Suzy Olivier, the founder of Postboxed's newest brand, Mama + Belle, tells us about the motivation behind her fantastic teething jewellery and dummy clips.
I started Mama + Belle in early 2014. Belle was a couple of months old and I was enjoying the life of being a stay at home mum. My husband joined the RAF not too long before I got pregnant with Belle, so our life was now one of regular house moves meaning my original career of running a Personal Training and Physio business in Oxfordshire (and being a personal trainer myself) was going to be tricky. I knew I wanted to be stay at home mum for as long as possible, so I needed to find something that would allow me to generate income without having to leave the house. I was on the lookout for a product. Something I could easily store/ stock in my house and sell online.
I had looked into several various (and very random!) products and none resinated with me or appeared viable in the long run. One day, Belle had fallen asleep on me feeding… a usual afternoon scenario and I was scrolling through Facebook. That’s when I saw it. Brightly coloured necklaces that were a prize for a competition that was running on Babyology- an Australian news/ media website for parents. I remember thinking that necklaces were an odd prize for a baby/ child focused Facebook page. On further investigation, I found out the necklaces were indeed teething necklaces. A completely unknown term to me and certainly nothing I had seen before. I thought it was absolutely brilliant and immediately wanted some for myself. I headed to good old Google to find some in the UK. To say it was slim pickings would be an understatement. The offerings were nothing that I would wear without baby, and some were simply overpriced. Not knowing if my baby Belle would take to it, there was no way I was spending £30+ on a necklace, call me a cheapskate if you wish.
So my only other option was to order one from Australia or America where there were hundreds of businesses offering a huge variety of teething jewellery, but the international shipping costs were just too high. That’s when I realised I may have found my product. I became a woman possessed by the idea and banged on every door (virtually speaking) to try and figure out how on earth I was going to create teething necklaces. Through some divine encounters, I found a factory who was willing to work with me and they agreed to allow me to order in very small quantities. I had no start up capital, except for £2000 of saved maternity pay, that was it. I needed to buy stock, create a website, design branding, buy packaging, cover insurance and safety testing costs and have something to pay for advertising. I had no experience in retail (other than being a sales assistant for Faith shoes when I was 16!), and didn’t know anything about websites or branding, so the next couple of months were a baptism of fire to say the least. Not having the capital to hire professionals, I had to figure out how to do everything myself. With no family or close friends nearby (thanks RAF!), I was going to have to figure everything out around looking after Belle. Thankfully Belle was still on 2 long naps a day and had long feeds, so I could perch the laptop on my knees during feeds and get on with working. Slowly but surely I designed my first logo, created the website, and carefully figured out how to edit images so they didn’t all look like selfies (which most were!). I did have to seek legal advice to make sure I had the correct insurance and that the safety testing was up to scratch.
Finally after taking my first product images on my bedroom floor with an Ikea blanket as the backdrop, I was ready to launch. I remember the excitement on launching on a Thursday evening at 8.30pm (apparently back then it was the ideal time to start an online business!), and waiting for my first order. It took 10 minutes after hitting the ‘go live’ button for my first order to arrive, and I cannot tell you how excited I was. I was home with my baby sleeping in her room, and I had made money, not much, but it had started.
Within a few days the business was busier than I could have ever dreamt off. Suddenly the realisation of designing packaging that required hand tied satin bows on every box may not have been the best idea… within 2 weeks I had blisters on my fingers and I was tying bows in my sleep! This was just one of many many many little mistakes (there were some BIG ones too!) I made and learnt from along the way. I got pregnant with baby number two at the end of 2014, and yet again we had another house move due, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with a busy business. I decided to ‘take my foot off the pedal’ and let the business coast a long for a while until I was ready to push again- push the business that is. Delilah arrived on the 1st of September 2015. Unlike her big sister, she didn’t go along with feed routines, and would happily spend the good part of a day feeding! I allowed myself to sit back and enjoy that phase of motherhood without worrying about the business. I dispatched orders as the came in, and worked on the business as and when I found the time. When Delilah was 10 months, and her and Belle started playing together, I realised the time had come to get back into the business. That’s when I rebranded, designed a new website, had my first 'proper' photoshoot (all with RAF wives, even the photographer!), designed a brand new collection and exhibited as my first trade show in London in January (had to wait to do trade shows as I’ve always had a baby attached to me feeding since 2013!). Since then, things have been racing ahead with me, and I cannot express how grateful I am for the success of Mama + Belle. I genuinely appreciate every single one of my customers and retailers, and couldn’t be more excited to see my products in John Lewis this coming autumn.
From the start I wanted my business to do more than just give mums stylish teething jewellery that they would love with or without baby, and allow me to be a stay at home mum. I wanted a business that did some good in the world. That’s when I decided that I wanted to give at least 10% of profits to charity. At a previous church we attended, I had the pleasure of meeting some young ladies that had been saved and looked after by a charity called Stella’s Voice in Moldova, who fight to save those affected by human trafficking. My heart broke hearing their stories and knowing there are so many more that need rescuing. I knew instantly that this was the charity that I wanted my business to support, and I loved the fact my business wasn’t just out to serve me and my family.
So that’s me… well that’s Mama + Belle in a nutshell.
Suzy's teething jewellery and dummy clips are now available gift-wrapped from Postboxed. Find the full range here.