This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
- What gave her the confidence to believe in herself
- Why she chose the self funded route
- Her positive experience as a woman in business
Hello Sara! Tell us a bit about you.
I’m Sara Vickery-Bragg, a mum of 2 and founder of small business, Seventeen Minutes. I drink copious amounts of tea, love a good Netflix binge and am a bit of a chocoholic. Ok, a total chocoholic. I’m a born and bred North Londoner, I’m married to an Aussie and I’m in the thick of motherhood right now – Max is 3 and Olivia is 1. My two favourite things are spending time with my kids and spending time without my kids…!
Tell us about your business, Seventeen Minutes.
When I first became a mum, I struggled with losing my identity and independence. I found that taking time for myself got me through some tough days. I’ve made it my mission to motivate mums everywhere to take time for themselves. Seventeen Minutes is the ultimate dose of relaxation delivered to your doorstep – a quarterly self-care subscription box for mums. Each box is packed full of little treats to enjoy some me-time and mostly sourced from small British brands I’ve found on Instagram. You can subscribe to 2 boxes. 3 boxes or 4 boxes. There’s also the chance to buy a one-off box, perfect for gifts or a little self-gifting. I’m so proud to donate £1 from every box to PANDAS Foundation UK, a charity that supports parents suffering from perinatal mental health.
What was the moment that everything changed for you? Describe that moment when you decided to fully commit to your idea and the first few steps you took to make it possible.
I was the queen of procrastinating over this business for several months. I was on maternity leave with my second child and the decision of committing to a business fuelled a lot of anxiety for me. It wasn’t an easy decision to quit my job but I went to an event, Congregation of Inspiration, run by Holly Tucker and that night, I decided to go for it. It was a hugely inspiring day for me and really gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Soon after that, I quit my career of 10 years in Publishing. It was the best decision and I haven’t looked back. I wanted a new challenge, something that motivated me, a business I felt passionately about and also the flexibility to spend time with my kids during the week while they’re so young. Once I gave my notice, I worked on a short business plan and then the real fun began – loads of planning!
What were the initial challenges you came across and how did you overcome them?
It’s an ongoing challenge – start-up budget! I decided not to get a loan and to self-fund the business through savings. I started with just £1,000 so I had to really strict with my initial spends and prioritise the key components to launch the business. I used a free theme from Shopify rather than shelling out early, I designed the logo on Canva and I took product photos of the first box on my iPhone in the living room. None of these things were ideal but it was about getting started and seeing if there was interest in the business before investing too much in it.
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
The first few subscriptions gave me such a confidence boost. The fact that complete strangers subscribed to future boxes based on only seeing the Launch Box was a huge win for me. The community on Instagram was slowly building and I was starting to see the same people commenting on posts and supporting me – they got it!
Did you take the investment route for your business or are you self-funded? Can you share some insights on your decision and the process?
I chose the self-funded route for a few reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want the financial pressure of having a loan and I was lucky to be able to fund the business from savings. It made the start-up process quicker and feels less stressful. Secondly, I wanted to keep the option of a bank loan for a later stage when I feel the business is ready to roll out to the next phase and will need an injection of cash.
What has been your best investment?
Childcare! The kids go to nursery a few days a week and it gives me a good amount of time to knuckle down and work in peace. Childcare is so expensive and we’re not at the stage of enjoying any free hours yet but, to me, it’s worth every penny. I love what I’m doing and having those days to focus on the business each week makes me happy and keeps me fulfilled. I’m also lucky that the kids spend a day or two with my parents which is a huge help too! Having reliable childcare in place means I don’t have to work at nights or weekends unless I’m working on something big. It’s so important to me that I have a balance between family and work – that’s one of the reasons I quit my safe 9-5 job in the first place.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
I’ve made a few mistakes along the way for sure. I ordered too many of one product and was left with excess stock I couldn’t sell. And, I sent out an email to subscribers with the wrong subject which is totally embarrassing. I’ve learnt from both mistakes – be cautious when forecasting stock, test every email and don’t work past 10.30 when I’m falling asleep!
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
To believe in yourself. Not everyone will share your vision for a business and they certainly won’t share your passion but, that doesn’t make it any less worthy of pursuing. Focus on your own vision and go for it.
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
We’re living in a time where there are so many strong female role models in business which is just brilliant. I’ve followed several business journeys: Holly Tucker, co-founder of NOTHS, Steph Douglas, founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Molly Gunn, founder of FMLY Store, Gemma Capocci, founder of Calm Mamas Club and Anna Ceesay, founder of Motherdom magazine. I have to give a mention to Lucy Wern, the PR whizz, who gave me some super advice when I was starting out. I’m a complete PR novice so she’s really opened my eyes to how PR for small businesses works.
What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?
So far, I’ve had a really positive experience and I feel like there’s a lot of support out there for women in business. Women are brilliant at supporting women and I’ve found Instagram is a great place to start building a community. Stats show that more and more women are starting businesses, particularly after having children, and I hope that number continues to rise. One thing I’d love to see change is that we stop using the word “mumpreneur”. It’s a bit marmite – some people like it, some people hate it. Personally, I’m not a fan. I’d prefer to be viewed as an entrepreneur who just happens to be a mum. Instead of “female founder”, I’d like to be called “founder”. Have you ever seen the term “dadpreneur” used? Never! Here’s hoping one day men and women will be equal in business terminology…
What can we do to support your business?
Sharing and collaborating is great for driving growth. Hosting events like Hugs & Brunch is a great idea to bring like-minded entrepreneurs together.
What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend?
There’s so many good podcasts out there! Bossing It, obvs…! Also, Dreaming and Doing with Nicky Raby, The Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher and Small and Mighty Conversations with Sam Burgess. I joined the Natwest Pre-Accelerator course – a brilliant resource for small businesses that really narrows your focus and makes you understand your goals and customer. I use Instagram as a resource too, for finding new brands to feature and to give me ideas for the future.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Just go for it. And even on the hard days, keep going
How can readers get in touch with you?
Website – www.seventeenminutes.co.uk
Email – email@example.com
Instagram – @seventeen_minutes
Facebook – Seventeen Minutes
Sara is offering F&F readers 15% off single boxes with code FLOURISH15 and it’s valid on Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer Boxes.
Thank you Sara! – Lara
About the Author
Indiana Julian is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Co-Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.
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