Interview with CheltenhamMaman

After spotting a gap in the market for a local parenting website and events business, mum-of-three Kate Starkey set up CheltenhamMaman, which has attracted a loyal legion of Gloucestershire mums since it launched in 2016.

The birth of Kate Starkey’s third child sparked the idea for CheltenhamMaman, a digital platform and events business offering advice, support and a nurturing community for mums-to-be and parents across Gloucestershire.

In this interview, Kate chats to SoGlos about the inspiration behind the website, her refreshing and honest take on parenting, keeping grounded on Instagram, and her dream date night with her husband.

Are you originally from Gloucestershire?

I grew up in Eckington in Worcestershire and moved to the USA with my family when I was 11. I came back to the UK to go to boarding school near Cirencester at 13 and have stayed in and around Gloucestershire ever since. It’s my home and there’s nowhere else I’d rather live.

Can you tell us a bit about your family?

My eldest is Archie, he’s 14 and sports mad. Finn is my 12-year-old rockstar and my little girl Lila is just one. I think I’ve made CheltenhamMaman work as I’ve experienced so many different types of motherhood.

I’ve been a really young mum, an older mum, a full-time working mum, a stay at home mum, a coping mum, a mum on the edge – that perspective really helps me to identify with my audience.

How did you come up with the idea for CheltenhamMaman?

I joke that I gave birth to two babies in 2016. The first was my third child, my daughter, the CheltenhamBébé, in January and the second was CheltenhamMaman, which came into the world in June.

During the long and lonely nights of early motherhood I immersed myself in the mothering community of social media and found myself longing to go to the events being held for mums in London.

Logistically, with a new baby, I couldn’t travel but it didn’t take me long to realise that there would be a real appetite for similar events in our beautiful county. The mums of Gloucestershire are amazing and you only have to get them into a room together, free from judgement, allow them to talk about grown up topics and incredible things happen.

How would you sum up the content on the site?

CheltenhamMaman is a virtual magazine on anything and everything that might be of interest to a mum or expectant mum. Just because we have had children doesn’t mean we’re not interested in beauty, fashion and interiors.

On the blog you’re just as likely to read posts on weaning, parenting teenagers in the digital age and pregnancy issues as you are articles about the best mascara on the market or the must-have trainers for spring/summer.

What type of things can people expect to read?

Along with real life stories about men and women who have done incredible things, we have regular contributors on nutrition, fashion, fitness and beauty and we welcome all other mums to get in touch and write a blog for the site. One of the things I am most proud of is that the site connects people throughout the county.

There really is space for all on the site – every opinion is welcomed and it is respected that we all parent differently. That word respect is so important to the site’s ethos and it’s definitely not a place for bashing people on their parenting choices.

What did you do before setting up your business?

I left my full-time post as the practice manager of Winchcombe Medical Centre for maternity leave at the end of 2015. It was an amazing job and I worked as part of a truly outstanding team led by a group of partners who really looked after their staff. But you can’t take the stress out of the NHS.

As soon as I had the Bébé I knew I couldn’t go back and the pressure was on to find something that worked for me and my family. I hadn’t anticipated at that stage that I would be making having a family into my full-time job!

Can you tell us about the events that you run?

I run weekly free Push It Real Good walks with my great friend Beth from private antenatal and hypnobirthing business, The Bump to Baby Chapter.
We meet in front of Pittville Pump Room at 11am on a different day each week and head off for a walk around the lake followed by a coffee at one of the kiosks in the park.

I also do a monthly MumBoss club event which is a workshop, networking or training session for mums who have set up their own businesses.

In summer we will be holding an interior design focused workshop at No 38 The Park and we are also working on a pop-up CheltenhamMaman market in central Cheltenham, which will celebrate some of the amazing online retailers local to us.

How important do you think it is for mums to have a community, especially on a local level, to reach out to?

It’s so important. Becoming a new mum can be one of the loneliest experiences and the changes our bodies and minds go through are immense. It’s so important to have some time with other mums where you can safely say ‘I love my children but this is so much harder than I thought it would be.’

Lots of us are used to holding down busy jobs and having the freedom to make big decisions at the drop of a hat, and suddenly we find ourselves spending endless hours pushing trains round tracks and picking up squashed banana from the kitchen floor, all on three hours sleep, which can play havoc with our self-esteem.

Can you tell us how CheltenhamMaman brings mums together?

We bring mums together virtually via social media and the blog. But the danger with virtual relationships is that they are just too easy and unless they are partnered with real physical relationships with people that can give you an actual hug when you are down or who you can belly laugh with, they can have the opposite of the desired effect and make you feel anxious or inferior.

That’s where the events come in; they are the second tier for friendships to be built upon in the real world. It’s great to get out of the house and do something just for you. We like to think we are giving mums the nudge to do just that.

How important do you think it is to show all aspects of life as a parent on Instagram and not just the sugar-coated filtered shots?

It’s something I’m working really hard not to forget on @cheltenhammaman as it is vitally important. I’m just like all the other mums out there and of course I’m most likely to post a picture on social media of my home when it’s tidy, my children when they are clean and my face when it’s tear-free, but it’s not an accurate representation of my life.

When I’m feeling exhausted or upset or taken for granted, the last thing I feel like doing is sharing it with the world but when I do it makes a difference to the lives of people who are feeling the same, so it’s something I will continue to do.

Where are you favourite places in Gloucestershire to take your children?

Well, our loony age gap means that there are very few places we can visit as a family that tick boxes for all of us. Broadway Park is a regular haunt of ours as Archie can shoot hoops on the basketball court, Finn hits the zip wire and Lila gets a push on the swings. Finish it off with a hot chocolate and mooch around the shops and we’re all happy.

Can you recommend some local Instagrammers our readers would love?

Sure, I love to spread the love! I’ve tried to choose some unsung heroes who I think are doing amazing things that you should know about.

Take a look at @artbyannastead for a local maman who is seriously talented with a pencil. I met Anna and her little boy Milo when she moved to Gloucestershire recently and am so impressed by her talent.

Georgina Thorne over at @sheisdigitalco is one of our regular speakers at MumBoss club. George is the go-to for all things social media and marketing and does some fantastic, informative videos on Insta.

Anyone looking for partyware, clothing or gifts for stylish ladies should take a look at @littledotcompany run by local mum Beth who is also a MumBoss club member.

I’m also working with interior stylist @deecampling on an interiors-based workshop later in the year. If you want to be inspired by pretty pictures of family homes, take a look at Dee’s feed.

If you and your husband were off on a date night, where would you go?

Can I be really cheeky and ask for a whole night off and the morning after? We’d pack our bags and head for a night away in Cirencester. We’d stay overnight and after having a late afternoon nap, we’d head downstairs for a cocktail and dinner. We’ll probably be in bed by 10.30pm and sleeping for a whole night uninterrupted would be the most exciting part of the date!

In the morning we’d have tea in bed with the papers followed by brunch at Made by Bob. A quick mooch around the shops and we’d be off home feeling refreshed and ready to get stuck back into family life. I feel like that’s a bit greedy but you did ask!

By Anna Marshall

© SoGlos
Wednesday 08 March 2017

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