We are Catherine Merritt and Emma Costello, two 40 something mums from Berkshire
Tell us about your family
We have five girls between us; with the eldest twelve and the youngest two months, who keep us and our husbands exceptionally busy! We also have two British Blue cats – Iggy Merritt and Aesop Costello – who are brothers and despite three years between them are starting to look alarmingly interchangeable.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
Catherine has a background in engineering and a career in the city as a risk manager. Emma has worked in global marketing for brands including Ministry of Sound, Disney, L’Oreal and Calvin Klein and runs her own business consultancy. We’re still doing our day jobs!
When did you launch?
We started to create our first product – the mecolife tote bag – in February 2016 and spent the rest of the year working with our suppliers to ensure we established a manufacturing process with the right partner suppliers who were able to understand and exceed our high-quality requirements, without compromise; taking delivery of our first bags in January of this year.
How did you get started?
While on a skiing trip in Germany with our families we were watching our kids on the slopes. Emma put her handbag down to take a photo and only realised five minutes later that the snow had caused a watermark on her bag… it was a vintage Mulberry. We got talking and decided to come up with a bag that would go from the office to the slopes to the beach and beyond. Little did we know where it would take us.
Catherine had great contacts in China from her time working in Hong Kong – where all the silicone the UK uses in consumer products is manufactured – we found out very quickly there’s no capacity to make silicone moulded products anywhere in Europe. Emma has always worked in marketing, with a fondness for music, film and fashion brands but has always harboured the desire to actually create product herself rather than promoting other people’s.
Using Catherine’s contacts and Emma’s limited digital design skills, we worked to come up with first, a prototype, then samples and finally, our finished totes from a factory which has high standards of production and an ethical approach to its workforce.
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business
The satisfaction of receiving positive customer feedback and the smiles it brings!
What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business
The accounts of course.
What has worked well about your business?
That we have an innovative idea that people respond really well to. It has been critical to get support and feedback from our local area at events like craft shows and village fetes to gain some really valuable feedback from potential customers about our bags. We’re also really active on social media and find that both Twitter and Facebook work to help spread awareness about us, but our favourite is Instagram, where our bags showcase really well and we have met lots of likeminded vegan, ethical and live-smarter businesses.
What’s been your biggest business mistake? How did you deal with it?
Oh we have made a few! The only way to deal with mistakes is to be open with one another about them, chalk them up to experience and learn what not to do next time.
How do you fit in work with the family? Is your partner supportive of your business?
With difficulty; let’s be honest! The biggest challenge we have is making sure we take the time to get together regularly to review what we are doing and plan for the future of our business. Catherine has a great mum on hand to help out, while Emma has a brilliant childminder who is extremely flexible and used to her unpredictability! Both Catherine’s and Emma’s husbands are right there next to them, when it comes to planning their family schedules.
Are you working towards a financial goal for your business?
At the moment we’d like to be able to realise a level of revenue that allows us to look into more innovative products to create under the mecolife brand
Would you ever give up your business to do something else?
Hopefully the brand we have created, which is focused on making a difference to the way we live our lives and challenging the status quo is flexible enough for us to create new ideas within it. We create products designed for life. The mecolife tote bag is just the first in a range of products which help people live smarter in our time-pressured world.
Do you have an exit strategy?
No, we’re having far too much fun building our brand right now.
Have you had your ‘I’ve made it’ moment? Tell us about it. If not when do you think it will come
When we see our products on the shelves at John Lewis!
Where do you hope to be in five years time?
Looking at our products on the shelves of John Lewis!
If you have a flexible working business opportunity, please explain briefly what you offer and how people find out more.
Your website link.
If you can offer a discount or special promotion for Family Friendly Working readers, please write it here:
For £5 off our mecolife tote bag range, just visit our site and use code FRIENDS&FAMILY17