The first time I met Kate Starkey (The CheltenhamMaman!) was when she was interviewing someone at one of the many events she plans. Kate is one of those rare people who really listens to what others are saying. You can tell who they are as they respond with the right questions. I remember feeling a bit in awe and thinking, this is one ‘switched-on’ woman!
Kate is also a bit of an enigma as she is often the one in the interviewer’s chair, hosting events and publishing blogs, so a lot of people know of her (or of CheltenhamMaman) but perhaps don’t know much about the real Kate Starkey. I thought it would be nice to find out!
And I found out loads: that she started writing a book, that she’s had different experiences of being a mum, that she cares very strongly about the environment and has lots of exciting plans for the future.
Kate Starkey has created something quite unique with the CheltenhamMaman website. Launched in 2016, it quickly became well-known as an all-round hub for mothers in the Cotswolds. She said, ‘It’s a collection of articles written by myself and others, a place where you can find out about events for mums and more recently listen to podcasts with interesting local mothers.’
Why did she start it? Kate said, ‘I’d written the first few chapters of a non-fiction book about motherhood in a bid to become a writer (‘The Unofficial Guide to Becoming a Mothership.’ – she got to 10,000 words!) and when I submitted it to publishers, they advised that it would only really work if I had an online audience from which to ‘sell’ the book. I started the blog and the rest of it has just fallen into line behind those first few articles.’ Kate said that she’s, ‘totally winging it’ but I questioned her about this as with her assured and decisive nature, it really doesn’t seem like she is!
She said, ‘There has never been a plan – I just move in the direction of what comes my way, what works and what my audience appear to enjoy. I have always worked hard though and two years on I can see that there’s been very clear progression probably because I always follow my ideas through.’
CheltenhamMaman’s great catchphrase is ‘No Judgement Here’ and her perspective is what makes her unique: she has been a young mother (she had her first child at 21), an older mother, one that has suffered from depression and she has been ‘skint’. Now at 37, she has a 16, 14 and 2-year old and is enjoying life but has seen how hard it can be and how mothers can, ‘become an island.’ When she had her first child, Kate was going to study journalism at university but went travelling with her childhood sweetheart (now husband!) and became pregnant. At times, she felt quite resentful being a young mum as she wanted to be studying journalism and lost a few of her friends as they just weren’t at the same stage. ‘It was all a blur’ she recalls. More recently she became a mother again, ‘I had friends who were having kids at 32 and became broody again.’ Despite this, she always put her work first but it was stressful. She eventually became pregnant with her daughter and left her job as Practice Manager at a GP Practice. It was the ideal experience for managing a group of MumBosses!
Along with the CheltenhamMaman website, Kate runs the MumBoss Club which is a membership based community of mothers (step mothers, soon to be mothers and hopeful to be mothers all included) who run their own businesses or who are thinking about it. she said, ‘The blog led to events, the events led to a realisation that there is a huge community of isolated mums running their own businesses, that realisation led to The MumBoss Club and the podcast is just another way of showcasing all of the incredible women I have been lucky enough to meet.’
The MumBoss Club was launched in January of 2017, she said, ‘Back then it was just a group of people who got together for monthly learning events and chats. In the summer of 2017 the buffer of my maternity pay and savings ran out – I came to the very stark realisation that as much as I adored prancing around connecting people and helping other business form collaborations and access learning – I couldn’t afford to do it for free. Events are fun but they are incredibly difficult to make a living from and really hard work. I came up with the subscription model for the club and took a leap. I lost a lot of sleep in the run up and was so very worried it would just be me and one or two other staunch supporters – I had a lot to lose. Thankfully it’s thriving and I am eternally grateful for those members who took that early plunge as the value of the membership is so much greater than when I started.’
Members get access to a very busy private Facebook group with a panel of amazing professionals and the answers to most questions at just the click of the button. They also get access to events at low costs and also access to Kate whenever they need it as a listening ear. Her advice to women thinking of joining is to just, ‘Try it out!’
Asked about the challenges that parents face nowadays, Kate believes that, ‘We have more power, more choice, more convenience but with that I suppose comes a sense of entitlement and I think that our generation finds it hard to be content – we’re always aspiring to bigger and better. Parenting in the digital age is a huge challenge and one that I’m pretty sure my parents don’t envy.’
Regarding important issues for the future of parenting, Kate believes the challenge in the Western world is to raise a generation of children who consume less and say no to waste. She said, ‘I think the scariest thing for our future is the environment and the issue of the unsustainable way most of us live. I think people are just going to burn out and, as parents take the leap away from traditional employment in big corporate powerhouses, I hope we will see a return to a slower, more creative and local way of living, shopping, working – you name it. I honestly believe that small business is the answer to a future we all want our grandchildren to live and I’m proud to champion local people starting these organisations that I really hope will collectively cause a shift in how we live.’
The exciting future for Kate Starkey is to step up the business and roll out The MumBoss Club to other areas. She said, ‘It’s worked so well in Gloucestershire it only seems right to share it around! I suspect I’ll carry on moving wherever opportunities take me! I have dreams of a Maman HQ but that’s a big and risky step – who knows one day maybe I’ll be brave enough.’
One piece of advice Kate has given me is to sometimes stop and look back at what you’ve achieved. I think if Kate looks back at what she has achieved, she can definitely feel like a Boss. I can only see her ‘empire’ going from strength to strength and I hope she publishes that book!