"It’s been a real rollercoaster"

with Laura Crawford from Mama Bamboo

Show notes:

Another mum who found that the corporate world just wasn’t for her after having kids, Laura was inspired to create Mama Bamboo when she couldn’t find a sustainable nappy that fit in with her lifestyle.

Laura waited until her children were at school/nursery before committing to her business idea, and from there in her words, “it’s been a real rollercoaster”. From 300% growth in her first years of business, to being hamstrung by skyrocketing freighting costs (hello 700% increase!) and considering closure, Laura and her team have been through it.

We talked about the pressure on mums to be perfect, whether that’s from social media, or just ourselves.

We talked about having it all, and whether that’s ever really possible.

And Laura shared some valuable insights on EIS share equity funding, and how that helped her business.

I will personally be applying for a job at Mama Bamboo, as will all the mums in Hertfordshire – their ways of working sounded absolutely utopian, and I loved Laura’s “my girls just don’t work that way” when it comes to push back from suppliers and partners.


Resources that Laura mentioned:

Triodos Ethical Bank
Professor Lynda Gratton
More information on EIS

 

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

 

About Laura Crawford and Mama Bamboo:

Laura Crawford, mother-of-two from Hertfordshire, is the CEO and Founder of Mama Bamboo

Horrified with the impact 3 billion nappies and 11 billion wet wipes a year were having in the UK, Laura Crawford, decided not to return to her previous role as a Management Consultant in the Banking industry after her maternity leave, but to launch her own B-Corp sustainable business. Born from the idea that our babies’ should not have to wear cheap plastic and start their early lives negatively impacting their future world, Laura developed a healthier, more natural, sustainable nappy and wet wipe.

Laura has grown the company to its present £1m turnover with a strong loyal subscriber base. The company has benefitted from +£1 million of investment and recently expanded the product range and launched a marketing campaign to make the brand more mainstream and available.

Laura continues to manage the product range development and certifications, alongside the wider company strategy, sales and marketing activities. Her focus extends beyond the development of greener products, to the global issue of circularity for nappies and wipes; running the #thenappyrevolution campaign and partnering with UCL, Imperial College, Hompost, Envar and Green Bums, Laura aims to implement a nationwide solution to ensure no compostable product goes into the landfill waste stream in future.

Laura’s Links:

Website
Instagram
Facebook
Youtube

Transcript:

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:28):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business Owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and it’s my pleasure to have Laura Crawford, mother of two from Hartfordshire and the CEO and founder of Mama Bamboo. Horrified with the impact 3 billion nappies and 11 billion wet wipes a year were having in the UK, Laura Crawford decided not to return to her previous role as a management consultant in the banking industry after her maternity leave, but to launch her own B Corp sustainable business. Laura has grown the company to its present, 1 million turnover with a strong loyal subscriber base. The company has benefited from 1 million of investments and recently expanded the product range and launched a marketing campaign to take the brand more mainstream and available. Laura is supported by a strong team of like-minded staff, not least her oldest friend from university, Jennie Potts, the company chief operating officer. Well, Laura, welcome. I mean, wow, what a business you’ve built.

Laura (01:26):
Thank you. It’s absolutely lovely to be here today.

Caroline (01:28):
Well, how I tend to, to start these is just to find out a little bit more about you. You’re a management consultant. You had a very different background to what you do now. So tell us a bit about your career journey that led you to being a business owner.

Laura (01:40):
Really my career journey prior to starting Mama Bamboo almost had no relation to starting Mama Bamboo. I worked in the banking sector, I was a management consultant. I worked on a lot of IT projects and change projects. Yeah, I mean it definitely taught me a lot about business and strategy and business resilience and basically just how to get stuff done in the corporate kind of world, but really it didn’t connect to starting your own brand or all the kind of product development and marketing that I’ve learned along the way of being an independent brand owner. You’re a jack of all trades when you start your own business, but I guess it was one of the defining things that resulted in me starting my own business because I was working in London and quite often travelling and I knew that I did 60, 70 hours a week and when my children were young, I couldn’t envision going back into that world while they were still little and I knew I wanted to do something different. I knew I wanted to just start something for myself and have a different kind of flexibility to my ongoing motherhood life.

Caroline (02:56):
Was that a bit of a shock for you to kind of realise, did you think knew this in the lead up while you were pregnant or was it a bit of a shock to you when you had kids that you were like, I can’t go back to this life that I once had.

Laura (03:08):
I think it was a bit of a shock because I’ve got to say, I think I was working so hard at the time that certainly with my first, I didn’t really think about what life was going to be like beyond I’m having a baby. Oh, okay. I didn’t read any books. I didn’t do the NCT class. I was just too busy. It literally was like I just continued my life getting a bit bigger until the day I had a baby and then I kind of went, oh, right now I’m a mother.

Caroline (03:39):
It was real.

Laura (03:41):
I probably didn’t do a lot of prep the first time round, but certainly things changed the minute I was a mum. I know not everybody has it, but I had that immediate, okay, my life has changed completely. I love this little thing so much and I never wanted to be away from her. I kept her home with me for the full four years. I didn’t even put her in nursery or playgroup until the very last minute. I hadn’t read the books, I didn’t know the words attachment parent or green parent or any of that. I just kind of instinctually knew I wanted to be home.

Caroline (04:17):
I love that, there was a lot with my first I didn’t read and I had a completely different parenting style, but at the same time it is still, I did trust my instincts a lot. I didn’t have friends who had kids. And so I think actually that’s quite freeing in some ways that I didn’t feel the pressure that I did for my second, like, oh, I should be feeding them broccoli the first time because that’s what everyone does.

Laura (04:39):
Mums are under so much pressure. I mean, I’m sort of glad mine are a little older now, so they’re eight and 10, and I wasn’t particularly much of a user of Facebook groups or social media at the time, and I think moms today are under more and more pressure can be quite polarised. And if you don’t do it my way, you are an evil mother actually. It can be quite vicious online and I think moms are just under so much pressure all the time to be perfect. But a lot of it comes down to instinct. Do you instinctively think you are doing the best thing for your child? Does it feel right for you and your family? There has to be a reality check and of realism into which way you parent and how it works for your life. I think we’re always too judgmental of ourselves and of others.

Caroline (05:33):
I think that’s such a good point. At the time of recording this recently, there was this huge article coming out about shouting at your kids, and then it’s the sort of parents that get targeted as well. Basically us, we are the ones who are what’s so worried and so making sure we’re doing the right things Also, while we might be in the early years and have hormones and trying to figure out being pregnant and breastfeeding and a toddler and all of that stuff, and it is, the pressure ends up being on the set, the people that are already really trying fucking hard to do a good job.

Laura (06:04):
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? If you are worrying about it, if you are thinking, am I doing a good job? Bingo, you are already a really good parent because you are thinking about it. You are the one that’s taking it on board though all the criticism and always feeling like you’re not quite cutting it.

Caroline (06:22):
Yeah, I know. And thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I do think it’s a really important thing to highlight right now is just social media is so heavy on that and it’s added this extra pressure to parenting of being an Instagram parent, being a calm parent, reducing screen time, all of that when sometimes we’re all just muddling through and hoping we’re doing the best job for our children. And also all people are different and your children will be different to other people’s children. Yes.

Laura (06:50):
And your family situation is different. I mean, so one of the reasons I started Mama Bamboo was I got clued into the environmental sustainability issue of nappies and wipes. By the time my first was actually about 18 months old, I knew nothing initially. As I said, I read no books, I just entered parenthood a little bit blindly, but I got clued in and I made this decision that I wanted to be a much greener parent when my second was born and I went all in and bought myself 30 reusable nappies and a load of reusable pullups because my other one was potty training at the time. And then my newborn came along and he screamed. He just screamed for the first three months. And breastfed like 24 7. Turns out he was tongue tied. So I was feeding, I was tired. My toddler was having a right little moody because I wasn’t paying her attention.

(07:49):
Potty training went out the window, she was crying, she was shouting, and then I was sitting in the laundry room kind of crying washing nappies, and my husband did just basically say stuff it go buy some normal nappies. Let’s just take one thing off your list and make this a little easier. And at the time I went and bought normal kind of plastic nappies and felt bad about it. And then he got really bad nappy rash and I kind of looked into the more natural nappies, but they tended to leak and the journey went on as it was. I landed on kind of using a bit of a cloth, a bit of plastic nappies, a bit of plant-based nappies at the time, and I kind of muddled my way through.

Caroline (08:33):
That’s great. You tried your best with several different options

Laura (08:36):
And I just kind of muddled it all up. And I even coined a phrase of combi-nappying.

(08:42):
Because when people said, what style of nappying were you doing? I was like, combination depending on the day, and it allowed me to get through that year. And it was only when I started sleeping and things got calm and I thought, you know what? I’m going to create my own nappy that actually does perform as I want it to, and it doesn’t leak and it’s very soft, but it is sustainable and it’s green and it doesn’t cause nappy rash. And that’s how Mama Bamboo got started. And certainly as the journey’s gone, so many of our parents now do take to combi napping this idea of I’ll do a bit of this and a bit of that and I will do my best, but don’t judge me because it doesn’t suit my lifestyle to go all out either which way.

(09:33):
Yeah, I love that. Combi nappying. We’re going to coin your term next.

Laura (09:37):
That’s my new term.

Caroline (09:39):
So tell me a bit about after your light bulb moment. I love asking this from product-based businesses, especially as your background was very much not that. That I think is something that’s so helpful for potential business owners out there. How did you go from idea to product kind of thing?

Laura (09:55):
Yeah, so because I was trying all the nappies, all the ranges and not quite finding what I wanted, I started researching what would you make nappies out of? And actually I found out that Asia used bamboo and has for 10 years and it has some brilliant properties to it. It’s naturally antibacterial, it’s super, super soft, it’s very sustainable. And it was kind of piecing it together going well, if you swapped that, oh, how about the plastic liner? There are new innovative films. You could use a buyer that, oh, right, let’s do that. And it was messing around with nappies and trying out all the different ones and thinking to myself, I like that. I don’t like that. I like that. What’s an alternative? And just doing a whole load of research now. It took me probably about nine months to come up with a design that I was like, I think that would work.

(10:53):
I think it’s a goer. And then I was sort of encouraged to get some samples made and I didn’t really know much about this, and I was kind of, how does one do that then? And I got guided by my father who did a lot of product design and importing and exporting type business. And I got guided by another company actually that did product sourcing and design. They really helped me through that process of going, right, you’ve got an idea. Let’s get as far as a prototype. Let’s get as far as two or three manufacturers that might work with you and that would fit your requirements of ethical eco companies. They’ve got the certifications, they’ve got the audits, et cetera. So we went through that process. And then it was only really when I got a prototype in my hand and tried it on my son.

Caroline (11:51):
I was going to say, did you try it on? Did you still have a child You could try it on.

Laura (11:55):
Yes. He was just in nappies. I was excellent, putting this on.

Caroline (11:59):
Does he have shares in the business as an early tester?

Laura (12:03):
Well, I used to use his image actually on all our packaging, but one day he’s either going to sue me or he’s going to request some royalties,

Caroline (12:12):
Yes.

Laura (12:13):
But yes, we tested the products out and I liked the products and I was like, you know what? I actually think this is a goer. I think this is a good thing. And then it came down to a lot of planning, financial forecasting and working out the basics of business. So I understood big corporate business, but I didn’t probably understand all the aspects of small business from the logistics of importing products, how does manufacturing work, quality assurance, how do you do VAT returns, how do you trademark your products? How do you plan your five years? How do you get a bank to give you money to start your business? I mean, the questions just kept coming. And I would say for the first two or three years, she probably, even still today, I learned something different. Every day, every day I Google something, I research something, I come across a question that I don’t know what I’m doing and I have to find the answers. And I actually love that. I love that I’ve learned so much in the last five years and just keep on learning. There’s no point when you suddenly sit there and think, I’m so prepared to start my own business. I’m ready. If you wait for that point, you’ll never do it. You just have to kind of do as much as you can, but then just go for it.

Caroline (13:44):
Love that. That’s fantastic advice. And I also love that you said you got help from your dad and this other person when it came to then all of those questions you had, did you have anyone else that you went to for help? Because I’m all about using your network and bringing people to help you.

Laura (13:59):
Yes, I absolutely did. So from the outset, I was working alone for about the first year, but then I wrote in my best friend, she lives quite close to me and she happened to not be working at the time. And I was like, Jennie you’ve got some time on your hands, come and help me. And I initially got her working at the logistics side of things and basically helping pack boxes and sort out importing goods and warehousing, which I didn’t know anything about. And she thought she had a little bit of a background. She’d worked at FedEx for a while, so she knew a little bit more about it. And I’ve got to say one of the best things was she did Chinese at university and lived in China for a year. So I was a bit like, Ooh, you are useful. Come here. So working with me and it’s been brilliant having a bestie that you enjoy spending time with and also you trust so much and who understands you don’t have all the answers and that you are trying to work it all out and therefore it’s okay that she’s trying to work it all out as well.

(15:11):
And we make mistakes all the time and we hold our hands and we go, oh yeah, I did that wrong. I’ve done that wrong, but that’s okay. We learn, we try again. We’ll figure it out together. So yeah, bringing her on was amazing. And then to fill out the team, I’ve got one of my NCT moms from the second time round.

Caroline (15:32):
Oh, you did NCT?

Laura (15:34):
Yeah, the second time round I actually did it. So we’ve got one from, she does our finances. Emma, who’s our customer service girl, is a school gate mom of Nicola. So they met at the school gate. And then our market manager, Jo, is one of the football moms from Saturday football club.

Caroline (15:54):
That’s

Laura (15:54):
Amazing. Which has been lovely actually to kind of build the network that way
Caroline (15:58):
With all moms from social networks.

Laura (16:00):
And what’s amazing is I realise when you sit at playgroups or the football moms or the school gate, you are often known as Rebecca’s mom for about two years before you finally get round to saying to the woman, Hey, what’s your actual name? And then it’s another two years before you go, what do you do? Or what did you do before you did this life? And the amount of time someone will say, oh, I was an account executive for Sony, or something really serious and high powered.

Caroline (16:32):
These people have amazing jobs and you are like, we’ve all become so-and-so’s mum, haven’t we?

Laura (16:38):
Yeah. And you realise when you get talking and once, twice they’ll say, but I didn’t go back to it because I couldn’t make it work with family life. And you realise this huge talent pool that’s just not being engaged with because they don’t want to work 60 and 70 hours a week or travel all over the place. They need more flexibility. They need to be able to work from home at times. So we kind of built an idea, which we haven’t sort of consolidated, but nobody in our business works all part-time. Even at this stage, five years down the line, we work from home two and three days a week. We only come into the office a couple of days and mostly just because we like to see one another and we make it work when school holidays come, there’s a lot more flexibility. We know everybody’s got kids at home. If anybody’s got to go to a school play or library reading time, we’re just like, yeah, that’s cool. Off you go because I’m doing it. Jenny’s doing it. So of course you can do it. That’s how we do it. If you

Caroline (17:44):
Can do it, then others around you should be able to do it. And have you had to bring in anything core hours or something like that for it? Or is it just not been needed?

Laura (17:54):
A little bit, but not really. I mean we try to certainly be available for customer service type queries between 10 and kind of two as a real, let’s try and cover at least this, but not really. And we try to get in the office once a week at least, but really that’s to gossip.

Caroline (18:14):
But that’s team building. It’s important

Laura (18:17):
Team building, but we flex it. And like I say, we’re probably, it’s easier when the kids are all at school, when school holiday comes, we have to give up a bit more flexibility. But equally Jennie and I do as well, so we understand.

Caroline (18:34):
I love that. I feel like there’s going to be loads of Hertfordshire based moms going, “got any new jobs?”

Laura (18:40):
Yeah. The only thing is it actually can sometimes, well I guess sometimes it makes us a wee bit slower to do certain things because we often come and go, oh no school run tough. We’ll talk to you tomorrow. For some companies it is a little bit a bit of strain and tension when they’re pushing us to be more available. And occasionally we have to push back and be like, I’m sorry, but my girls don’t work like that. So you are going to have to change your expectations of

Caroline (19:14):
Us. I love that. That’s fantastic. And it’s sticking to your values and things like that. And I love hearing the stories as well. I often hear of women or just anyone really go into business and they’re like, I need a co-founder or they need a Jennie kind of thing. Did it feel a risk at all or did it just feel so natural to do it?

Laura (19:31):
For me, it was an easy one. I was like, Jennie’s perfect and I’d love to work with her and I need help. And why would I not work with my bestie? Awesome. My husband was the one actually that went, Ooh, are you sure if this goes wrong, are you two going to fight and are you all going to fall apart and it’s going to be unpleasant? And he was quite concerned about it. So we talked about it and I think we were in a good place. So not only is she my oldest friend, so we’ve been friends since we were 19, proper babies. We’ve lived together before. So when we moved out of university, we moved in together and we lived together for three or four years. And there were times that we argued, there were times that we shouted at one another. There were times that we had all our blazing rounds, but we always sorted it out. Two minutes later we’d go and make them a cup of tea and bring them a Kit Kat and be like,

Caroline (20:29):
Yes. It’s like sisters really as well, isn’t it?

Laura (20:32):
Was a bit more sisterly. So we kind of chatted it out and said no, if we have a massive blarney row, we’ll sort it out and at the end of the day it’ll be okay. And we’re like, do you know what? Let’s go for it.

Caroline (20:45):
Oh, that’s fantastic. I love that. And so let’s talk finances. You guys have seen huge amounts of growth and what does that really look like? Has it ever felt really overwhelming getting, was there a stage where you’re like, this is getting quite big now, I don’t know what to do?

Laura (21:03):
It was interesting actually. So it’s been a real roller coaster. So we started the business in 2018, lovely, and had a lovely three years. We were growing at two and 300% a year. It was amazing. And then of course hit and when Covid hit, oddly it was a bit of a silver lining for us because of course people were at home and they couldn’t get nappies that easily at the supermarkets. People couldn’t get deliveries and people were concerned about running out and blah blah blah. So subscriptions took off that year. I think our subscription base grew like 300% within the space of four or five months. And there was a kind of, oh wow, we’re really going for it here. This is amazing. And at that point we went out onto the market and did what’s called an EIS share equity raise where we gave away part of the business, I think it was 20% at the time in exchange for investment. And we got half a million pounds worth of investment and it was all supposed to get spent on boosting the brand and sales and marketing. We were in such a good place. Unfortunately as we did it, the international freighting market went insane and our freighting into the country went up 700% in cost.

Caroline (22:30):
Oh my god, this is similar figures to another mum recently shared on the podcast. It’s insane.

Laura (22:36):
It was insane. We were sort of spending, it’s about two and half thousand pounds to bring in a full container. The worst we paid was 18,000. We were like, oh my god. And we can’t pass that cost on because it would make us totally uncompetitive and we’ve got subscribers who’d already subscribed one price. So we really had to sit down at that time and go, what do we do? Because we’re not making any money. Everything we’re selling we’re either just about breaking even or we’re actually selling at a loss because we’re spending all this money on freight. And we talked about it and we wondered about closing up actually just saying, I’m really sorry but we can’t bring stock in at this level. And Jennie actually was the one that said, look, we’ve got investment. We are allowed to spend it on running the business and operations.

(23:33):
It doesn’t have to go on sales and marketing. Let’s just see if we can ride this out. It could be three months, six months, who knows? As it was, it did go on for the best part of a year and a half. It was much longer than people think. The insane 18,000 came down. But even November last year, we were still paying 10 and 11,000 for a boat. So 400% what we had been paying, it was not comfortable and we kind of had to close the door on any new subscriptions. So we had to say, we can serve those that we’ve got, but we really can’t keep bringing on new people. So we closed down marketing, we shut everything quietly and just went, we’ll just serve our loyal customers and we won’t do much more than that. And we kept that up for about a year. And then amazingly come November of last year, China changed its policy on covid and closing factories and ports and all the rest of it. And within the space of six weeks, the freighting price dropped from 10,000 to two and a half thousand.

Caroline (24:47):
Amazing, sigh of relief for you.

Laura (24:51):
It was getting touch and go. So we actually at that point needed to go back out for more investment. So we went back on to the market. We use Triodos Bank again, one of the original B Corp very ethical bank. So thankful we got another half a million pound of investment, obviously more shares going to new investors. Some of our original investors invested again, which was amazing. They were sticking with us for the journey. So once that happened, we’ve got half a million pound and we were profitable on day-to-day basis. It was okay. Again, we were recovering ourselves. So we’ve been able to spend that money. I mean we haven’t spent all of it yet, but I’m sure we’ll on a bigger brand campaign, getting back out there, brand awareness and some lovely things like extending the range into different sizes, new bamboo baby products, a few kind of celebrity ambassadors that we’re working with and more charitable work. So yeah, we’ve been able to spend it in really nice ways, which is kind of boosting the brand again and hopefully will push that kind of growth
curve up again.

Caroline (26:09):
Amazing. Well done. And thank you for talking about the reality is you almost close your business and that’s so great to hear that you haven’t and weather that storm and you’ve had investment. That’s just really, really inspiring to hear. Thank you. And it’s something I’d like to have a little talk about. You mentioned a bit earlier that you were at home with your child for the first four years. So what did that look like? Building a business alongside having your kids at home because yeah, respect because that’s a struggle.

Laura (26:38):
So I will be honest, I didn’t start Mama Bamboo until Becca had gone to school and Alexander was three and had started a couple of mornings at a little nursery playgroup near here. Although I’d had the idea and I’d been frustrated by what was available, I just couldn’t, wasn’t sleeping. My brain was all over the place in those first few years I waited. And then yes, it was difficult. Obviously he was actually only at nursery a couple of mornings a week to start with and it’s still difficult even though they’re at school actually trying to squeeze it between nine and three and only x number of weeks a year. The kids have so many holidays. I managed it and I’ve got to say the new World Cloud-based software emails on your phone, it changes the way business is done. I’m old enough to remember when organising a conference call required you to book the IT guy to come and set up the room for you because nobody knew how to use the conference phone. But now you can work from anywhere. All the documents are cloud-based, all of our systems are cloud-based. So it does make life easier.

Caroline (27:55):
We’re doing this over Zoom.

Laura (27:57):
I know the technology has enabled people to work in a totally different way and I don’t think I would’ve been able to do this 10 years ago.

Caroline (28:09):
And I love that it’s kind of sharing what’s been good about coming in and that has helped us as moms become entrepreneurs. But also, I also love the fact your reality was you didn’t start your business until your eldest was at school when you had some form of childcare. I think it’s along with that social media picture as well. It seems like everyone’s starting a business while on maternity leave and it’s like let some moms just be moms. If they’ve got an idea but cannot even think about doing it,

Laura (28:36):
It’s okay to wait. So I went when I was way back in the banking industry, I was part of a programme that was all about the future of work and I listened to a very, very intellectual lady called Professor Lynda Gratton. And she was talking about the fact that you will be in work from the age of about 21 all the way through to 71 possibly plus 50 years. There is nothing wrong with going and taking two or three years to start a family changing career paths, modelling yourself differently from the 1960s idea of I’ve got to get to the top of the business and I’ve got to stay there because you are burnout. And it was so interesting, she talked a lot about this idea of having it all and she was like, it’s not actually a thing. You can have it all but at different stages, at different balances within your life, there’ll be times when for six months, a year, two years, you are all about babies. Fine. And there might be a time in five years later that you have to say, actually I need a nanny or I need a bit of childcare because I’m all about the business for the next six months.

(30:01):
She’s like, you can’t actually on a day-to-day daily basis have it all because there aren’t enough hours in the day. You can’t parent for 20 hours a day and work for 20 hours a day and be an amazing lover to your husband for 20 hours a day

Caroline (30:20):
And a friend

Laura (30:21):
And be a brilliant best friend to everybody because you have to pick and choose and manage your time and expectations a little differently for this 50 year journey and it stuck with me.

Caroline (30:39):
I love that. Yeah, and I kind of hard relate with that cause I feel like since I’ve been going through a phase very a lot and I know my friend, I potentially haven’t been the best friend recently as the way is there any way and I’ve to the point where I’ve actually muted myself off stuff cause I’m like, I’ll be back and feel my friends, you’ll get it. Is there anything you recently feel like that’s taking a back foot at the minute?

Laura (31:02):
Yeah, that I regularly feel like. So I sit down sometimes with the family diary and I put in all the kids’ things and then I organise play dates for them and then I organise family visits with mothers in-law and my mom and what have you. And then at the very last minute I look at that diary and go, well what about my friends? What about me? And that has started to catch me a little bit more now I guess because my kids are that little bit older and I’m aware that I’ve been in that pattern for eight years and I’m just starting to invest a little bit more. So we as a girls group, we’ve started what we call the first Thursdays Club, which means the first Thursday of the month we have pencilled in the diary to have dinner together. We don’t all make it every month, but so long as there’s three of us out of a group of about 10, that dinner goes ahead because actually trying to get all 10 for dinner is like, got to be joking.

Caroline (32:06):
I love that there’s 10 of you. That’s great.

Laura (32:08):
There’s still 10 of us in the group. But yeah, and in actual fact, I was out last night with Jennie, part of my group and another couple and it was lovely that one of the girls that I saw last night, I haven’t seen for over two years maybe. Wow. But she was able to come last night, so, and there we were and the conversation just started. It always does. The minute she walked in, I think we were having a go at the train strikes, we were all late and the conversation just rolls. And if you’ve got that set of friends, it doesn’t matter that you haven’t seen them for a year or two, they’re in the same situation. She’s got two kids, she’s got a family life, she’s got a full-time job. She knows as soon as she sits down next to me, I’m in the same boat. There’s no recriminations. Hi. It’s lovely to see you. Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle conversation flows.

Caroline (33:04):
Yeah, I love that because I feel like we don’t talk about friendship enough. We realising how important it is, but it’s hard to do that alongside everything else,

Laura (33:14):
Everything else. And it often is the last thing on your list is your own friendship group and your own social life. But it does come back. I guess that would be my positive point to any parents going through it in that first two or three years. Admittedly it’s taken me a wee bit longer, but Covid got in the way,

Caroline (33:33):
Covid, business, like a 1 million turnover business.

Laura (33:37):
A bit much on my plate. But it does come back and I’ve got a few friends who have slightly older children and I see that their social life, their friendship groups have picked back up as you are. The children are less reliant upon you.

Caroline (33:53):
Yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s lovely to hear. I look forward to it in 15 years. So something you were talking about with the business as well, you’re doing lots of ways to build the brand with marketing and things and you’ve got a partnership with NICU parents. I’m a NICU parent myself, so that’s so lovely to hear. What brought about this partnership?

Laura (34:15):
So we talked a little bit about it a couple of years ago. So one of our friends had twins and was in the NICU for a while. It always sort of stuck with me that it was something I’d like to do, but we didn’t have the finances at the time and we didn’t have the kind of bandwidth, but it stuck in the back of my head and it was always there. And then when we obviously got the finances recently, we were able to take it forward and we’d managed to find Rachel Marsh who is the founder of Ickle Pickles Children’s Charity, who raises money and donates essential equipment onto the neonatal wards. And we got talking to her and she managed to bring together a group of maternity nurses to work with me on what did they need in terms of a nappy, not just smaller, but give me some hints about cutouts or how it should fold around the baby because a lot of the nappies that are available just aren’t designed obviously for teeny tiny ones.

(35:25):
So we worked together on it and we managed to launch the tiny nappy size, size zero earlier this year. And then yes, with Ickle Pickles help, we’ve managed to pair up with five neonatal wards to start with to actually donate these nappies so that when a parent comes to the ward and obviously they come to the ward unexpected, nobody planned this in on Tuesday at six o’clock, it’s always a bit. And of course necessarily they’re quite often preemies and they haven’t bought nappies, they’re not ready for this and it can be quite stressful. So I know it’s a little thing, it’s a little thing in the scheme.

Caroline (36:05):
Oh, from a NICU parent is a huge thing

Laura (36:09):
Actually being given a whole pack of nappies, not just a few, and being told, oh, you’ll have to nip out to the supermarket and get stuff a whole pack of nappies. It’ll last you three or four days and you know that you are putting a more natural, healthier nappy on your baba. It’s a little reassurance and it’s just nice. And then we reached out and so I think she’s, my second cousin is Laura Tobin, who is the weather forecaster on the tv and she also had a very premi baby. So I kind of reached out to her and said, look, this is what we’re doing. Would you consider lending your voice, your support to the campaign to get people to donate more nappies to this campaign so that we can extend it from five units to as many as we possibly can. And of course she said yes and she was very keen to help us. It meant so much to her. So yeah, we were lucky in that she came on board and obviously she’s got a much bigger voice out there to really promote.

Caroline (37:24):
That’s using your network. Again, I love these examples. No, and it’s so true. I mean I suffer. I think parents who listen, who your brand and listen to this podcast was so true. I think especially in the early years, I felt real anxiety about people buying my kids’ stuff for the planet basically. I had it really bad just because it’s quite shoved on you as another one of those things. And when I was on a NICU unit, I kept thinking, look at all this stuff that gets used and thrown away. So at least if I maybe had a pack of nappies that I thought actually this is okay though, that would’ve helped me with the many things I probably shouldn’t have even think about on a NICU ward, not the priority, but your mind goes to these places

Laura (38:06):
And you can have it. And of course on a NICU ward, the health is the priority. So I know somebody did say, why would you promote these at all? Why wouldn’t you push reusables from the outset? And it was like, well no, actually they do need a kind of disposable, clean it away, no contamination. I mean if you are on those NICU wards, it’s the handwashing, it’s the extreme hypervigilance about visitors coming and how much they touch the baby and that goes on beyond the wall.

Caroline (38:41):
Yeah, I’ve never sanitised my hands in my life as much as the NICU wards and

Laura (38:45):
It goes on when you take them home, you are very conscious of anybody visiting, touching your baby, whether you go to playgroups, it’s quite a concern.

Caroline (38:57):
And who’s going to wash them? No one has the time. The hospital staff don’t have the time and neither do the parents.

Laura (39:03):
They don’t have the time and likely the parents aren’t leaving.

Caroline (39:07):
Yeah, yeah. It’s a really nice to hear here, we’re talking about this just before this actually that, so everyone on the podcast, there’s something about mum driven brands, they all want, it’s not just about making money, it’s about making a difference to the world.

Laura (39:20):
Yeah, absolutely. I think once you’ve got kids, you sort of realign your thinking and it often is you want to make a difference to mom’s life, to baby’s life to the planet. And it becomes more concerning. If I wanted to make money, I could go back to the city and go back to my other life. That is not my raison dera any longer.

Caroline (39:48):
No, exactly. Exactly. Well thank you. And so a question I like to ask, I’d love to ask what you think of this question is the term, how do you do it? Because there was a big pushback on it, and I understand that because the pushback of like, well no one’s asking the men, but at the same time when we’re talking about you were at home in the early years for your kids, you do the pickups, you do all of that. So we kind of already talked a little bit, but how do you feel about, because I feel when I’ve been asked, it’s from desperate moms who are like, how on earth do you do it? I’m tired, I couldn’t do this. So how do you feel about that question? Have you ever been asked it?

Laura (40:24):
I’ve been asked it a lot and I always have the same answer is you are only seeing the surface. So you see the carefully done Instagram posts and the nice kind of podcast space, look, I’ve got makeup on today. You don’t see underneath the surface. I’m going like this. And most days I drop balls all over the place and I make mistakes all the time. And sometimes I’m so stressed and I really have to check myself. Other times I’ve got insomnia and I’m a wake up 4:00 AM thinking through work stuff or kids stuff or I dunno. The other week I was crying on my husband saying, I don’t think we’re doing the right thing for the children. Yeah, I don’t do it all at all. I drop balls all over the place. I just managed to put on a slightly better face when somebody’s looking at me.

Caroline (41:21):
And now I think we can, a lot of us can relate to that, especially the ball dropping and are you doing the right thing, the questioning, and it’s a bit like we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg, as you said, that sort of thing. I haven’t said hello to the team today for example, and I’m sat here going, oh, I haven’t said hello to the team. I’m sure they don’t mind and they understand, but it’s those things of like, oh, I haven’t done this.

Laura (41:46):
! haven’t done this. That one’s on my list. I’ve got to say though, there is something about the whole, and we’ll call it the mother load, but I mean the parent load, the long list, the swimsuits, the kit, the parties, the organised, somebody told me it was Christmas coming up and I think I nearly punched them the other day. It’s that everlasting list of things to do, things to be thinking about. And then you layer on the kids, the house, in my case, the kittens. Oh kittens, the mother-in-law, the parents, your friends, the work, your teammate that’s not doing so well. And sometimes, oh, that list, it never stops. There isn’t an easy answer, I’m afraid.

Caroline (42:34):
Yeah, yeah. I love that. And it’s not easy, but we’re all trying our best and we will drop things

Laura (42:41):
And I think forgive yourself when you do. I think that’s it again, it’s the don’t judge yourself so harshly you are doing a million things, so give yourselves a break and when you make a mistake, and I did send my kid in with no swimsuits, so he had to borrow one, which he was disgusted with. I give myself a break on that.

Caroline (43:01):
Why did you do that, mom? Every time I forget dinosaurs on the school run, why would you? And I’m like, oh God,

Laura (43:09):
How could you? It’s your fault, mom. Sorry David,

Caroline (43:14):
You can talk about it in therapy. Forgot my swimming suit. Oh, honestly, Laura, thank you so much. I know I’ve learned a lot, felt very seen in this conversation perhaps, and also what to expect.

Laura (43:33):
Sometimes people say you overshare Laura, you need to learn not to share so much.

Caroline (43:38):
No, no, I’m here. There’s no oversharing there in my book, so thank you. So Laura, is there anything you can share with us about what’s next for the business? Anything you’d like to promote that’s coming up?

Laura (43:48):
Yeah, so our next big thing is we’ve paired up with Tiffany Watson, who’s sort of famous from the Made In Chelsea world, but also she’s, she’s a huge ambassador for vegan green living, organic. So we’ve been partnering with her. She’s also a mum to a little baby Jude. We’ve been partnering with her to design a sort of extension range. So we’re doing bamboo, muslins, breastfeeding covers, little weaning bowls, spoons, baby toothbrushes, all bamboo based. So she’s been working with us on designing those. And baby growers are so cute, all really soft fabric, which is so good for baby’s skin and she’s going to be working on that range and we’re intending to launch it. You’ll be able to buy it directly from us, but also you can join our Bamboo buddy club. So if you buy our products and subscribe, so nappies and wives, you can earn points towards these items to get them as free gifts.

(44:57):
So just support the parenting journey and give you that option of beautiful bamboo products along the way. So the toothbrush around three to four months when you might start brushing a little tooth, the weaning spoons that sort of six to seven months, the bowls and then all the baby grows and the Muslims for breastfeeding along the way. Yeah. So she’s going to design that range and launch it with us and we are looking into actually getting on shelves somewhere. So we’ve been entirely online up until now, which is brilliant and we’ve managed to get lots of loyal subscribers and build the business. But we are aware there’s a kind of accessibility issue there that not everybody wants to buy their products online. Not everybody wants to subscribe. So we are, we’re looking into how and where we might actually get on shelf and we’re now stocked in several liberal health food chains and stores like the Portobello Food Market down in southwest London, Harvest in Dunstun and Hackney kind of way. We’re looking into Planet Organic, so some of the smaller retailers, you might actually see us on shelves soon, but hopefully, fingers crossed, we might get into
one of those bigger ones as well.

Caroline (46:24):
Oh well I will keep my fingers crossed, but it’s still so exciting. That’s great things you’ve got going on there. I can’t wait to see over 2024 where Mama Bamboo goes and where can we find you, Laura? Is there any links you want to share with us?

Laura (46:36):
So the best one to get us on is mamabamboo.com. Nice and simple. There’s always the best prices, the best deals, and obviously the subscription to the Buddy Club where you can get gifts and things better to buy direct from us, certainly at the moment while we’re not in a mainstream supermarket.

Caroline (46:55):
Well thank you so much again, Laura. It’s been a pleasure and thank you.

Laura (46:59):
Lovely. It was lovely to join you.

Outro:

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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