I love hearing about mums that have quit their day job and set up their own businesses. I joined one of Molly Gunn aka Selfish Mother’s master classes and was added to her community of awesome mums who are all daring to brave it going out on their own. One woman who stood out to me was Anja Ffrench, who had created a business that she loves, her products were something I immediately bought for my niece as a gift. I have been inspired to watch her turn what she truly loves into a business that allows her to have the flexibility to work around her children.

Hi Anja, welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum (or dad) should have to do everything herself, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that! You have upgraded your life by resigning from your ‘career’ and setting up Mud & Bloom. We are excited to ask you questions about how you created your own business doing something you love that allows you to work around your three children doing something you obviously love! 

Tell a bit more about your business Mud & Bloom and how you came up with the idea? 

Mud and Bloom is a monthly and seasonal gardening and nature craft activity box that aims to connect children with nature. Each box contains everything you need to do four growing and craft activities without needing any special equipment or even a garden. There’s also news and games teaching children aged 3-8 about nature and the seasons.

I subscribed to indoor craft activity boxes for my children when I was working full time and thought they were fantastic – having everything you need to sit down, make something and enjoy quality time with your child is invaluable, especially when both parents are working. I looked around and was surprised that there were no similar activity boxes catering to gardening and the outdoors.

I gave up my full time job working in London three years ago and I enrolled on a distance learning Royal Horticultural course and launched Mud & Bloom in December 2017.

We love you are inspiring children to connect with nature.  I am not sure what the global figures are but the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen accordingly to childmind.org and Nature deficit disorder is a growing issue. In what way do Mud & Bloom boxes encourage children into nature? 

Yes, studies show there is more and more of a disconnect between children and nature, and increasingly experts link this disconnect to the rise we are seeing in childhood stress, anxiety and depression. It is just so important that children have regular contact with nature, with proven benefits including enhanced brain development, improved concentration and mental health – as well as helping them stay fit and healthy.

The boxes encourage children and their parents to get out into nature regardless of whether they live in the middle of a city or in the countryside. Each box includes two nature craft activities, which involve going outdoors and finding the relevant items, which could be leaves, twigs, flower petals etc. Each box also includes two planting activities, which are designed to be accessible to people with or without gardens, as most of the seeds can be planted in pots and grow bags as well as into gardens.

Instagram has so many lovely pictures of kids looking so happy with their Mud and Bloom creations – especially with the planting projects. What does it mean for children to learn about planting and nurturing their own plants? 

I believe that every child should experience putting their hands in soil and growing their own vegetables.Teaching children to grow and nurture a vulnerable plant also teaches them all sorts of skills that they will need later in life: patience, gentleness and an understanding that if you work at something rewards will come. Studies show that the ability to delay gratification in young children is one of the strongest predictors of future success. What better way to instill this than through the patient, sometimes frustrating but ultimately rewarding act of growing flowers and vegetables?

Growing your own vegetables also encourages healthier eating as no vegetables taste better than those picked directly from the garden! Gardening with your children also reinforces the idea that we are rooted in the natural world, if you look at cultures globally it is the ones that are the most detached from nature that eat the most processed food.

Children who spend time in gardens are “happier and healthier” according to The Washington Post – what can advice can you give to parents who do not have access to gardens, who are worried about their kids getting dirty, eating soil, getting wet and generally making a mess? Can they use Mud & Bloom boxes indoors? 

Children nowadays have so many distractions that I didn’t have growing up. There is a billion pound toy, games and TV industry built around providing them with an impossibly perfect idea of the world and with instant gratification. My children are exposed to it too. This cosmetic world can make the natural world feel sedate, and a bit messy by comparison.

But children who spend time outdoors are most definitely “happier and healthier” and I can see this first hand with my own children. You don’t need to have a garden to get your children out into nature or growing things and even if you live in the city, there are always parks and outdoor spaces to go to. I think it’s important that we as parents, embrace nature, with all it’s mud and imperfections ourselves and our children will then embrace it too. There are lots of ways to do this – going on adventures together, structured adult-led activities, through to unstructured time on their own. Make nature the scene in which some of your children’s most exciting experiences take place and they will want to get out in it again. The activities in the Mud & Bloom boxes can be done indoors too, but they all initially involve going out into nature, which could be your local park or a walk down a tree lined street.

Leaving a career where you are engaging other grown ups daily, to run a business from home with three kids must be a challenge,  has it felt lonely working on your own and what have been the greatest benefits to having your own business? 

Not at all, I love working for myself! Before I resigned from my full time job, I thought I would feel lonely, but I’ve been surprised that I haven’t. I’m engaging with people online and on the phone all the time for my work and I feel very much part of a wider community of other mothers working for themselves. Life is also so hectic, it’s nice when I do get a couple of hours to myself to concentrate on my business! There are many benefits to working for myself, but one of the greatest is being able to choose when I work and being able to collect my children from school each day.

What was the best bit of advice that you have been given when starting your own business? 

I know it’s a bit cliche, but I heard people talking about the value in setting a business up on something you’re passionate about, and I think it really is important. I absolutely love gardening and nature and being able to work on these things every day, just makes me so happy and motivated!

Can you share any tips that will inspire other parents to take the leap to creating their own business from home? 

Starting a business is a very time-consuming thing, however if you are passionate about a product or service and feel committed to the idea, go for it – you’ll only spend time wondering what if otherwise!

Also, if yours is a consumer facing business, try to build a following before you launch your product. That way you have like-minded supporters to help you get your product off the ground and don’t need to rely so much on costly marketing.

If you would like to subscribe to Mud & Bloom do so at www.mudandbloom.com you can follow Anja on Instagram.

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