AYLA-Maternity-Blog-Kick-Ass-Biz-Mama-Bronwyn Howell-Retrobub-Profile

Dear Ladies,

Today’s amazing business woman is so modest about her achievements, it makes me cry out in pain! For over 20 years she has been designing and producing a range of the cutest baby wear clothing, when most other people in the fashion industry have chosen to get someone else to do it for them, or have gone off-shore.

My hat goes off to you Bronwyn – it is so rare to find someone else ‘crazy’ enough to make all their own designs – you are massive inspiration to me. Thank you!



AYLA-Maternity-Blog-Kick-Ass-Biz-Mama-Bronwyn Howell-Retrobub-Products

Tell us about your business – when did you start it and what is it all about?

I started 20 years ago – can you believe it ! I make childrens wear with a focus on baby wear – under the label Retrobub.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired after the birth of my daughter. I had a background in fashion design and was appaulled by how boring childrens wear, and babywear in particular, was. So I set out to produce a range of babywear that was fun and fashionable. I quickly found that people where looking for baby clothes that where cute enough to give as a gift to people expecting, but they didn’t know the gender of the baby, so I started with a range of gender-neutral babywear to fulfill this need.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

It wasn’t when I was just starting off, but a few years in, my accountant gave me a talking to about paying myself properly. It is very easy to not include every hour you work into your pricing, but in the end you are just exploiting yourself. If something is too expensive, then you have to find a way to make it cheaper (less detail, cheaper materials, made in a more time efficent way) – you can’t just make the price lower and rip yourself off. And if you can’t get the price down, then its not a profitable product and maybe you should scrap it and concentrate on an item you can make more profit on.

AYLA-Maternity-Blog-Kick-Ass-Biz-Mama-Bronwyn Howell-Retrobub-Child

What was the most difficult part about starting your business?

All the business stuff. I am a designer and creative and I find that side is my strength, but all the things that make up the other aspects of running a business are very difficult.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned about running your business?

To listen to customers, but to take their comments with a grain of salt. Customers and people are always giving you advice, but they do so very flippantly. I have learnt the hard way that customers that like your product just buy it, they don’t need to talk about it. But people who give you lots of advice, saying “you should make this…”, don’t actually share your vision, and are not the best people to listen too. Listen to your sales, and work on the things that are selling.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business? 

Time and weekends !! Always working weekends selling at markets has affected my social life, and people think I am crazy when I ask if they want to do something on a Monday which is my day off.

Also business can be good but it can be slow at times too and cash flow can be a real problem.

What is one thing you wish you had of known before you started your business?

How hard it is, but if i did I never would of started! As I said before, my strength is the design and creative aspects, and in hindsight, I would of tried to find a partner for the business that had strengths in the other areas of admistration.

AYLA-Maternity-Blog-Kick-Ass-Biz-Mama-Bronwyn Howell-Retrobub-Baby

What has been your biggest success so far?

I don’t think I have had any success (Collette’s note: Bronwyn is WAY too modest, go and check out the quality of her work every third Sunday of the month, at the Shirt & Skirt Market at the Abbotsford Convent)  – it is a work in process.

After a long day/night/week what do you do to unwind?

I like to spend time with friends and family, at the beach and dining out.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I would like to see the online store to grow.

My Zero Waste Challenge


Dear Ladies,

So it has been almost 6 months since I started my zero waste challenge and I thought that it might be time to share the results…and ‘fess up to my experience.

My original aim was to limit the waste I got rid of in the whole year, to only one pasta sauce bottle. Ambitious, yes, but that’s just me! So how did I do and what have I learnt? Well, it is funny how when you start collecting something like your own waste, you can really start to evaluate some of the choices you make in life, and whether or not they are good ones.

Yes, I made it look a little bit pretty…but really, it isn’t. Most of this stuff will not break down in my lifetime and will just end up clogging up the earth.


Here is what my waste mainly consists of and what it made me think about:

  • beer bottle caps – ok, so these weren’t really mine – I have a beer-drinking Danish boyfriend to thank for them, plus a few other dinner parties with other males, but it did make me wonder if there was something I could make out of them – anyone have any suggestions?
  • medications – things like paracetamol that come in non-recyclable blister packs. Why can’t they come in containers and pure pill form?
  • lighters – again, a relic from a previous boyfriend who left them in my house. They will not return again – matches all the way!
  • tea light candles – this was a funny one, cos I had quite a few to get rid of, but again, they won’t be coming back. Do you know how easy candles are to make yourself? And how many amazing people sell them at every market across the world?
  • iPhone accessories – I am pretty sure we all have a box of these lying around somewhere, collecting dust. It was my headphones that completely died this time, but this will be an ongoing problem until they start offering recycling at each of their stores.
  • toothpaste tubes – fortunately I had stopped using big ones of these a while back, but I still had a couple travel-sized ones floating around. They are so unnecessary when you can make your own for less than $1 a month!
  • gift cards – this is a tough one, because they are mostly given to me by other people, but perhaps you call consider getting an email version or a printing something out on paper instead of buying plastic? Better still, just give cash and let people decide what they want to do with it.
My worm ‘cafe’

So how did I manage to fit my waste into such a small container? Well there are lots of ways you can start preparing for your own challenge – which I did about 12 months ago:

  • stop buying and start making – everything! And I mean everything! Toothpaste, deodorant, washing powder, dishwashing liquid – you name it, I make it these days. And the best part? It costs SO much less than what you get charged for in stores, when buying pre-made items, and uses so much less packaging.
  • reuse everything – from wrapping paper, cards, ribbon to tin cans (for plants, such cute presents), glass jars (for storage) and more.
  • buy glass not plastic – it lasts and can be reused for other things, or, at worst, recycled and turned into more glass!
  • recycle, recycle, recycle – don’t be lazy, even the plastic bags and wrap can be recycled these days (Coles has a green return bin at the front of each store for all plastic bags and packaging – just give it a rinse if it has been in contact with food that might go off)
  • avoid plastic, single-use items – things like cutlery, plates, bags…but the further you go, the more you will start to see if you avoid the quick fix items, you will avoid the waste (like drinking water or lying down if you have a headache, instead of taking Panadol from disposable packet)
  • get yourself some worms – they will eat through most of your kitchen scraps and also provide you will lots of nutrients to put back in your garden. Go worms!




DIY Dishwashing Liquid


Dear Ladies,

Now, I will admit it, I do like to clean. But about a year or so ago I realised that I was using too much liquid soap after I drank out of a glass that hadn’t been rinsed properly, and ruined a glass of good wine with a frothy head. Even though I was using the ‘environmentally-friendly’ dishwashing liquid that doesn’t cost that much, it also got me thinking that there had to be a better way – using less soap and also less plastic. So here goes!




What you need:

  • 6 tablespoons of castille soap
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable glycerin
  • empty glass bottle (I actually threw out the bottle too and started using a spray to use less soap – it coats the dirt evenly rather than your hands in the water!)
  • 2 cups of cold water (I add a little more when I use it in the spray bottle)
  • 5 drops of your favourite essential oil – optional, but oh-so-lovely!

How to make it:

  • Combine all ingredients in bottle.
  • Shake to mix, then pump and use!



Dear Ladies,

It can be a pretty overwhelming thing, shopping for clothes when you are pregnant and when your body is growing in all sorts of weird ways. And if you don’t know what to look for, it can end up costing you a lot of money! But just to make it easy, we have narrowed it down to three easy, wear-with-anything pieces you can be sure will last with you over the winter months and beyond!



  1. The Draped Cardigan – great for softening your curves, hiding those extra bits bits and keeping you warm! Choose cardigans that have cascade fronts or interesting details to steer peoples eyes away from your bump.


  1. The Ruched Top – tuck it in or leave it out, this stretchy staple should allow you to keep growing, with its rushed sides. These little wrinkles across your body will also provide a flattering distraction that will help prevent the fully-inflated ‘basketball’ bump affect.

AYLA-Maternity-Summer-2015-Lookbook Navy Split Skirt.Vanilla Ruched Top.Navy Dr

  1. The Stretchy Legging – our top seller, with good reason! You can dress them up, down or just wear them to bed. They will replace every other pair of pants, shorts or skirt in your wardrobe, so make sure they have at least 10% stretch so they can grown with you. And look for natural fibres like our modal, bamboo or tencel.





DIY Toothpaste


Dear Ladies,

This is perhaps the easiest and cheapest recipe of all the ones I use, and also the first I started with on my zero waste journey – toothpaste. It has only two ingredients, two steps, and will replace about $2 worth of spending every week…which is an extra 25 coffees a year.

Save that money and your health and make your own! You don’t need all those other ingredients and packaging to look after your teeth.



What you need:

  • bi-carb soda – a couple of tablespoons will be enough
  • a dash of water – to make a paste
  • an empty glass container – wide enough to fit your toothbrush

How to make it:

  • Place all ingredients in container.
  • Shake or stir together with your toothbrush and use twice daily!
  • A little note: after many years of eating ‘minty’ toothpaste, you will no doubt be used to this taste and the sweetness manufacturers add – if the plain bicarb taste is too much to handle at first, add a couple of drops of peppermint DoTerra essential oil (or any other edible brand) or any other flavour you like and munch away! After a while, you probably won’t bother.

STORE REVIEW – About Life, Port Melbourne


Name of store: About Life

Where is it located:  Port Melbourne, Victoria (with other stores in Sydney and NSW)

What did you like about it: It is full of healthy, organic, ethical and sustainable food options, plus a juice bar and lots of other take away food options.

Would you recommend it to friends/family and why:

Yes, definitely! In fact, I have already visited its sister store in Surry Hills. I love all their homemade dips, meals and jams (especially the Chia & Raspberry one), plus their nut butter range.

Who do you think would like to use it: Anyone looking for healthy, conscious food, that is sick of the lack of choice at other supermarkets for real food.

What three words would you use to describe it:  Healthy, Creative, Delicious!

Want to try it for yourself? Check out the About Life website for locations.



(in the essence of full disclosure, we list this so you know where they come from!)

Name: Collette Swindells (AYLA Maternity Founder & Designer)

How do you spend your days? Working many different roles within AYLA Maternity – designer, writer, stylist, accountant, manager, the list goes on!

How do you spend your weekends? Sleeping in, catching up with friends and at the occasional market, selling AYLA Maternity‘s clothing.

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be and why? My favourite architect – Oscar Niemeyer. He worked almost until he passed away, aged 105 and is a great inspiration in life and design to me.

DIY Surface Spray

AYLA-Maternity-Blog-DIY-Surface-Spray-Ingredients copy

Dear Ladies,

It really doesn’t get any easier or cheaper than this! I don’t care how many times Coles reduces the price on your Spray’n’Swipe, if you wouldn’t dare drink it, why are you putting it on your food preparation benches?



AYLA-Maternity-Blog-DIY-Surface-Spray-Final-Bottle copy

What you need:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 tablespoons of castille soap
  • empty spray bottle
  • 15 drops of your favourite essential oil – optional, but oh-so-lovely!

How to make it:

  • Combine all ingredients in spray bottle.
  • Shake to mix, then spray to use!