Originally published 30 May 2019 by Natural Parent Magazine.
Read the full article here.
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial household and always had a strong desire to work for myself. And then after two kids and no family support, it became very clear that I needed to find or create a job that would give us the flexibility around our young family.
At eight months pregnant with my second baby I started my first business, called Mummy Couture, and launched my first kimono range. I loved wearing kimonos in my pregnancy and found them to be a handy breastfeeding cover so I thought other mums would love these too!
Mummy Couture quickly skyrocketed and demand was huge, but the more I learnt about the world of fast fashion, and it’s enormous impact on people and planet, the more I wanted to make some serious changes to my business.
And that is how Isle of Summer was born. I found myself a new ethically producing factory and we’re working closely together to develop a whole collection of summer inspired clothing (not just kimonos) which I have designed myself specifically with mums in mind (i.e. loose, flowy, bend over-proof and feeding accessible).
I’m actually a chartered accountant by trade, but am also super creative. I loved my kimonos and I also really love fabrics and colours. So combining my love for business, kimonos and fabrics was the perfect storm for starting a business in fashion.
I have zero background or training in fashion, so I’m learning everything along the way via trial and error! It’s been an amazing learning curve and super challenging, but so many wonderful women have been sharing their knowledge and helping me at every step.
When I started with just my kimonos, I was trying to market them to everyone. But once I changed my marketing message and starting sharing “why” I used kimonos in my pregnancy and breastfeeding journey I found I really hit a cord with my customers. From there I was able to connect with a niche audience and build a loyal following.
I also love to be very open about my business and share a lot of behind the scenes (in business and in life), which a lot of bigger brands don’t seem to do. I am the person behind every social media post, I feature in our product videos, I answer every single customer service email and respond to every private message. I’ve made my brand human and approachable, and I love making my customers feel special and important. Kindness costs nothing.
I think there is no such thing as balance, just different priorities at different times. My family and my work are equally important to me, therefore I like to rephrase this question into “How do I get it all done?”
My husband plays a very hands-on role in our family; there is no segregation of jobs based on gender. He does a lot of the cooking, food shopping and organises the kids every morning with breakfast and lunch for kindy/daycare. I do the washing and general house tidying along with all drop offs and pickups and activities with the kids.
For my personal sanity and mental health, I prioritise going to my F45 gym every morning at 5.15am.
We did have an au pair for six months and she was a godsend. During that period of time I was able to schedule my work during daytime hours, however I’m now back to stealing moments of work during nap times and once the kids are in bed at 8pm. I also spend most of the weekend working on my business which allows my husband some great one-on-one time with the kids. I’m not sure he sees it that way though!
Finding a new factory was really challenging. You place so much trust and money into your factory, because without them you don’t have a business. I wanted to work with a factory that treats its employees fairly and who can support me through my growth. Thankfully I found a wonderful factory who produces the highest quality and treats their employees as family.
Pros: you dictate your working day. You can either work 15 hours a day or not at all. It has provided me the flexibility to meet the needs of my children and their busy little diaries.
Cons: it’s really lonely. Working from home is really isolating and if it wasn’t for my kids, I could easily go weeks without talking to another adult face to face. The work also never ends: I work every weekend and late into most nights packing orders, designing new styles and prints and answering customer messages.
Isle of Summer is launching on the 1st of June, so I’m very much focused on creating a core collection of staples. I’m always working on new fabric prints and hope to release them regularly throughout the year. Long term goals for the brand would be to add in a simple children’s line in the same prints as the women’s clothing.
Personal long term goals are to build the business to a size where I need a small warehouse and can employ other women, and in particular stay at home mums looking for part time work, and offer a safe space to bring your children if you’re able to find daycare. I really want to create flexible working opportunities for other mums.
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