Joss Astle, Founder of Little Teapots, toddler percussion classes
Tell us about what you do- your mothering situation and your work outside of that.
I have two girls, 7 and 4, so am usually embroiled in running from tennis to ballet to tap to choir. I know. I’m exhausted just thinking about my “mum-taxi!”
Last year I was freelancing in digital marketing, but left to set up my own children’s percussion class business. I love it. I get to have fun with lots of little lovelies, who come back every week. We play musical games, experiment with all sorts of fabulous percussion and sound effect instruments. We dance, we sing, and it reminds me of the need to just play for the sake of playing (we’re good at forgetting this as adults, but it’s still important).
It means I get to stand around on the school playground, wearing the wrong choice of outfit for the weather and sweating / shivering as applicable. I now get to do this every day. And then, as my children finally emerge, I get a couple of school bags thrown at me before we discuss whose legs are the most tired… ALL the way home.
Freelancing and missing these school runs brought me far less love and appreciation as a mother.
But I wouldn’t change a thing. I have precious time with my family, and I am grateful for that.
What kind of work did you do before having children?
I used to work as a digital marketing manager for media and travel companies. I have worked on magazines such as Smash Hits and Kerrang! as well as the Independent Newspaper, the BBC and ITV. I briefly worked in a really good job at Kuoni before getting pregnant quite soon into that role (I thought it would take longer… oops).
I commuted, drank hot lattes, went out on workie lunches with crisp white wine, had really productive meetings in chrome-coated rooms, and spent lots of time working out which company I could move to next, for, in reality, more hot lattes, workie lunches with crisp white wine, and more productive meetings in chrome-coated rooms.
I loved it.
How did you get into your current work?
I decided I really wanted to be there for the school run. I wanted to see my children after school, to hear stories from their days, to snuggle on the sofa with them on winter evenings watching cartoons, to read their school reading books waaaay before bed, before they’re too tired (and sometimes, hoorah, this even happens). I wanted to be that mum at the gates, wearing a ponytail and converse trainers. So away went the freelance role, and in came my own business.
I bought hundreds of percussion instruments, I registered my business, put graphics ALL over my little car, brushed up on my knowledge of rhythm and music, and got stuck in to creating class plans. I booked venues, advertised, and soon enough, customers started to come along. I’m lucky enough to still have quite a few customers that have been coming since Little Teapots started, and they make my day.
What drives you?
Being there for my daughters drives me more than anything. I could probably work in London full time again, but I know I would hardly see them, and gosh, I would miss them terribly. I want them to have a home that they come back to every day, and get plenty of time to hang out in. And I want to control how I do this. For me, working for another company would not give me that side of life in the way that I want it, so I need to create it myself and make it viable.
Every parent is different in how they view this, how they can make it all fit together, but for me, while they still want to know me, I am driven to stay here when they’re home from school.
What is your biggest challenge in making it all work?
In the past, juggling childcare was the hardest part of parenting, but now, my biggest challenge is to really push my business forward so I can continue to do this. It means constantly marketing, with very little budget, to draw in as many customers as I can for each class, and then there’s the challenge of giving them the class of their lives so that they keep coming back. Again and again.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud that I changed my work life when it wasn’t working for me. I’m proud of my husband for supporting me in taking this risk, and I am proud of myself for making it work so far. Don’t get me wrong, my business is small, but it is working, and above all I am proud of the fun sessions I give to the children, where they do learn something new every week. And I am proud that I have really lovely groups of mums, dads and children in my classes, who I have got to know, and who have lots of fun together. Thank you to all of you!
Where will your work take you in the future? What are your plans?
I have ambitions for Little Teapots. I would like to sell franchises eventually, so that other people can run their own percussion businesses near where they live, using my tried and tested lesson plans, giving them a flexible business that can work around their family lives. So let me know if you’d like to be involved!
What would you say to yourself as a brand new mum?
You’re doing well. It’s a massive life change, and although you won’t have the same career / ambitious life for a while, it will return. You can make it work and you will. Take time. Look after yourself as well as your new baby.
Self care- what do you do to fill your cup?
I watch comedy. At the theatre when I can, and on TV when I can’t. I enjoy the sunshine and get out of the house every day. I spend money on good coffee, as that’s my treat in life. I have replaced office conversations with WhatsApp groups with my friends, to keep that general social interaction going while I’m at home.
Every once in a while I have a day or two away with my husband or with friends, to remember who I am outside the “mum-role.” I miss my children but come back so refreshed.
You can find the lovely Joss here:
I’m looking forward to taking Rory along soon!
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