Buddy & Bear

Cute, minimalist tableware, prints and accessories from husband-and-wife team Sarah and Jon Weston

Director, Sarah Weston

Buddy & Bear came about as something to get my teeth into after a few months of being a new mum. I needed a project, and my husband and I had always dreamt of creating something together. We both love kids, we both love minimal design, so it was a natural fit. As new parents we were increasingly aware that there’s a lack of beautiful yet practical products out there for little ones that can be enjoyed by the whole family every day.

I also wanted (although I didn’t know how realistic it was) to be around for my little boy as much as possible when the maternity leave came to an end. Luckily, it worked out and I still can’t quite believe it.

We found products that enabled us to start in very small quantities so there wasn’t too much risk or investment, and we’ve built it up from there, learning as we go. Luckily Sammy has been a good napper, so most of it’s been done whilst he’s asleep! We put the last of our savings into the business (not much, I tell you) and worked hard to make sure it turned out right. It wasn’t easy depending on one salary; we had to be very careful but it was so worth it. Also, almost all of our business has come from Instagram which is an amazing tool to test things out and gauge people’s responses instantly. It’s really exciting seeing people enjoying our products all over the world.

Growing something as a family that we’re proud of and getting to be with my son at home has been the best thing. It totally has its moments, trying to balance the two, but I do really appreciate it. I’ve also met the most inspiring and lovely people.

The business side of things has been the biggest learning curve, We’re both graphic designers so have had to learn a lot, fast. There is so much info out there, loads of great podcasts to listen to and people that are happy to help, which makes it a lot easier.

My advice to others would be: create something you love and won’t mind putting all your time and energy into. Don’t be afraid to ask others who have been there for their advice and never underestimate the power of social media!

Wildfire Teepees

Handmade teepees and bunting by mother-of-two Lindsey Aitken

Founder, Lindsey Aitken

I made my first teepee for my son Marlo’s first birthday and surprised myself with how well it turned out. Friends and family then started to ask me to make more for them, too, and there was my idea! I am passionate about good design and have found many of the toys on the market for kids ugly and cheap so I’ve made it my goal to make well-designed things that either look good when they are out or that have a neat solution for packing them away.

With a second maternity leave looming it felt like the right time to see if I could turn my hobby into a business with the hope that it could become a full-time job that I could fit around my two boys. We are now reaching the end of my maternity leave and I feel confident enough to leave the security of my full-time job and make Wildfire and my boys my full-time focus.

I have made lots of connections over the years working in buying and I have used some of them to help me set up Wildfire. My main supplier has been very generous with his time and also with the terms we have agreed financially, allowing me time to sell some products before he requires payment. In that way I have been able to let the business pretty much fund itself.

Watching the orders flooding in has been amazing, as has selling out of certain colours and understanding what my customers want and what my ‘bestsellers’ are. I’m also really enjoying making new products to expand the collection, and feel like I’m really starting to shape Wildfire into a real brand with a point of view and identity of its own – that is truly exciting!

The amount of time things have taken to set up has surprised me, I have worked in retail for big brands for the last 15 years and know how production and manufacture works but I thought with just myself to satisfy I would be more nibble. Not so! But we are here, we did it and we are compliant with all sorts of rules and regulations…

My advice to others wanting to launch a new kids label would be do it! Take the leap! If you can, start small so you can fund it yourself and also test your market before you grow too big and find yourself in too deep, financially.

Tiba & Marl

Stylish changing bags and matching children’s backpacks by Anna Tizard and Lydia Barron

Lydia Barron, co-founder

Anna and I have been friends for years after meeting on our first proper job over 13 years ago. When we first became mamas we were having a moan about the poor choice of baby changing bags that we felt suited our style – how girls like us and our friends, who would never dream of having a crap handbag, were walking around with ugly changing bags because there was nothing else out there. After brainstorming ideas over lunch, with babies on our knees, it became obvious to us what our destiny was… It almost seemed silly for us not to create a brand of fashion-inspired baby bags, given our backgrounds and the timing.

It became our mission to create something that combined contemporary design, functionality and fashion; our challenge to ourselves was to create a changing bag range that looked so good that no-one would know it was a changing bag. We have both sacrificed a lot to create our brand – it’s almost like rearing another child. We self-financed, with a little help from family, which is amazing but has meant some serious readjustment of funds in both our households!

Neither of us have any local family who are able to share the burden of childcare, and our husbands work long hours and often travel. We’re not going to lie, it’s been, and still is, a real hard slog – meetings and our daily work is mostly conducted with up to four kids in tow! We are really good at bouncing ideas off eachother and keeping eachother’s spirits high on a bad day, though. Luckily we are both in the same boat which helps! We work into the night most nights (to the annoyance of our husbands) but we are passionate about the brand.

Our launch party was a definite highlight – it was like a wedding, all the organising and stress leading to the big day… then over in a flash and a prosecco haze! Beyond that, spending time with our kids has been amazing (albeit extremely stress-inducing at times!). Being able to juggle a family and a business, and still do the school run, was one of the main reasons for setting up our own business. The incredible feedback has been amazing and touching – we love seeing all the social media posts of people using their bags.

The learning curve is ongoing. We do literally everything ourselves so we’ve had to learn on the job. Luckily there are two of us to share the load – the good/bad times, the childcare, the toddler meltdowns, as well as the design and development, the PR, marketing, sales, wholesale, shipping, warehousing, accountancy etc, etc… all the fun stuff!

Our advice to others would be: Work hard. Think outside the box. Have meticulous attention to detail. Stay real. Keep an element of fun. Remember your goals. Be kind to yourself. Say yes to opportunities.

More in Features

Observer New Review Q&A

By , 22nd March 2022
An interview with Stephanie Merritt about Edith and Kim, the perils of writing about family, and why female spies often get overlooked

Researching Edith and Kim

By , 17th November 2021
From a compendium of stories about life at the Bauhaus to a Modernist memoir by the founder of the iconic Isokon, here are some of the books that inspired my forthcoming novel

Book festivals 2021

By , 19th August 2021
From a celebration of the life of John le Carré at Cheltenham to an exploration of women and crime in Chiswick, please join me at one of the following events, across the country (and the internet!)