Bloom Baby: how Stockport mum overcame postnatal depression to build international baby sensory class business

Victoria Jennings has been shortlisted for a Best Businesswomen Award following on the back of her successful baby sensory class franchise

A mum from Stockport overcame postnatal depression and built a successful baby sensory class franchise inspired by her experience – and now she’s been nominated for an award for her business achievements.

Victoria Jennings started her business Bloom Baby in 2017 with the aim of helping new mums through the early stages of parenthood.

Since then, the company has expanded significantly, with over 60 franchises globally and growing.

Her accomplishments have been recognised by the Best Businesswomen Awards, where she has been shortlisted in the Children and Families category.

The 42-year-old had a fast-paced career as an executive PA and HR manager when she became pregnant with her first child in 2008.

Victoria Jennings leads a baby sensory class. Credit: Bloom Baby

After a traumatic, 46-hour assisted birth, her daughter Anna was born, but the early days of motherhood were not the “fairytale” she expected and things became “pretty dark.”

She said: “I was working after 12 weeks of having Anna and that just escalated my depression. I was really anxious. I hated leaving her and after about five months or so it started affecting my relationship with my now-husband.”

As a new mum, she struggled to bond with Anna and described her symptoms as “quite extreme.”

“I was quite anxious about taking the baby out anywhere, I stayed in the house quite a lot, I didn’t want to socialise with anyone. I had very low mood, bad temper,” she said.

“I booked lots of GP appointments and never showed up because I didn’t feel comfortable speaking to a doctor at the time about it.”

However, things started to get better once she quit her job and opened up to her now-husband Dave, who she married in 2014.

‘Let it out’

Talking to someone is Victoria’s “number one” piece of advice to mothers going through the same thing, as well as encouraging partners to look out for the signs of postnatal depression.

“Once you let it out, once you share how you’re feeling, what your thoughts are, it doesn’t make them feel as tough,” she said

When it came to having her second daughter Holly two years later, things were very different.

She said: “It was almost just completely the opposite. I’ve got no idea what that was. I didn’t do anything differently. It was just a completely different experience.

Franchisor Victoria Jennings leads a baby sensory class. Credit: Bloom Baby

“That’s another thing that I say to parents who have spoken to me and are thinking of having a second child but they’re worried about going to that dark place again: Once you’ve had it once it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get it again.

“It’s not always your firstborn, it can happen with a second, or a third, or more. It can just appear.”

Victoria went on to study early years and worked as a childminder for four years, until having her youngest daughter Isla in 2013.

Once Isla reached school age, Victoria started looking for a more flexible career that fit around parental commitments and, also wanting to support new mums struggling with motherhood, she set her sights on self-employment.

The entrepreneur said: “There literally isn’t much out there for women that want to have children.

“I’ve always loved music, and always loved early years, and saw there was a gap locally for baby classes – I completely went for it. My husband supported me, he helped fund it and we created Bloom.”

Victoria designed Bloom Baby classes to help mothers in navigating the important first stages of development – from supporting babies’ heads, to learning to roll over, sit and talk.

All the activities are accompanied by music and set in a sensory environment.

“It’s not just about sitting and singing and shaking a pompom. There’s a reason behind each activity.”

And it’s not just the babies that benefit. Inspired by her personal journey through postnatal depression, the classes also centre around the parents’ wellbeing.

“That was one of the reasons why I created Bloom,” she said.

“I wanted to create an atmosphere and place where parents felt heard and felt safe as well, if they want to speak.”

Bubbles and coloured lights create a sensory atmosphere during a Bloom Baby class. Credit: Bloom Baby

She says that the wellbeing of her employees and Bloom Baby network is also important.

She said: “To have a better work-life balance and just be happy, have a job that you really enjoy – that’s really important, I think.”

The franchisor now works alongside her husband Dave, who is the company’s Operations Director, which means they get to see a lot more of each other than before.

“He was travelling 70 miles every day to work and back. We wouldn’t see him and now he’s on board as part of the head office team, he has that work-life balance as well,” she explained.

Moving forward, Victoria would like to expand Bloom Baby into the Canadian and Australian markets. They are also gearing up to launch their new Bloom Toddler franchises.

Bloom Baby founder Victoria Jennings. Credit: Bloom Baby

The speed at which her business has grown has been the biggest challenge for the mum-of-three.

She said: “I’ve had to find my own way because I’ve never been a franchisor before, there isn’t a book on how to be a franchisor.

“So it’s very much listening to what your network is saying and supporting them as much as they can, so that they’re as successful as you’ve been. It’s just sharing that knowledge.”

If Baby Bloom’s success was not proof enough of her business prowess, Victoria is now in the running for a Best Businesswomen Award, due to be announced at a gala awards event in September.

She said: “I’ve never been a finalist or shortlisted for anything on a personal level and I thought it was about time for my career, to put myself forward.

“It’s about confidence, and putting yourself forward for things like that.”