Luxurious maternity fashion brand, Babes with Babies, scooped the sought-after accolade of Best Maternity Fashion in the Junior Design Awards 2013, Junior caught up with founder and mother-of-two Sophie Devonshire to find out more about how she juggles family life with a flourishing business...
What is your family’s morning routine?
The morning is, I suspect (I hope) like the morning most other families experience – a little bit crazy. It’s partially lovely as the girls and I both get up early, chat, hang out for a bit. Then it gets totally bonkers and chaotic as we realise we’re running late and need to get out of the house. ‘What do you mean you don’t know where any of your school jumpers are?’ is a common phrase. I’m embarrassingly a bit of a morning person though, so I love it. And of course, as I can often work from home, the commute is a breeze.
What is your office environment like?
At Babes with Babies everyone can work from anywhere. I do have an office, with a view over a beautiful London Square - which makes me happy, but you’ll often find me in cafes, on planes, at my mother-in-law’s. Our approach is to take the laptop, trust technology and set everything up so we can work wherever suits. Where’s there’s WiFi there’s a way.
Do you have such a thing as a ‘typical’ day?
A ‘typical’ day at the moment is fairly full on. The mix involves checking spreadsheets, looking at clothing options (is that wing-sleeve cool and flattering if you’re pregnant, or will it make our customers look like a bat?), chatting to our team who all work in different locations, talking proper ‘geek language’ while my webguide tries to explain for the fiftieth time why I can’t have a twitter feed on the front page, working on a book I’ve written, How to stay sane and stylish during pregnancy, remembering to eat (thank heavens for Graze boxes) and making sure I take a half-hour break when the girls get home from school to find out about their day. It’s always exhausting but never boring.
Did you always want to do what you do now, for a job?
Nope. I was quite happy being a Corporate Chick, but, the thrill of setting up your own thing is definitely addictive.
What was the first thing you wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?
I wanted to be Penelope Keith, the actress.
What is the best thing about your job?
Our amazing, chatty, helpful customers who give us an incredible amount of positive feedback. To know that our breastfeeding dresses have helped someone shy feed for longer, to hear that our customers find our maternity dresses ‘actually magic’; is a wonderful feeling. Becoming a mother is a great experience but it’s also very challenging. So, if we can make mums-to-be or new mums feel good then that’s a pretty wonderful upside to the job.
Are there any downsides to your job?
Yes, of course. We started very small and it’s hard ‘punching above our weight’ without the big advertising spend of some of our competitors; it’s so frustrating when customers say ‘Oh I wish I’d found you before’.
How do you come up with creative, original ideas?
Our ideas are developed against our company vision. We keep looking for what pregnant and new mums need and want, and we try to add a Babes with Babies twist that makes it more fun and more flattering. Everything is based around making the experience of pregnancy and parenthood a little more gorgeous.
How do you juggle family life with work life?
With optimism, determination and regular doses of Hendricks gin! I think it’s important for mothers to give themselves a break; being a perfect mother is impossible and trying will kill us all. I try hard to work out what the most important things my kids need from me are and make sure I give them that – conversations with them are more important than home-baked cupcakes. Luckily, because my cupcakes aren’t great but I make up for it with an awful lot of hugs and chats.
What do you do outside of work, with your family?
We love living in London and try to make the most of living there. It’s a fantastic place to explore with kids. Bike rides in the park, art galleries, museums, exhibitions or just pootling around Chiswick High Road where we live. We also spend a lot of time in St Mawes, Cornwall – sailing, crabbing and sitting on the beach eating pasties.
What is coming up, work-wise, for you and your business? Any new ventures?
We are going to respond to our customer’s comments and introduce more ‘baby’ items. We’ve been very focused on the mum and on maternitywear but our customers are looking for gorgeousness across the board and would like to continue the easy, enjoyable experience of shopping with us by having more to choose from.
Would you want your children to follow in your footsteps?
Yes, probably. I want them to work out what kind of job really suits them and make sure they do that – I know so many people made unhappy but not ‘fitting’ what they’ve chosen. I also want them to genuinely believe that being a woman is not a barrier to success.
If you had superhero skills, (flying, invisibility, super strength), what would be your dream job?
I’d like to have a super-skill where I can show pregnant woman and new mums how beautiful they really look. I know that it’s easy when you’re going through those stages to get hung up on the ‘weight’ and not to see the genuine glow and beauty of this period of your life. It doesn’t show in photos but there’s often something soft and serene about pregnancy and new parenthood and it would be great to be able to really show women that when they’re going through it.
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