The big idea behind this blog is to create a place where I can champion all the brilliant #MumBosses I know. Women doing their own thing since having kids and making it work. I’d like it to be a place where people come to find out about amazing women. Maybe even a place where people can connect for business, for friendship or for inspiration.
I think it is fitting for my oldest and dearest friend Han Padden to be my first ever #MumBossOfTheMonth as seeing her achieve so much with a young family was my main inspiration when setting up my company, Mrs Robinson Recruitment.
St. Albans-based Han started her face painting business, The Glitterbox, when her youngest daughter was 18 months old and I have stood in awe in the sidelines and watched her and it flourish through her hard work, dedication and most of all her vision to create something special.
When people think of face-painters they think of kids painted as tigers at birthday parties. But she has shown that you can be way more creative and beautiful than that … as well as doing very stylish tigers when the need arises, of course.
She has also invented a ‘walkabout’ kit (In action here). She can click on her custom-made belt and roam around events painting as she goes. It is a lighter and more inclusive approach that her clients love. It especially suits grown-up events. And it avoids long queues of party goers missing out on the fun.
Within 3 months of starting up she had secured the London 2012 Olympics as her client and was the ONLY official face-painter at the whole of The Games. This is always the fact I spout when I am talking about her as I think it speaks volumes. Not only the painting skills required but her personality and approach. She has to be artist, new biz and logistics. People are often creative or organised – she has an uncanny knack for both as well as being REALLY nice.
She has also covered weddings, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, hen parties, football matches at Wembley, landmark adult birthday parties, corporate events including Disney, Kodak for Glow Innovation, Tesco F&F Clothing, Channel 4 through Hattie and Flora, Waterstones, St Albans Film Festival, A-List footballers private parties, a whole host of children’s parties personally and through her partnerships with Wish Upon a Party, Twizzle Parties, Dazzle & Fizz and Sharky & George, plus Camden’s Koko nightclub as well as having the Secret Garden Party and Wilderness festivals for Elissa Gold Events on the schedule for this summer.
Last week she had 12 painters under The Glitterbox banner at the Imagine festival at London’s Southbank for the second year running – painting London’s kids as they congregated at Festival Hall for some half-term entertainment. She is un-stoppable.
All this and with 2 young children.
What made you start The Glitterbox when you did?
After I’d had my second daughter, I was looking for both an income and a creative outlet. Being my own boss was the key thing.
I had some creative skills (Art and Design Foundation as well as post-grad certificate in drawing from St. Martin’s) and I could see my girls’ response to the painting.
Friends in entertainment companies told me that the work was there and that it would be a viable business.
So I went for it. I just practiced at home on the quiet and then a friend booked me on a high end event which was a total baptism of fire.
There I met one of the best painters in London (Rachel Tweddell). I quickly saw the gulf in skills and kit between us so I had to professionalise. We kept in touch, she trained me and that’s how it all began.
Would you/ could you have done it pre-kids?
I could have done the artistic side but not the business side to the standard that is needed. All my previous roles in film PR, account management and relationship brokering have given me the business grounding to make it way more than a glorified hobby.
What do you enjoy most being a business owner?
The main thing is that I love the client management first and foremost. I really enjoy finding and retaining the clients – looking at what they want, decoding the event, working to their brief and working out what they need.
I have enjoyed the evolution of it being just me to building a crack team. I also love that I have created at an artistic career in a social environment where I can champion other people’s skills rather than competing.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
Be generous with your knowledge. Not just sharing your own but being good at listening to what other people are doing.
This means not being blinkered just to your own industry. Look at other business products, see where you might fit in to the broader picture of any business that crosses your path.
Be low effort and low maintenance to your clients. Not being a pain goes a long way.
And don’t be put off by competition. Be confident in yourself and your abilities.
What advice would you give a #Mumboss starting their own business?
Decide how much time and energy you want to spend on your family and your business and keep the balance in check.
Again, don’t let competition put you off just because you have been out of work.
If you do have a passion for something specific, look into it.
You will need patience, strategy, intuition, trust and listening skills. Much like being a mum.
Pay people promptly. Even if I haven’t been paid I make sure I do this. It definitely comes back to me in return.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
So many things it’s overwhelming but mainly being present at the school gates.
Being able to design my working life to suit my own interests.
What would you tell your younger self about where you are now?
Don’t worry that you can’t be all things to all people and
If you don’t have passion for something or someone else’s something – it doesn’t mean you don’t have passion.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far with The Glitterbox?
Growing a great, trustworthy and talented team. Socially, professionally, and artistic, they are very polished.
Having great relationships with clients who book events that I want to work on.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Pushing through from being a one-woman band to having a team of painters. Learning how to trust others representing me (luckily my team are a very trustworthy bunch) and letting them use their own initiative. I had to shape the business to meet demand and this has been a rite of passage for me.
Also the balance with family; I am doing this for them and for the work life balance. It takes work to maintain that you are doing it to facilitate that life.
Any plans for the future you can tease us with?
My walkabout team is rapidly expanding. There are only a select few painters that can work that way so it is an exciting time. I also have new trainees developing glitter work, feathers, jewels and metallic leaf for our high glamour events. Plus having a Glitterbox presence at The Secret Garden Party and Wilderness festivals is a step in another really fun direction.
If you want to get in touch with Han: