Spotlight on Startups: Mini & Me Maternity
The thought of starting your own business can be overwhelming, scary and often remain a pipe dream – however, for those who take the leap, it is also exciting, exhilarating and liberating to create and grow something that is truly your own.
As part of the exciting work we do, the Online Experts team at 123 Reg have the opportunity to take a sneak-peek at many start-up business ventures and the budding entrepreneurs behind them.
Our team work closely with talented individuals across the country, focusing their passion into a carefully planned and considered online presence – an essential step to getting their brand found by a larger audience.
This month we shine the spotlight on Helen Marshall, founder of Mini & Me Maternity, to find out how she channelled her passion as a mother into a unique, boutique fashion brand.
Tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to found Mini & Me Maternity?
My previous experience is within retail advertising, unfortunately in my last position I was made redundant whilst I was pregnant with my first child. Finding and negotiating part time or flexible work in a new company is pretty difficult, it is a real test to get a good work-life balance.
I had always wanted to try working for myself and when I became a new mum, with no job to return to, the opportunity of starting out on my own had really presented itself.
During my pregnancy I found it hard to find maternity clothes that would work for business meetings, look good with my existing wardrobe, and didn’t resemble a ‘maternity uniform’- so the idea of Mini and Me Maternity was born!
I was definitely moving outside of my comfort zone – but it felt right ‘do something that scares you’- I had never designed clothes or had a clue about garment manufacturing – but I didn’t let that stop me!
After chatting with friends and family about my idea and doing a lot of research, I made contact with a few garment production companies and the rest fell into place. I worked with a fabulous company called Fazane Fox Production Lab, they guided me through everything from initial designs to the finished product.
The ‘Mini’ part of the business was always something I was going to look at in the future. As a mum of boys, it is not easy to find clothing that isn’t covered in diggers/ tractors or dinosaurs. I find that simple is best – in style and colour palette, and will look to develop a small range that is cohesive with the ‘Me’ collection.
What’s it like running your own business? Describe your typical day.
I work around my family. On the days that I have my boys I can only squeeze in the odd email or trip to the post office to send orders. I have 3 days per week dedicated to my business, otherwise I fit it in at nap times or during the evening.
Typically, once I have finished the nursery drop-off, I check through social media and spend the first hour or so running through and answering emails. I prepare and pack orders and I aim to get any orders sent within 2 days, I don’t like making people wait!
Each week I prepare and schedule my social media. I also create a lot of content at home, such as flat lays, images of me and the kids doing what we do in the day to keep the brand real and give it a human touch.
I research other independent fashion brands, maternity and non-maternity to see the kind of things they are doing. I enjoy reading blogs to hear about other mums experiences as a mother and also running their own businesses.
It can be incredibly hectic, but the time pressures make me more proactive, I have a lot to achieve in a short space of time.
What do you love most about running your own business?
I love being the decision maker, and doing things ‘my way’. It is hard work but I have more flexibility to spend time with my family and be with my boys whilst they are only little.
I love the creative side, seeing an idea on paper turn into an actual garment, organising photoshoots and creating content. I am organising pop-up shops and attending shows to be able to get out and speak to customers and meet other awesome, independent brands.
I have only just started to become the ‘face’ of the brand. I think it is important when you have a small business, people are buying into you, so you need to show them who you are – essentially you have to put the passion you have for the product into selling ‘yourself’ too. Make it natural and real, it is only me not some big corporation.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Taking things a little slower. I created the collection whilst I was pregnant with my second child.
Working on a brand new project whilst having a new-born baby and a toddler is a bit crazy and through the sleep deprivation I might have made some snap decisions or rushed things to get them sorted.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of starting their own business?
Definitely go for it! – have a plan and a budget that is sensible and doesn’t break the bank. Keep working whilst you get things off the ground to keep a cash flow for things such as bills and, in my case, childcare and nappies!
Also make sure you research, research, research. Understand your market and find out who your competitors are. Take your time and don’t rush. The hard work will pay off.
Why did you choose to create a new website for your business?
When I first thought about creating the collection it was always with the premise that it would launch online. I believe that the website is the ‘hub’ for the brand and everything else filters from this.
It would have been too expensive to open a bricks and mortar store, and the site enables people for all over the country and world to be able to view and purchase.
The website gives me the ability to add styling guides, imagery such as street style and a blog, which creates interest and drives traffic.
Who is your target audience?
Women, who are pregnant and between 28 – 40 years old, not necessarily 1st time mums, they could be pregnant with their 2nd or 3rd child etc. Most likely they would be in a professional job, looking to add to their existing wardrobe by investing in key pieces.
What are the aims/objectives of your site?
I want the site to become a destination for maternity style, the next area is to create a ‘style by trimester’ so you can see how the clothing can be worn throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Further down the line I am looking at creating a small ‘mini’ collection to reflect the style of the ‘Me’ so you can look effortless when dressed with your little ones – but without the stress!
The future for the ‘Me’ clothing line is to increase the range with even more practical clothing that helps you through your pregnancy. In the pipeline is a nightshirt, midi dress and dungarees.
These will then allow me to put together ‘edits’ such as the ‘daily edit’ and the ‘travel edit’. This should help customers shop the range and understand how to create beautiful maternity style.
Which part of the website do you love the most?
The home page, it has a lovely clean modern layout and I think it is really appealing, eye-catching and reflects the image of the brand perfectly.