I love to promote business women on my blog and to hear what led to them setting up their businesses in the first place. Most are willing to share their top tips in a generous-spirited way too. Today I am delighted to share my interview with Katrina Parsons, Owner, of MAEVE + ME which sell matching outfits for mum and child.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years
I was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia with 3 sisters and quite a close family. I’ve always been an extremely active and outdoors person, so it was the perfect place for my childhood. My mum always tells me that I never sat still and if I wasn’t at gymnastics 4 times a week I could be found on our trampoline. Most of my memories are of mum taking me to gymnastics, athletics, netball to my friends for a sleepover or to see my grandmother.
My teenage years I think were pretty normal… Once I turned 17 I threw in my gymnastics hat and spent my time socialising with friends (think of the old dial up phones with extremely long cords, pulled into our bedrooms). I took school fairly seriously but also had a very busy social life which at times I think I struggled to balance.
Sydney is such a beautiful city so when we turned 18 and all bought card, we would be at the beach during the day and then at night would put on our heels and head out to the clubs in Sydney Harbour. I’m grateful for my childhood and can only hope I bring my daughter up as well as my mum brought up me.
What was your first job? What did you learn from this?
When I finished school I got pretty good grades, but didn’t really know what to do with them. Looking back now I can see that I struggled to distinguish between what a hobby was and what skills and interests I had that I could channel into a career. This is something that I think about a lot and really feel there is a gap that needs to be filled to help kids transition into life after school if they don’t really know what to do.
At 18 I went to work full-time in retail as I knew if I wasn’t studying just yet I needed to earn some money. I worked in a sports shop called Rebel Sport and started right at the bottom, working on the tills.
I’ve held a job ever since I was 14 and have a really strong work ethic, so I was quickly moved into a department and then was not long after managing 2 of those departments.
I learnt that figuring out what I wanted to do with my life would be the biggest challenge for me, because I had the natural drive and ability to take me the rest of the way. I didn’t realise how long it would take me to get onto the path though (around 10 years) but each path I took I learnt valuable lessons, which to this day I am thankful for.
What led to you setting up your business?
I was previously working in the casino industry as Head of VIP for a gambling company and I had known for a while that I didn’t want to be in this field forever, but still wasn’t sure what my next move would be. I don’t gamble myself (except on the very rare occasion on a night out or in Vegas) and had in my final time at that company really started to see the darker side of the industry. A lot of money lost to customers does come at a cost to their mental health and daily lives, and it was starting to take a toll on me.
When I got pregnant with Maeve I decided to stay in my job as I had no idea what being a mum would be like and I had the comfort of going back to employment. However when Maeve was 6 months old I was made redundant and that decision was taken out of my hands.
This gave me some time to think about my next steps and how I could use my skills and knowledge to actually help people and make them feel good when they handover their hard-earned money to a company.
Before becoming a mum I would never thought I would want to wear matching clothes with my daughter… However, after going through pregnancy, childbirth and then breastfeeding, I felt I deserved a moment to feel beautiful with my baby.
I spent months doing research online and in high street stores but my tiresome search turned up nothing appropriate. I found that the quality of the fabrics were poor (some even see through), they were too baggy/ tight or had terrible slogans on them. No-one had designed a product with new mums in mind, whether it be easy to breastfeed in or flattering in the right places.
I felt I could learn the design process and fill the gap in the market I was so passionate about and disrupt the current matching fashion market.
What are your products?
We design stylish matching outfits for mums and babies. At the moment we have a small range of matching dresses and are looking to launch 10 garments in our Spring/ Summer collection (pending current COVId-19 situation).
These are all designed in London and our prints are hand painted by a London designer. Our market is new mums, so we ensure that the priority is a flattering style that is easy to wear.
What makes your business special?
We aren’t a big company, in fact at the moment it is just me and I work out of our home. But I’m a real mum, designing for mums who wants them to experience that magical feeling of putting on beautiful outfits, hand in hand with their little one.
I personally believe in trying to do what I can to tread as lightly as I can on the planet, and I have made this a pillar for the business. We use sustainable fabrics, sustainable packaging and are always looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint and look for innovative approaches.
What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?
That anyone who has ever started a business has been in the same position as you, and had the same worries as you.
A year ago I bought myself a productivity diary, sat down, and just said “IF I was going to do this where would I start?” I didn’t know anything (and I mean anything) about fashion, so I started a spreadsheet to learn what each fabric was and just took it day by day from there.
My advice would be to begin with a small step (like buying a diary), and write the first thing you would need to do to start your business (like competitor research). Then, once you’ve done that, think of the next thing you would need to do (like asking people on Facebook groups/friends and family if they would this product/ service from you)… and without talking yourself out of it you should be able to slowly look back and realise that you can do this and what once seemed overwhelming actually when broken down wasn’t so bad after all.
If you have the drive to do something all you need to do is get onto the path and the rest will just happen. Like Rob Moore says “Start Now. Get Perfect Later” and that’s something I remind myself of every day.
How do you ensure you look after yourself properly? What do you do for self-care?
The main self-care things I try to schedule in my week for are going to the gym (now a run to the park), doing some yoga and trying to shop well so I can eat healthily. This has become a lot harder since having a baby because a lot of my time now is spent around her needs and not mine.
I recently have started to realise that I wake up quite moody and starts my day off already on a bad foot. I had heard about “The 5am Club”, so recently read Robin Sharma’s book and have started waking at 5am to start my day alone, and to feel like I am more in control of my day. It made me realise how much I miss alone time and that I need to schedule time in every week to not be a mum, to not be a business owner, to not run the house but to just be me. This is something I am working on so can fill you in on my progress in the near future.
Who supported you as you set up your business?
My husband is my biggest supporter and ever since we met has been telling me to start my own business. I’ve always doubted myself (and continue to) but he has always had faith in me and pushed me on, even on the days when I have wanted to give up and go back to work 9-5. I knew starting a business would be difficult, but to do this with a young baby and also with my family being in Australia, has been very tough. I don’t have a business partner to pick me up when I am having a bad day or to take the reins when I am away on holiday, so I can get overwhelmed sometimes and it’s my husband that keeps me on track and reassures me that I can do it.
What things would you like to see change about the position of women in society?
I want to see more women launch their own businesses and become entrepreneurs. This change needs to come from empowerment and also reinforcing confidence in them. I think that there is still a perception of women in business that needs to change and the stigma that can be associated with successful women and women in power.
If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?
I do read a lot of business books so if I was to recommend one it would be the classic “Purple Cow” by Seth Goden. I’ve realised that although the barriers to starting a business have lowered, the marketplace has never been so competitive. While you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and create a completely brand new product or idea, what you have needs to be remarkable. Purple Cow is an easy read and gets you asking yourself the right questions – perfect if you are still in the concept phase or just getting started up.
If you could recommend ONE website to women, what would it be and why
I regularly listen to the Goal Digger podcast by Jenna Kutcher and absorb every bit of information she gives out. I think her content is so relatable and also so relevant for all stages of business. I’ve been listening since before I launched my company and am still as obsessed by it now. Her blog is definitely a resource that I would recommend as she gives so much information away for free. She’s also a new mum and very real and I think that is why I believe and buy into her so much.”
Katrina Parsons is based in London and is a first-time mum turned boutique business owner. She designs matching outfits for stylish mums and daughters, helpings mums feel and look beautiful. You can sign up to her free newsletter at her website, www.maeveandme.com
What do you think about matching outfits for mum and child?
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