When Ting-Ting Lee’s first child was born with cerebral palsy it was impossible for her to return to her high-flying corporate career. So, she took her passion for fashion and started her own business, S.W.A.L.K. Fashion.
Tell us about your business…
S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With a Loving Kiss) is an online fashion store based on reality. This means we use real women as models, no pinning and no photoshopping. All items are hand selected from the best European boutique brands.
I started the business in July 2016 when my eldest son was 20 months and my youngest was three months old.
Is it expensive to set-up a business like this?
Yes and no. A product-based business can be made cheaper by getting suppliers to dispatch direct to the customer, however I wanted to own the whole customer journey end to end so I receive the stock and forward it. This meant I needed money to buy all my stock in advance.
You had two children and your youngest was only three months when you launched, how did you do it?!
It was a challenge! I’ve been running my business for a year now and I've learnt to accept that things may not get done in my timelines and that they won’t always be perfect, which is hard for the perfectionist in me. But, I'm learning to adapt.
I'm also extremely lucky to have a very supportive husband who believes in me and helps me where he can - he’s my IT support!.
Do you use childcare?
I'm lucky I have my mum with me which helps hugely but it can be challenging especially as my eldest who is three years old still can’t walk independently. He’s at nursery from 9:30 am to 3:30pm. My number two who is now 18 months old also attends for two half days. This allows me to spend three to four hours a day on my business.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I wake up at 6am to shower, meditate and try to get a bit of work done before the boys wake up. After getting them ready for the day I do the nursery drop-off at 9am. When I’m back home I have a couple hours of work with some toddler interruption in between, then lunch and I work more during his nap. I pick the boys up from nursery and have some play time with them before dinner and bath. Twice a week I try to squeeze in a live video for my Facebook business page at this time too. Then after I’ve got the kids into bed I spend a couple more hours working before my own bedtime.
That sounds intense! Any tips for women thinking to start out during their mat leave?
Believe in yourself and give it a go! It’s hard but you just have be super productive with the time you have which is something you get very good at when you’re a mum!
Also, don't feel guilty when you stop to play or give your little ones a cuddle instead of working. Ultimately, you’re working from home to spend time with them so don't lose sight of that and be grateful for being able to work that way.
Are there any benefits to being a mum and running a business?
Yes! You can do what you want, when you want. If I want to stop what I'm doing to play or cuddle the boys I can. If I want to take a day off, I can. You can be more flexible with your time and work around your family.
What are your goals for the business?
I'd love for S.W.A.L.K. to help change the world of fashion and give women a realistic view of how clothes look on real women. I’d also love to help support other mums who have children with additional needs and give them guidance on how to start their own businesses.