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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mother’s Day Special: Creative Mums in Business

Sunday 18th March, marks Mother’s day here in the UK. In celebratory style of motherhood, this year we have featured three London mums who run creative on-line businesses. Like most women such as myself juggling motherhood whilst pursuing our own personal goals can be a challenge. With this in mind the questions in this feature provides an insight into a mumpreneurs life, there is good advice for mums wanting to take the plunge into business, I ask the all important question how do these women achieve work life balance? And of course how will they be spending there special day?

In this article we are shining a spotlight on the mums behind the following creative businesses:

Business: Polka dot plates
Personalised kids tableware
Owners: Jessica and Louise
Mum of three and two.
Jessica and Louise started their business in 2010 when looking to make plastic melamine plates with their children's drawings and found that they couldn't do it in the UK. They couldn't believe that the only way of doing this was through an New Zealand company, so we decided to set up Polka Dot Plates to bring this fab product to the UK market.

Business: Hope and Eden
Children’s soft toys and Decorations
Owner: Yvette
Mum of two daughters

Yvette’s background is in printed textile design and for many years worked as a freelance fashion textile designer. Yvette’s two children inspired her to start producing cuddly toys to keep them company at nights. Since 2009 Hope and Eden is expanding rapidly and now includes silk screened textiles, badges, decorated ceramics and greetings cards.

Business: Lunamano
Girl’s clothing and Accessories
Owner: Carolina
Mum of one
Lunamano was established in 2008 after Carolina gave birth to her daughter. Carolina found when looking in regular shops she could never find lovely ethically made dresses. The influences of her country and culture combined with her skill in hand techniques, such as hand stitching, knitting and embroidery, supported her decision to make dresses for her daughter and now Lunamano has grown to become an ethically sought after brand with material rescue and redesign as it's main philosophy.

The Business…….

What were the ages of your children when you decided to take the plunge to set up your creative business?
Jessica: 4yrs old , 2 years old and 0 months.
Yvette: The girls are now 5 and 6 years old so they were 2 and 3 years old at the time.
Carolina: 2 years old.

What has been your biggest challenge since setting up?
Yvette: Time, I could have expanded it a lot bigger, and I haven’t it was a conscious decision not to, as my children are still young.
Carolina: The biggest challenge is time really. I wish I had more time to focus to give it all my attention, when you are a mum you have to divide things and being a wife, so there is a lot of things on your plate.
Jessica: Time really, We have great ideas but not enough time. Louise has a full-time job so I run Polka dot plate full-time. Louise is the creative side of the business and does a lot of work in the evening. I deal with the clients, the website, PR, gaining business and dealing with enquiries. I commit two days a week to it in the evening.

How do you juggle your business with family life?
Jessica: It becomes part of your life, the kids know everything about Polka Dot Plates. My five year old is well versed in her sales shpeel. It’s a learning curve you have to compartmentalise your life a bit more.
Yvette: I basically work during school hours and evenings, I tend to work on weekends if I have a show.
Carolina: It’s tricky, I tend to do most of my work during the evenings and on weekends, I do markets on weekends. I do admire single mums, as I have the support of my husband I am able to put all my time and energy into my business.

What advice could you give to other mums wanting to venture into the creative sector ?
Jessica: If you have a great idea, then just do it. Try not to have to may overheads in terms of the cost of buying stock you will find you will be are sitting on it. You want an idea which won’t involve a huge cash outlay at first. Do as much of the setting up of the business on your own if you can, read up on setting up your website, don’t spend a lot of money on advertising use what you have available to you such as face book and email newsletters. GO FOR IT!
Yvette: Try not to over commit yourself, you never know when your children will be ill or need that extra attention
Carolina: Be realistic about what you want to achieve, set goals and create to do lists. I find them extremely helpful.

Mothering Sunday……

How will you be spending your Mother’s day?
Yvette: Hopefully my husband has a surprise planned or me with my little ones, I am hoping for breakfast in bed.
Jessica: I will be going to a local pub with my family and my own mum for tea. Hopefully my husband has something up his sleeve. I will be lying in, in the morning hopefully.
Carolina: I don’t know, It’s a surprise, my husband has asked me to keep the afternoon free.

What do you enjoy most about Motherhood?
Jessica: This is a difficult question to answer.There are lots of things, my children are all at different stages. I am getting a lot back from my five year old and developing a good relationship with my daughter. I have two girls and one boy, I guess I am developing a good mother/daughter relationship with her. She is a stage whereby she is learning a lot and I’m enjoying that. My 17 month old is at an amazing age he is starting to chatter. The middle child is just an angel.The children are all very different and I just love that, they all have different characters. I very much enjoy the fact I can do what I am doing and being with them. I’m always at school to pick them up. I’m part of their everyday life but I have something for me - the business.
Carolina: It’s a touching thing being a mum, you have to take care of another human being. When you are having a long day at work and are putting her to bed, I feel she kind of cares for me as well. I never thought that would be the case. She kind of hugs me like “its all okay tomorrow’s another day“. Although she never says these things she is there to take care of me as well. It’s a weird feeling she’s a little girl. She gives me the energy to keep on going again. I love interacting and communicating with her.
Yvette: Watching them change, watching the world through their eyes.It just makes you look at the world differently.

Me time…..

When you want to un-wind de-stress what are you most likely to do?
Yvette: If time allows I run after I drop the children off to school in the park for about half and hour, or I tend to go to exhibitions or visit friends

Creative London….

Favourite place to hang-out in London with the kids?
Jessica: South Bank


Do you find your children tend to help you on Creative Project or with creative ideas?
Carolina: Oh yes, she has a say in a lot and I really like it as an activity we share. Say like the dresses I have a collection of buttons which I have been collecting for years. My daughter helps to select what button goes on what dress. Sometimes you will see a quirky mix of buttons on a dress, she has chosen them. She will pick 5 or six buttons per dress. It’s great because of the joint interaction.

Choosing a business name can be difficult, the name of a business is something that defines any business so how did two of the selected business come up with their names?

How did you come up with your business name?
Yvette: Hope and Eden is named after my two daughters
Carolina: Lunamano means handmade moon in Spanish. Every thing we produce is handmade including the embroidery which is our signature.

Inspiration where do I find it …………..

What inspires you in your designs?
Yvette: I decided to work with the world in which I was immersed in at the time, which was children. I was inspired by nostalgic things that were around things that were bright and animal based and things that I would like to put on my children’s wall.
Carolina: The colours and designs used in dresses have been inspired from El Salvador and my culture. I grew up seeing colour as standard in the streets. As I am away from my country and culture the colour and imagery is brought to life in my dresses. You will find I use nature based imagery such as flowers,rabbits,ladybirds to armadillos.
Jessica: seasonal and cultural and seasonal events, this year has been great with the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee.

What part of London do find creatively inspiring?
Carolina: As I now live in west London it has to be this district. Shepherd’s bush market is inspiring, it was a great place to buy and learn about fabrics, it was a great benefit when I was doing my degree.I really like Chiswick, it’s a great place your just surrounded by childhood and energy.

Background ………….

Tell us about your Fundraising projects?
Jessica: We are involved in fundraising activities through schools, we offer art on a plate projects the schools get the plates at a value rate and this is sold onto parents to make money for their PTA this has also been extended to art on water bottles. We are meeting our targets for this year. Its is all going well. Art on the plate in schools is what we are focusing on.
We have a lot of people signing up to our jubilee plates in schools to be used for Jubilee tea parties in schools. So at the moment I am in the process of sending off templates to schools.On our website we have a free downloadable party kit which you can use if people are planning a Golden Jubilee party.

Would you say your business is ethically driven?
Carolina: Yes I started using left over old fabric within my textile design course at university instead of buying first. This is a practice I have continued within my work. I source my fabric in El Salvador this was accidental when I was doing my thesis at university in 2008 my research investigated, can El Salvador sustain and develop home grown design through this I found factories that produce lots of left over rag etc. The left over fabric was not used for proper use I thought. I started collecting the fabric and producing dresses in El Salvador using untreated cotton with no pesticides which is not bleached, these dresses using this type of fabric content became the classic dresses now our best selling range. The off-lines are made of a mix of polyester and cotton from left over fabric became the economical range. The luxury range has more embroidery and again left over fabric the fabric is dyed in colours such as red and sky blue. I find the untreated fabric looks so natural and much better than cotton. People really like it. As my business is growing I knew I couldn’t’do the work by myself so I went back to my country to remote areas of El Salvador to the west of the country to find a workshop and women who could work with me. I was interested in providing them with a decent wage and good working conditions, In El Salvador achieving this can be difficult sometimes. I now work with three women, my mum and my grandfather.

Any plans……

Do you have any up-coming events?

Yvette: Crafty fox Market is coming up on the 25th March that’s it for now. I am trying to keep it all manageable. I tend to do Commissions works which tides me over.

Jessica: We are promoting our plates for the Golden Jubilee and the London Olympics. We have a lot of themed templates of the Golden Jubilee and London Olympics. We have 2 for the Jubilee and 4 for the Olympics. Leeds Castle are doing craft weekends, people can make a plate and receive 20% off through Leeds castle. This is happening during the Easter Weekend and the Golden Jubilee Bank holiday weekend. We have a few charity events on the horizon.
Carolina: Crafty Fox Market, Dogstar Brixton-24th March
Pulse Trade Show 10th -12th June
Vintage Festival 13th -15th July
Thames Festival 8th -9th September

A big thank you goes out to Carolina, Jess and Yvette you all were a pleasure to interview, I hope you all have a fab Mother's day 2012. Thank you to Sinead Crafty Fox Market organiser for leading me to your regular crafty foxers.

Happy Mother's Day!!!

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