Working full time and running a small business, Emma Cottam for The Key to it All

For the past three years, since having my daughter, I have worked full time as teacher, whilst also running my small business, Isabella and Us. 

I started my business four weeks after my daughter was born in December 2017. No idea what I was doing, but knew that I needed to find something creative to do and find a focus outside of my new found role as a mum. 

I’d trained first as a Photographer and then as a teacher and had worked at a local College for around six years before falling pregnant. I enjoyed sharing my knowledge and supporting others to be creative. I worked long hours, put everything into my job and growing the courses, eventually becoming a Programme Leader and leading the Further Education Photography courses. 

After having my daughter I felt a little lost in my creative skills, lost in motherhood and lost in my identity. I was struggling with this new-found identity and where I fitted in to the world. I knew I was going back to work full time following my maternity leave, but I also knew that I needed something of a creative outlet whilst I was on leave. I never expected to still be running my Isabella and Us. over three and a half years later, whilst also working full time as a tutor and overseeing students progress. 

People often ask how I juggle both of things, along with being a mum and the truth is there is no magic potion, no magic balance of things, we just make it work the best we can. 

I am very lucky that my husband and parents are incredibly supportive and have allowed me space and time to grow my business, to work on my business at weekends and during School holidays. Sometimes everything stays afloat and other times I have to let some things go. 

When I first returned back to my full time job after my maternity leave ended I tried to continue to do everything, and keep up the momentum in my small business. But this nearly led to burnout, complete exhaustion and eventually things began to slide. 

It took me a long time to realise that I couldn’t do everything and that was okay, I didn’t have to, if something wasn’t urgent it could wait. I had to let some parts of my business go, and really niched down so that I could focus on growing the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and also have some balance myself. 

What I have learnt over the past three years is that running, and growing your own business is a huge learning curve, you are learning all of the time. And as part of that process, it is okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to go at your own pace, in your own time, in your own lane. There is no race, no finish line, other than to lead a happy, healthy and fulfilled life. 

Sure there are goals along the way, but what happens when you reach them? You strive towards the next goal, and you keep going and going. One small step at a time. So if you slow down a little so you can speed up next week, when you have more energy, more space, more time, that is okay.

So if you are running your own business, alongside working full time or wanting to start your own business whilst you are working full time, remember to go at your own pace, your own speed. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up. Know that it is okay to not do it all, and not do it all in one go. Start small, allow yourself time and space to grow and see what happens. 



Emma Cottam, is a speaker, writer and founder of Isabella and Us. She is the editor of the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums, an independent magazine for mums, and the host of the Positive Wellbeing Podcast for Mums.  She is also passionate about supporting mums on their journey to find their magic and has recently launched one to one and group sessions for mums to help them gain clarity, purpose and direction. 

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