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Climb out of bed, make yourself a cup of tea, and stroll into your study in your pyjamas to switch on the laptop…
If this sounds like a dream job, writes Jo Middleton, then remote working could be for you. Cuddledry, who in 2009 won the Remote Employer of the Year award, know that a flexible working model can offer a business a lot more than just the scope to work in your pjs.
Cuddledry was founded in 2006 by old friends Helen Wooldridge and Polly Marsh. They came up with the idea for the hands free baby towel whilst watching their husbands struggle to bath their babies, and following a fantastic performance on Dragons’ Den, where they turned down three offers of investment, they’ve established Cuddledry as an internationally recognised brand.
A well considered business plan set out clear targets and a timescale for each step, ensuring that they achieved their goals. They selectively outsourced everything they had little or no expertise in, allowing them to focus on the things they were good at.
“We were realistic about our own strengths,” says Polly, “and divided the roles and responsibilities between us accordingly. We have a unique business plan in that we actively seek to employ home based personnel. We have discovered that like us, there are many parents who are no longer able or wish to work full time in high powered roles due to family commitments. Many of these people have given up very senior roles and are highly qualified, intelligent people, but are unable to find a part time or flexible job to suit their abilities. They need a role to be flexible and usually home based, in order to continue their careers at the same level. Many part time or flexible roles on offer are at a much reduced level of seniority or responsibility. We do not believe this has to be the case and offer flexible part time roles where each person is absolutely the head of their own department within an expanding successful company.”
In doing this, Helen and Polly have challenged the assumption that a "lifestyle" or home business cannot be a highly profitable business and attractive investment or acquisition.
Since their launch in October 2006, they have grown into a team of ten full and part time staff, plus additional people who work on a consultancy basis, one being in Hong Kong, which they feel is the ultimate triumph in home-working – it doesn’t just mean homes in the UK, they can be anywhere.
“We have learned that segmenting your time strictly is the way to manage being working mums,” says Helen. “We do not waste time travelling to and from an office, and we all work flexible hours to suit us and the business. As a result our business is highly productive, and we are able to work with people in different time zones too.”
“We use technology to keep communication really strong between all of us, despite the fact that we have team members in locations as diverse as Somerset, Kent and Hong Kong. This business model also means we can recruit exactly the right person for the job, without being constrained by geography. Each of our team operates essentially their own "mini-business" within our operation, which is hugely motivating for each of us and allows us to really use our individual strengths efficiently.”
Winning the remote employer award has been a fantastic boost to the Cuddledry brand and a hugely flattering acknowledgment of the company’s commitment to flexible and rewarding working practices. “We have always felt that remote working was the way forward,” explains Helen, “and it has been amazing to have our working model held up as an example to other businesses. We believe home working now has a clear place in serious business practice and feel we have successfully challenged the assumption that a home based business cannot also be highly profitable and successful.”
Since winning the award, Cuddledry has seen a significant increase in media attention and has been able to exploit this with features in the national press and radio. Thanks to a clear and focused business plan, as well as the cost and time efficiencies inherent in the remote working model, Cuddledry has exceeded financial projections far quicker than anticipated. A comparison of the original 5-year projection, versus the actual reality of what was achieved, show that the company is already 12 months ahead of targets.
As the Cuddledry team continues to expand, remote and flexible working will remain at the heart of the business. For now, Cuddledry creators Helen and Polly are happy to celebrate their success to date
“When we first came up with the Cuddledry apron towel after watching our husbands struggle to get their slippery babies out of the bath, we never imagined how it would take off,” explains Polly. “Just a few years on and now one in twenty babies in the UK now has a Cuddledry towel!”
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