Lara & Ollie is run by Anna and Lesley, two mums in South East London who decided to set up a jewellery and accessories brand that works for both mums and babies who love to bite! They told us how they set up a business while being new mums...
Tell us about your families
We’re both married and have two and a half year olds called Lara & Ollie. Lara belongs to Anna and is due a baby brother or sister in November, and Ollie belongs to Lesley!
When and why did you decide to launch Lara & Ollie?
We met through our NCT class just before we had our kids and launched Lara & Ollie in March 2015, so about 18 months after meeting. We both love jewellery and accessories but quickly realised when we became mums that we couldn’t wear it unless we were away from the kids; not only was it potentially pretty dangerous, we didn’t want anything broken.
Having made jewellery for fun a few years back we loved the concept of teething necklaces but couldn’t find much we liked. So we sourced some beads and made a few and had amazing feedback from friends and mums we were getting to know locally – all of whom wanted to know where they could buy them. So we thought why not give it a go and here we are.
Our aim is to help mamas feel stylish again and dress up an everyday outfit with something fun – that also happens to be safe for a baby to chew and fiddle with. We also believe our products make fab gifts for new mamas and it’s a treat for them too given that most presents tend to be bought for the little one!
How has motherhood affected your career?
We worked in PR/marketing and finance/retail respectively working long hours and under a lot of pressure. We also both have been through a lot of heartache and pain to have our kids. So that, alongside lots of other personal factors, made us question whether going back to our careers was the right decision for us.
And having our business idea that was as a result of becoming mums, was the catalyst for a change and a new path. It obviously wasn’t an easy decision, or isn’t an easy reality; being a full time mum setting up a business isn’t an easier option, it just poses different challenges. And we believe there are sacrifices whatever you choose to do – going back to work, being a full time mum, or setting up your own business.
So for example we work when the kids sleep so evenings, lunchtimes and weekends. And feel guilty when we’re emailing, calling etc. when we’re with the kids in the day. And feel guilty when washing isn’t done, fridge is bare and dinner is a takeaway again. But these are all normal feelings whatever your situation – guilt seems to be a very common – and pretty unhealthy – feeling amongst so many mums we meet.
What's your top tip for mums on maternity leave?
Drink as much tea and eat as much cake as possible!!! Maternity leave was brilliant for both of us as we met through NCT and had the best group ever who were all within walking distance. But it could be quite lonely for some so try and find people to hang out with to drink tea and eat cake. If you can, join something like NCT or local parenting groups. And whilst you might basically be buying friends, they're invaluable for sanity and support as you're all in exactly the same boat with your little ones and your 24/7 WhatsApp chat and meet ups become an incredible life line particularly through the tough times.
You'll also be amazed about this underground world of baby and toddler things to do every day in your local area so do a bit of research - from sensory to singing to massage to music these are also great places to go and meet people. And they can be great fun for the kids too.
What other jewellery/accessories brands do you love?
We both tend to buy jewellery we find along the way - everywhere from markets, boutiques to high street retailers. That said, there are a few brands we are huge fans of including A Weathered Penny – who is local to us and hand makes the most beautiful and simple jewellery both for grownups and kids.
We also love Cult of Youth and her stunning range. Both are run by very clever ladies!
Lesley’s husband bought her a gorgeous ring for her 40th from London based designer Stephen Einhorn which is amazing - although he's probably regretting it now as she’s hoping he'll add to her collection for future birthdays! We also have a couple of works of art from super talented Clara Francis - her work is beautiful and so delicate - so only comes out when small people are safely tucked up in bed!!
Make us feel better about ourselves. What's your biggest mum fail?
Most parenting fails for us have been accident related. Ollie has always been a clumsy kamikaze kid so he has had various accidents from head springing down the half landing when he first started to crawl to an incident where he bit through his lip at a playground and was wheeled off in an ambulance.
Lara had a fairly good fall from the pram which she was left to play in at Sainsbury’s plus the usual falling off chairs, out of beds etc. Sure there are so many more fails but they’ve probably been paled into insignificance thanks to lack of sleep or general embarrassment!
Are there any other mums who help to inspire you?
Our NCT group were and still are an inspiration to us and they’ve helped and supported us through our journey on a daily basis. There's also an incredible number of mums who have been inspired by to set up a business after having kids and they've been a huge support and inspiration to us too. It’s amazing how many we’ve met who are in exactly our situation – mums setting up businesses.
There are probably too many to mention but we love Jenny at Smallprint books, Liz at Liz King Illustration, Claire at Little Cloud, Cat & Gayle at Hustle & Fox, Hollie from Flora Fairweather, Carly at Braveling, Diana at The Mamahood, Anna & Lydia at Tiba+Marl, Alienor at The Bright Company, Lindsey at Wildfire Teepees – we could go on!!!
Where do you hang out with the family?
We’re very lucky as we live in a lovely area (Lee, SE London) where there are lots of parks, cafes and places to go with families. We have the luxury of London and all the fab family things to do, plus we can easily jump in the car to the coast or into the countryside where other than just hanging out in beautiful places there are also castles, adventure playgrounds, country pubs and so much more!
What's next for Lara & Ollie?
Well that would be telling!!! We’ve achieved more than we ever thought we would and have been so blown away by the amazing response and feedback to our brand and products from customers, shops, friends and family. We’ve grown very quickly, which is amazing, and there’s so much more to come – we just can’t give away any of our secrets ha ha!!