In our regular magazine interview, we ask “Who is…Gemma Whates?”
Gemma Whates is founder of ALL BY MAMA, an online marketplace selling gifts made by mums (and dads!)
Three words to describe yourself.
Adventurous, caring and determined
What is happening in the world of Gemma Whates right now?
I’m counting down days until I no longer have to home school and wondering if I should have appreciated it more. I’m gradually decorating our new house and trying to understand Minecraft. I’m feeling hopeful for some hugs from my family and friends soon and some adventures later in the year. I’m feeling grateful for my health and the health of my family and I’m trying to find a way to run my businesses with the kids at home 24/7. I’m laser focused on what I want to achieve for ALL by MAMA in 2021.
How did you start All By Mama?
I went in to starting ALL by MAMA quite naively in 2014. I’ve learnt a lot. It wasn’t my first business idea, that was something I thought about doing during some volunteering that I took part in, in the townships of Cape Town, in 2010. I also previously ran an online review website. I started ALL by MAMA by working evenings and weekends alongside a marketing job. It took me about nine months from registering the company to launching. ALL by MAMA launched as a marketplace selling gifts made by mums and it’s grown from that original idea. One of the first things we did was to take a stall at The Handmade Fair and spend three days speaking to people about the idea and gathering email addresses for our launch. It was a lot of baby steps that led to the start of a business. I did write a business plan, it wasn’t detailed but it kept me on track with the launch.
Explain how ABM works.
It works as a supportive community for mothers in business. We help mothers in business grow in confidence and visibility, upskill and make connections. Members are generally in the first few years of business. It’s a membership community and a marketplace. It’s something I wish I had found in 2014. Mothers are underrepresented economically, and they need a place to connect, grow and share their experiences of running a business as a mother. Membership is £20 a month and members receive a route to market via our marketplace, expert trainings, networking, social media clinics, features and connections to others doing the same.
What are your top tips for running a business?
1) Spend time on the things that make money – sounds obvious but sometimes you can get so caught in the admin that you forget to tell everyone what they can buy from you and how to buy it
2) Have a vision – what are you trying to achieve, what does success look like to you
3) Make connections via networks – genuinely it will make all the difference to the opportunities that come your way
4) Be prepared for the highs and the lows – you’ll feel amazing during the high times and want to quit during the lows
5) Really understand your ideal customer – get fully immersed in exactly who that person is and the problem you are solving for them
Can women have it all?
I think that really depends on your definition of ‘having it all’ but assuming it refers to having a great career around family life then my belief is that in work and family life, sacrifices have to be made on both sides for the other one to flourish. We are making progress towards supporting working women (especially those that are mothers and are impacted by ‘the motherhood penalty’) but we are far from there yet, and the pandemic has set us back. If statistics show that 54,000 women a year lose their jobs to pregnancy or maternity leave in the UK, we can’t claim to be able to have it all yet. The term can also have a really negative impact on women who are struggling to ‘do it all’ when they see others claim that it’s easy to ‘have it all’. Let’s all talk realistically and authentically about what it’s like to seemingly ‘have it all’. Of course, not everyone wants it all!
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you.
Well, I could choose something a bit more shocking here(!) but I’ll go with… being able to palm read. I did a course before I had kids, I’ve forgotten most of it to be honest but I’m going to pick it back up when I have some head space!
Where’s your favourite date night?
I can’t remember! Something that involves going somewhere new.
What’s your signature dish?
I have not prioritised cooking over the last few years! It would probably be a roast dinner!
What would you take to a desert island?
Someone who could help me survive
Where’s your favourite child-friendly place in London?
The Science Museum – I love it and the kids do too
Last book you read?
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
What’s your proudest moment?
The birth of my kids
What’s next for Gemma Whates?
Hopefully, a better work life balance! My focus is on having some fun with my family in the summer, growing the ALL by MAMA membership, raising another round of investment, mentoring incredible women that are starting businesses, making the most of my Blinksit subscription, getting better at exercise again and a holiday to the Algarve as soon as it’s safe! I’ve also joined Ada Ventures as a scout recently so I’m looking forward to getting more involved in that world.