Founder, My VIP Card
Maddy Alexander-Grout shares her journey in overcoming postnatal anxiety and psychosis to establish the south coast’s largest parenting forum, using her personal experiences to become a passionate advocate in helping new parents to connect and maintain good mental health.
In advance of the launch of the app for her multi-award winning My VIP Card, the Hampshire Women’s Business of the year winner tells us how she balances motherhood whilst simultaneously growing a UK wide business.Connect on LinkedIn
You’ve got some very personal motivations for establishing your business, can you tell us about your journey?
I was in recruitment for 12 years and when I became pregnant, I went on a bit of a personal journey. I suffered throughout my pregnancy with anxiety and prenatal depression. When my child arrived, it was incredible because I had been told that I couldn't have children, but I became housebound because of high-level anxiety. I had postnatal psychosis, if I went out of the house, I was really scared that something bad would happen to us.
I set up the Southampton Parenting Forum and started to organise discounts for the group; the more we went out the more I realised that it was really helping me. In the middle of the night, I had this brainwave that I should have a discount card for the forum.
So, My VIP Card was a lightbulb moment idea?
Yes, I thought I can create this awesome card for parents. The forum is now six and a half thousand people, it's huge. We launched the card with 50 discounts, we’ve now got four and a half thousand.
Why do you think now is the right time for a scheme like this to be successful?
I think everybody at the moment is talking about the high street and how it’s failing. The whole policy of My VIP Card is to help people to shop local, it’s about community and supporting smaller businesses.
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"The Old Bond Store helps me to achieve a flexible working structure. It’s also being around people who are innovative and people you can bounce ideas off."
You’re clearly passionate about the south coast. What is it that you love most about this area?
My dad started his business in Oxford Street in the 70s. Southampton is a place that is really quite dear to me. I love that small business owners connect with each other. I love the city itself. I love the shops. I like visiting the high street but over the past few years I have found the experience not nearly as enjoyable as it used to be. My goal is to bring enjoyment back to the high street and get people motivated about shopping with local businesses.
The Old Bond Store is part of that city centre community, how did you become a member?
I received an invite to the opening night. It’s so unusual to get post nowadays and the invitation really intrigued me. I arrived and immediately felt really at home. My motto for 2020 is to hang out with people who are at the same level as me or higher, because you’re the average of the people who you hang out with. The Old Bond Store community is truly inspiring.
"This is about wanting to change how you operate, being a member of the Old Bond Store is a commitment to yourself."
How do you balance motherhood with running your business?
When my second baby was two weeks old, I went back to work. I took her with me everywhere I went and I campaigned for mums in business to be treated equally. I took her with me to meetings and networking. It was tough, but on the whole, it was really well received.
Now the children are with a childminder and at school I really plan and I schedule my time. I’ve received some really good advice about planning blocks of things to do and that’s been a game changer for me.
Has being a member of the Old Bond Store helped you to achieve that working structure?
Definitely. Because I come to work every day. It’s also being around people who are innovative and people you can bounce ideas off.
I use the different levels for different things. If I want to come and work on my business, I’ll always sit in one of the booths.
What advice would you give to other mums wanting to set up their own business?
Plan, have a business plan from the start because it’s harder to write when you’ve already started. And set goals, if you don’t hit them, it’s not the end of the world, and if you over achieve them then that’s awesome.
Mindset for me is also really important because I’ve got a history of mental health issues. Every time something good happens I write it down so that if I’m ever having a down day, I can look back at all of the awesome things I’ve done.
Who inspires you?
Sara Davies from Dragons’ Den, is the epitome of mums in business. I love her personality and that she’s really driven, I really aspire to her.