Today we are introducing you to small business owner, Merrilee “Poppins”, who provides a service to new mothers as they enter the new stage in their life.
Merrilee’s small business idea, Mum 4 You, is to support new parents as they raise their young children. She aims to be just as much a support to the parents as she is to the children’s upbringing and education. Whether it is babysitting, watching her interact with the children, home schooling or some extra support around the house, Merrilee is there to help out.
“Colin was the rock really, he is so approachable. He gave me confidence in myself to be able to do the job. I don’t know if I fully believed that the business would take off but he always believed in me.”
Read more about Merrilee’s business journey with Mum 4 You.
I provide care and support for families with newborns and children of all ages. I have the experience to provide a wide range of services, so that families can feel confident that I will support them whatever their needs are. My slogan is: “I can be a Mum 4 You.” I have a lot of experience working with children. I am a trained child care worker and have experience working as a Education Assistant in Kindy, Preschools and Primary schools as well as in special needs. Also I have three kids of my own!
Creating a Business Idea
Initially, I had the idea for the business many years ago. I was a mum of three children, all with health challenges and my husband used to work away. We lived in the South West and my extended family lived in Perth. While I could ask our friends to pop in and help, they had their own kids and struggles so we couldn’t always rely on them. I thought what I really needed was someone like my mum who could come past. They could do some cleaning and help look after the children so that I could get some rest. It would have been someone that I could talk to as well. I was after support from someone who had been through it too and had the life and professional experience. Someone that I could trust with my children.
I was looking to get some income support and I visited konnect employment. They asked whether I had a business idea. The woman I spoke to had a young family and she loved my idea. They put me onto the NEIS Program and it was there that I met Many Rivers business coach, Colin, who came and talked about how he could help us after the five week program.
So I had this idea and it wasn’t until 2019 when I was struggling to find work since recovering from my own health challenges, that I finally started bringing this idea to life. Then COVID-19 hit.
I was initially focusing on families with newborns but that was hard due to the fact that clients were understandably not prepared to hire someone to help care for their newborn during a pandemic. So I started working with children of all ages and also doing some home-schooling. The clients just keep coming now. Initially, I was just hoping to get around 25 hours a week and now I’m getting that once a fortnight and 30 hours a week every second week. I could easily upscale if I wanted to. Gumtree has been the best way for me to advertise as well as another childcare website called, Care.com.
The change of direction for my business opened it up to provide me with more work and an exciting variety of it. I’m thoroughly enjoying working with children of all ages and the varied experiences this provides. My work is very hands-on and I try to extend children during play and activities. I love supporting families with household jobs, mentoring, respite or just an ear to listen when things are getting just too much. My personal experiences means that I can relate to most families and what they may be going through.
One family I work with has a nickname for me. They call me, “Merrilee Poppins!”
Working with Many Rivers
I knew that babysitters in my area were earning a very minimal wage and that my experience and service was worth far more. How could I start a business and make clients aware of my value if nothing quite like my service exists? Colin helped me realise that I needed to charge more than an average babysitter. However, with COVID-19 I felt it couldn’t be too high. Between us we came to an initial rate to get the business started. Now my rates vary depending on the family. I have a free ‘meet and greet’ where I meet the family and we discuss their needs and my rates. I make it very clear that I’m far more than a babysitter.
Colin gave me the confidence to believe in the value of the expertise I have. He helped me negotiate increases with clients, as well as the confidence to sell my business services to new clients. Colin also helped me with my online bookkeeping because that was something that I was really struggling with previously.
If I’m not sure about anything I can just ring him and ask him a question and even if he doesn’t know the answer he will say to not worry, and he’ll find an answer before the next meeting.
I feel like I can talk to him openly and honestly, even when I have personal challenges. Colin is so understanding and regularly gives me different ideas on how to make the business successful. He’s more than just a business coach, it’s the personal, real-life stuff too.
Technology and doing the bookwork has been the biggest challenge for me, but once I got onto Wave it was so much easier. I also remember getting so stressed in the beginning and not having the confidence in myself to put myself out there to get clients. This confidence has grown exponentially since the start of my business. I now believe so strongly in my business and what I have to offer that this makes interviews with new clients far easier.
I don’t have as much time at home with my family as I used to have, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. As a family, we have all just had to get better at time management. They are a wonderful support and very proud of what I’ve achieved!
To have a dream that I have thought about for a very long time and finally being able to bring it to life. The constant positive feedback from families and the smiles and joy that I receive from the children that I work with. Now with Colin in the picture, I can actually imagine growing this business and hopefully in the near future employing someone to help me expand the dream.
Future Goals for her small business
Employing people to grow my business and employing experienced caregivers who are my age. Statistically, mature women are a demographic that have a high unemployment rate. I hope to get to a point where I can offer them employment. I truly believe that quality, experienced, family support from mature caregivers is an area that is desperately needed in our communities. We live such hectic, busy lives often without support and I want to change that.
I also really want to thank the funders who help Many Rivers support me to do what I do.
Thanks Merrilee for sharing your business journey so far. We are excited to be joining you on this journey as your business grows. Keep updated with her business journey as it grows by following her on Facebook.
Many Rivers would love to encourage more people to take the first step towards kick starting their small businesses idea.
Do you want to make your small business dreams a reality? We’re here to support you the whole way.
Please take the Small Business Self Assessment and see if we are right for you.
If you loved this Many Rivers client story and are keen to read another, meet Aunty Dawn, a Tasmanian Aboriginal Elder who facilitates healing circles with her small business Kani Mapali, as well as designing landscape circles and is also an artist.