At The Woman Rising Network we believe there is nothing more powerful than #womensupportingwomen.
Woman Rising sits down with Nicole Ward of The Mama Sorority to discover what makes this Instagram-dynamo tick…
First, let’s get the details:
Name: Nicole Ward
Business: The Mama Sorority (www.themamasorority.com.au)
Location: Gold Coast, Queensland
Established: November 2015
1. What was your professional journey before launching your own business?
Before The Mama Sorority, I owned a children’s soft furnishings business, Sweet As (sheets, quilt covers, bibs and aprons etc.). This was pre-Instagram so it was all promoted face-to-face, which meant a lot of traveling and a lot of money spent on print advertising. All the fabric was vintage and the products were handmade locally. When I fell pregnant with my second baby I put the business on hold. I then started Shalimar Baby Box which was subscription based. After twelve months, I was approached by another business who bought me out in March. That’s when I started The Mama Sorority.
2. Tell us a bit about The Mama Sorority:
The Mama Sorority has two faces. The first is on Instagram which showcases the business via my product photography, and the second is The Mama Sorority Facebook Group which is a platform for mums to talk about life (not nappies or Kmart). We talk about being women who just happen to be mothers. The topic of sex after childbirth has come up once or twice.
3. What was the catalyst for starting and why was it important for you to follow through on the idea?
There was no real catalyst for starting The Mama Sorority, it was really just a different direction I took after Shalimar Baby Box was sold. I started SBB because I’ve always been entrepreneurial and my children were older, so there was time for me to get back to work. I missed having my own business and working for myself.
4. How has your business grown since launching? What’s different now?
It has grown quite substantially. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve worked with a few magazines and I’ve spoken on some podcasts, which has increased my profile and I also work with a lot of women in business who aren’t mothers, but still have a product they’d like photographed and promoted. I also present workshops nationally, which I didn’t do a year ago.
5. At The Mama Sorority you teach women how to create flatlays and also style flatlays for products as a service. What are some of the challenges you face in business today, as a result of the changing social media landscape?
The biggest challenge is staying original. I like people to see one of my flatlays and say, “That’s The Mama Sorority.” A year ago, no one knew what a flatlay was and now they are so popular for multiple promotions. It’s very easy in business to do what everyone else is doing because they look successful, but that’s not always the case. I think being original and authentic gets you further in the long run. Another challenge is seeing copycats. I don’t mind other “flatlay” photographers using my style, but when they copy the styling AND use the exact same products I get really frustrated.
6. What keeps you motivated to keep going through these challenges and inspires you to support women in business?
The women that I represent keep me going. I’m blown away at the talent of these women. The products that they make, the attention to detail is amazing. I might have an eye for styling, but I can’t sew on a button so I’m always impressed every time products arrive. They put their trust in me to showcase their brand, and I’m motivated by their passion. Plus, I truly love what I do. I style and photograph flatlays seven days a week.
7. Can you let us in on a time when you followed your intuition against all logic and it came up a winner? What were some of the biggest learnings from this experience?
When I first started Shalimar Baby Box, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband! I suppose a small part of me was worried it would seem like it wasn’t a “real” job – subscriptions weren’t huge in Australia two years ago, so I knew I was getting in at the very beginning of something new – that was exciting. Then, when I moved to The Mama Sorority I knew even though I didn’t have a physical product, someone had to take photos for those women that were either time poor or unsure of their own ability. I told myself every day, “This will work, this has to work.” In fact, I still tell myself that. It just felt right and I loved it. I wanted to do it so the fact that it worked and I was making money made it worth the risk. I suppose my biggest learning is to trust, back yourself, and when it gets hard, keep going. I think I’ve made it sound like it all came easy and in a sense, I was very lucky because it all fell into place, but when I’ve been late for a deadline, or worked back to back weekends I’ve been tempted to think a 9-5 job would be easier, but then I wouldn’t be my own boss and I like that.
8. How does it feel to know you started this business from scratch and continue to develop it on a successful path?
I’m actually very proud of what I’ve achieved, but I haven’t done it all alone. I have a wonderful network of women that I work with, some I talk to yet I’ve never met, and some that I can contact at 12 am (with a brainstorm) and I know they’re awake working. The Mama Sorority is just that … it’s a Sorority, a group that comes together, to support and cheer each other on. I’m proud that I’ve been a witness to some wonderful success stories and I’ve been a platform for women to showcase how amazing they are.
9. What are your aspirations for your business in the future?
I’d like to continue what I’m doing, it’s working. I don’t think I need to change just yet. I do love presenting the flatlay workshops. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to meet face-to-face with those amazing women I shout out, and it’s an excellent platform for them to collaborate and make connections, so I may host that interstate again.
10. What is one piece of hard earned wisdom you would like to share with other women in business?
Believe in yourself, keep going, and be authentic. Someone once said to me, “a conductor needs to turn his back to his audience in order to make wonderful music.” Don’t follow everyone else, do what you believe in even if everyone else thinks you are crazy! AND, don’t buy followers on your social media platforms, your authentic followers will know and it looks bad when your competition stalks you!
This interview first appeared in Woman Rising #2 The New Normal: Women Supporting Women