It’s #MumBag and #MumBoss #Monday where some very talented and interesting women let us into their minds and their bags to see their inner workings.
This week we have a pair of Mums who have come up with one of those genius ideas that is also really simple, like the best ones always are.
Cat and Jen met at NCT and became good friends. When their kids started nursery they found themselves drowning in all the artistic creations they came home with. Not having the heart to chuck them out and also not having the wall space to show it all, they started to scan and digitally reproduce the images and make stylish poster prints to show them off.
At first they made them for family and friends and they were a real hit; so they decided to give it a go as a business and BarneyandWilf (named after their boys) was born. Two years on and they are winning Design Awards and featuring in Tatler.
I caught up with these two inspiring ex City-girls to see how they got to this point:
What does your business do in a nutshell?
Cat and I create poster prints out of children’s own artwork. We found ourselves in the position where we were being overloaded with lovely/ crazy things the kids had created each day at school and nursery, but having it stuck on the walls just created clutter and we had nowhere to store it all. Plus we didn’t have the heart to throw it all out. So we came up with the idea of digitally reproducing the images into little squares, fitting 24 to up to 90 pieces onto a poster you would actually want on your walls, and then we could throw away or store the originals guilt free. Lucky for us the idea really caught on with parents as it’s something all Mums and Dads face. And the modern framed grid collage looks contemporary enough to have anywhere in your home.
When did you start it and why at that time?
Cat and I did NCT together and, as our youngest sons were about to turn 1, we had had so many comments about the prints we had made for friends and family we decided to give it a go selling them properly. With tiny children, it took another year to get going, and the boys, Barney and Wilf, have just now turned 3.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Fitting it in around the children who were so young when we started. We used nap times and evenings to get things done and relied on Cat’s husbands amazing IT skills to get a website going. Also as we both have backgrounds in the City so getting up to speed on digital marketing and the Instagram and Facebook world have been learning curves.
What has been your proudest moment?
Winning a Junior Design Award and being introduced at school as the mum at school with ‘that genius business idea’. It makes it really worthwhile (even if its really not as glamorous as it sounds!)
What is your best mum hack for making it all work?
Wine! And working in the evenings. It’s not for everyone I know, but I’m used to working late from my banking days. I literally cant get anything done if my children are in the house, and now the naps are a distant memory it really is the only time I can get any work done. It’s quiet, you can drink wine and there’s nothing worth watching on the TV anymore.
You seemed to have found your ‘thing’ – do you see it that way?
Both Cat and I agree we have been really lucky to find a unique business idea which has taken off and addresses a gap in the market. So, yes, to a certain extent we have found a niche, but I would also say we did stumble upon it during those hazy, sleep deprived baby years, and would be keen to try other businesses in the future now we have found our feet a bit. But we are still very much a new business, and as the saying goes you get luckier the harder you work. It has been quite a struggle getting up and running with such young children at home, so it’s not for the feint hearted.
What encouragement would you give a mum thinking of starting her own thing?
Give it a go and be brave. Honestly, everyone is blagging to a certain degree. Coming from a background in Corporate Banking in the Middle East my skill set couldn’t have been more different, but Cat and I sent a few emails and genuinely loved our idea, which I think rubs off. Before we knew it people were ordering prints and featuring us in magazines and blogs.
Also something Anna Whitehouse (Mother Pukka) said which I really took on board, was keep the activity going, and I definitely find this works. If sales are quiet, just keep sending emails to people who could help you, posting on Instagram and generally interacting with people and building networks. We might not sell a print, but we will make a relationship, attend a function, make a new friend with great insights…its all part of building a business and makes you feel like its ticking along. Working alone can be lonely so expect quiet times and use friends or family as sounding boards.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t take it all so seriously! In my previous career I was in such a rush to achieve achieve achieve, that I never took stock of where I was or asked enough questions of the people around me. Now I have been forced to slow down with 2 young children and working on my own small business I have realised what’s important in life. I moan about it at 7am but I really do like that I can take the children to school and be the one to pick them up most days.
Will you show us your #MumBag?
Number of items in your bag: 10
Mark your #MumBag out of 10 for:
Entertainment: 6 A Thomas train and a favourite book. We are never far from a train with Wilf around and he played with this very patiently waiting at the doctors surgery the other day (and probably picking up every germ possible!)
Food: 0 Complete snack fail today. Probably why my children are so awful in public! Must buy snacks.
Drugs: 8 Currently fighting the dreaded lurgy going around, Lemsip is my friend. And 8 hour cream for everything.
Clothing: 4 Spare monster pants for Wilf. Always. Bless him, always far to busy to be bothered to go to the loo. And always baby wipes, to assist in the aforementioned accidents.
Skank: 6 Receipts, hair ties and a dry cleaning ticket from 2015 (inside my wallet)
Actual nice things for you: My lovely Jem and Bea MAMA bag with a few bits of makeup. I always have a few bits for after the gym, when I ever get there. We met Jem and Bea at a Mums The Word meet up in Tunbridge Wells and it was great to chat to a business further down the line to us. They were generous with their time and contacts and make the miost beautiful bags.
What is the most comedy item you have found? Annie’s latest artwork handed to me the other day. Her face stuck to a bumble bee. However she is white blond and the way she has cut her head out makes her look completely bald. I did have a giggle.
What is the oldest item in there? A couple of those receipts probably. Oh and my coin purse from Marrakech. The blue leather is so old and battered but I love it and reminds me of fun travels.
What is the item you’re most proud of? Rich gave me my bag when I had Annie, and I’m most proud of the fact that despite it being cream I haven’t completely trashed it yet.
Describe your baggage-type: I definitely err on the side of messy, but every now and then I get a bit OCD and have a big clear out. But yes, hoarder most of the time.
Let’s see it then:
Thank you for reading x
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