How do you succeed in business?
Well, that’s kind of like asking the meaning of life, but I’m always fascinated by how individuals tap into their own business superpowers to make a go of it.
When I chatted to Danni McCabe, founder of Mama Tribe – a platform that supports and promotes female-led businesses – for the podcast I learned a lot about her way of working and how her experiences could help others.
Tell me a bit about how you started Mama Tribe
Basically, there was a fire in the flat above my shop and my business burnt down. And because it was in a listed building, it took 15-16 months before the building could be used again and before I could trade properly. In that time, I did as much as I could, but I had to see brides from an office I’d rented opposite Travis Perkins.
Brides buy into the whole bridal experience. It’s such a magical year of planning and so on and so they wanted to buy from the beautiful boutique I had, not from the office space opposite Travis Perkins! So, yeah, my business ground to a halt and I decided to close it because it wasn’t nearly as flexible as I thought it would be. I was in the shop Tuesday to Sunday, so I only really ever had my Monday off – which meant that all my weekends were taken up with work and I never saw my family.
When the shop burnt down, I kind of start to analyse the bits of my business I really enjoyed and the bits I didn’t. Having flexibility was one and I knew I wanted to work for myself. Then I started to look at the aspects of the business that really worked and the bits I got the most enjoyment out of.
I used to do styling events and bring together all the local wedding businesses for events in my shop. The Cotswolds is very much a destination wedding place. I had people from Australia and America flying over to get married here and they would use my recommended supplier list. So one thing I loved was bringing all those wedding suppliers together, promoting the small businesses and connecting them with my brides.
When I sat back after the fire and I analysed those aspects of the business, suddenly I got this idea. I love the community aspect, I love supporting small businesses and what I’d also realised is as a mum, you know, it’s really hard juggling a business around your family life.
Literally Mama Tribe came about through putting together all of my thoughts, using what worked and then also using platforms like Instagram, which was massive for me.
So you’ve always used social media for the brand?
When I had my bridal boutique it was still early days of Instagram and I’d grown a really quick following on social with my bridal parties. I realised then actually there were so many businesses on FB and Ig, but it was really hard to find them all. Back then there wasn’t a really good search engine within Instagram to find these businesses.
I thought: wouldn’t it be great if you had a focus – like you wanted to support other women in business or you want to work with other women in business – if there was actually this one place you could go to find those people, to network with them, to work with them, or to buy from them, or to support them in whatever way. And that’s literally how the idea of Mama Tribe came together.
On Instagram the pink and the orange were very recognisable and people quickly knew when they could see me when they were scrolling they’d pick out Mama Tribe. They knew they liked my content they would always stop and comment and like and so on. Having that strong brand identity from day one and having consistent content going out that people recognized and knew that they liked, massively helped with the algorithm and meant that it has grown quite quickly and organically.
That’s an incredible story and I’m sure it will resonate with quite a few people – not having experienced fires, necessarily – but having to adapt to adverse conditions.
Luckily, I’m quite resilient. When something goes wrong or isn’t going the way I’d like to, I find a way to turn things around and make it what I would like it to be. I can also see opportunities and act quickly on them, whereas some people need a couple of months to process things. That’s what I also found with the lockdown.
I noticed some of the members were suddenly panicking that their businesses were going to fail, because their businesses were face-to-face with customers, like a personal training business or a baby sensory teacher. Suddenly that was it. The whole business was gone for however long this lockdown period was.
But I was like, no! Actually, why don’t we use the platform Mama Tribe has got and use Facebook and so on? Put your classes on there and teach them live.
We had a really manic week of setting it all up and it’s been amazing and the past few weeks. And now it’s really interesting to hear how some of those businesses are completely rethinking what they’re going to do. So they’re not going to return to how they used to where they used to rock up to a leisure centre or a village hall and teach those classes in person any more.
The business may be now be able to be seen nationally or worldwide and still offering amazing classes or services but online. So virtually may now be the main source of their business. I’m able to spot things and react really quickly. I think that’s why I love seeing opportunities and helping people to realise them.
How do you come up with your ideas? Are you speaking to the members? Speaking to other people or is it from your experience?
Again I think I’m lucky to be one of those people that’s quite spontaneous. I tend to react fast. I will get into bed to try and sleep but if come up with an idea, I have to get up write it down. The next morning, I’m just all yeah, let’s do it. I suppose I’m quite good at spotting trends or spotting potential issues. If I see something coming up across social media, across news, across conversation with people, mums in the playground, Mama Tribe members…. I know it’s a thing. I take my inspiration from all over.
I tend to spot the trends quite early and my personality reacts quite quickly. My problem actually as a business owner is that I’m no good at repetition. I’m no good at the longevity of doing tasks. That’s when I have to employ a team of people to help me. I have to find the people that are really good.
Once I’ve come up with the idea set out how I want it to look and sound everything else then go can you make this happen now. Every single week because I’m rubbish at just doing that stuff. Other people love the organisation, they thrive on that. It’s just not me.
Do you always get it right?
I’m quick to jump and try things but if it doesn’t work, it’s fine as well. I’ve tried plenty of things and instead of going ‘that didn’t work’ and retreating, I kind of flip it and keep trying.
This business has now been going for three years. The first two years were very much a case of trial and error. Although the following and the community has grown, for me behind the scenes it feels like I’m only really starting to get things right now. And I think that’s what happens when you get to the year three point in business. The first couple of years are about experimenting and it’s those that keep working through to the point of being a three-year-plus business that really work and thrive.
How do you structure your working day?
Basically I’m quite unstructured! I have to be passionate about things and if I’m passionate then I’m also quite relentless. So that drive and determination to make something work or make me sit at my desk and continue to do things. I’ve also trained my children to be fairly kind of relaxed in terms of routine as well.
We have like a basic routine, but they’re not heavily structured. That gives me a lot of flexibility now. You know, everybody’s got their own family scenario and setup and own ways of parenting. My way is very much kind of, OK it’s two o’clock we’ll start doing homeschooling now because I’ve spent the whole morning working on something I’ve really had to get down on paper. Or other days I’ll start with homeschooling and then at 3in the afternoon, tell the kids to go and play on the trampoline while I work.
I have to react when I’ve got the energy for it. Sometimes if I have the an adrenaline thing going on, I’ve got to get down go to work immediately. I’ve got to figure it out and then, you know, it does kind of take over a little bit, but I’m quite good.
I’ve learned in the course of having my own businesses and particularly since realising with the bricks and mortar business that I missed out on stuff with my first child, I want to spend time with them and I’m going to put everything down. Because it is my business, I can shut my laptop and go take the dogs for walks in the field. And being in lockdown has actually made that sort of lifestyle choice even more prominent because we’ve all had to kind of stay within our family bubbles. It’s made me do my work when I want to and I’ll also focus on the kids and do something fun with them and we’ll fit it all around.
To learn more about Danni, the amazing Mama Tribe membership, marketplace and directory, and what the future holds listen to Episode 8 of the podcast now.