Friday, September 2, 2011

Business and motherhood; Pili Pala Pieces

The second Mother I met and spoke with at the Niche market was Helen from Pili Pala Pieces. This vibrant, bubbly woman was overflowing with smiles and incredibly welcoming of a stranger enquiring about her mothering life. She had her eyes on her stock, connecting with customers and on the pram tucked away in the corner holding her sleeping baby; the ultimate super Ma! Even with her attention stretched to the limit in all areas, she had an aura of cool, calm and collected about her.

Here is an insight as to how Helen came to be a creating, multi-tasking woman selling beautiful handmade jewellery. You can like Pila Pala on Facebook to see the talent for yourself.


"My husband and I have been married for nearly 8 years; we have one 4 year old girl and a new little nearly 6-month old boy.  We both run our own small businesses (my husband is part of a duo who run a Hobart photography studio) and I run my own business designing and hand-making jewellery, accessories and home wares.  We don't have any family in Tasmania, so juggle the kids and work by ourselves - with a little help from our friends to babysit the kids - particularly when I have a big market on.

I started Pili Pala as a hobby in response to friends and family encouraging me to try selling products that I was making as gifts. It took off from there. I started selling at a few markets here and there whilst working as a Paediatric Speech Pathologist part-time after my daughter was born. I had such a good response, and was keen to try something different after finding Speech Pathology such a demanding career, so I took a gamble on committing to Pili Pala as my sole focus at the end of 2009.  It was difficult to decide between a job that gave me high personal satisfaction and the chance to be creative and one that was helping others and I still struggle with this side of things. In the end though, I have grown in confidence and feel like I am emotionally fed (instead of drained) by pursuing this path. It took about 6 months for Pili Pala to take-off, and before I knew it I had a handful of stockists and regularly participated in Salamanca (as well as various other artisan markets throughout Tasmania).

I have 3 dedicated 'work days' for Pili Pala each week (when my daughter is in child care) where I try to do as much of the making and preparations for stockists and markets as possible (in between juggling feeds and caring for the 5 month old). Then on the other days throughout the week I just fit in little bits of work here and there (which is one of the bonuses of working from home).  On my work days I find it difficult to not be distracted by all the house tasks such as cleaning and dishes as I like the house to be tidy, but I do my best to ignore them and try to leave those tasks to the other days of the week.

Then I generally have a market once a fortnight which means my husband will help me set up and then care for the children (and bring the baby to me at the market for feeds where he takes over manning the stall until I can return the baby to him)  It requires a bit of organisation but we are a really good team and we just make it work! 

Time management is definitely the hardest thing.  Especially when I have a big market coming up or a lot of orders for shops to complete I find it hard to juggle time with the kids and time for the business.  My daughter is at an age where she is beginning to find small tasks like tagging the products or sorting them into piles quite fun, so sometimes I get her to help with bits and pieces like this; it keeps her entertained for a few minutes and it also helps me out.  Most of the time though, I try really hard to keep 2 days a week as just 'Mummy/kids days' (with maybe a bit of work during their nap time - if I can get their naps to coordinate that is!)

I stay motivated by both enjoying that I get to be creative and that other people like what I create, and also knowing that my contribution to the family income is a requirement.  It is financially challenging both running our own small businesses, however at this time in our lives we wouldn't have it any other way.  We are both very driven people and enjoy working for ourselves and also seeing how far we can take our businesses.   

Running a small business and raising kids is not an easy option and probably not for everyone, but there are definitely some benefits.  For example;  I have total flexibility with my work hours/days and can fit in a morning of shopping if I feel like it, or can take time off to look after sick kids without needing to explain my absence to anyone.  Of course, it's not all smooth sailing with the not-so-fun things to also take care of such as accounting and trying to work out how to wisely manage funds, but there is definitely much more to enjoy than not, and as long as this remains the case, I'll continue on!"
My favourite Pili Pala Piece.

Thank you so much Helen for taking the time to talk with me. You are an inspiration for commitment and passion. Showing that following your heart and leaping from your comfort zone can be satisfying and rewarding.


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