Nicola Winslade juggles being a mother while also being the Founder of cleaner marketplace, Kept. We chat to her about the challenges of balancing motherhood with a start-up and advice on how businesses can make workplace’s more accessible for mum’s.
During the first lockdown in 2020, the idea for a company that makes the process of finding a cleaner efficient and simple emerged as Winslade realised the importance of making the home a “sanctuary”.
Winslade says housework is a “big relentless task”, important for every household, but one nobody has the time for, especially with kids in the picture.
“There is tidying but there is also the deep clean which is the bigger frustration,” she says.
Winslade realised this while taking a shower, the only time away from her children, and noticed the silicone seals “were growing something”. Immediately she thought “this is never ending”.
“Parenting alone is hard, let alone adding all the household management on top and then actually getting our house to feel like a home is the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
When looking for a cleaner, Winslade realised there was a clear problem in the cleaning industry that she took upon herself to “innovate” and make the process easier for everyone.
And that is how Kept – a marketplace that gives customers an efficient way to communicate and hire cleaners – was established.
“We needed to innovate the booking process essentially and make it super easy, keeping true to the insight that people want to know who these people are that are coming into the house,” she says.
While establishing the start-up and also hearing perspectives from the wider community of mothers, Winslade realised the biggest barrier to parents wellbeing is “the lack of support and a village around us”.
Once becoming a parent, she says priorities in life take a turn, and the work life is often reassessed to fit a new life.
“We live in an age where everyone works, but it is not just about work, it’s about getting our career back, but it is also getting our time back for our kids and getting time back for ourselves, which is another thing, a massive barrier to parents, especially mothers,” she says.
“I don’t think there is harder work or less harder work for a mum, I think what makes it hard is when she can’t choose when she works.”
Coming from the advertising world, the corporate life is a familiar lifestyle to her, and Winslade understands what suits parents best. She is able to incorporate her learnings from her corporate life into her own work life.
“There are definitely barriers for mothers heading back to work because there is still a lack of flexibility and options,” she says.
She says for any business, accommodating for parents and their lifestyle is the best way to approach it.
“Life is more important and ultimately it affects the bottom line and productivity if workers are happy,” she says.
“The better question for workplaces is ‘why is it so important to have mothers in the workplace?’ and ‘if we truly need them there, what can we do to attract the best talent who are also mothers?’”
To a workplace, mothers offer productivity, culture building, a range of skills and are known to be able to manage their time efficiently.
“I think it is best [for businesses] to step out of the status quo of what work should look like and look at outputs instead,” says Winslade.
She recommends businesses offer flexible options, whether it be job sharing, hybrid roles, work the school term or school hours and work from home options.
Running her own start-up, Winslade knows what fits her lifestyle, and works according to her own schedule instead of set hours.
She admits that every day is different and that there are two versions of her day, one that follows the calendar in her head and the day that actually happens.
“It can span from my kid getting conjunctivitis and needing to stay home from school and booking a doctor’s appointment, to interviews that were in the diary,” she says.
“Starting a business has those extra risks but what makes it rewarding for us is that we’re building something for the future, and we are solving a real problem, but I still get to choose when to work and my family still comes first, and I think that is the most important thing.”
Though she doesn’t believe in the “perfect work life balance”, Winslade is a strong advocate for building a village to raise a kid, and building a workplace that is inclusive and supportive for mothers.