Local Mum of 2, Nicola Velho founded Super Startups to help entrepreneurs start up their own businesses which grows with their family.
Which part of the Chilterns do you live?
I live in Beaconsfield, close to the old town.
I live with my husband and two daughters Bella (5) and Chloe (3).
Sum up your business in a sentence:
I help entrepreneurial parents validate and launch scalable business ideas.
What’s your career background?
I’m an entrepreneur and ex city banker. I cofounded my first startup after university a long time ago! I then moved into investment banking as a business analyst and now I’m the mum of 2 young girls and the founder of Super Startups.
How did your career change after becoming a mum?
I always knew that the city banking lifestyle wouldn’t suit my idea of family life and I’d have to change careers. I thought it would be so easy to start another business as I’d co-founded one before so I kind of knew the terrain, but I found it so much harder with young children. Hence, the birth of Super Startups, where I help other parents navigate the early days of testing and launching a business with children in tow.
What first inspired you to start Super Startups?
We travelled to Bangkok when my first daughter, Bella, was 1 and then I had Chloe in Bangkok and returned to the UK when she was 6 months old. When we moved back to the UK I found it very isolating being a mum with a baby, trying very hard to test various business ideas and I wasn’t making the progress I had hoped for. I was very hard on myself at the time.
I loved being a part of their lives and taking care of them, but found myself getting frustrated (mainly with myself) for not making more progress on my business (back then I was working on a food delivery service for mums weaning babies). So I started looking around for local and online groups that resonated with me. I found a lot of great groups, but none like the experience I got from being at Google Campus, so I decided to create it myself, with the input of other like-minded mums and dads.
And how did you move from idea to actually taking your first business steps?
I’m comfortable with technology so the actual setting up of an online business wasn’t the hard part for me. It was telling myself that I could do this and remind myself that entrepreneurs do what they can with what they have. So instead of berating myself for not achieving what I could pre-kids, instead I started congratulating myself on each small step. So I had to get out of my own way really.
Most importantly I looked for groups online and offline and started talking to other parents going through the same thing and found out what they needed and what was missing from the market. They were my guidance to creating a flexible program that parents could do while they were breastfeeding or their toddler was napping.
I then asked for help from friends in the design business and chose a name, logo and created the basic website. The rest then was up to me to find customers, grow the brand and make sure the program was a brilliant experience for customers.
What skills or experience from your career do you use in your business?
I use my planning and project management experience every day, which makes everything easier to handle. I also use the stakeholder management skills I learned in corporate life a lot, when dealing with competitors and business development. Just having the experience of being accountable helps tremendously, if you can turn up each and every day you’re already doing so much more than most.
Who is your target customer and how do you find and market to them?
My target customer is parents with young children (0-12) years old. I’ve used Meetup to form groups and validate ideas through that forum. I also run Facebook ads to targeted groups. Lastly, word-of-mouth is my best advert. People who have been through my online incubator help spread the word for me.
What are the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in starting your own business?
Doing the hard work required to be recognised as an expert in my field. I’ve had to work hard to get into the right networks to get to the point of being comfortable contacting investors, advisors and mentors when either I or my customers need them.
Your biggest successes to date?
Being called by FT to run a piece on my program and being accepted onto the Founders Institute accelerator program.
What’s your vision for your business?
I am still consolidating the UK market, but hope to take it globally next year. I’m getting requests from parents in all corners of the world for help, which proves to me there’s a global need for this kind of support.
What has most surprised you about yourself in starting your business?
My resilience. After having kids, I felt as though I had become “soft” (in good and bad ways), but starting this business has helped me see how resilient I am and I honestly believe that being a mum has made me a better business owner as I have a more balanced approach than when I was a city banker.
How do you juggle running a business and family life?
I’m very strict on my time management. I set time aside to work and try very hard not to let it spill over into family time. I’m also very open with my husband and if the weeks’ work piles up I ask for some respite on Saturday mornings, when he takes the girls out for a few hours so I can catch up. It’s good for me and great for them to have some “daddy” time without me interfering!
What advice do you have for other mums who want to start a business?
Take that first, small, manageable step – start talking to everyone you know about your idea. Getting it out your head makes you find the right words that people listen to and get feedback. Don’t be discouraged if people don’t love your idea at first, rather focus on whether you lose interest in it or become more excited about it the more you talk about it.
How do you relax?
I ‘m a Netflix addict! I watch shows with my husband after the kids are asleep.
What do you love most about where you live?
The incredible walks we take with the kids. After living in big cities (Johannesburg, London, Bangkok) I feel so spoilt with the Chiltern hills on our doorstep.
Your simple pleasure?
A bubble bath with a glass of red wine. Pre-kids I would read a book, but now I just enjoy the silence.
What’s your favourite tipple?
Prosecco with strawberries
Top dinner party guests?
Nelson Mandela, Steven Fry, Michelle Obama, Donald Trump, Trevor Noah, J.K. Rowling. I think that would make for interesting conversation!
Slow roast lamb cooked by my husband (he’s a brilliant cook!)
One thing on your bucket list?
Hot air balloon over the Serengeti
Website/ Facebook Page