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How a homemade gift & 'mum guilt' from working full time, inspired Lucy Mans to create a

Please tell us a bit about the nature of your business...

Made to last for generations our Family Rule height charts are a piece of design to be treasured that will hold a sense of your families nostalgia for years to come. They are an interiors piece that start traditions and can be enjoyed by the entire family. Admired by visitors and friends who come by and are the biggest conversation starter in the homes that have them. Whats more, if you are ever plan to move (or redecorate) you can simply take it with you. No more leaving those memories behind or having to paint over them! Each piece of wood has its own characteristics, which means that no two ruler height charts will ever be the same. Painted by hand and personalised with any message you would like making them a truly original pieces.

What inspired you to start your business?

When I set up Family Rule I was working full-time as a marketing director for the worlds largest premium beauty company, I was also a few months pregnant with my second baby (Barnaby). Before having Willow (my first born) my whole life focus was achievement and success, something I gave my fullest energies to and was incredibly proud of. When I returned to work just before she turned one, I was really happy. Firstly, I could eat lunch (albeit at my desk), in peace, with both hands (utterly liberating) and secondly, I was back with my amazing team. An incredible bunch of make-shit-happen doers there has ever been. But then the ‘mum guilt’ kicked in. Hard. I missed being there, being the one who did everything for her, ‘supermumming’ around with my little sprout as much as, I felt guilt at no longer being my former career-driven self. Annabel Crabb nailed it when talking about the obligation for working mothers; “the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one didn’t have a job” — it could not have felt more true. I was giving everything to both and leaving myself pretty ragged. I had made a wooden height chart as a gift to my husband shortly before our first was born. I look at it now and it makes me cringe. It was made using a sharpie pen and some stickers (now peeling off) but I can’t bring myself to ‘upgrade’ it to one of my new hand-painted designs because it was the start of our new beginnings. An incredibly steep adjustment for both myself and my husband, but a marker in the sand for sure.

What was the most challenging aspect of building your business in the beginning?

Everything! Getting everything I thought I'd needed in place to even be able to start. It's now almost three years later and I now know that it was always going to evolve. Sometimes you don't need as much as you think to actually just get going.

If you were to launch your business again, would you do anything differently?

This is a tough one... Hindsight is a beautiful thing and, of course, there are lots of things I would tweak looking back. However, circumstances at the time wouldn't have enabled the things I can now take for granted so, to be honest, although some of my original campaigns and methods make me cringe, they do remind me just how far I've come...and how far I can still go!

What keeps you motivated?

Joy! I really do love what I am able to do with Family Rule and how emotive is is for customers who use their height charts to start traditions with their families that will last for generations. Although, as Branch from Trolls says "life isn't all cupcakes and rainbows" so some days my motivation really isn't there (usually after a tough few days with the kids or a sickness bug) but I've learned that that is okay. Take a day to rest and reset and then get back to it!

How do you balance work and family life?

The truth is that I probably don't. It's an area I certainly want to improve on. My husband is in the military and is away a lot. In some ways it is lucky as it means that my evenings (unless my two are refusing to go to bed) are my own and I can spend them working. I have both my children in nursery (one full time and the other just mornings) and squeeze as much painting as I can into those hours to ensure I am 'present' for them both when they are around.

What’s your proudest business moment?

Besides getting my very first order, I feel proud every time I get sent a customer picture of a Family Rule being enjoyed in its new home. The comments and feedback from them fills me with a huge sense of joy and purpose. I also felt proud when I actually paid myself for the first time... something I put off for longer than I should have to protect the business but when I hired an accountant she set me straight.

What’s been your most successful form of marketing and/ or brand awareness?

I've been very fortunate to have had the support of some wonderful women online who I admire and follow and who have wanted a Family Rule in their homes. With their influencer support my business awareness has been growing. My customers are my ambassadors and word of mouth and quality speak volumes.

Do you have any positive habits or routines that you feel have attributed to your success?

I work with suppliers and teams that I have true relationships with. This has enabled ideas and suggestions to flow freely. It's like I have a whole team who are behind me making wanting to make the brand a success without hiring them directly. Family is a huge part of my company's ethos and it's so important that it can be felt throughout every stage of the process.

What's your favourite business app/ tool/ book/ podcast etc?

I'm obsessed with Instagram - the community is incredible and is a wonderful tool to showcase all my products and customer images. I also use an app called 'Snapseed' a lot as well as Canva to edit and create imagery with the style and quality i'd like without having to be a Photoshop whizz!

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs just starting out?

Understand what your own strengths and limitations are. Go hell for leather with your own strengths and on your own steam but find people you trust and build a relationship with to help where you have limitations. For me this was ensuring and I had a great accountant (Loud and Clear Accounting) as well as someone to do all the fancy pants design work to bring my branding ideas to life.

If you want to see more of Lucy's amazing business, Family Rule then head over to her website or social media:

Family Rule

@familyrule Instagram and Facebook

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