If you ask any working Mom what they’d want most, most of them would want to add a few more hours to their day, there is simply not enough hours in a day! In celebration of Mother’s Day this month, Absolute Mama interviewed 5 inspirational women for the month of May, all Mother’s, all doing it for themselves.
Here’s the fourth installment with another inspirational MOM.

Q & A with Leigh O’Connell– Meraki Aesthetics Cape Town

1. Tell us about yourself and your company/venture

Meraki Aesthetics is more than just another beauty salon. It’s not quite like anything you’ve seen around here before. It’s modern and edgy without being cold. The staff are highly skilled and exceptionally well trained. And the bubbly is always chilled.

Conveniently located in the new Battery Park building at the V&A Waterfront overlooking the canal, the setting is perfect for an urban escape.

We offer a relaxed, private space to come for your manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, eyelash extensions, micro-needling, and more.

I am a 36yr old Capetonian girl with my varsity-sweetheart as my husband and a beautiful 3 year old boy. In terms of career, I expected nothing more exciting than a “good” office job, whatever that meant. My professional mentors were all reinforcing this thinking, but there was always a nagging desire to do something creative, something different.

After working as a CA for many years, I left it all behind to start a family. In that time and after my son was born, I took up countless courses in a bid to find my ever-elusive “passion”. Photography, draughtsmanship, interior design, small business management, digital marketing….so many courses!

With the support of my family, extended family and friends included, it all came together beautifully and in 2018 Meraki Aesthetics was launched.

2. How did your business come about and has it changed your life?

Meraki is the actualisation of a dream that Nadine and I hatched years before in 2009 when I was her regular client at the salon she worked at then.

With Nadine’s experience and network and my financial background, we felt like we have the skills in our arsenal to take a decent shot at making this dream a reality.

The timing could not have been better either – after 2 years at home with my son Daniel, he was ready for playschool and I was ready to get back to work, but I knew I didn’t want to re-enter corporate.

Nadine’s business was bursting at the seams and we had just seen the development at Battery Park. Everything fell into place.

3.Do you have any tips for working Moms who are looking to start their own business?

Hire for your weaknesses. Even if it means taking home a bit less cash. Hiring an expert to do a job in half the time you could do it is always smart. It frees you up to do the things you either can’t or don’t want to do. In the long run, this will help you to remain focussed and keep you from becoming disillusioned about your business, because it’s easy to become bogged down with everything that it takes to start a business.

I guess this follows on the first point – Make sure your legal, tax and accounting matters are taken care of from the very beginning. It’s just easier and could save you penalties or interest down the line. Get a lawyer to review or even draft your contracts. Get a tax expert to do your taxes. Get an accountant to do the bookkeeping.

Build/expand your network within your new space. Starting a business is not only about sitting in an office sending out emails. It’s about developing community and building relationships.

Build a company that you believe in, that reflects who you are and be honest about what you want to achieve.

4. What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by mothers/women in business?

Dealing with the frustrating misconceptions about working moms!

Getting back to work after having a baby is hard enough. But when we do, we often find that we have to navigate misconceptions we never really give 100% at work anymore, we are constantly exhausted and unable to cope or that we’re only coming back to work because we need the money, not because we are actually passionate about our careers – to name a few!

5. Where or from whom do you find support?

My greatest source of support is my husband. No question!

We met in 2001 and have been together ever since. We are very lucky to have met so young and we feel as if we’ve grown up together. We truly “get” each other. And that means we know how to support one another.

My family has always supported me even after doing seemingly crazy things like walk away from a “good job”.  There was never a harsh word or an unsolicited piece of advice from anyone.

6. How do you achieve work/life balance, and what do you do for yourself?

I believe that work/life balance is achievable, just not necessarily all at once and not always every single day. I also believe that it means different things to different people. For me it’s something to strive toward, something to aim for in the long term.

Planning your days and weeks go a long way to achieving your balance, but plans fail sometimes and then we need to keep an open mind and remain flexible.

So to answer the question, I often don’t achieve it. But I try not to beat myself up about it, and try again tomorrow.

For myself, I take a solo 2-day trip about 2/3 times a year to visit my bestie who lives in JHB. My husband and I also do one parents-only trip each year. It’s short, but it’s so worth it.

I work out at least twice a week with an amazing group of women who inspire me to do more, be better. And of course, I have the pleasure of booking treatments at our salon during working hours, which is always a treat!

7.In your opinion, can you be a good Mom and a successful entrepreneur / business woman?

There is no question in my mind that this is possible.  If the expectations are clear from both family and business and the channels of communication are open, I don’t see why we cannot “have it all” as they say.

8.What is the most rewarding thing about being a mom ?

To get the opportunity to see the world through a child’s eyes.