Sophie Devonshire founded the luxury e-boutique Babes with Babies London in 2006. They specialise in flattering maternity and beautiful breastfeeding wear as well as gifts for new mums. Celebrating the company’s fifth birthday, she talks about why, what and how.
What made you start Babes with Babies?
Becoming a mother is an incredible life-changing experience. You reassess everything. That includes many major philosophical considerations, but it also includes some very practical ones, like thinking about one’s wardrobe.
We founded Bb London to bring gorgeous gifts and flattering clothes to pregnant and new mums. It felt very important to make them incredibly easy to order online and to make both the shopping and the delivery experience a positive one. I could see from my own experience that shopping online was much easier when one was pregnant or breastfeeding but we wanted to do as much as we could to give our customers as much help as possible.
We launched Babes with Babies to sell beautiful breastfeedingwear to start with. I wanted to breastfeed but felt tremendously self-conscious doing it in public. Breastfeeding-wear made me confident and allowed me to be much more sociable and to feed longer than I otherwise would have done. I could see it was a big market in Singapore, Australia and Sweden but there was limited choice in the UK. I also could see how much my new mum body needed flattering, well-cut clothes that worked with my changed – and changing shape. At Bb, we use ‘magic materials’ which stretch for pregnancy but also retain their shape so they adapt as you lose weight after having a baby as well. No zips, no buttons = more comfort and better investment pieces. We added maternitywear to the mix pretty early on and we try hard to make our clothes suitable for bumps, breastfeeding and beyond.
What have you done differently in the way in which you’ve set up Babes with Babies London?
Our company way of working is fairly radical. Our team work brilliantly together but the unorthodox secret to this is twofold: It’s about technology and it’s about trust. We set things up so that everyone can work easily and enjoyably, from wherever they are (we’ve had a customer service team manager work from her caravan on holiday for example) . We then work with each individual to agree a flexible work rota that allows them to work around their other commitments – sometimes as a job share, sometimes just with unorthodox hours. We jokingly call it ‘SexyFlexy’. We trust our team to make it work for the business as well as with their own lives. It’s incredibly motivating and means we have a team who are able to fully focus on their work with the knowledge that we understand their work has to weave in smartly with their life. There is a vast pool of unfulfilled talent in the UK – smart, well-trained women who want to work but also want to do the school run and spend time with their kids. We’re passionate about finding innovative ways to make that work for our team.
What are your bestsellers at Bb London?
We do sell a lot of beautiful gifts for mum, dad and baby – but it’s our clothing range that’s the real hit. The Avalicious maternity dress has been a topseller. It’s really beautifully cut and works on a tiny bump and an enormous one. Customers also love our flattering Palazzo Pants which can be worn when you’re not pregnant now (all our team love them). Our breastfeeding dresses are really well received as people can’t believe quite how comfortable they feel feeding when they feel less self-conscious. They sell particularly well for weddings and christenings. The Magic Maxi breastfeeding and maternity dress is a brilliant bestseller for pregnancy and postnatalwear.
What next for the business?
We’re constantly looking for new ways to make pregnancy and parenthood feel good & that’s set to continue, with us introducing new ranges and also increasing our presence overseas. We will continue to campaign for more companies to work totally flexibly and ‘virtually’ like we do & we are also introducing a great new scheme to encourage cafes to be more ‘feeding friendly’ for new mums. Our blog, and Facebook are really growing in terms of support & we’re extremely keen Twitter-ers with a large and growing following.
We really just want to make mums-to-be and new mothers feel fabulous. If anybody deserves a touch of luxury, then it’s them!
What do you enjoy about being a mumpreneur?
Starting your own business is incredibly tough. I love the challenge of juggling the different parts of my life. It does give me some flexibility but overall, it’s not an easy way to work things. However, our clever Work/Life ‘weaving’ approach means that the whole team is able to achieve some balance and that feels great for us all.
Establishing a business with one – and then two – young daughters, is also quite ‘interesting’ shall we say. A further complexity was added into the mix when I needed to spend some time abroad early on in the business’s life. But the huge rollercoaster of emotions and experiences always feels worth it when we get feedback from our customers about how fabulous our clothes made them feel during pregnancy, or how much they helped build their confidence when breastfeeding. It’s fantastic to feel that we’re helping make this intense and slightly crazy lifestage a little more fun and enjoyable.