Friends Dominique and Rebecca launched accessories brand Jem + Bea after they spotted a gap in the market for stylish yet practical baby changing bags. (And they know their stuff: Rebecca has previously designed bags for Mulberry!) They told us how they started a successful business with four children between them...
Tell us about your families
Dominique: I have 3 children Lola (6), Alfred (5) and Jemima (3). Rebecca: I have 1 child Beatrice (3) and another on the way!
How did Jem + Bea begin?
The brand officially launched in September 2015 but we had a year of designing, sampling, manufacturing and hard work behind the scenes prior to that. Having discussed the idea together and decided that this was a sought after product missing from the market, we literally went in running to get the products and brand to market by the end of the following summer.
It can be hard to juggle a career and family life. What, if anything, do you feel you've sacrificed by choosing your current lifestyle?
A stress free life! Holidays! We really try to work the business around our families but inevitably small sacrifices have to be made along the way. One of us recently has to miss our daughter’s school sports day in order to exhibit at a trade fair in Paris.
But rather than feel guilty about this we remind ourselves that we’re doing something we're passionate about to make a living and also it’s really important our children see that work ethic in us to teach them to have drive and ambition when they are older.
What's your top tip for mums on maternity leave?
Relax and enjoy your baby! And don’t compare yourselves to other mums and how much they are doing. If you want to sit at home in your PJs and not go to Baby Yoga that’s cool! It’s easy, especially with your first baby, to think that you need to be packing loads into the day to keep the baby stimulated. That can be exhausting for you both. All they actually want is your love and attention and not a lot else.
Make us feel better about ourselves. What's your biggest mum fail?
Dominique: Turning up to fancy dress day not in fancy dress… We had to make a quick u-turn.
Rebecca: Sweets and treats to avoid toddler melt downs. There are only so many times you can put your foot down!
Are there any other mums out there who inspire you?
Any mums who are happy and keeping their children alive! That’s inspiration enough.
Where do you hang out with your families when in London?
The Tate Modern, South Bank and Science museum are always good to entertain the kids. Also, obvious tourist destinations like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace - it might be old hat to us but it’s all new to toddlers and they love the stories behind these landmarks.
What accessories and fashion brands do you and your family love?
Dominique: The girls love dresses and bags (just like their mother!) We love Bob & Blossom for special party clothes, but as they grow so quickly I’ll often stock up affordable summer dresses from Zara. For bedtime we love pjs from The Bright Company.
Rebecca: The whole family are in Birkenstocks right now! I love all the jazzy colours - I’ve got several pairs and I’ve just bought a shiny shocking pink pair for Bea. Now I’m pregnant again, I’m pouring over lots of gorgeous baby brands on Instagram such as Camomile London who do the most beautiful bed linen, also Belle Enfant’s soft cashmere baby clothes are adorable.
What's next for Jem + Bea?
We are thrilled to be launching our new accessories range. Creating pouches with the MAMA and BABA labelling was a very simple idea which we thought offered a fun way of organising your stuff. We love the bold lettering - it feels modern yet elegant.
These little portable accessories are great to use with or without your Jem + Bea bag. They also make great little gifts for those who may not want to stretch to buying the baby bag. When we first had the clutches on pre-order and they sold out within days! The beauty of them is their many uses. For example, we’ve had mothers buy the MAMA clutch to use as a make-up bag or evening clutch, with their babies being well out of the nappy stage, or parents using the BABA pouch for babies own little travel pouch for passport, teether etc for trips abroad.
We’ll be collaborating with another brand to bring out exciting new colours for these - but that’s top secret for now! Also new for AW16, we’re bringing out our Beatrice Tote in Black. Black is always popular as a handbag colour and especially in this easy pared-down tote style - it was a no-brainer!