Work Matters: Cate Hamilton from Babel Babies

Cate Hamilton is the founder of Babel Babies, a company which runs multilingual music lessons from birth to Key Stage 2. After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English and Modern Languages, Cate worked in Paris and then in various jobs before becoming an English and French teacher at a secondary school in Glasgow. She now lives in Cheltenham with her husband and three children. I asked Cate about her experiences, plans for the future and who has inspired her to succeed in business.

How did the idea for Babel Babies come about?

After I had my first baby in 2010 I realised that babies are incredible at learning languages from birth, which was very inspiring after spending quite a few years trying to convince teenagers in Glasgow that French wasn’t a total waste of their time. At six weeks old my little boy was copying me saying ‘hello’ and I was speaking to him in French sometimes, but felt a bit strange doing that in case I confused him. Plus I also speak Italian and Portuguese, so I wondered if I should introduce all of them.  I started reading up on bilingualism and multilingualism, and at the same time I was discussing with a good friend from university which languages she would teach her new baby as she speaks Russian, German and Arabic. We decided to sing songs to our boys in lots of languages, keeping a blog of our experiments, and our NCT friends joined us too. After a few months our group outgrew my lounge and I decided not to go back to teaching in schools, but to see how Babel Babies might work as a business. We hired a room once a week in a pub, encouraged people to come and sing in many languages and stay for coffee, and it really took off. The combination of our musical approach and research into language acquisition is equally as effective for adults and children, and very different to how we learned languages in school: it’s a little language revolution!

What are your plans for the business in 2018?

After six years of working with families and young children, I’ve realised that the adults love learning the songs in different languages for themselves, as much as they appreciate the opportunity to start languages early with their children. This year I am recruiting a team of language revolutionaries to expand our sessions across Gloucestershire and Bristol, extending our age range from birth up to Key Stage 2 in schools, and introduce lifelong-learning sessions for adults and training for teachers too. For me it’s very important that Babel Babies avoids becoming yet another franchised children’s business at this stage of our development. We are all working together to create new materials, in a way that only teachers can – it’s an explosion of energy and creativity. I also want to offer a truly flexible work opportunity for highly qualified education professionals, who want to build up their hours of work alongside their other commitments, including their families. So, expect lots of new social events with a language twist – languages are for talking, after all.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring business women?

Firstly, I think it’s OK to pivot. For a while I thought franchising quickly was going to be a good plan, but actually it made me very unhappy and since I started the business to fulfil a need in my own family, it was no good going off in a direction that brought no joy. Change of tack, and we are all so much happier. Secondly, surround yourself by positive people who champion what you are doing, and who really get you and the way your brain works. I’m collaborating with some other incredible business women who I’ve met through networking events locally and nationally. Women supporting women is an amazing thing, and if you find your crowd, you can really raise each other up.

Who inspires you in the world of business?

I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs who are trying to make a difference to the world, whether on a small or large-scale. So I love the communities that Kate Starkey and Hayley Southwood have created with CheltenhamMaman and Southwood Social Hub. There is a lot of love and inspiration in their new approach to networking groups. Instagram is a riot of colourful and inspiring businesses, and one that really resonates with me is Mother Pukka because I love Anna’s honesty and her #flexappeal campaign is close to my heart. I’m also eternally grateful to my Dad for his steady business insight: sometimes I can get caught up in this week’s drama, and he helps me see how in six months/two years it’ll all pan out if I make choice A or choice B now. It’s good to take the long view sometimes, and not sweat the small stuff, which as a tired mamma of three, can be a useful reminder!


Are you a language teacher based in Gloucestershire or Bristol? Babel Babies is looking for talented linguists to join their team – to find out more click here: babelbabies.com/Blog, or email Sarah Wilkinson: sarah@swchr.co.uk.

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Work Matters: More Than Toast, Alice Judge-Talbot

Alice Judge-Talbot is a blogger, Telegraph columnist and digital marketing consultant. I first became aware of Alice after reading her brilliantly titled article ‘We Are Not Sodding Mumpreneurs‘. I knew instantly she was my kind of woman. Her blog morethantoast.org is a wonderful insight into family life as a working single parent. I love Alice’s honest, self-effacing approach to writing about her own experiences, which she shares so candidly I feel like I know her. Also, Alice is also something of a rare breed in the world of ‘mummy-bloggers’ – someone you can actually admire for her style and sparkle because she manages to convey authenticity in its true sense (not the contrived version increasingly displayed on social media). If you don’t already follow her then I suggest you remedy that immediately.

Why does work matter to you?

On a practical level I’m a single mum, so the sole breadwinner (and only adult!) in my household: work is pretty important for our survival. Knowing that the livelihood of my two kids and I rests solely on me used to be terrifying but I now find it empowering. It definitely keeps me motivated. Work otherwise is the one thing that keeps me sane. Like many I know I found the entry into motherhood tough to handle, and I love that I have a purpose and motivation away from my kids.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Waking up happy.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

Good question! I’m lucky enough to work for Waitrose on a regular basis, and they’re one of my favourite brands in the world. I pinch myself that I get paid to create recipes and write for them – dream come true. I’ve been working on a book for the last five years and it finally seems to be coming together. The day I sell that will definitely be a peak.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I’ve always wanted to work in some capacity online, ever since I got the internet at the age of 14. But back when I started my career 13 years ago these jobs (unless they were in web design) were really hard to come by. So I started my office-based work in recruitment, which remains the toughest job I’ve ever done.

What did that experience teach you?

Resilience! Working in any kind of sales you have to have a thick skin, and recruitment helped me develop one. Now, I’m never scared of a difficult phone call or tough client meeting – they will never be as hard as the sales calls of my early twenties.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

Running the award-winning digital marketing campaign for the release of Harper Lee’s book, Go Set a Watchman. It was such hard work but a really wonderful product to help launch, and my campaign led to record-breaking sales of the book for HarperCollins. That was pretty cool.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

To be honest, I absolutely adore Hillary Clinton and think she is so inspirational when it comes to promoting women in the workplace. I was lucky enough to see her speak recently, and if I could seek career advice from one person it would be her.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

It’s very inspiring to see mothers who are breaking the mould and creating the new wave of entrepreneurs: doing something they love around their kids and making money from it. There are too many to count: Gemma of Mutha.Hood, Steph of Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Hayley from Southwood Social Hub. I love seeing such brilliant women around me excel and succeed, it really spurs me on.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women

Never give up on your dreams! Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I really don’t know what else I’d do. I really enjoy my career and it’s diversified naturally with the wants and needs of my family (and me!). The only other thing I wanted to consistently do was be in Hollyoaks, so we’ll see if they come calling 😉