Meet the mums in a million

PUBLISHED: 12:36 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:36 28 February 2014

Hannag Gee of Love Inc Ltd

Hannag Gee of Love Inc Ltd

Rikard Osterlund

Working mums who sing, sell, make and do messy play

Name: Emma Gardner

Home: Tunbridge Wells

Job: Self-employed classical singer and event organiser

Contact: 07904 513 254 or

Tell us about yourself

I have lived in Tunbridge Wells for 11 years now and have 2 children, Alana 8 and Max 6. I trained for 6 years at the Royal Academy of Music, London with professor Joy Mammen. Before the children were born, I travelled around Europe singing for Opera Festivals and in Opera Houses in France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Describe your work

I have always loved travelling and so being an opera singer seemed a wonderful way of doing just that, while working in an environment that is both challenging and rewarding.

I learnt my craft in the Frankfurt Opera House, Germany. Learning how the business works, both backstage and front of house, was very interesting. I learnt the importance of a good working environment, and how crucial it is to a successful business.

I kept that lesson when, many years after my 18 months at Frankfurt, I took on the immense project of organising VSGala2012 for the wonderful charity Victim Support. Through the generosity of some of my musician friends and the unending dedication and hard work of Victim Support, we produced a hugely successful Gala at the Barbican Centre, London.

I enjoyed organising it so much, that I am in the early stages of my next project, which I am really enjoying immensely.

Who has inspired you most?

My first inspiration was my father, who showed me the beauty of music. Later, my two singing teachers: at school, Celia McNaughton and then Professor Joy Mammen. At the end of my studies, I met opera legend Thomas Hemsley and his wife Gwen, who were a constant support until his death in 2013. I sang on the three TV series of Lesley Garrett Tonight! and was constantly impressed by her unerring professionalism and generosity of spirit.

Now my family and close friends are a constant source of inspiration to me, forever keeping me happy and grounded.

Any advice to someone starting out in the music business?

I would advise them to listen carefully to their peers and then use their intuition to know what advice to take and what to leave. It is crucial to know your strengths and to be patient with your weaknesses. Performance is not about perfection, but about individuality. Be open and positive to opportunities and above all, enjoy it.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I don’t look that far ahead. I am enjoying what I do now and hope that I will continue to do so with increasing ability and efficiency.

How do you relax?

I love reading, both to the children and by myself. I go to the gym at least three times a week. It’s essential to keep fit when juggling motherhood and a career, and Virgin Active in Tunbridge Wells is full of wonderful people I love seeing every week. I also enjoy going to the theatre and cinema whenever I can with friends and the children.

3 Top Tips

● Keep fit

● Keep going

● Keep smiling!

Name: Katie Mullally

Home: Tunbridge Wells

Job: Owner, The Studio

Contact: 07590 569926 or

Tell us about yourself

I have been living in Tunbridge Wells for more than 20 years, apart from a year in Australia in 2006. Adrian and I have two children, Will 19 and Georgia 17. I have six brothers and sisters, who all went to university - apart from me.

I began helping in my grandmother’s antique business when I was 16 and then went to secretarial college. Instead of going to university I travelled and when I returned to the UK I would temp and also help in the shop; that’s where my passion for precious metals began.

I worked for Olivetti as a trainer and after a few years started my own training company, which then turned into consultancy work.

I gave up work to have my children and when they started school I renovated properties, which I loved because it allowed me to be creative and to be around for the children.

Describe your business

In 2010 when the children were older I took a course in silversmithing in order to pursue my dream of designing jewellery in precious metals.

It is of primary importance for me that my pieces are British made and I now work with several silversmiths, each of whom has been practising their craft for more than 30 years, with the result that a high quality product is achieved. My packaging is also British made.

What makes your business unique?

In my grandmother’s business I learned the value of hallmarking, which gives the maker’s name and the date of the piece. In the UK it is only necessary to hallmark silver weighing over 7.78g but I have always insisted that every piece of mine is taken to the London Assay Office in Goldsmiths’ Hall to be marked ‘KMM’.

This means that when you buy one of my designs you are not just investing in a piece of jewellery which you love wearing, but also in a lifetime heritage, which will be one of the antiques of tomorrow.

Any advice to someone going it alone?

The sums have to add up: if it’s not going to make money or, worse, if you are going to lose money, don’t do it.

Treat everyone the same, each customer, each product must be given the same attention to detail. Be prepared for lots of hard work: your weekends will disappear

Prioritise your time: there are only a certain amount of hours in the day. Everyone has the same - even the self-made millionaires - they just decide how best to use those minutes

Start a business that you know about or are interested in and stay true to your brand.

Keep your overheads and costs as low as possible, For example I have converted the garage into studio. If you need extra help, outsource rather than employ.

Cash flow is the main stumbling block especially for small businesses, so keep a tight rein on all expenditure

Work with people who understand your vision and brand and are excited and supportive of the business, and with people who have different strengths to you and both excel in and have a passion for their specialist field.

Any company is only as good as the people who work in it

Listen to your customers, without them you wouldn’t have a business and remember, the harder you work the luckier you become

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I am building the brand around the hallmark so I would love all my customers who have original KMM pieces starting from the year 2011 to find that they have already increased in value. I believe a piece of silver without a hallmark is like a painting without the artist’s signature.

I am currently in more than 50 UK stockists. I am visiting Japan and Singapore in April as they have shown an interest in my products. Recently I was featured in the New York Times T magazine online, so I would absolutely love to see my collections in perhaps five other countries – one a year!

How do you relax?

My son has left for university and my daughter will be probably leaving in a couple of years, so I love spending as much time as possible with them – they grow up so quickly.

I go to the gym as much as possible and a New Year’s resolution is to start yoga. I also love cooking and can lock myself away in the kitchen for hours with Michael Buble and Ed Sheeran as loud as possible. And a great way to relax is with my girlfriends.

3 Top Tips

● Prioritise your family – take time to go to the school play and then work in the evening

● Get the family to help – they can learn a lot from it and so can you. Talk to them about all aspects of the business, the good and the bad; it’s really educational for them to actually see what is involved with starting and running a business.

● Forget the housework and those long dog walks!

Name: Sarah Finan

Home: St Marys Island, Chatham

Job: Owner The Creation Station Chatham Maritime

Contact: 07979061662 or

Tell us about yourself

I’m Sarah, wife to Dave and mummy to Millie and Lottie. I have always worked in childcare, prior to The Creation Station I worked in a local children’s centre as the deputy childcare co-ordinator. However, as much I loved my role, it wasn’t working out to be quite as flexible as I needed and although I was only part time, I missed not being able to take and collect my girls from school and nursery.

Describe your business

I knew that I still wanted to do something with children and families and thought a franchise would be perfect, but needed to really research what would be right for me. I came across The Creation Station and was totally sold; Early Years Play is a passion of mine and The Creation Station’s ethos is totally what I believe in.

Creativity is so important for children and I feel that it can be undervalued and felt that this would be my chance to help educate parents in the importance of it and the real benefits children can get

Our aim is to inspire children’s natural creativity from an early age in a safe and nurturing environment using art, craft, music and movement. Not only is it great for children’s development, but it’s really good fun to get to do creative stuff with your child especially when mess isn’t an issue and all the planning and clearing up is done by someone else! The sessions also relate to the Early Years foundation stage framework.

What makes your business unique?

I am the first Creation Station Franchise in Kent, and have had so many people give such positive feedback that it’s such a wonderful session and there is nothing else around like it.

I also provide Arty Parties and Family Fun sessions in the school holidays. There really was a gap in the market and I’m proud to be able to have filled it.

Any advice to someone going it alone?

Really do your research if it’s right for you if you don’t believe in your business it will show, you have to be determined that it will be a success. If you believe in yourself, so will others.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Definitely still running the Creation Station successfully, providing an exceptional service for children and families, with a team of staff around me.

How do you relax?

Walks and bike rides with my little family with a pit stop at a country pub, a nice bubble bath – and shopping!

3 Top Tips

● Believe in yourself and your business

● Don’t let yourself always come last - to children, partner, work, home. You’re important, so make yourself a priority. It’s not selfishness, it’s self-preservation!

●Get organised,. Leave as little as possible to the manic mornings: pack yours and your children’s bags and get children’s clothes and your own clothes ready the night before.

Name: Hannah Gee

Home: Tunbridge Wells

Job: Interiors stylist

Contact: 07980 611394 or

Tell us about yourself

I am a born and bred Sunny Tunny Wells resident. I went away to university but realised what a pretty special place I had grown up in and decided to come back to raise my own family here. I have three small boys aged, seven, five and three, which makes for a very busy and noisy house and yes, there is lots of play fighting, but they all still like a nice cuddle as well.

Before I had children, my background was in sales and management. It paid well but I never really enjoyed it. I longed to use my creative side and I have achieved that with my own business, Love Inc, which sells a mixture of modern, vintage and cool, retro homewares and gifts. Ten per cent of our profit goes to Hospice in the Weald.

There is an online shop, but also a physical shop that our loyal customers visit time and time again. It’s based in our house, in central Tunbridge Wells, so customers can see the products in a real setting and they can also get lots of fantastic styling ideas, they haven’t seen before. The shop is open by appointment, so I can flexible with childcare.

I started the business because I am passionate about interiors and I believe that the stuff we surround ourselves with has a real ability to affect how we feel about where we spend the majority of our time. I like quirky, original interiors that make you think, inspire you and ultimately make our homes our sanctuaries from the stresses of daily living.

What makes your business unique?

Love Inc is unique because it is an affordable luxury. Our blog offers styling inspiration and DIY projects to try at home. Our stock is constantly selling, so there is always something new to look at. And because we donate 10 per cent to Hospice in the Weald, buying from us gives to someone else.

Any advice to someone going it alone?

Do something you love. Don’t worry about making mistakes, they are the best lessons you can learn. Try to keep them financially not too costly, and do your research so that you can figure out why something hasn’t worked.

Also, don’t compare yourself too much to the market leaders in your field. They started at the bottom too, and a year from now, people will view you as an expert in your field. Read Oh, the places you’ll go by Dr Zeuss with your children every now and again. It will remind you (and teach them) that it’s OK to succeed and fail, it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to be designing more of my own product ranges for Love Inc and collaborating with some of the department stores I admire, like Liberty’s, John Lewis and Debenhams. They are all great at supporting small businesses with new ideas.

How do you relax?

My business is my hobby and interest! It never feels like work, which is so important when you are juggling as many balls as women need to in their lives. Working again after seven years of being a full-time Mum has taught me to enjoy so many aspects of parenting, that I was starting to take for granted.

3 Top Tips

● Organisation, passion and hard work will get you where you want to go

● When something goes right, write it down and put it in a jar. On your down days, read through your jar full of your successes. Don’t forget that every failure is just a lesson to learn from, each one will move your business forward.

● You are not alone. I joined Tunbridge Wells Mums in Business when I started out and it has been so helpful, not only in terms of educating myself on business issues, but has also given me some amazing contacts.

We all try to help each other out as much as we can.

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