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Profile: Emma Butt - more than just a mum

Profile: Emma Butt - more than just a mum
Enterprise Nation
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Posted: Wed 4th Jul 2012

New Enterprise Nation partner Usborne Books at Home gives anyone the chance to start and run their own flexible home business selling the publisher's award-winning children's books. Here's how Emma Butt got involved - and how she's been building a successful full-time business.

"I'm not entirely sure how I found out about Usborne," laughs Emma Butt, an Usborne organiser from Thame in Oxfordshire.

"I remember my son was teething at the time and it was 2 o'clock in the morning and I came across the Usborne website. "I thought it almost too good to be true to get this great big kit of books and no ongoing commitments!," she laughs.

"I also thought it was about time I got my brain working again and did something other than being just a mum. So I printed off the agreement form and sent it in."

That was seven years ago, while Emma was on maternity leave from her job as a client services manager for a field marketing agency.

Like many mums, she saw direct selling (running your own business exclusively selling one company's products with their support) as a way of earning some cash without having to work all hours while raising a young child. Her original plan was to carry on until her maternity leave ended then return to work part-time. But redundancy prompted Emma to give the business a go as a full-time concern.

She hasn't looked back.

"It's been everything I needed and more," she stresses. "I'd always wanted to run my own business but I didn't know what I could do. But my life changed so much in such a short time I thought 'Let's go for it'."

Direct selling the Usborne way

Usborne Books at Home supports a national network of 'organisers' who sell the company's award-winning children's books. Though self-employed and responsible for their own businesses, they work together in teams co-ordinated by a team leader who provides mentoring and organisation as each organiser gets their enterprise up and running.

The nature of the business means organisers can put in as much or as little time as they like and either sustain a small part-time venture or grow a fully-fledged business, as they choose. In Emma's case, the prospect of having her own concern that could provide a full-time income around raising children was a big attraction.

"The most exciting book I received in my starter kit was the Usborne organisers' handbook which explains how to set up and run your own business, because I realised there was a lot that I already did," she explains. "I could see there were a lot of skills I could transfer from my existing work."

Building a full-time business

It's easy for outsiders to view direct selling as little more than a stopgap between other forms of earning or as an additional extra to the household income. But seven years in and Emma is building a growing enterprise with long-term potential. The business - mylittleyellowduck - has its own name, identity and website.

"Having been born in Aylesbury, I've always had a love of ducks and remember the famous Usborne yellow duck from when I was a child," she reveals. "Within the Books at Home family we're generally known as Division Duck!"

She's now not just a team leader but a divisional leader looking after 12 team leaders on various levels, in return for a percentage commission on their sales. Despite working just 24-30 hours a week, she's generating a healthy income and looking to expand further. She'll do this by developing her team leaders to help them realise their own potential and by recruiting more organisers for her own team.

And the sky's the limit. Currently she supports people as far afield as Italy and Germany, recruited through expat forums and forces networks. "People assume that because Usborne's global, we must have thousands and thousands of organisers worldwide, but that's not the case. It's an ideal job for people in forces families because they move on a regular basis and even in the UK we're far from saturation - I once had three people in the same street and they all had plenty to do."

Learning to run a small enterprise

It's going well for the (now) mother of two young children. But as an almost 'accidental' business-owner, Emma's faced her challenges. "My biggest learning curve has been actually learning to run a business," she admits.

"But I learned a lot from fellow organisers at Usborne meetings - and coming from an entrepreneurial background, I learned from my family, too. "The biggest challenge is being organised and managing my time around my children. You don't have a boss telling you what to do and it's definitely my business, not Usborne's - I just happen to sell their products. That gives me the freedom to mentor people and get to work with them in the right way.

"My youngest will start school in September and this year I've had quite a few questions from people saying 'Are you going to stop with that book thing now and go back to work?' I have to bite my tongue. I'm a lifer now - and in some respects I've only just started."

Find out more about Usborne Books at Home

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Usborne Books at Home is an Enterprise Nation partner. Find out all about them!

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Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.
 

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