Lucy Murray joined Little Dreams Consulting as Chelmsford and Colchester franchisee in December 2022. It all started when she saw a reel on Instagram about having a more flexible job with great work life balance, something about it made her say yes to attending an online discovery session, so she could find out more.
“I genuinely didn’t think it would lead to anything… I wasn’t actively looking for a new job, however I had started thinking about what might be next now my children were a little older.”
Little did she know that the reel she happened to scroll across would lead to her taking the leap from being employed to a brand-new career offering the work life balance she didn’t know she was looking for.
Lucy has always worked with young people, even whilst at school, helping at the local dance school. This experience, along with working in a school in New Zealand during her gap year before university inspired her to work with children and young people. After completing her degree in archaeology in York Lucy applied for outreach roles at universities all over the country and started working for the University of Essex. She delivered a programme of activities, working with schools, students and teachers to raise aspirations and support progression to higher education.
Progressing into a senior management role, Lucy ended up staying much longer than she thought she would and, 16 years later, felt like the university role had really seen her grow up.
“They saw me join as a new graduate, get married and have my three children – so, they’ve been a huge part of my life.”
In the back of her mind though, Lucy felt she was beginning to miss out on family life, especially in the school holidays.
“My husband is a teacher, so he gets all the holidays with the children. There’s such a discrepancy between school holidays and typical working holidays, that I felt I was always having to leave them and go upstairs to my home office, while the four of them would go out and have adventures together. We’d all agree that mum guilt gets us at the best of times, but it kept weighing on my mind, that there must be something out there with a better work life balance – I just didn’t know what it was yet.”
Fast forward to the Little Dreams Franchise discovery event on Zoom, Lucy felt a real affinity for the Little Dreams brand, as she liked the ethos that Jenna and Fay brought to the business. Lucy started researching further into sleep. While all three of her children definitely wouldn’t have been considered as good sleepers, she hadn’t considered a sleep consultant when she was experiencing her own sleep woes.
“Sleep consultancy definitely seems to be talked about a lot more now than when I was struggling with my first child’s sleep nine years ago”.
While she discussed the opportunity with her husband, Lucy still wasn’t sure that it was the right time for her to make a career jump. That said, she continued talking to Jenna and Fay, finding out more about how their franchise worked and how it compared to other franchises too.
“When I chatted to Jenna and Fay and heard about the British Franchise Association, I did dig a bit deeper into what other opportunities there were. The BFA website had lots of children’s franchises associated with it, lots of baby classes that I had attended with my own children! But nothing felt like enough of a stretch. I already jointly ran a local voluntary baby and toddler group, and while I adore engaging with the little ones – and their grown ups – I just felt like Little Dreams would be the perfect opportunity for me because I liked the idea of being part of something bigger”.
At that point, Lucy was offered an interview, as part of which she prepared a presentation that told Jenna and Fay more about her and her personality, detailed her reasons for being a good franchisor and outlined some ideas she had for local marketing. Lucy was offered the franchise following the interview and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I put my deposit down and handed in my notice at the university… I was very nervous, because I’d worked there for so long and it had been such a big part of my life for so long, but as soon as I told people what I was doing, they were very supportive. Lots of people said that they could imagine it would be a great job for me because of who I am! It’s probably been my proudest moment so far, to be honest. To take that leap from employment to self-employment and put myself first.”
Like all new franchisees, Lucy undertook a bespoke programme designed and delivered by the Little Dreams Consulting team, including world renowned sleep expert, Professor Michael Gradisar. This mix of classroom and virtual training empowers franchisees with the skills, knowledge and confidence to run a successful sleep consultancy. Then, for the first 12 months of the business, a weekly support schedule ensures franchisees receive one-to-one time with both Jenna and Fay. From in-territory mentoring and roundtable workshops to specialist refresher courses and customer shadowing.
“The training was brilliant. It set me up in terms of all the theory behind sleep and gave me the opportunity to look at real life sleep issues and how I would deal with them. However, once you start working with families, you realise there isn’t a one size fits all and I think if I hadn’t had Jenna and Fay to go back to, to say ‘I’m not sure about this’ ‘is this right’ ‘how would you approach this particular problem’, I would have found it a lot harder. The continued support was a big part of my decision to join Little Dreams Consulting as opposed to completing a one off course.”.
Lucy immediately got stuck into finding her first families to work with and putting theory into practice.
“It’s been so great to get my head into something new – and challenge myself too”.
There’s nothing like an average day for Lucy now, she finds herself writing sleep plans, conducting consultations and working with parents, but she could equally be talking on local BBC radio shows, writing website content, attending baby groups or networking, but she enjoys the variety – and that she can make it to every class assembly.
“Being able to manage my own time is brilliant…. There was a school strike day yesterday for instance. As I could be flexible with my day, I took my older kids to jump street on our bikes, I did an hour’s work, and then they spent the rest of the day at home with me. That’s something I never would have been able to do previously. I can also pick my children up from school every day now, which I love – as do they!”
Looking to the future, Lucy has some exciting goals – she wants to be recognised as the local go-to sleep consultant in her Colchester and Chelmsford territory. Longer term, she’d like to employ another sleep consultant to work alongside her so that she’s able to support more families around Essex.
“I also want to make sure I’m able to maintain my work life balance, which is why I made the jump to becoming a sleep consultant in the first place, so that my family could have more of me, not less.”