Rebecca (left) with her business partner, Dominique

Rebecca Da Silva Lima lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, with her partner Simon and daughter Beatrice. Last year she launched a luxury changing bag range Jem + Bea with her friend Dominique, which is stocked in stores including John Lewis.

We lived in London before we had Bea and then decided to move down to Kent, where I was brought up. Though I miss the buzz of London sometimes, it’s nice and leafy here and great for kids. I was working as a handbag designer for Anya Hindmarch before launching a range of stylish changing bags Jem + Bea with a friend. It was a great place to work, Anya and the team were lovely. Unlike many fashion companies, it felt like a warm and fuzzy creative family, fuelled by tea, gossip and bonkers ideas.

Our own changing bag frustrations spurred us to make a range of bags that we and, we hoped, other mums would actually want to carry. When Dom came to me with the idea to create cool, stylish baby bags (having been through several herself with three children) it really felt like perfect timing. Though I enjoyed my job, I was struggling with the long hours and commute and felt continually guilty leaving Bea. Building the brand meant I could throw myself into designing, which I loved, but be my own boss too and have that flexibility around Bea. Having both had children and knowing what we wanted from a changing bag, the ideas quickly flowed and we were up and running faster than we ever thought possible! I think there’s just such a passion when it’s your own ‘baby’. Plus, there’s much more at stake when it’s your own business; that fear of failure gave it momentum and kept us going.

Our initial research and own experiences shaped the business. We looked at what parents wanted from a changing bag as well as market trends. We understood from this that more and more parents are investing in luxury nursery products, which are made to last, have multiple uses or can be used beyond the baby years. It’s often really hard for a new brand to convince a factory to take them on, or at least not without paying them hefty sums upfront. However, having supplier contacts, who have known me for years and trust me, meant we could started sampling straight away. After brainstorming and sketching in the summer of 2014 and much wear­-testing by us, our friends and family (with subsequent tweaking and refining), we had our third round of samples by January 2015.

In February we took ourselves off to The Baby Show in London, not to exhibit, just to research and get a feel for a trade show. We got chatting to a small exhibitor who suggested we try Harrogate International Nursery Fair, a trade­-only show. We had never even heard of it, but it seemed to be the place to be go to showcase a new brand…we were so naive. Then we realised it was in March, the following month! So, we had just under a month to whip up our final samples ready to show the world. We knew we couldn’t miss it as it only happens once a year and, for any new nursery brand, it seemed to be the place to launch. The pressure was on and, aside from the bags, we still needed to finalise our branding, logo …everything. It went better then we could ever have hoped and it was there on our teeny-tiny stand that we’d furnished on a shoestring budget that we met many of our lovely suppliers who stock us today, including John Lewis. We’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm for the brand. The biggest challenge is fitting everything we need to do into our week. We have four children between us (with another one on the way for me!) so weaving work into a whirlwind of nursery and school pick­-ups, drop­-offs and days with the children can be exhausting. Though we do make it work and we lean on each other for support.

I’d love to say being your own boss is fantastic ­and that you get to call the shots and look after your little one… but it’s so not. The reality is it’s really quite hard and I’m definitely guilty of zoning into emails and social media a bit too much when I should be focusing on Bea. I’m trying to be a lot more strict with my time now though, otherwise I just feel I’m doing a rubbish job of both being a mother and work. Also, as it’s just us, there isn’t anyone to delegate jobs to; we’re both our bosses and colleagues rolled into one. The up­shot of this is that we’ve learnt masses about running a business­ from the fun stuff, the not so fun stuff and everything between. Having a partner to bounce ideas off and the support we give each other has definitely helped us thrive. For those wanting to start something, whether alone or in a partnership, just make sure it’s something you’re really passionate about rather than seeing it as a cash cow. You’re probably not going to make any money (that you keep) for a long time so you have to love it. If you’re trying to come up with a BIG idea to start a business, don’t! Sometimes it’s the thing that’s right under your nose that you’re really good at, like baking or writing. You may never have thought of it as a business but if you can give it your own unique spin and other people like what you’re doing, then just go for it!

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