Muddy Stilettos founder Hero Brown tells SN about the inspiration behind her lifestyle website and how she juggles work and family
How did Muddy Stilettos come about?
After I had my first child, I moved out from Islington to a village in Buckinghamshire for the classic country idyll – thatched cottage, pretty garden, less stress. But I could never find things that I wanted to do – no-one wrote about pop-up restaurants, pubs with the best views or romantic bolt hole hotels that were opening. So I started Muddy initially from personal need!
How has the company changed over the years?
It started with me writing a blog in a little cubby hole at home. As technology has developed, we’ve reinvented too – we’re now mobile led, the site has had its third redesign and we’ve got lots of new elements including a Fun Finder so people can search via location all the pubs, hotels etc that we recommend and our handpicked Little Black Book of local businesses. The heart of the site though remains focused on finding unmissable stuff locally.
How would you describe your general reader?
Fun-loving, intelligent, busy women between 30-55, though we do have younger and older readers. I’ve always described Muddy as ‘like Red magazine, but drunk’ – Muddy readers care about their kids and family, spending time with friends, and making their free time count.
Tell us some of your favourite hidden gems for eating or sleeping!
There are so many! We cover 19 counties but I write about Bucks & Oxon – so I’d say for a fantastic meal head to The Mash Inn in the Chiltern Hills. The tasting menu is incredible. For a charming pub, Anthony Worrall Thompson’s The Greyhound Inn in South Oxfordshire does the best wagyu beef (look for the giant teddy bear on the beams in the dining room!). And for me the best hotel is Stoke Park in South Bucks where Bridget Jones had her naughty weekend away with Daniel Cleaver.
What attributes does it take to run a business?
I’d love to say it’s just talent but tenacity is just as important. I always had a belief that Muddy would become a success, even when I was working for nothing for two years. There were times when I could have given up, but I’m very competitive. You also need to match creativity with commercial sense; I’ve forced myself to get savvy with the balance sheet!
Have you ever had to write a horrible review?
Thankfully not! If I had a terrible experience I would rather not write about it than trash it. Everyone’s entitled to an off day. I’m always honest though – if the décor isn’t to my taste I’ll say so. It’s only my opinion but readers are looking to make choices based on my advice.
How do you juggle running your business with being a parent?
It is SO HARD! I have three children but when I started Muddy my youngest pretty much came to most meetings. Now they’re older I can leave them more, but I have less free time – they do loads of sport and I seem to be surgically attached to my steering wheel at weekends. I’ve set up rules to stop myself working in ‘home’ time – I don’t work once the kids are up and when I get home for 6pm the computer stays off. That way I feel like I’m doing right by my family and not neglecting my business.
What aspect of the business are you most proud of?
I can’t quite believe that Muddy has become so well-known. We have over 200,000 subscribers which is more than a lot of the big glossies. Also, we did a survey recently, and our subscribers fed back how important the site was in helping them plan their free time. Reading those comments did give me a bit of a tingle.
What are your dreams for the future?
Sleep! Also I’m getting to an age where I’m thinking a lot about my wellbeing, so I fantasise about being super-fit and bendy. Unfortunately I’m hardwired to work so this will never happen! Next year I want to do Muddy Live, a big live event where we can say hello to our readers in the real world.
Any advice for young internet entrepreneurs?
Take your business plan to an accountant you trust and make sure your numbers add up. An idea without commercial sense is worth nothing.
Do you have a motto for life?
‘No graft, no glory.’ I say it so often I’m sure my kids will put it on my gravestone!