Hampstead Business Mums - Victoria, PERFECT CUPPA ENGLISH
How long have you lived in the Hampstead area?
I've lived in and around the area for 6 years now, but grew up and went to school locally, 20 years ago!
Where did you grow up? Was it similar to Hampstead?
I went to South Hampstead High School, so know the area very well. A lot of my friends lived around Hampstead and Belsize Park, and when I was 18 I even used to go to The Horseshoe pub (back in the days when it was known as the 3 Horseshoes!)
Did you choose to live here or did it just happen that way.
It's funny where life takes you. I started dating a guy back in 2008 who lived in the area and happened to live around the corner from 1 of my best friends from school.
That guy, Chris, is now my husband- 7 years, marriage, 2 kids and 2 new businesses later.
Describe your family.
Chris has recently retrained from management consulting to cooking. He's just completed his Leiths Food & Wine diploma, and is starting up his own business in food and science education and writing. Olly's 3 and just about to start a nursery class at school (going 5 days a week and wearing a uniform, gulp!) Zoë turned 1 in May and is full of life; learning to walk, babble and keep up with her big brother.
What’s your favourite thing to do over the weekend.
We love what's going on locally for families- there’s so much to choose from. Our ideal weekend would involve swimming at Kentish Town swimming pool Saturday morning (fabulous kids' pool which is clean and warm).
If it's sunny, then you can’t beat London Zoo. We have an annual pass, so you can always pop in for an hour or 2 whenever you like. Rainy day activities which top our list include Kenwood House (children’s activity room and great café), or maybe reading together in the very cool children’s reading space in the Daunts bookshop, near South End Green.
Are there any classes/businesses in the area you really love and would like others to know about?
I think Bach to Baby is such a great idea, for both mums and children. They run family-friendly classical music concerts during the day and it's great to enjoy music in a relaxed environment, without worrying about the little ones talking, walking around or demanding a snack.
Favourite restaurant in the area?
How to choose- there are so many! But if pushed, I’d go for Burgh House for brunch or lunch. Burgh House lies hidden away, near Hampstead High Street. They do a tempting brunch and delicious home-made meals in the cosy café or out on the terrace, overlooking the gorgeous garden. Burgh House itself has a really quirky museum about the history of the local area, and regularly runs exhibitions and small concerts with local artists and musicians.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
San Francisco. I love the multi-cultural vibe, delicious food and those crazy hills!
Do you have much family around?
I'm really lucky. My parents are still really local, as is my sister, who just had her first baby. Family's really important to me and I want my kids to get to know their cousins well.
What’s the most “unmumsy” thing you have done recently?
I try to take the kids to museums and art galleries, but it’s always a quick walk around, and I'd been really missing going to see exhibitions which I used to do a lot before kids. So I’m really pleased that I recently caught the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at the Tate Modern. She was a really fascinating and inspiring character: a real creative chameleon, mistress of reinvention and a multiple career-changer, all in the early 20th Century. That and going for a cheeky glass of wine afterwards at the 6th floor bar which has 1 of the best views in London.
Do you bring your children up the way your parents brought you up?
I grew up in the heart of London, so I really want my kids to experience London in all its technicolour diversity and cultural richness, as my parents tried to do for us. They may not grow up with a huge garden out the back, but who needs that when you have a choice of the most beautiful parks, playgrounds and green areas on your doorstep?
Did you always know you wanted your own business?
No, I’m not sure I thought I would ever be doing this! I started my own business out of a need to do things my way to suit my family and me, and to do something more authentic to who I am, rather than just running the corporate gauntlet and crazy commute.
Please describe your business? When did you start it?
I’d worked in Marketing for large food companies for over 10 years when I had Olly. I was determined to go back to work, but wanted part-time hours and ended up feeling completely compromised in all areas of my life. I didn’t enjoy the work, which ended up being closer to full time, and I didn’t enjoy my time with Olly, because I was always worrying about work. My career had reached a dead end.
I decided to take a break, but knew I wanted to work and find something that worked better for us all. I decided to go back to my roots in languages (I studied Modern Languages) and retrain in teaching English, then teaching Business English, as there was a strong connection to my experience.
I started teaching English, but my big insight was that teaching language is only half the picture. What most people need is also an understanding of England, our culture, our ways of doing things but most of all, orientation and help to work out how to get things done when moving to London. This city can be so much fun for families, but it can also be terribly isolating, lonely and hard to meet friends. Equally relevant for English speakers, as much as English learners.
My business, Perfect Cuppa English, helps to settle international families into life locally through English language, culture and orientation services. The sessions are tailored individually, and take place in the convenience of their home or discreetly at work, at a time which suits them. I usually work on a 1:1 basis or in very small groups for everyone to get the best results.
What drives you to run your own business?
My family, and the need to do things my own way and flexibly
Is your other half supportive? In the family home? With the business?
Funnily enough, Chris hit a similar point in his career as me when we had Olly. He left his job 6 months after me and decided to retrain in cooking, something that he’s always been passionate about.
He also has a background in science so he’s just setting up his own business now in food and science education and writing, and is looking to work flexibly too so that we can both look after the children and pursue our careers. Chris is excellent with the kids, plus our star chef at home too. It’s pretty amazing getting restaurant-standard meals at home cooked for you, but sometimes a little challenging on the waistline!
If you didn’t start your own business, what would you have been doing?
When I was a kid, I always wanted to be an astronaut. Maybe Plan C?