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Tobias & the Bear: A day in the life

We chat with the founder of one of our favourite new childrenswear brands to find out how she makes juggling life with a 'whirlwind' of a three-year-old' son, look so cool...

Posted: 3 March 2016
by Catherine Hudson

Tobias & the Bear

Leanne McKeever, 37, is co-founder of Tobias & the Bear, which she runs with her friend and business partner, Ruth Cozens. She lives in Essex with her husband David and their whirlwind of a 3 and a half year old, Toby.

What is your family’s morning routine?

I count myself very lucky to work from home, so now that Toby has stopped rising at 'Ridiculously Early O'Clock', my husband is up and out often before we're awake. That's on non-nursery days when the pace is nice and easy. Nursery days are a dramatically different picture. There's usually just enough time for a tea for us and a smoothie for Toby before racing down the road with the buggy. I then rush back (if I don't have any meetings) and start tackling the inbox. Weekends are far more relaxed. They almost always involve pjs and pancakes. Definitely the best bit of the week!

What is your office environment like?

I currently work from a desk in my living room which has a lot of pros - kettle at the ready, time to put the washing on, sneaky online shopping - the exception of which is missing the everyday banter of an office. Ruth and I meet once a week though, usually at the Ace Hotel, where we deal with our urgent to-do list. We're working towards an office of our own but flexible working environments means that it isn't essential right now.

Do you have such a thing as a ‘typical’ day? 

Definitely not. My week is a 3:4 split. Monday to Wednesday is spent working on Tobias & the Bear. This can be anything from working on new lines to gathering wholesale orders, wading through the accounts or talking to customers. Toby doesn't go to nursery Thursday or Friday which is when play dates and park time take place (with the inevitable hour or so stolen for work). The weekend is family time. Ruth and I spend most evenings talking on What'sApp too with a box set of some kind in the background. 

Tobias & the Bear bedding

Did you always want to do what you do now, for a job? 

No, I didn't even think about kidswear until I had Toby, which I guess is true for a lot of people in the kidswear industry. Since university though, I've always worked in fashion, including a long stint in luxury e-commerce, so it wasn't a huge leap. 

What was the first thing you wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?

A vet. So not similar at all!

What is the best thing about your job? 

Watching something that we've built from nothing really excite people is an incredible feeling. I still can't believe it sometimes. We have some brilliantly loyal customers and that in itself is amazing. I also love being creative and despite how difficult it can be to cram it all in, I'm forever grateful for the flexibility my own company allows me. 

Are there any downsides to your job? 

Not really, but we're still a young company, and trying to wear lots of different hats can be a little daunting. 

How do you come up with creative, original ideas?

The brand was built in a very organic way and we take that approach with every new style we launch. The fox and the bear designs were our very first and we did those because Toby's middle name is Fox and Ruth's little boy is known as Arlo Bear. All prints have to feel like they're part of our DNA. It's really all about instinct. That and a lot of brainstorming! 

Tobias & the Bear homeware

How do you juggle family life with work life? 

It's a balancing act but luckily it's a manageable one. The time I have to dedicate to the business on those first few days of the week is a real bonus and means the juggling is a lot easier. 

What do you do outside of work, with your family? 

We see friends and family, go to the cinema, on Sunday Toby plays toddler football and we're pretty good at playing the tourist and taking classic days out in London - the dinosaurs at the Natural History museum are always a hit. 

What is coming up, work-wise, for you and your business? Any new ventures?

We have some great new prints arriving in May, August and October. We're also working on some new interiors lines as well as some adult styles - watch this space! 

Would you want your children to follow in your footsteps? 

Without sounding like a cliche, I want Toby to do whatever makes him happy. Ruth and I have joked that the boys could takeover one day though two grown men might not be too happy at being the namesakes of a kidswear brand! 

If you had superhero skills, what would be your dream job? 

I've always loved the idea of flying. How cool would that be?! 

Junior included Tobias & the Bear in the roundup of 36 of the best places to shop for cool boys clothes, read it now

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