Success Stories: Vikki MacDonald

After having children, Vikki found it increasingly difficult to juggle a full-time career with looking after young children. The extra pressures of having a son with additional needs and physical disabilities meant something had to give. After taking the difficult decision to become a stay-at-home mum, three years later Vikki was ready for a new – but more flexible – challenge, and that’s where her career with Usborne Books at Home took off.

“It wasn’t until my second son Blake, now 6, came along that I realised things simply couldn’t carry on the way they were. Life was stressful, and I was finding it increasingly difficult to juggle my busy career as nursery manager with having children. Added to this were the extra pressures associated with my eldest son Aidan’s additional needs and physical disabilities, which meant that we had to attend frequent medical appointments, sometimes up to 5-6 each week. My job just didn’t offer the level of flexibility that I needed, and my husband’s role as a restaurant manager was no better.”

“We decided something had to give, and in 2012, just after Blake was born, I took the decision to hand in my notice at the nursery where I worked.”

“It wasn’t an easy decision. I, like many women, had spent many years building up a career that I felt proud of, and my professional life was a significant part of my identity. My career had always given me enjoyment and satisfaction and I was loathed to step away from an industry in which I had built up a significant amount of experience. Plus, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum full time. I knew it would be a radical change of lifestyle, and one I felt quite uncertain about.”

“But things had got to the point where I felt I just couldn’t make it work any longer, and the pressure was starting to have a negative impact on family life.”

Different Challenges

“What followed were three of the most challenging years of my life. That’s not to say they weren’t enjoyable years, and it was a huge relief to be able to focus on my sons, and in particular, making sure that Aidan got the help he needed.”

“But although I loved being a mum, I gradually started to feel as if I had lost sight of who I was and lost my sense of identity. And gradually it dawned on me that I didn’t really do anything for ‘me’ any more.”

“Added to this were the financial pressures of living off just one income – we were now a family of five following the birth of our third son Frankie, and money was becoming increasingly tight. I knew I wanted to start working and earning again, but I was very apprehensive – I needed to make sure I could still be around for my boys, and in particular to continue to support Aidan.”

A New Direction

“It was six months after Frankie was born that I took the decision to join Usborne Books at Home. I was familiar with the Usborne brand having bought their books for my boys, and had always loved them. Plus, I liked the ethos of the company – it is a family-owned firm and the family are still very involved over 40 years after the company began.”

“It cost me £48 to get started, and this included a selection of around 18 books to show customers examples of products, as well as my own personalised website, where customers can place orders.”

“I work mainly with schools and nurseries, holding literacy events and book fairs to showcase the latest range of books to teachers, parents and children. These tend to be popular, firstly because people love the books, plus, if a school hosts an event, they receive free books.”

“Most of my work can be done via phone and email, from home, with occasional meetings with teachers. I also sell the books at spring, summer and Christmas fairs, and when my boys were smaller, and I occasionally displayed the books at toddler groups. All of my work is done whilst my boys are at school, plus a couple of evenings a week, which I dedicate to team support and training sessions. In total I would estimate I work between 15 and 20 hours a week.”

The Impact

“The impact on our lives has been significant, not least financially. I earn 24% commission on the sale of each book, and my earnings average around £1,000 a month.”

“Particularly in the last year, my earnings have allowed us to live stress free. It has changed the outlook for us and we no longer have to scrimp and save.”

“My husband and I refer to my income as our ‘fun money’. It pays for all those ‘extras’, as well as a couple of family holidays per year -this year we’re going on a summer holiday to Cornwall and my earnings have paid for that. Christmas is completely different for us now; it used to be pretty stressful, and now it tends to be one of my busiest (and most profitable) times of year. We’re now also fulfilling our dream of buying our own home.”

“I haven’t missed a second of my boys growing up, and being able to choose when I work to fit around my family, in particular my eldest son’s needs, has meant the absolute world – I can be their mum but I can also be me again and that is just priceless!”