-friendly for a growing community.
We are also going to bring some innovative options into our marketing mix, and start up a series of workshops that we can roadshow anywhere in the world. We are working closely with business development expert Amanda Foy from Foyster's Communication to further develop our ideas. Essentially though, the heart of Support a WAHP is that it is there to support the community of work at home parents. We want to keep our focus on that. Our hope is that WAHP’s in our community will continue to see the value out of the website and will continue to support us by advertising with us.
What would be your top 5 tips you'd give to someone starting out?
1. If you have an idea, start out small and grow it as you are able.
2. If you love to write, start a blog. If you don’t, find another WAH business that blogs about other businesses, your products and services.
3. Join a local networking community such as a Chamber of Commerce, or another business networking group.
4. Put yourself out there: write media releases or phone local journalists to tell them about newsworthy events and projects.
5. Take the time to write a solid business plan. Being strategic with your branding and activities is important to keeping your focus on what you’re aiming for with your business.
Meet Erica Perry and Cas McCullough of Support a WAHP
Erica Perry and Cas McCullough bought Support a WAHP in February 2011 after it was launched by Amanda Powell early in 2010 and all with the aim of providing a supporting and empowering online environment for parents working at home.
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