This week on The Mother Hub Meets, we're chatting to Nikki Cochrane, co-founder of Digital Mums; an innovative startup providing social media training for mums. Nikki and fellow Digital Mums co-founder, Kathryn Tyler, are passionate about proving that flexible working can produce amazing results. They are the driving force behind the #WorkThatWorks campaign, which calls on businesses everywhere to show their support for flexible working. We're big fans of their mission to help mothers create stimulating, flexible careers that fit around family life, so we were super excited to get the chance to find out more!
We're also very grateful to Nikki and the Digital Mums team for their support for the #IAmAnEssexGirl campaign! Nikki grew up in Essex, so we were keen to hear her thoughts on the derogatory Essex girl stereotype and why she feels proud of her Essex roots.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career journey and what you do?
I am the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Digital Mums which I set up with Kathryn Tyler. We train mums in digital skills and social media management to find rewarding flexible work that syncs with family life.
I fell in love with social media and digital when I worked at M&C Saatchi. I was P.A. to the founders and just learnt so much about business. I then did a degree in Psychology as a mature student and by chance, met Kathryn on a yoga retreat. We really hit it off and were both totally passionate about social media and setting up our own business.
So in 2012 we launched Hackney Social, helping small businesses with social media. Quite quickly we were totally overwhelmed with demand and needed more social media managers. We saw that mums would be a perfect fit for the work as it was totally flexible and could be done from home. Kathryn had a lot of experience in education and training and so it was we designed a course to teach mums everything they needed to know about social media.
We then stopped working for clients and started training up mums in social media instead. In 2014 Digital Mums was born and our first official course launched in January 2015. Three years later and over 700 mums have completed our Social Media Management courses.
Why did you decide to focus on mothers?
Well we always wanted to build a business with social impact at the heart of it. Too many mums are still forced into having to choose between a fulfilling career or being there for their children. There are currently 2.6 million mums not working in the UK. And for those that are working, often, just like our mums when we were growing up, it’s in low paid and low skilled jobs. We could see that social media management offered mums a third way – family life and a career
We recently conducted some research with the CEBR, and found seven in 10 stay-at-home mums would go back to work if there was more flexibility - social media management is totally flexible and training mums in it just makes sense.
We are 100 percent focussed on our vision to support every mum to achieve their perfect work/life balance - something we call #WorkThatWorks.
What does a typical working day look like for a Digital Mums graduate?
We now have over 400 graduated Digital Mums and every single one of them has a totally different work life that suits their personal circumstances. A large percentage of our graduated Digital Mums work from home as freelance social media managers.
Each mum chooses how many clients to take on and works anything from five hours a week to full time hours. Social media management is a role that can be done incredibly flexibly so there doesn’t need to be set working hours. Some work in the evening, some work early in the morning and many will just work school hours so they can be there for their children when they need to be.
There are other mums in our community who have used our courses to upskill and find flexible part time roles in a variety of industries from marketing to PR and journalism. Most marcomms jobs these days require a knowledge of social media.
How do you think the role of social media has evolved in recent years as a marketing tool for business?
Every business needs a presence on social media now. It's not a 'nice to have' so much as an absolutely integral part of any marketing strategy for a business.
One of the best things about social media is how incredibly measureable everything you do on it is. It’s not just a case of making a plan and hoping for the best, you can test everything you do and make decisions based on what is working. We're all stats geeks at Digital Mums and the data and customer insights you can get from social media really are incredible.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Whenever I receive an email or hear about a Digital Mum who's family and work life has completely changed as a result of doing our training, I am so happy and excited. Many of the Mums who decide to train with us come to us when they are at a real low point with their confidence. Some have been at home for years or others are really struggling to make the work/family juggle work.
By showing mums there is a third way, #WorkThatWorks, wonderful things happen. It is a total highlight getting messages from mums who are out there, working with clients and hustling for business. When I see someone’s happiness and confidence grow, it really couldn’t make me happier!
What has been the biggest challenge?
When you run your own business every single day sees a new challenge. But it's the way we roll at Digital Mums and we embrace them. Start-Up life is incredibly fast-paced and exciting and you can't help but love the adrenaline rush.
Kathryn and I have an amazing team around us (80 percent of whom are mums who work flexibly from home obvs). Our business has grown 600 percent over the last three years so inevitably there has been some teething problems along the way. But both of us are firm believers that you have to make mistakes in order to grow and we're not afraid to own that.
You and your business partner Kathryn Tyler have achieved incredible things with Digital Mums and the #WorkThatWorks campaign. Where do you envisage the business in five years?
As well as supporting thousands more mums back into work, we also want to be instrumental in changing attitudes within businesses to the way flexible working is viewed.
We have some exciting plans for the future and our #WorkThatWorks Movement aims to bring about widespread cultural change to the way we work in Britain; for the benefit of everyone from employees to businesses themselves. Digital Mums is proof that flexible working produces amazing results; we want to keep spreading that message and reach out to businesses. It’s time to consign the 9-5 to history!
We really appreciate your support for the #IAmAnEssexGirl campaign. Having grown up in Essex yourself, why do you think it's so important to ditch the negative stereotype?
I’m totally proud to be from Essex and the stereotypes around the typical ‘Essex girl’ just do not represent the many funny, clever and inspirational women I know from this part of the world. It‘s just ridiculous to stereotype someone based on where they live. Way back when, people used to sort of laugh that I was an Essex girl but that doesn’t really happen any more. I just need to give them a look now! I would say be proud of your labels - yes I’m from Essex and I totally own that!
To find out more about the Digital Mums Social Media Management Courses visit www.digitalmums.com