I Started A Business In Lockdown & I Love It
By Olivia Vandyk
Setting up Blossom Antenatal by Co-Founder, Olivia Vandyk
1. Olivia, thank you so much for being interviewed for AMotherBrand. What were you doing just before lockdown?
I was working as a freelance communications consultant, around my four children.
My background is in Communications and Event planning, spanning a wide variety of industries, from PR for FTSE 100 companies, to working in well-known consumer magazines to working as the Site Editor and Community Manager for Mumsnet for over a decade.
I branched out on my own five years ago and have been advising small businesses on social media strategy ever since with my business Gingham Cloud.
2. What did you start up during lockdown?
A group of six of us founded a non-profit organisation called Blossom Antenatal, in direct response to the developing global pandemic COVID 19.
Our HQ founding team includes the skills of an antenatal teacher but also PR, Web design, Booking, Property Development and Social Media.
We joined forces with midwives, lactation consultants and NCT trained teachers, to help expectant parents who were feeling disappointed and anxious that they were unable to access their NHS antenatal classes.
Our first class ran a week after UK lockdown started in March 2020. We now have an Instagram following of 19K followers and have now taught over 10,000 parents.
Focussing initially on breastfeeding, led by our burgeoning community of parents and parents-to-be, we have introduced new classes as and when there has been a call for them. These now include classes for partners, and classes for solo mums.
3. What was the motivation for starting up your new business? How did it come about?
It was when we realised people were stockpiling loo roll, we thought there may be a run on baby formula. We realised that more people may want the antibodies provided by breastfeeding so we started by running free online breastfeeding classes.
We were lucky enough to secure some funding from a very generous donor to enable us to start as a non-profit – we used these funds to spread the word using Instagram advertising and the teachers donated their time and worked for free.
We only introduced charges at the end of May to keep things sustainable. We have since brought in a variety of other ways to support new mums and are working on more.
4. What have the biggest challenges been with your new business?
Working around homeschooling all the children, and the holidays and trying to work out how to make Instagram give us a decent rate for ads. It was definitely hard in the early days not being able to all get in a room together and just properly brainstorm.
5. What are the things that have helped you the most on your new business journey so far?
WhatsApp, Zoom and a sense of humour!
6. What are the things you’re enjoying most about your new business?
Being part of the decision making, working as part of a team – hearing amazing feedback from the Mums on that they’re able to feed their babies, that what we’ve done has made a huge difference for them.
7. What are your next steps for your business?
We are working on how best to take it forward – we’d love to do in person events but obviously not sure when that’s going to be feasible. In the meantime, we are working on doing other things to support mums.
We firmly believe if we provide the support, then the rest will follow – so we’ve run free classes for solo mums, and a support group for mums with babies in the NICU.
8. Has this experience changed you and your vision of what you want to do in your life in the future?
Actually having something that makes a difference in the world makes me go to bed happy at night.
9. What have your highlights been from running your new business so far?
For me personally, it’s been working with a great team and loving the work I’m doing.
Being able to teach so many women and seeing the amazing feedback is huge.
Knowing that we are making a huge difference is what keeps me going on a Sunday night when I’m tired and about to go live every week on Instagram. I feel enormously grateful to be part of something that is helping parents in an otherwise really tricky time.
10. From your experience, what would your top tips for someone thinking about pivoting or starting up a new business?
Go for it! Wherever there is crisis, there is opportunity.
Always remember your own worth too. At times I’ve felt that my co-founders are doing more tangible work, but wise words from AMotherBrand’s Nonie made me realise that I am an integral part of the team. We all bring different things to the table. While I am not doing the teaching, I’m bringing my social media & communications skills, my ideas, enthusiasm and my smiling face to our weekly Instagram lives!