Name and Age: My name is Kirsten Baxter and I am 34
Tell us about your family: I’m married to Dan and have two amazing children Finn, 7 and Orla, 2. We live in a small village in Cheshire, and I own Bella Mama, an online Breastfeeding Boutique offering a fabulous range of breastfeeding and transitional maternity clothing and accessories for new mums.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
Before starting Bella Mama I worked as a Commissioning Editor in publishing which I LOVED. After my maternity leave ended I didn’t want to return to working 4 days a week, but unfortunately the company were unable to meet my requests for more flexible working hours (as they had done after my first period of maternity leave). The opportunity came to take voluntary redundancy, and I took it and started building up Bella Mama.
When did you launch?
I set up and launched the company in 2007.
What research did you do before launching?
Before launching I did a huge amount of research into the breastfeeding clothing and products available, and put together a thorough business plan. I was very keen to create a unique business which would pull together a fabulous range of designers and products. After extensive research with breastfeeding mothers and a trip to the USA, Australia and Singapore to meet with talented maternity and nursingwear designers, I sourced a wonderful selection of contemporary breastfeeding clothing which was unavailable in the UK. I then launched Bella Mama, with the aim of offering the best selection of dual purpose maternity and breastfeeding tops from one online store. My aim is to provide fabulous, fashionable nursingwear which will allows new breastfeeding mums to feel confident and stylish whilst providing their baby with the best start in life.
How have you funded the business?
The business did well in its first year, and turnover has grown by 50% in the second year. I set up the business with my own money and credit cards, and have grown the business organically. I have a policy of investing the profits back into the company which has allowed me to grow the business without being dependent on anyone else – it also means I’m not under pressure to make a certain turnover, or ever be at risk of having my capital being pulled. My Dad, my husband and my best friend, as well as many other people I know run their own businesses, and it’s great to chat through issues, whilst getting their support and advice on a wide variety of matters!
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
I’ve joined a local networking group, Happy Mondays Networking and some online forums for working mums which have been brilliant. As Bella Mama has grown, I have been able to outsource more of the jobs which were taking up a lot of my time – primarily bookkeeping, PR and SEO work – leaving me to concentrate on expanding Bella Mama’s range to bring nursing mums the freshest and most stylish nursingwear available!
What has worked well about your business?
Bella Mama offers many designs not available elsewhere in the UK, and we were the first to bring many designers into the UK market, including Dote Nursingwear, Milkdaze, Peek-a-Boo, Milk Nursingwear, Eva Lillian, Aimee Nursinggowns and Moody Mamas. In 2008 I launched Bella Mama’s range of clothing, which has been really well received by our customers. The feedback has been brilliant, and I am so pleased that our clothing enables breastfeeding mothers to feel comfortable and stylish whilst nursing their little ones!
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
I won’t pretend it’s been easy, there have been plenty of challenges along the way, and lots of moments when I have felt overwhelmed by the work involved in running my own business – it’s tough when you feel like you’re the only one doing everything. The whole juggling act of family and running a business is tiring, and meeting other women in business has shown me that we all feel the same way regardless of whether we are mothers or not. But the positives outweigh the negatives, and knowing I am helping new breastfeeding mothers feel great is amazing. I get ridiculously excited about the feedback from my customers who are delighted with the stylish clothing they have had from Bella Mama. Stylish nursing wear really helps us challenge the perception of breastfeeding as frumpy, and I am delighted that Bella Mama is making breastfeeding fashionable!
How do you fit in work with the family?
One of the ways I’ve been able to make it work is having a great support network of friends and family around me; my parents live in the village, one of my sisters lives just the other side of town and I have a fabulous friend and neighbour who often helps me out in a childcare fix! I have also been very lucky that my husband is exceptionally supportive, and often does the school/ nursery/pre-school run, makes meals, takes parcels to the post office for me, helps me to pack orders, negotiate with suppliers and is the general on-call Bella Mama tech guy!
Your website: www.BellaMama.co.uk. Bella Mama would like to offer a 10% discount to Family Friendly Working readers. Please enter BMDISC10 at checkout.