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L O C A L FA M I LY L I F E S T Y L E | 1
Maria Myers | Chic Shack Helen Holmes talks to Maria Myers, founder of London-based Children’s furniture store Chic Shack, and mother to four lively boys. Between furnishing the homes of the stars and jetting off around the world, notebook in hand, in search of inspiration, it’s amazing that Maria Myers manages to spend any time at all with her four sons. We chat to Maria about the joys and challenges of combining a thriving business with being a mother to four. Maria is a woman who knows where her priorities lie. “My motto is ‘she who loves, wins’, and another golden rule is ‘the more you give, the more you receive’.” Putney couple, Maria and her husband Gary, who run Chic Shack together, ensure that they play a big part in the lives of their children. “We do most of the school runs and clubs ourselves. We no longer have full-time childcare, but our older boys help out, picking up younger brothers and doing their bit around the house. Our house, shop and offices are all within a ten minute walk of each other – we’ve deliberately built our lives in close proximity, so that we can aim for a good work/life balance.” Even when Maria is travelling, she ensures that she is back for all the important events. “I’m there for the boys’ special occasions – their assemblies, their first cricket matches, the teddy bears’ picnics – I wouldn’t miss them for the world.” When she was pregnant with her
oldest son she worked in fashion and had studied interior and furniture design, and was disappointed by the ranges of nursery furniture on offer – so she decided to do something about it. She designed her own collection of furniture and, together with Gary, who handles the business side, opened her
“I like homes to feel homely – which is all about comfort. I also think that white interiors are peaceful and calming. We like to ensure that pieces remain useful, even after children have grown up. A chest of drawers or an armchair in the nursery could later be in a sitting room or bedroom. Classic style never dates.”
fingers can be wiped off! All our painted furniture has a protective varnish, and so do our walls. Our sofas have washable slipcovers, and our seats are covered in a wipeable white faux leather fabric.” Maria is keen on practicality, as well as style in her designs. “I like homes to feel homely – which is all about comfort. I also think that white interiors are peaceful and calming. We like to ensure that pieces remain useful, even after children have grown up. A chest of drawers or an armchair in the nursery could later be in a sitting room or bedroom. Classic style never dates.” Maria’s passion for design and her enthusiasm for family life can really be combined to maximum fun effect when it’s time for the children’s parties. “We just love birthday parties! We blow up balloons, decorate fairy cakes and put out fabulous bunting in the back garden. We take our themes very seriously!” Ultimately, it’s Maria’s experiences as a parent which inspire her work. “Parenthood has taught us about unconditional love, and all the joy and laughter that children bring us through the simplest things. I believe that a child’s space is a very important element of their growth. It makes me feel good to know that I help to create their special places, and that hopefully they will be happy ones.”
first shop in 1997. 16 years on, business is thriving. “We’ve been a recognised brand over a decade and we have clients all over the globe – including royalty, rock stars, footballers and supermodels!” Maria’s ability to multitask extends to her furniture. The Chic Shack style is predominantly white, and while busy parents might be forgiven for wondering whether such a colour scheme, is, well, sensible, with young children around, Maria doesn’t see it as a problem. “People often ask us how we keep our www.chicshack.net own home so clean. It’s simple – sticky
Lisa Gill www.lisagillphotography.co.uk
Caroline O’Neill & Kirsten Robinson www.treasurechairs.co.uk
When Dominnique began to prepare and style her little girl’s nursery she wanted pieces that reflected her own personal style that were full of imagination, colour and fun. She wanted products that were non gender specific in colour palette and print, yet functional and excellent quality… out of this desire noynoy was born.
When Lisa had her first child she wanted some photos capturing her son’s personality. She had some professional photos taken, and absolutely loved them. It was from there that she embarked on a night school class, followed by a bespoke course with a top national photographer. LG Photography grew organically, firstly as a hobby, then commercially from home, and now Lisa travels throughout Surrey for homeshoots. Her most recent addition is a beautiful studio just a short drive away in Penn.
The story of Treasure Chairs came to life when Kirsten was looking for a special first birthday present for her daughter, Fleur. Kirsten always wanted it to be memorable and unique; she had the idea to give her a personalised chair, so went in search for one. Alas, Kirsten admits she didn’t get very far so asked a local upholster to make one according to her specifications; little did she know that this chair ended up being a first of many more!
What makes noynoy unique? We have thoughtfully developed each product, designed each fabric print and sourced only the highest quality of materials from around the globe. Best of all we are not afraid to use vibrant colours that spark imagination and allow parents to be creative and style their nursery. Each range includes everything you need for baby bedding and sleep accessories for years 0-2. How does running a business fit around family life? I would be lying if I didn’t say trying to create a family/work balance is often a challenge. When I do get it right I owe it to the noynoy team, and my business partner, Hande Sadic - all who are very dedicated and passionate. We do everything ourselves and always put in 100%. It also helps to have a very supportive other half who cooks! What plans have you got for the future? Since we’re a start-up brand, we have to get our launch right. Knowing our customers’ needs and listening to their feedback is paramount. However, having such a great team of creatives means we’re constantly in product development meetings and planning for innovative designs. We like to keep the noynoy buzz alive, always.
What makes LG Photography unique? We’re an ‘all ladies’ team and being mums ourselves (with eight children between three of us!), we are well qualified to look after pregnant ladies, babies and families, so the whole experience feels comfortable and lots of fun too. We’re big fans of bump photography – capturing that amazing time in a woman’s life when she really does ‘glow’. We capture the individuality of each family we photograph by making our shoots as informal as possible.
What makes Treasure Chairs unique? They are custom made. You can choose the colours of the legs to match your fabric, design your own seating arrangements - consisting of a chair and a sofa, for example. The options are endless. We receive colour swatches of curtains, for example, so we can make sure that the chairs are a perfect fit! They are the perfect gifts for special occasions such as baby showers, christenings and birthdays.
How does running a business fit around a busy home life? How does running a business fit around It is challenging at times when everything happens at once! We want family life? A flexible team and supportive husband to make sure that we provide the best for our customers and at times that has helped! But the bottom line is I’ve means we have to work long hours, but developed the business to do just that – we do anything to get the best results! it fits around my family life. To me, I get the best of both worlds; being a mum to three children and fulfilling my passion. What plans have you got for the future? Now that the main products are What plans have you got for the future? launched, Caroline was brought in to take over the management and to LG Photography has doubled in size take it to the next level of establishing within the last two years and I plan to Treasure Chairs into the world of continue building on this. Continual children’s furniture! It is still a small training and investment helps enhance start-up business so it is important that our service, as does providing the best we market ourselves to get known. customer service everytime.
noynoy Dominnique Karetsos www.noynoy.co.uk
Deearna Withey | Deearna’s Maternity Agency Rebecca Moore talks to Deearna Withey; a mother, grandmother and an expert in the maternity care industry, about her global 24/7 service: Deearna’s Maternity Agency. Deearna Withey has been in the maternity care industry for over 20 years, becoming a trusted household name, and rightly so. With experience in almost every field, she’s a maternity nurse and trainer, birth coach and baby carer, multiples expert, feed and sleep consultant and more… London’s very own baby whisperer. Deearna first got into childcare almost immediately after her first baby was born, 28 years ago. Battling with the constant crying of her newborn, Deearna was faced with post natal depression. Nonetheless, being admittedly stubborn she refused medication. Instead, Deearna took it upon herself to study post natal depression and fully recovered from the illness. This is a decision she’s still thankful for, “Gaining an understanding of why it happened was a good move, this enabled me to help others,” recalls Deearna. And this experience set the foundation for her career path. Now over quarter of a century later Deearna has two children and four grandchildren: Joshua, Aimee, Aeris and Theia. Her whole family are very supportive of her Maternity Agency, “If we are out and my phone goes they all know I will answer the call and may
then be tied up for a couple of hours. I like people knowing you don’t need to pay for everything, and sometimes just to hear it’s okay is all they need,” says Deearna.
received a card from him recently and the contents said ‘To the angel that mummy sent to look after us, thank you’, to make such a difference is so rewarding.”
“I received a card from him recently and the contents said ‘To the angel that mummy sent to look after us, thank you’, to make such a difference is so rewarding.”
Deearna is so dedicated to her job, and with a demanding schedule she has to be. “I can’t imagine not working with mums and babies; post natal depression is the most misunderstood condition that’s why having a maternity nurse or night nanny to set the foundations really does help.”
Offering guidance can be what so many parents crave, and unfortunately due to the nature of Deearna’s job, she does have to deal with many sensitive situations. Deearna recalls one of her toughest memories; “I was watching the news one day and saw that a lady had committed suicide as the result of psychosis. She had just given birth to twins 10 days earlier.” Deearna knew the area so drove to see if she could find the house. “The police were there and I gave my card and asked them to tell the dad to call me. I hadn’t even got in my car and the dad called. I returned to their home and he handed me the babies and said please help me. I ended up staying for 3 months.” Deearna still keeps in touch with the family. “I
When I asked Deearna about the prospects of her Maternity Agency, she was sure of the future, “Deearna’s Maternity Agency will always be around. I hope that in 10 year’s time I’ve won the lottery and can offer all clients a free start up pack of services, but if anyone needs a chat that will always be free. I’d hate for people to be sat at home struggling, ring us we will always answer and guide you,” says Deearna. It’s certainly reassuring that there’s somebody with a hands on role just at the end of the phone. Because sometimes all we need is a bit of support, and Deearna is more than qualified for that. But don’t just take my word for it; let her five star rating on our online directories do the talking. www.deearnas-maternity-agency.co.uk
Gentle Baby Things
Abigail Halpin www.bettybramble.co.uk
Gavin and Charlotte Matier www.gentlebabythings.co.uk
When Abigail was looking for a stylish footmuff for her pushchair she soon realised there were very few available. Seeing this apparent gap in the market she set up Betty Bramble, which creates distinctive luxury footmuffs and pushchair accessories in a range of fabrics from fun and bright designs to more delicate, vintage inspired patterns.
Gavin and Charlotte had always wanted their own business and after daughter Elodie was born, the desire to launch a business grew. When searching for the right clothes and products for Elodie, they saw a prime opportunity to create an online boutique for high quality stylish clothes and gifts for 0-3 year olds, all organic or ethically sourced. This coincided with the opportunity to relaunch the Gentle Baby Things brand which perfectly summed up the couple’s values: gentle to your baby and gentle to the planet.
When Louisa was expecting her first son, she had her heart set on a natural drug-free delivery. After weeks of learning about labour, she was rushed into hospital one evening concerned that something was not quite right. Within moments, Louisa was being prepared for an emergency Caesarean section. The procedure went well and not long after her son was in her arms, but she felt unprepared. As a trained breastfeeding counsellor, Louisa sees hundreds of new mums in the same situation; so she set out to rectify this. What makes Lulubaby unique? We have an amazing team of professionals and the quality of our teaching is unrivalled. No one else has a consultant anaesthetist and consultant obstetrician alongside seven other professionals teaching their classes. We focus enormously on life after your baby has arrived, aiming to equip our mums well for those first few weeks. Because we care so much about our new mums, we are very focussed on providing postnatal support and being available.
What makes Betty Bramble unique? Betty Bramble makes premium footmuffs using the best quality fabrics and lovely cosy, thick wadding. We source high quality fabrics from around the world to create beautiful, exclusive footmuffs at an affordable price - all designed and manufactured in Britain. We are passionate and committed to the future of British manufacturing.
How does running a business fit around family life? It does exactly that - it fits around it! In term time, it is a little easier but during the holidays, it’s certainly a challenge!
How does running a business fit around family life? Betty Bramble was inspired by my family; my father has worked in the textile manufacturing and retail industries for over 40 years, and my children inspired me to launch the business. Challenges and opportunities can arise at any point. I therefore need to be incredibly organised, pedantic about time management and have great childcare. Ultimately, though, it is very satisfying and rewarding being able to do both.
What plans have you got for the future? Lulubaby plans to continue growing along the same trajectories. We have three locations and hope to open more in London. We will also continue to grow our popular postnatal offerings which include paediatric first aid as well as bespoke workshops such as ‘Understanding your toddler’.
What plans have you got for the future? We will continue to find new and exciting fabrics for our luxury footmuffs. We’re currently developing coordinating pushchair hoods and buggy liners for the summer months. We know mums want their buggies to look stylish and will continue to create a range of fabulous products for them!
What makes Gentle Baby Things unique? It’s often hard to find clothes that are stylish but also fairly made and kind to the planet. We believe being gentle to the planet isn’t just being eco-conscious; inspired by Charlotte’s background in International Development, we give 10% of our profit to charities that aim to make the world a gentler place for mothers and children. How does running a business fit around a busy home life? The great thing about starting a business is with the internet you can work any time of day or night... it’s much easier to fit around family life now and although there is a lot of juggling and multitasking we enjoy the variety. We also have amazing family who have helped us out tremendously. What plans have you got for the future? Expanding our collection of popular British brands and exciting new ranges from Europe. Ultimately we hope to reach further afield to support artisan co-operatives in the developing world.
Lulubaby Louisa van den Bergh www.lulubaby.co.uk
Jacque Bunton www.fingerprintart.me.uk
Nick Farnsworth www.littlechamp.co.uk
Natalie Martinez www.nataliemartinezphotography.com
For over 20 years Jacque Bunton worked in the design business. After being made redundant she realised how constrained her creativity had been in the commercial industry. Having trained in graphic design, Jacque has always enjoyed working on her personal art projects and was soon encouraged by friends who had seen her fingerprint artwork to market her brand of design.
In 2011 Nick’s daughter was born, and after searching for sports themed toys he soon found it was a limited market. Everything he stumbled across seemed to be gender bias. This inspired him to develop his own collection of gender generic sports themed sensory toys, and after a year of development, research, testing and being spurred on by the London Olympics, Little Champ was launched in autumn 2012.
Having completed an internship in the Art department at Vogue, Natalie Martinez was inspired by the work of great fashion photographers in the industry and soon realised what a great creative outlet photography can be. Natalie had always enjoyed taking pictures of babies and children; exploring their sense of presence and personality. Pining for a creative career, Natalie made her photography business a reality,
What makes Fingerprint Art unique? Fingerprint Art takes an image of the unquestionably unique fingerprint, and from this creates a truly individual piece of art, using a wide palette of designs and colours that suit your décor and taste. Produced on a quality medium the artwork will look good on your wall, mantelpiece or simply provide a truly personal gift for a loved one. How does running a business fit around family life? I have found running a business very organic, my family have often been my inspiration. After all, my art starts as representation of a loved one and therefore I couldn’t have created the pieces without them. The business has grown with the family; there is a healthy crossover between both areas of my life. What plans have you got for the future? I hope to broaden the range of mediums for Fingerprint Art and thus offer a greater diversity of the use of this image. There is the potential to produce something to appeal to every individual. After all, every patron provides an opportunity to create a new unique piece. Fingerprint Art is as varied as the fingerprints from which they stem, the possibilities are endless.
What makes Little Champ unique? There’s currently nothing else like this on the market. The colours stimulate children and each toy has its own character with a smiling face; they’re a great way to introduce your little ones to sport. Mum and dad can enjoy interactive play or let their babies have fun by themselves; squeaking, squidging and rattling. What better way to learn hand-eye coordination than a tennis racket or golf club? The football and rugby ball both contain chime balls, making it easier to catch. It’s the same principle as the special football used by Para-Olympians at London 2012, but adapted for babies. How does running a business fit around family life? It’s difficult working around family life with a 2 year old and newborn, however it’s great working on something I love doing and, of course, having my very own in-house product testers! What plans have you got for the future? We’re currently looking at expanding the Little Champ range. We have a great team, brilliant ideas and we have some really cute baby products lined up for 2014. Watch this space.
What makes NLM Photography unique? I like to think my desire and enthusiasm to get the best results from my work is what makes me unique. I truly enjoy what I do and I see each little person as a brand new challenge. It doesn’t always come easy for little ones to have their photo taken, I always take time to put them at ease, which always gets the very best results. I am very proud of my work and my business, and this will always show in my photography. How does running a business fit around family life? Photography work is very flexible, there are no set working days, so I can often fit my bookings around my availability which is a big plus. What plans have you got for the future? I have just started to branch out into the wonderful world of wedding photography. It has proved to be incredibly challenging but I love the results and the beautiful images that can be captured. I would love to continue with my baby and child photography alongside, photography is a very fulfilling career!
Claire Payne www.fablittleshop.com
Sally Preston www.kiddylicious.co.uk
Named after Claire’s three children (Florence, Amelia and Betsy), Fab Little Shop’s main inspiration derived from all three of Claire’s girls. A lot of time had been spent finding something different for them to wear, to brighten up their nurseries or to give as a gift. After admitting that she was envious of many family and friends’ delightful purchases, Claire set up Fab Little Shop to work as a platform selling site dedicated to little people and Fab products.
As an experienced food scientist who started her career with 11 years at Marks and Spencer, Sally was well placed to challenge the baby food industry and the quality of the food we feed our babies and young children when she became a mum to Hannah and Jack.
What makes Fab Little Shop unique? It’s a unique online children’s marketplace. We have the biggest range of products carefully selected for little people, made in Britain. We champion talented artists whether established or emerging, small boutiques and exciting new products. All of our products are produced to a high quality with a twist on the traditional. How does running a business fit around family life? Fab Little Shop started back in 2008, but falling pregnant with twins in 2010 meant all plans were put on the shelf. The twins are two now, so I have more time and independence to work. As a mum of three beautiful little females I have total admiration and support for mums working from home with their children by their side, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Fab Little Shop was launched on the twins’ birthday so I’ll never forget how far I have come. What plans have you got for the future? We have a number of great plans for Fab Little Shop, some are a little bit of a secret but if you ask one of my children, they will probably tell you.
What makes Kiddylicious unique? I founded Babylicious in 2002 – frozen baby food that copies what mums do at home; Kiddylicious (the first toddler meal range) followed when mums asked me what they should feed their babies when they were 11-12 months old. The brand has expanded being the first fruitbased UK snacking range for toddlers – we now sell Fruit and Vegetable crisps, Fruit Wriggles and Smoothie Melts to every major supermarket across the UK (sold from the baby aisles) and in the last 12 months has doubled their market share with new ranges being launch this summer. How does running a business fit around family life? Family comes first for the whole team. I’m happy for people to take time off for sports days or school assemblies; everyone makes up the time so the job gets done. I’ve a great work/life balance. I see Hannah and Jack every morning for breakfast, check emails and walk our dog - putting me in good stead for a busy day at the office. In the evening we sit down as a family and have dinner together. What plans have you got for the future? My ambitions are to expand and this is imminent. Kiddylicious snacks are about to be launched in the US and we’re just about to air our first TV ad on Nick jr.
Faye & Lou Faye Norton and Lucinda de Watteville www.fayeandlou.co.uk
Inspiration struck whilst Faye and Lou were working at an orphanage in India. They were constantly coming up with solutions to problems they faced in the orphanage, testing their combined 40 years of childcare knowledge. Putting their valuable experience to use they created their own products. What makes Faye & Lou unique? Being nannies that have set up a business is quite unique. Our own children have helped with the design and development of the products. Years of working with different families gave us a unique insight in to what parents need. Being perfectionists, we wanted to make our products to the highest, long-lasting standard - simple but stylish and needed by mothers! How does running a business fit around a busy home life? We both have to fit work around caring for our children and this can be very challenging. We’re constantly messaging each other. Faye was even emailing from her hospital bed after giving birth. We couldn’t live without our phones! Our team’s invaluable and all work incredibly hard which has been a huge help to us both. What plans have you got for the future? We’re very excited about new products planned to launch over the next year. Including some new fabric designs to our Breastfeeding Butterfly range and introducing more beautiful coloured muslin products. We’re keen to develop social media coverage. We love our Facebook page as we can talk and advise our customers on a personal level.
Fab Little Shop