Claire Minaar is not someone who sits around while life happens around her. Having started her first job at just aged 15, is now running her own business while juggling being a mother and wife. Starting her own website portal aimed at the ever growing wedding market, she realised soon that trying to be it all comes with many challenges – and that she was not the only one facing those challenges. So instead of giving up she started another venture on the side, aimed at providing support to her fellow Momtrepreneurs, as she calls them.

So tell us a little bit more about you and your business?

I am a freelance programmer and run my own websites as well as writing in between for my various blogs. My main website is Celebration.co.za, which is an online wedding directory for South Africa. My personal blog is called Momtrepreneur.co.za where I share tips and advice on raising a family, building a business and living, what I call, a good life!

And how long have you been working on these two projects?

Celebration.co.za started in 2004 and Momtrepreneur started in 2009/2010. With the success of Celebration.co.za, we created an Afrikaans version of the wedding site called TrouInspirasie.co.za, aimed purely at the South African market.

What makes you passionate about what you do and how did you come to be running your own business?

For Celebration, I had just gotten married and with my friends and family being scattered all over the world, I didn’t have a space for sharing all my wedding photos with them – remember this was before the advent of Facebook! So, I built a website for brides to showcase their wedding photos, and from there the site just grew into what it is today – basically a one stop shop for all things wedding!

With Momtrepreneur, I needed an outlet and knew that other moms (especially working moms) had the same ups and downs I was having with running a business, working and looking after kids – trying to juggle it all. So, I created a blog and here it is today – hardly a blog anymore – now it is more like a one stop support network for working moms!

So tell us a bit more about your background and how it was that you came to being your own boss rather than working for a company?

After school I studied programming at a college in Cape Town. When I was 19 I worked for a software company where I trained in Windows Development and Database Design and Development. During this time, web development was becoming more and more popular and eventually I grew to love building websites and now build online business systems for a few clients.

And your family background? Were any of your family members entrepreneurs?

Both my parents worked for a living. My dad was an accountant and my mom was principal of a school for many years. I saw how hard they worked to support my brother and I and something in me wanted to be independent and able to support myself so that my parents didn’t have to. I started right from high school when I was only 15, working as a waitress – which was an absolute disaster as I poured hot tea on an older man and almost stabbed a fellow waiter while rushing to take dirty plates to the kitchen! So I realised this was not my forte, so I opted for something more low key and started working at a pharmacy where I learnt a lot about dealing with clients, about having responsibilities and managing money. I worked hard straight after college and paid off my own student loan on a salary of only ZAR3000 a month (approximately ₤170)! I had paid off my first car in less than two years – that’s how careful I was with money!

Do you have a business partner that you work with? Any interesting stories there?

Actually my business partner is my husband, Ryan. He is a techy nerd – he loves computers, phones and gadgets! He managers all our technical requirements (and there are lots!) and everything in between from admin to the daily operations. In addition he shoots and edits all of my videos for me, as well as being responsible for our service management and automation. We have been married since 2004.

Running these two websites, being weddings and parenting, must come with a lot of competition. What gives you the edge over that competition?

I have a strong desire to make a difference. I think that comes across in my dealings with people and with the different things I do with the websites. I can’t comment for competitors and I try very hard not to look at competitors. I like to be unique where I can and offer the best service possible. For me, service is very important and I try very hard to ensure that people have the best service possible. I would hope that this gives me the edge.

Claire with kids

And did you encounter any challenges or setbacks in starting up your own business?

Setting up a business that is your own is time consuming and it can be expensive. So, as with any new business, capital was an issue. In order to pay expenses, I needed to generate income, so I freelanced and built Celebration on the side to make sure I had the capital to still live.

My biggest lesson in business is to stop looking back at what others are doing and do what you want to do and believe is good. Sure, you can get tips or ideas from other companies, but you are what makes your business work. And, it does take money to make money, so be responsible when spending, but don’t hold back out of fear.

And your goal for the next few years? Where would you like to see your websites going?

I have many ideas for Celebration and Momtrepreneur. My goal for the two websites is for them to become reputable brands in their respective industries – the sort of “go-to” places for brides and moms.

And, above all – to have made a difference in some small way.

And finally, any tips for someone considering going on their own?

My grandfather always used to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” The same applies for a business, so if you’re thinking about starting one, make sure you have the energy and focus you need to put into it and don’t try and get everything done at once. Rather go slow in manageable pieces than too fast and not end up not getting things done correctly.

Fail to plan, plan to fail! Planning is essential and making sure you have milestones you have to meet is crucial. You need to know where your focus is.

Also, setting up a business is a serious business, but don’t let it be all serious! Have some fun and bring out your personality too – it’s what makes you unique and what will ultimately make your business unique!

 

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