Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Gemma, a mum to two boys – Leonardo and Cassius – and founder of
allbymama.com, an online marketplace for businesses run by mums.
Gemma calls herself a travel addict, a wine lover and a little bit of a geek at heart.
Let’s chat about her childhood, being a mum and running a successful business:
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in a town called Buckingham, which lies midway between Milton Keynes
and Oxford. It’s a small town and I tend to get bored quite easily so I was ready to
move away when the time came to go to university, I went to Bournemouth and loved
every second. Buckingham is a pretty town but I craved more adventure even as a
How was your own childhood?
I can’t remember much of it – I have an awful memory! I have two wonderful brothers
who are five and seven years younger than me and I loved mothering them when I
was growing up, we are still very close now. I have lots of happy memories hanging
out together with them. I always struggled to find my place in friendship groups and I
think it was because I moved schools a few times. It was really at university where I
made some close friends, although I managed two different courses in two years and
left without a degree after securing a job in a marketing agency and moving to
London (with my now husband) at the end of my second year – I’m also very
What did your parents do?
They ran a marketing agency together, with a focus on CSR, until they got divorced!
My dad then continued as a CSR consultant and my mum went back to university to
study fine art when I was 14.
Do you remember what or who you wanted to be become when you were
I wanted to be an actress, I went to drama school every weekend, auditioned for lots
of roles, took part in lots of amateur dramatics and was offered a scholarship at
drama school – however the fees were too expensive for my family so I never got to
go. I think that’s quite motivating now, looking back at that and wanting to make my
own luck and money.
When you finished school, what did you do next?
I finished school at sixteen and ran a hotel restaurant for a year, I had a ball, but I got
bored and started thinking about returning to education. A year into that, I left my job
and started at Oxford college, studying Psychology and Drama. However, a year in,
the opportunity to go traveling for a year arouse and I had to take it. Luckily, I’ve
always worked and had some money saved, so I went for it and deferred my place
and that was definitely the best decision. When I returned I completed my
qualification (I can’t even remember what it was now!) and went to Bournemouth
University to study advertising and marketing. I only applied to one university,
I somehow knew I wanted to go there and luckily I got accepted as I was technically a mature student (21)!
What were the next steps in your career?
Two years into my degree, I applied for two work placements – one in New York at
an advertising agency and one in London at TBWA (also an advertising agency). I’ve
always been ambitious and I’ve always enjoyed work (and enjoyed a challenge) and I
wanted to get out there and see what it was like – and I wanted to go to New York! I
did both placements, I didn’t get on too well in New York – the work culture was a bit
of a shock and I was so desperate to explore the city but I loved the London
experience. I decided I would apply for a job at the end of the summer and if I got
one in two weeks I would not complete my degree and if I didn’t I would go back and
study. I kind of thought that I was in the industry now and back in the world of work
and I didn’t appeal to go back to studying. I did get a job and therefore I didn’t get a
degree! Maybe I regret that, I’m not sure I do, but I started at a small agency as an
Account Exec and there my career in marketing began. I spent seven years working
in marketing as an Account Director for various agencies and brands including
Disney. I left after the birth of my first son.
How did you manage to build a business whilst being a mom?
Well, I was only a mum of one at that point! It was late nights and weekends, with the
support of my partner. I was so determined to get the business launched that I just
found the time. After launch (the business is two years old now) it got harder as you
are less in control of some of external factors that might affect your business and
sometimes you need to be around when you don’t plan to be (with children in tow –
not easy). It was really about being able to switch between roles quickly and being ok
with working around my children. I am more than happy for them to see me work and
I hope it helps them to understand about the working world. I also realized that
something else had to give – in my case I chose my social life. I don’t see my friends
as much as I like but you have to make choices to make it work.
Any tips you can share with us for moms that are planning to start a business?
I think it’s all about finding and setting your own standards and boundaries that work
for you, they might differ to someone else, however:
– Schedule in work time and then arrange childcare if you can for that time (or
schedule it in the evenings when the kids are hopefully asleep!)
– Tell your friends and family your idea, ask for feedback and support
– Set your objective very clearly – just one – what is your main reason for
starting your business, and then keep that at the forefront of all decisions
– Some days will go well and some won’t, so try to look at how the week has
been rather than day by day or even the month. When you’ve got children to
look after you can’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t get done
– Plan. Your time, your business, your objectives. Everything. It will help you
stay on track especially when times are tough
What is the biggest reward?
I think this totally depends on your objectives but for me it is being able to work
flexibly around my children. Whilst the juggle / struggle can be strenuous and very
real, I love the balance I have between work and family life. I work hard, really hard
but I also spend a lot of time with my children and I like being around for the small everyday things.
Watching the business grow and change is also incredibly rewarding, when something goes to plan you really get to think ‘I did that’ and that’s a huge motivator and confidence boost. I thrive on challenge and I always wake up
raring to work and get the day going – I love running my business, that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard and I don’t have bad days, but I love the challenge, the possibilities and the opportunity.
Do you have a good support system?
Yes, I do and I don’t think I could do what I do without one. I have a very
understanding and hands-on husband who doesn’t see me much in the week (if I’m
not with the children, I’m working), although I try and keep weekends for family now.
He loves being a dad which makes it so much easier for me when I know the kids are
with him while I am working – at bedtimes – when he is home from work for example
or at weekends when I need to play catch up. I also have a very lovely mother in law
who adores my two boys and lives close by, so she is always on hand in an
emergency. In business, I have two mentors and a great Non-Exec Director who
plays such a crucial role in supporting me.
Is there anything you would change to make things easier for women in the
The gender pay gap needs to close, women are not less valuable than men and that
needs to change. Women should not be paid less for doing the same job as a male
colleague. Businesses should be held to account if they are found to pay their
employees based on gender rather than abilities and achievements.
Flexible working is also an incredibly important topic, especially but not exclusively
for parents. When you become a parent, it doesn’t make you any less capable but it
does mean you sometimes need to be somewhere between 9-5, Monday to Friday.
Allowing women who have become mothers the flexibility to work around their
children (for those that want it), where possible (and of course that’s not always
possible in all industries) will mean a motivated and happy workforce who work
At All By Mama we have a remote workforce who set their own hours each
week around their families. It does come with its challenges but it is totally possible
and more businesses should start to consider the benefits of allowing their
employees to find a work life balance that allows them to reach their full potential.
Lastly, investment into small business can still be quite male orientated I’ve found to
date. It would be great to encourage and support more women to enter the
boardroom and invest in small businesses.
When you look at your own children, what do you want to teach them for life?
Be kind, be yourself and know always you are surrounded by unconditional love
What is the best piece of advice you ever got?
Professionally, it was when I met Baroness Karren Brady following a business award
we won that she had judged. We had an incredible one-to- one session six months
after we had launched All By Mama and at the end of the session I asked her if she
had just one sentence for me to take away what would it be – and she said ‘Make a
plan’ and that honestly has been something that I always come back to. It seems
simple but when you run a business you can easily get caught up in the day to day
and forget to make a plan.
It’s changed the way I run the business and so far I think it’s been the main thing that has propelled it forward.
And what comes next? Any dreams or goals for the near future?
We will be busy implementing plans for the rest of this year for All By Mama,
including our re-brand and our next round of investment.
In the longer term, we hope to grow the business on an international scale and add some additional services to
support mums in business.
Personally, I will be focusing on settling my eldest into school and my youngest into nursery, getting married and booking some holidays! I always keep in my mind our vision at All By Mama, to be the world’s best
marketplace for parent run businesses and we continue to work towards that!