I recently met with Port Elizabeth’s Coffee and Kids Company owner Monique Biddulph for a cuppa to talk about business, kids and the many other hats that we tend to wear! A few years ago, Monique had a vision to create a space where moms could relax while their kids had fun in a safe environment. Two years later, Monique now employs 18 staff (including child minders) and has a thriving business while still raising 4 kids. It is also proving to be popular with the moms in PE. This is what Monique has to say about juggling her workload and running the household.
Tell us a bit about Monique and her family
I am a mom of 4 beautiful children. My stepson is 21 & studying IT at NMU, my eldest daughter, Tyla is 12, my youngest daughter, Jordan is 10 & my son Nate is 3 and a half. My husband is a geologist who works & lives in Ghana where he runs a goldmine for 8 months of the year. I am a qualified Foundation Phase teacher and obtained my B.Prim Ed from NMU. I taught in Taiwan for 2 years and returned to SA where I taught at Woodridge for 8 years before re-marrying and moving to PE. I fondly refer to my family as a circus as we have a busy household and we laugh a lot and have a lot of fun together!
How did the idea for your business come about?
As I am a hostess at heart, it has always been a dream of mine to own my own restaurant or coffee shop. When the opportunity arose to start our own business, I drew on my knowledge as a teacher and mom and identified a gap in the PE market for a venue where parents could go to enjoy a meal and relax whilst their children of different ages could be accommodated and entertained in a safe environment. Most especially an indoor venue for kiddies aged 0-3.
How do you juggle running a business and home life? Any tips for other working moms?
Wow, where do I start! My children are most definitely my top priority hence the shop only being open until 5pm so that I can still spend quality time with them. As I have the role of mom and dad whilst my husband is away supporting our family, its a constant juggling act for me. I am a very involved business owner so I go in every day to greet my regular customers and new customers as well. As a family we have had to adapt, especially over weekends when I work and this I have only achieved by having a reliable domestic at home to ‘man the ship’ whilst I’m away.
Tell us your journey about starting this business
In my student days I worked as a permanent waitress and a restaurant manager for many years before going overseas so I felt confident in knowing how to begin in the hospitality industry. The challenge of course came with now being the employer and not the employee. The most important aspect was finding the right location, a good team of staff and then getting the word out. Designing the menu was fun but a great responsibility and the first few months before being financially stable enough to hire a manager were EXTREMELY taxing for my husband and I. We rarely went to bed before 2am for the first 2 months!
Your one wish for south Africa
I truly wish for better economic stability for all South Africans, a decline in racism and prejudice and for leaders that can provide a safer country for us to live in. I often feel that Mandela’s legacy is somewhat waning as people become obsessed with social media and personal issues, which is incredibly sad for me as I loved him dearly.
What are you currently reading?
‘Small great things’ by Jodi Picoult. She is my absolute favourite author and I love the real life genre of her books.
Best part of running your own business
The best part of running a business such as mine would be to see the excitement and happy faces of the children as they run in the door to come and play! I feel guilty when children cry as their parents carry them out the door to go home but I also smile inside as I feel I have achieved my goal in my business of making it such a happy, fun lace to be that they don’t want to leave!
Worst part of running your own business
The worst part would be the constant scrutiny and judgement from customers who seem to focus on minor aspects and try to dictate how you should run your business, which can really be disheartening at times, however, I have developed a ‘thicker’ skin over the last 2 and a half years and have had to learn not take every little criticism so personally.
Advice to someone who would want to start their own business…
Be present at all times as the business owner for the sake of your staff and your customers. Stay positive and look after your staff as they are the people that represent your business and ensure its success. Always remember why you started your business in the first place and don’t give up on your dream!