Mompreneurs in Africa
Meet the Mompreneurs who founded Black Mountain
I’m so excited to announce my new series which focuses on Mompreneurs in Africa. The reason behind this series has a lot to do with Momsays which will be officially launching in a few months.
Mondays will be dedicated to all things business!
If you are a mom who is building a startup or who already owns a business, please get in touch! I want to feature you.
It gives me great honour to kick of the series with one of my favourite bloggers Belinda Mountain (www.makingmountains.co.za) and her business partner Catherine Black who live in 2 different cities but still manage to run a successful digital content agency together.
About Belinda Mountain:
I’m an Eastern Cape farm girl who is now living in Cape Town. I’m married to Gareth and we have a 7-year-old daughter and 4-year old son. I’m a writer, parenting blogger and voracious reader, and I love style, food, healthy living (plus wine!) and travel.
Follow Belinda on Twitter @BelindaMountain.
About Catherine Black:
Capetonian now living in Joburg, wife and mom of 2 boys, a Labrador and 2 cats, business owner, writer, travel enthusiast, conspiracy theorist, long-distance runner.
Follow Catherine on Twitter @cathparker.
1. Tell us about your company, Black Mountain?
Catherine: We’re a content generation company specialising in creating search engine-optimised content for the digital medium – whether it’s website copy, blog posts or articles. We also provide content/marketing strategy services, as well as non-digital copywriting, editing and proofreading.
Belinda: What she said! We’re writers who have figured out how to make a living writing for companies – helping them articulate what they do to their target market, in a way they will understand and respond to.
2. How did you come up with the name for your company?
Catherine: My surname is Black and my business partner Belinda’s is Mountain! We are very chuffed with the neatness of our name actually. 😉
Haha! I absolutely love it, ladies!
3. How long have you been running your own business? What were you doing before this?
Catherine: Black Mountain has been in existence since mid-2012. Before that, I was a freelance SEO and social media consultant for two years, and before that, I worked in the search industry on both the client and agency side in Cape Town, London and San Francisco.
Belinda: Yip, we’ve been running for over five years now! I worked in book publishing in both the UK and here in SA (for around 8 years), but when I had my first child, I quickly realized that working for someone else was going to be very challenging. Catherine came and did some work with the publishing company I was working with and we hit it off. The rest is history!
4. What is the hardest part about running your own business?
Catherine: Being responsible for your own salary! That’s also the best part.
Belinda: Yes, the salary thing, but also the fact that you never switch off. We’re always “on” if you know what I mean, as this is no 9-to-5 gig. I wouldn’t have it any other way though.
5. Which social media platform do you love/hate the most and why?
Catherine: I am fairly social media phobic. I love Strava at the moment because I’m training for the Two Oceans Ultra marathon so it’s good to have motivation from my friends and family across the globe who can track my training.
I detest Facebook and am also losing my love for Instagram pretty fast: most people only seem to post the most airbrushed/curated versions of their lives rather than the real stuff (thanks, IG filters!), so browsing through my Instagram feed gives me that faint yet distinct feeling of FOMO.
Belinda: Hmm, I’d say I love Instagram the most as it’s still the most “friendly” and there are fewer people fighting on it! I also love Insta stories because they feel more real and less filtered.
6. Name 3 goals for 2018 that you want to achieve?
- Run the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon.
- .Get through the year working full time with two small children without losing the plot.
- Spend more time with my family spread far and wide across the country and globe.
- Start writing a novel.
- Do more Pilates (I have a bad back!)
- Have an even better year with our business than last year.
7. What motivates you to get out of bed every day?
Catherine: My love of writing, the thrill of running a successful business, and providing for my children and family.
Belinda: I love tinkering with words and the fact that I get to do that and make a decent living is a huge thrill. I also love hearing that my writing on my blog has helped someone deal with a difficult situation, or made them laugh or made them think. I’m also motivated by knowing that life is precious and I need to make my life rich and rewarding, and positively impact as many people as possible while I’m here.
8. How do you manage your successful career while being a mom?
Catherine: I try to meditate as often as I can. I exercise a lot to get rid of stress. I compartmentalise as best as I can so that when I’m at work I’m focused on work, and when I’m with my kids and husband I’m fully present. I also try to remind myself that nobody is perfect and that it’s ok to be hacking through it…as long as I’m doing my best.
Belinda: Exercise is a great stress reliever! I’ve also given up striving for perfection. Your work may be extremely high quality but your grocery cupboard is an absolute mess and that’s okay. I have a few organizational tips that help me like a weekly planner on the fridge (with extra murals, pick up times listed etc), and I plan the week’s meals in advance. I also write everything in a physical diary (‘Im old school like that!) but it works for me.
9. What is the best advice you’ve ever received about motherhood?
Catherine: “Any decision you make is the right decision.”
Belinda: “Trust your instincts, always”.
10. What has surprised you the most about being a mom?
Catherine: How relentless it is! And how intensely, almost painfully, I love my children.
Belinda: I never thought having children would teach me so much about myself and my own flaws and insecurities.
11. What are your top tips for balancing work life and home life?
Firstly: ask for help, whether from your in-laws, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your nanny or your weekend babysitter. Then, realise that you’ll never get it all 100% right, so focus on the small moments of joy rather than an overall idea of success. Practically, I also try and dedicate set hours to working (e.g. 8-12 in the morning, and then 1-4 in the afternoons). After that, I don’t look at my computer if at all possible, and don’t respond to email until the next morning – most things can wait! Then one thing I have realised recently is that it’s important to take “me time” on my own where I’m not working, looking after children or socialising. Even if it’s an hour a week, this could be a walk, a massage, or even something as simple as sitting in a coffee shop by myself and people watching.
Similar to Catherine, I set times for working and times for family. For example, from about 3:30 to 7pm is family time where we chat, catch up about the day and do homework. It’s fairly impossible to get any work done then if I’m at home. Then I typically work in the evenings again. You also need support from your partner, friends or family. For example establishing lift clubs with friends to and from school has saved me a huge amount of time in traffic, and then I can get more work done.
12. What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/ disagree with? Why?
Agree: cash flow is THE most important thing in a small business. If you don’t have money to pay yourself, it doesn’t matter how good your client list is or how incredible your business concept is.
Disagree: You need funding for your business. We started Black Mountain with zero funds: we built it from the ground up starting with one client, and pulled our salaries relative to what the business was bringing in. Of course, this worked in our type of business as we don’t hold stock and we don’t need to spend money on large capital outlays.
Also, do your research. Are there any existing providers in the marketplace doing what you’re doing? How will you be better than them?
13. Who has been your inspiration in the business world?
Catherine: Marissa Mayer – she was Google’s 20th employee who started as a computer programmer and went on to become VP of Search and User Experience, and later the CEO of Yahoo! She really shot the lights out in a brand-new industry that was completely male dominated at the time.
Belinda: She’s not really in the business world, but Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” really made me see my natural quieter personality as a strength. And I’m currently reading Ariana Huffington’s ‘Thrive’ which is a fascinating insight into how we define success, particularly as working mothers.
14. Share some of your failures and the best lessons you have learned from them?
Catherine: In the early years, there were some months where we’d have good income coming in, and then suddenly it would dry up, which was very stressful. This is because we took on lots of project work, so we would be incredibly busy at some periods and then quiet in others. The lesson we took from this was to focus on making our business mainly retainer-based, as then we could track, project and plan the income we’d get in each month. We’ve also learned to put money away each month while the going is good, so that we’ve got a financial back up if things quieten down in future.
15. How do you define success?
Catherine: Feeling content most of the time, joy some of the time, and not rushing all the time.
Belinda: I love Catherine’s adage above! I think the world is changing and success is being redefined daily. For me it means having the freedom to decide how I spend my time, and being able to pursue happiness – whatever form that may take.
16. Top mobile apps that make your work more effective?
1. Asana – great for ticking off/creating to-do lists.
2. FNB banking app – so we can pay suppliers or check our banking on the go.
3. Whatsapp – means I can communicate really effectively with my business partner who lives in Cape Town.
1. Asana, a shared calendar so Catherine and I can see what the other is up to (I know that’s not an app!)
17. What advice would you give to a Mompreneur who is just starting out?
Don’t give up! Make sure your idea is EXCELLENT before you even start…it’s my belief that you can’t build a really successful business that’s based on a flawed premise. Yes, this is vital.
If you are looking for a digital agency, make sure you check out Black-Mountain. Their services include SEO copywriting, content strategy and keyword research.
If you would like to feature in our Mompreneur series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.