We are living in this new age when we as women are more than ever inspired to expand our roles and take on new challenges. In light of this, I find myself surrounded with girlfriends who are entrepreneurial minded and have taken the step to set up something on their own. Some of them left behind their original career path to pursue their passion while some became sidepreneurs like myself i.e. keeping their office job while running a business on the side.
Today I would like to introduce to you my good friend Siobhán McGonigle who is the talented brain behind the The Village, the go-to website for English speaking parents (and parents-to-be) in Belgium.
Siobhán (as hinted by her name) is from Ireland and has been living in Belgium for the past 13 years. She is mom to three adorable boys: Eamon, Jack and Callum. She also happens to be a colleague of mine, and she is amazing to work with. Read on for our interview with super mom Siobhán!
What motivated you to start The Village?
Siobhán: In July 2013 - while on a career break after the birth of my youngest son - I trained as a childbirth educator/prenatal teacher with the Brussels Childbirth Trust. All three of my boys were born in Belgium, and in the course of my training, I built up an even fuller picture of how the Belgian system works, and suddenly, the idea of sharing my knowledge and experience with a much wider audience seemed so obvious! I remembered how lost I felt when I was pregnant in Brussels for the first time, not sure how anything worked, and trying to piece it all together in a foreign language. And I knew that I could create a wonderful English-language resource that would serve many, many people.
What was the biggest challenge in the process?
Siobhán: Actually putting together all the information wasn't challenging, as I was so enthusiastic about the idea that it was a joy to do! I love writing, and this project gave me the opportunity to do a lot of research and then boil it all down into clear and reader friendly web pages. But indeed, the technical side of setting up my own site, from scratch, all by myself was challenging. As this was to be a non-profit site, and as I was already going to be paying for web hosting and various other related costs, I didn't want to hire someone to create the site. So, I spent a lot of time learning how to use the content management system Joomla, and how to adapt a pre-loaded template to get the look and feel, and functionalities I wanted for the site. It was a labour of love, but one that I enjoyed very much. That said, being mum to three boys, and, at the time, a stay-at-home mum, free time was rather rare. So I often worked late into the night.
What do you love the most about running The Village?
Siobhán: Knowing that it is used and appreciated!! I regularly see people refer to it on various Facebook groups, and feel confident that it serves it's original purpose. It has also brought me into contact with various perinatal professionals in the Brussels area, and it is a huge honour that they too love the site, and regularly share it with others.
Do you talk about your entrepreneurial project with your boys?
Siobhán: My three boys have always been fascinated by my work with future parents - though my childbirth education classes - and it's true that they already know more about pregnancy and birth than most of their peers. They have also found it fun to see photos of themselves scattered across the site! We've also talked about how great it would be to make a living doing something you are passionate about - which unfortunately I haven't managed to do yet with The Village, as right now I run it on a completely voluntary basis - and so I will always encourage them to dare to follow their heart.
What is the one thing you learned about being a mom that no one told you about?
Siobhán: That it's the most humbling experience imaginable. Being a mum has taught me so much about myself and about life, and these boys help me see the world through different eyes. I always thought that parents were supposed to know it all ... but in fact, we are all learning together and I think it's important for children to know that their parents are not infallible - we make mistakes too - and that they are simply doing their best.
What would you advise women who want to start up something with limited funding?
Siobhán: Ask for help! Build up a good network, and don't be afraid to ask for help. I am terrible at this, usually preferring to take full control, but it's not always the best idea. There might be better, smarter ways of doing this that mean you can do more with less funding. Not wishing to sound sexist, but tapping into 'mompreneur' networks can be a good idea, as other mums are likely to be facing many of the same day-to-day challenges you are, and may have more appropriate advice than wider networks.
Don't forget to check out The Village to find out how it is like being a parent in Belgium!