AFTER losing her job at the start of lockdown, Zoe Moorhouse decided to take the plunge and start up her own architectural firm - while heavily pregnant with twins.

The 32-year-old set up Plan Architect Studio in Byley and has gone from strength to strength, even taking her newborn twins and young daughter on site with her to make sure she gets the job done.

Zoe always thought she might set up on her own one day but started interviewing for other positions.

She said: "In my previous employment I had a good arrangement and they trusted me to work from home during the evenings to make up the hours to a full time position, leave a bit early every day to collect my daughter from nursery, and spend Fridays home with her.

"When I found out they were going to close the office, I started interviewing and only one practice that I spoke to seemed alright with the idea of flexible working.

"Things were looking good but their jaws dropped when I told them I was three months pregnant and I got a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ after the second interview!"

Instead, Zoe decided to set up on her own and quickly become busy.

She explained: "I took every job that came my way as I was keen to use the time to build a portfolio of real projects and gain some confidence.

"At first, my mind was always only half on each job - architect or parent - which was stressful.

"So I decided to split the time completely.

"I’m mummy during the day and start work as soon as they have all gone to bed.

"At the start I think I definitely overdid it as I was exhausted and emotional most of the time, but at the time it was what I needed to do to get things moving."

Zoe hopes that post-Covid, more businesses will consider flexible working - making it easier for working mums.

"Pretty much every family I know works because the mum has cut back her hours, or gone part time to juggle the childcare", she said.

"In some professions, such as architecture, this makes it almost impossible to have a more senior role, which is setting women back in the industry as they have to make a choice about priorities."