Flexible business Marvling Bros mirrors school day to empower working mums

Marvling Bros staff with their matchboxes

Marvling Bros staff with their matchboxes - Credit: Archant

Cherishing family life while leading a fulfilling carer is not an easy balance to strike for most mums.

Marvling Bros staff with their matchboxes

Marvling Bros staff with their matchboxes - Credit: Archant

But a group of 10 qualified women managing a £500,000 of annual turnover has found the solution to driving an innovative business while being able to attend school plays and sports days.

Three years ago, Emma Dobie and Hayley Madden, of Gidea Park, decided to embark on a new challenge, despite their busy family schedules, and founded Marvling Bros Ltd.

The business won this year’s Retail Business of the Year at the Havering Business Awards and its creative work model has sparked interest.

The company, which designs and creates gifts that fit into a matchbox at its workshop in Gidea Park, is organised around one key element – flexibility.

Marvling Bros staff with their matchboxes

Marvling Bros staff with their matchboxes - Credit: Archant

For Mrs Madden, that does not only mean flexible hours, but it is a value embedded in the enterprise’s motto.

“We are all school mums and the number one priority was that work had to fit within school hours,” she said.

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“But it’s not all about children but about family life. Some of us have elderly parents to look after and we want to spend time with our partners.”

The team includes a former accountant, a teacher, a window designer, a shorthand secretary and lifeguard and a photographer, and each member brings their own skill set to the company, which sells its products online or to shops.

Clare Lemay, Poppy, Sam and Jo Giles

Clare Lemay, Poppy, Sam and Jo Giles - Credit: Hayley Madden

Samantha Nye says the work makes her feel “empowered” and has opened up opportunities to learn new skills.

“Here, we are making a difference and not just working for the top man,” she said.

Emma Dobie added: “I feel beyond being a mum and all of us are part of the process from start to finish.”

Nicola Cox said: “My children are proud of what I do.

“When I bring work home they always want to see what our latest matchbox is.”

Working hours run from 9am to 3pm – matching school hours – and a skeleton staff system is put in place during the school holidays.

Unfinished work can be taken home and completed after children have gone to bed, but this is down to the discretion of each employee.

The majority of the work is manual, with the group filling thousands of matchboxes with original gifts, but Mrs Madden says no one complains and instead they work hard to get the work done in a fun atmosphere.

But if Marvling Bros is “not the Utopia of the workplace”, Mrs Madden pointed out that most of the mums found their previous jobs did not fit with childcare arrangements.

Helen Roberts said she was upset to leave her job of 21 years in a city bank, but it was incompatible with a family life.

“All that experience is now lost to the workforce because they are not flexible enough,” she said.

“If they could have been more flexible for a couple of years after my maternity leave, maybe I would have been able to stay.”

Wendy Radden added she found it difficult to find a job which allowed her to have time off during school holidays, but was keen to get back to work.

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