LEAVING THE 9-5: TARIKA MARSHALL, CO-FOUNDER OF CAHOOTSY

Are you finding it impossible to juggle kids and career? Dream of leaving the 9-5 and working more flexibly? This series looks at inspirational women who are working the way they want.

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Tarikia Marshall, 39, runs Cahootsy.com, a marketplace to find best buys, with her husband. They live in Surbiton with their two children aged 6 and 4. Photo credit Perfocal.

1. Why did you want a more flexible career?

In our 20s my husband and I backpacked around the world, settled abroad for a few years and loved the unconventional uncharted career path (while our peers were settling down and buying their first home). It was very fulfilling, yet returning home we somehow joined convention and left all that behind. Having children, with the irony of working hard to afford their childcare, brought home the importance of freedom.  

2. What were you doing before you had children?

I held a senior management position at an international digital commerce firm, heading global acquisition of app brands for carriers like Telefonica and EE.

3. What was the trigger point that made you switch?

Returning from maternity leave. I wanted to work on something I was passionate about, would work hard on but didn’t mean I never saw my kids.

Cahootsy was inspired by the frustration of shopping for a new baby. We wanted to create a single site where knowledge, opinions and offers could be shared, and everyone got rewarded for helping. It’s brilliant seeing experienced enthusiasts, and many bloggers, coming on board as community experts – and earning half the revenue for sharing their expertise.

4. What’s a typical day like for you?

Typically, an hour with the kids before school. Drop off then I head into town and start work at 10. I work until 4 or 5, then head back for pick up and spend time with the kids till bed. I spend Tuesdays at Google Campus on a Mums in Tech programme, to support other mums starting their own business. On Thursdays we have a workshop with other tech startups in our office near Shoreditch (alongside 100 companies) where we exchange ideas and collaborate. On Fridays we all work from home and I get to spend the afternoon with our kids.

5. Do you work every day, or is it different each week?

Weekends are sacred so a no computer zone (unless it’s an emergency).  On weekdays during term time we’ll work every day but we plan ahead for school holidays – we managed to spend the whole summer holiday in France this year sharing work and childcare.

Our daughter had a serious accident last year (a burn from a cup of tea led to nearly losing her life to sepsis/toxic shock) which means a lot of hospital visits and follow on treatment. We were fortunate to be able to take a lot of time off – for her and us to heal – that a full time job would have never allowed.

6. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to give up a 9-5 job?

Manage your expectations. To start with you’ll probably end up working harder than you did until you find the right equilibrium and client base. Decide what it is that’s driving you to do it (spending more time with your kids, being your own boss, alleviating stress) then write those down and set a timescale you’re prepared to wait till you achieve this.

You don’t want to turn around in five years and find yourself worse off and working all hours. Often starting as a constant or freelancer is a great way to remove the upfront risk of launching your own business.

7. How do your earnings compare with when you were working full or part time in a 9-5 job?

Earnings do drop considerably when you’re setting up your own business. In the first year I missed those nice holidays abroad or dining out as often as we used to. But you get used to watching your pennies and it makes you appreciate treats a lot more. Cahootsy has now got a growing community and a fully developed site so we’re now back on track with our earnings and enjoying those treats.

8. What do you think is the biggest challenge for working parents?

Juggling school logistics and events with work and the commute, as well as being available at work or for client events in the evenings. Creating flexible working conditions for our workforce – especially to support returning mums- should be an important aim for all businesses.

You can connect with Tarika on Twitter @TarikaMarshall.

Have you left the 9-5 to work flexibly on your own terms? What are the advantages an the drawbacks? Do get in touch, we’d love to hear your story.

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