KICK ASS BIZ MAMA #19 – BRONWYN HOWELL, RETROBUB

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!

Collette

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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.

Bump Style: 4 Ways To Wear Your Leggings

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Dear Ladies,

I am so excited to finally share this post with you! It was such a fun photo shoot to do, with a very patient and very pregnant model Sam, and the help of my super-intern staff, photographer Simone Delponte and some amazing other Melbourne makers and designers. While they may not be your pre-pregnant pant of choice, leggings are definitely your best friend when it comes to dressing your bump.

Just make sure you buy a comfortable pair – like our soft-as-clouds Black Modal ones!

Collette

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Look One: casual lunch with friends, wearing AYLA Maternity Black Modal Leggings, Zapas Shoes, Truso Tote Bag, Uimi Lulu Shrug, Limedrop bangle & necklace.
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Look Two: brunch with friends wearing AYLA Maternity Black Modal Leggings, AYLA Maternity Floral Bamboo Singlet, Truso clutch, Post Sole Studio wedges, Limedrop necklace.
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Look Three: keeping warm in winter wearing AYLA Maternity Black Modal Leggings, AYLA Maternity Vanilla Bamboo Ruched Top, Post Sole Studio patent brogues, Uimi hat & shrug, Kitty Kat clutch, Kisah necklace.
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Look Four: date night wearing AYLA Maternity Black Modal Leggings, Uimi dress, Zapas shoes, Truso clutch, Kisah necklace.

Kick Ass Biz Mama #13 – Gabriella Kay-Domin, Olivia Blue Designs

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Gabriella Kay Domin Profile

Dear Ladies,

Check out these colours! When we were looking for some more amazing local makers to work with on our latest photoshoot, Gabriella’s handmade jewellery stood out so clearly. Not only does it make us happy wearing it, but we love that she used her daughter’s name for it.

How can you not love Lilac Raindrops?!

Collette

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AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Gabriella Kay Domin Necklaces

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

I started Olivia Blue Designs in mid-2015, making polymer clay jewellery and original paintings and prints. My jewellery and art is colourful and full of patterns, and is inspired by the Australian coastal landscape and my love of the ocean, along with interior and fashion design. I’m also a trained visual arts teacher, and while I love teaching, I want to share my love for colour and design with the wider public, and to create beautiful and affordable pieces of jewellery and art for the home.

What inspired you to start your business?

I’ve always wanted to have my own business, and making art and jewellery is my passion. I begun making jewellery a few years ago, giving necklaces to friends and family for presents, and was always being told I should start selling the necklaces and my art. However painting and making jewellery was put on hold after the birth of my first child, Olivia Leilani in 2014. It took well over a year to have the time to myself to begin making art and jewellery again, but finally was able to set up the business when Olivia was about 18 months old.

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

Navigating social media has been key for getting Olivia Blue Designs started. Getting a website set up quickly as well as having a strong social media presence has been an integral part of my business running well, especially as I work from home and am not able to be physically present at markets at the moment.

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Gabriella Kay Domin Earrings Bowl

What was the most difficult part about starting your business?

Starting a business alongside being a new mother certainly isn’t easy! Creating handmade items is very satisfying but also time-consuming. So when working from home, time management with a toddler can be difficult – syncing sleep times with making beads doesn’t always work out as planned.

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

It takes complete dedication, and can’t be ‘half-done’ – taking breaks from it isn’t easy, physically and mentally. Even just a long weekend away will still have me constantly thinking, designing and emailing. And while it is a creative business, there is so much more to running a business than just the actual creation of products, which can be very hard to do all by myself.

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

Every spare minute that my daughter will allow I tend to be working – during her nap times and in the evenings, as well as when she’s happy to occupy herself  for long enough periods of time (I guess the housework has suffered…oops!). I’m also 8 months pregnant now (due early April) so I guess i’ve sacrificed precious sleep and rest time as well!

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Gabriella Kay Domin Family Photo

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

I wish I had started it earlier and that I had more marketing knowledge. Coming from a completely creative training background, business and marketing skills and knowledge has been self-taught and discovered along the way.

What has been your biggest success so far?

I love receiving custom orders – having someone see my work and allowing me to create something new for them is a privilege. It lets me be creative and experimental and often work with colours and designs I may not have used in my own collections.

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

If I can get into the ocean pool and do some laps or go for a walk on the beach, I’m a happy wife and mother! We’re lucky to live very close to the beach in Sydney so our afternoons and weekends are spent there, letting Olivia splash around and just taking it easy before baby number two arrives very soon.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years, I imagine to be making lots more jewellery but also working on larger artworks.  I’d love to expand the business and be stocked in various jewellery/clothing/homeware stores, as well as being open to collaborations with other Australian designers in fashion and homewares. In 5 years time my kids will be starting school, which should allow for much more time to be dedicated to my business.

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Gabriella Kay Domin Two Necklaces

Kick Ass Biz Mama #12 – Kim & Kath, The Possibility Project

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama The Possibility Project Profile Picture

Dear Ladies,

I met today’s Kick Ass Biz Mamas by chance, after I posted on an ethical clothing group on Facebook asking if anyone had products they would like to feature alongside my clothing. And boy was I happy I did! A remarkable couple of women who are so full of energy, passion and belief for helping others and making a difference. They are an inspiration to us all, using their privilege in Australia to make a difference overseas.

I have a lot to learn from such amazing women!

Collette

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AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mamas The Possibility Project Clothing Range

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

Kath and I have created a social enterprise called The Possibility Project, through which we collaborate with slum communities in India and together we are building projects that deliver dignified living through socially conscious work. We have a product range called slumwear108 – these reflect three things that we want to nurture in all communities – contribution of a persons skills, the creative spirit and a sense of community.

What inspired you to start your business?

The business is a natural extension of our passions, mixed with the life-cycle we are in. I have four children, and Kath has three – ranging from 18 to nice. As all of us get older, we have much more time to dedicate to what has wider purpose and joy in our lives. I loved being a high school business teacher, and Kath is a designer, so we put these gifts together to create a social enterprise delivering greater social justice – it just made sense on every level.

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

I wouldn’t say our husbands were skeptical but they were ‘realistic’ and every bit of advice was helpful in terms of strengthening our own belief in ourselves. They didn’t get us or what we were doing – so we knew we were on the right track – because essentially we are peaceful rebels!

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama The Possibility Project Working

What was the most difficult part about starting your business?

Honestly – there was no difficulty. It has never been easier to start something – Google is our best friend! The trick is to sustain your business, but if you hear one of our presentations you will understand how we are able to sustain ourselves and our families simply from the attitudes we hold. At the end of the day, your attitude is the only thing you have to make things not difficult.

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

Yes! Have faith in what expands your heart. I am more mental approach than Kath – I would go down the conventional ways of doing business, and it was neither effective nor efficient, and it was usually  joyless – but every time we have followed our hearts, the impacts have been far greater than we ever thought of.

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

None – what is needed is ‘surrender’ not sacrifice! Think of giving over stuff rather than giving up – this way you are usually letting go of all the negative emotions that do arise. Of course as mums we could feel guilty about missing school things when we travel – but what purpose would that truly hold? If you look at what we do, our kids are so proud and are so supportive because it brings such joy to so many (especially ourselves).

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Asss Biz Mama The Possibility Project Quote Women

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

Having taught business and economics for over 20 years I probably ‘knew’ too much and that sometimes stifled inspiration and creativity. The process has been all about un-learning actually, and just doing. If you are comfortable with the idea of failure – then there is nothing you need to learn!

What has been your biggest success so far?

The establishment of Sparrow Sanitation, which is our project that makes compostable sanitary pads for slum communities and building the vocational education program that goes along with that. It is still in early stages and we need all the support we can get, but we absolutely believe in what we are doing.

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

Simple. Kath likes a beer and I like a Pepsi! Being with our teenage kids and their friends is wonderful too, they have a beautiful energy that reminds you of both the strengths and fragilities of what it means to be human – it is humbling.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

We have no idea – we just know that if it feels divine – we will be doing it.

 

Why We Use Modal, Tencel & Bamboo Fabrics (and what the hell are they?)

AYLA Maternity Website Summer 2015 Fabric Collage

Dear Ladies,

You might have noticed that I am pretty proud to be using fabrics that are mostly made in Melbourne – but apart from being happy to support other Australian businesses, it is also because I believe the fabrics they make are actually the best for pregnancy. Made from sustainably harvested trees, modal and tencel might not be familiar names to you yet, but they are definitely the best option when it comes to maternity wear.

Collette

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So you probably know bamboo

Yes, it is the stuff that features heavily in Chinese king fu movies – especially when they need to prove how limber their skills are, by deftly balancing on it. But just so you are sure, I will recap. Bamboo is a natural textile that is made from the pulp of bamboo grass. It is harvested naturally, without the use of pesticides, and once it is reduced down to a yarn, it is spun into fabric and used to make super light, cool-to-touch clothing. Goodbye hot flushes!

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As soft and light as a cloud – AYLA Maternity Vanilla (bamboo) Ruched Top

 

 

But what exactly is modal?

Modal is a type of rayon or pulped cellulose fibre (like bamboo) that is made instead from beech trees. The type of modal yarn that my fabric supplier in Melbourne sources is also sustainably harvested without the use of pesticides, and uses very little water because the trees are known to grow quickly, tall and straight. It’s fibre is malleable and soft, and works well over expanding pregnant bumps when combined with stretchy elastane. (And the weight of fabric we use means there are no fleshy parts showing through!)

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AYLA Maternity Black Modal Leggings – super soft & stretchy

And Mr Tencel?

Well this is what we make the majority of our clothing out of at the moment, because the tencel we use – all you Australians will love to hear – is actually made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees. Super durable and able to withstand long periods without water, the trees grow quickly, without harsh pesticides, because they are so hardy and resistant to disease.  But this doesn’t stop the fabric made from its yarn from being softer than silk, and cooler than linen. Oh, and did I mention it is also more absorbent than cotton? When it comes to pregnancy, it doesn’t get much better than this for keeping you comfortable, cool and sexy!

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AYLA Maternity Navy Split Skirt & Navy Cascade Cardigan – both made with a soft-drape, stretch tencel fabric

 

 

 

Styling Your Bump: With Belts

Dear Ladies,

I know it might sound strange to tell you to draw attention to the fastest growing part of your body during pregnancy…but trust me on this! When your stomach is no longer your own and you are still trying to feel good about yourself in the mirror, belts will quickly become your new best friend. Not only can they help support your back – underneath and on top of clothing – but they can also help create a waist when you no longer have one, and distract the eye away from other more rounded areas on your body!

Collette

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So what belts should you aim for when you are pregnant?

  1. The Skinny Belt – wear it around your thinnest part, with loose or high-fitting clothing and usually in between your bust and your bump. Opt for a bold colour that draws even more attention to…

AYLA Maternity Summer 2015 Lookbook Bamboo Floral Top.Bamboo Check Kimono.Navy Fishtail Skirt.Caroline O'Neill

2. The Thick Obi Belt (which basically it just ties up at the back or can be pinned at the front with a cute brooch or clip) – again, wear this around your thinnest part and opt for a darker colour that draws your eyes in, and away from any lumps or bumps.

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3. The Double Belt – make it a real statement and double it up – preferably with two skinny belts. When you are pregnant, the old adage of ‘more is more’ definitely rings true…so own your new curves and make them your greatest accessory.

AYLA Maternity Summer 2015 Lookbook Floral Circle Skirt.Black Tencel Tshirt. Floral Camisole Singlet

 

Kick Ass Biz Mama #9 – Prerona Baruah, Pip Organic Clothing

Dear Ladies,

Today’s amazing business lady is now a personal friend of mine, after we were introduced by a mutual girlfriend. I am constantly inspired by her ability to juggle motherhood, a career in Finance and a successful small business – all with an amazing smile on her face.

Thanks for sharing your experience Prerona!

Collette

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Kick Ass Biz Mamas #9 – Prerona Baruah, Pip Organic Clothing

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Prerona Baruah Pip Organic Prerona Profile
Prerona Baruah, owner and designer of Pip Organic Clothing

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

Pip Organic Clothing was conceived when I was home on maternity leave with my first born in 2012. I had a lot of time to think and use all my skills in graphic design, photography and finance. After doing heaps of research on organic clothing, I started designing at home and coming  with my first collection.

I always wanted to start something on my own and ultimately be my own boss! I found working for someone else very restricting in my creative journey and needed an outlet. I found my real passion after years of dabbling in advertising, photography and graphic design and finance. Pip gives me the opportunity to use all these skills together which is ultimately very satisfying.

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

The best advice that I got was from Anthony Darcy (Owner of Little Darcy) “You cannot please everyone! You have to do what you think is right and are passionate about.” I have taken this piece of advice very seriously!

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Prerona Baruah Pip Organic Watermelon Dress
Watermelon short-sleeve dress, from Pip Organic Clothing’s latest collection

What was the most difficult part about starting your business?

Finding a reliable and trustworthy manufacturer was the most difficult part of my business. But once you make your connection, you are good to go!

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

Never give up, and keep trying no matter what. As absurd as it sounds but failing is the only way one learns how to be successful in business. And never listen to anyone who says you can’t do it.

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

Time away from my family has been the biggest sacrifice for me, as I work full time in Finance, and mostly work on my business during weekends.

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Prerona Baruah Pip Organic Prerona with Daughter
Relaxing with her daughter

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

It requires significant amount of financial investment to grow.

What has been your biggest success so far?

My range to be stored in retail stores across Australia, NZ and the US.

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

To spend some quality time with my 3 year old, and unwind with a glass of wine.

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Prerona Baruah Pip Organic Chevron Pants Top
Monochrome pants & Triangle short-sleeved t-shirt from Pip Organic Clothing’s current collection

 

What other businesses/people or things currently inspire you?

I have been inspired by small businesses such as Sapling Child, Huxbaby and Triangl swimwear.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would like to expand my business across various continents, and also start a base in India (**where Prerona is originally from) which is a burgeoning market for designer baby clothes.

AYLA Maternity Blog Kick Ass Biz Mama Prerona Baruah Pip Organic Banana Jumpsuit
Banana romper from Pip Organic Clothing’s current collection