We meet the entrepreneurial mums behind their very own Junior Design Award 2015 winning luxury changing bag brand
Dominique and Rebecca of JEM + BEA
Congratulations on your Junior Design Award 2015! Can you tell our readers a little bit about the people behind the brand?
Dominique: Thank you we are absolutely delighted! I am a mother of three (Lola, 5, Alfred, 4 and Jemima, 2 - the ‘Jem’ in JEM + BEA) and was training to become a solicitor when I became pregnant with Lola. I had worked in the City prior to this and due to the speed at which number two arrived, I knew that going back to a career in law with such long hours would be tough. Curating JEM + BEA into a luxury changing bag brand has taken me down a whole new path and whilst it is very hard work with very long hours, I am home with the children and working in an industry I have always secretly dreamed of being a part of. We live in a village just outside of Tunbridge Wells.
Rebecca: I am a mother of one (Beatrice, 2 – the ‘Bea’ in JEM + BEA) and have over 12 years experience as an accessories designer. Before starting JEM + BEA I was working for Anya Hindmarch, and before that, Mulberry and Burberry. My partner and I moved out of London when we were expecting. We are also living in Tunbridge Wells and love living here, it’s such a pretty town that is great for families. The countryside is on your doorstep but also easy to zip up to London on the train. I am a huge believer in fate and when Dom approached me with the business idea, it felt like the perfect idea at the perfect time. I loved my job but it was full on with a toddler, as fashion jobs tend to have long days and erratic hours and it was all too much. I loved the idea of working mainly from home and with a good friend. Working together and knowing each other so well means we can support and bounce off each other to make things happen. Our homes are our office; and sometimes a crèche!
Why did you feel there was a need for another brand of changing bag?
Dominique: We LOVE bags. Becky loves to make them and I love to buy them. When I was hunting for a changing bag, I just couldn’t find one that I was happy to carry around with me everyday that would complement my style. There are many great changing bags out there but I wanted something that was going to be as stylish and classic as my favourite Mulberry and not ‘mumsy’.
Rebecca: I remember before my baby arrived, trying to look for a cool, stylish changing bag that I’d actually be happy carrying – and there was nothing I liked. In fact, I found that the choice was pretty depressing. For someone that designs bags for a living, understandably, my standards were high! And chintzy floral numbers just weren’t going to cut it. I ended up throwing everything into one of my designer bags that was roomy enough to hold all the baby paraphernalia - but it was a total disaster! There was no organisation in the bag and I’d end up constantly rummaging for things with Bea screaming away!
Why do you think parents might want to invest in a luxurious changing bag?
Dominique: When we were initially researching the business, industry statistics showed that nursery industry was a huge growth area and parents were spending more. A changing bag is something you will use every day for years and if there is a second or third child, then even longer. Investing in a durable, quality item that will maintain its style over time is not only cost effective but will be a pleasure to use.
Rebecca: When you realise how long you actually carry these bags for it seems crazy to use something that makes you cringe every time you look at it. And from our research, talking to mums, many begrudged having to give up their favourite handbag in favour of a bag with a print they don’t like, or something in faux leather that came with the buggy.
Any top tips to avoid leakages/spills/stains, and advice for what to do when they inevitably occur?
Dominique: I always use the bottle/cup holder in the JEM + BEA range, which is an integrated side pocket in all the bags. This keeps the bottle upright and less likely to spill if the lid is loose or the top falls off. Failing that, all of our bag interiors are water resistant and wipe clean, so any mess can simply be wiped away.
What makes a Jem + Bea bag stand out?
Rebecca: Definitely the design of the bags. You wouldn’t know they were changing bags unless you looked inside.
What are the best practical features?
Dominique: The keyring holder is one of my favourite features - no more rummaging in the rain!
Rebecca: The small zip pockets inside each of our bags are great for storing all those small bits like like teething gel, hand sanitizers that would normally disappear at the bottom of a bag.
Which bags do you carry?
Dominique: I can’t live without my JEM + BEA Jemima. It goes everywhere with or without children.
Rebecca: I love the JEM + BEA Beatrice – I like the more casual look of the tote, and the fact that it fits my MacBook is a big plus!
Why do you think good design is important, for parents?
Rebecca: Parents only ever have one hand free, and often none, so designing products that are easy to use and practical is very important. It’s exciting going to trade shows to see all of the innovative and contemporary baby products available.
JEM + BEA Jemima changing bag
What are your plans for the brand?
Dominique: We cannot wait to showcase our JEM + BEA spring summer 2016 collection in a few months. We will be introducing new leather and nylon styles and adding new colour to the current range of our classics. Our international sales are doing really well so we are looking to expand this too.
What are the top three parenting products you couldn’t live without?
Dominique: When the children started to crawl, the classic Bumbo I was given by a family member was used and used. It allowed me to get on with jobs whilst talking to the children knowing they were not crawling into any danger. Sophie la Girafe has always been a favourite with little teethers, and my baby monitor gave me huge peace of mind.
Rebecca: The Glow Clock – it’s literally magic - so good for sleep training toddlers.
What is the piece of parenting product you wish you had designed?
We are both big fans of the classic Ikea high chair. We both have one and so does virtually everyone I know with children. It is an icon! It has a simple design which is very easy to clean and is very low cost - we can see why it is a favourite amongst parents. The plain white and chrome doesn’t look out of place in any interior and it is easily transportable because of the detachable legs.
If you could have one superhero skill – what would it be and why?
Dominique: That’s easy - I’d love to be able to fly. Some days I really do need to be in two places at once with the children and work commitments so it would save me so much time.
Rebecca: Right now, with us being so busy I wish I could clone myself, so I could be in two places at once!
VISIT THE JEM + BEA SHOP, NOW
Clockwise from left: Marlow bag, stroller straps, Beatrice bag
VISIT THE JEM + BEA SHOP, NOW