Meet Our Brands - Lara & Ollie
Please introduce yourself and your brand…
We’re Anna Wicks & Lesley Newsholme and we live down the road from each other in SE London with our kids Lara & Ollie, Anna’s new addition Charlie and our husbands.
We created and run Lara & Ollie a silicone teething jewellery company. Our primary aim is to help mamas feel stylish every day and dress up an everyday outfit with something fashionable and fun – that also happens to be safe for a baby to chew and fiddle with. We believe our necklaces and bangles are something lovely that mamas can treat themselves to, but they also make perfect gifts for new mums, particularly given that most presents are for the little one!
What inspired you to launch your brand…?
We met through our NCT classes just before we had our kids and launched Lara & Ollie in March 2015 so about 18 months after meeting.
We both love jewellery and accessories but quickly realised when we became mums that we couldn’t wear it unless we were away from the kids; not only was it potentially pretty dangerous, we didn’t want anything broken.
Having made jewellery for fun a few years back we loved the concept of teething jewellery but couldn’t find much we liked. So we sourced some beads and made a few necklaces and had amazing feedback from friends and mums we were getting to know locally all of whom wanted to know where they could buy them. So we thought why not give it a go and here we are.
How did you get started and can you give our readers a piece of advice for getting an idea off the ground?
We spent months and months researching, researching, researching before doing anything at all. This was particularly important given the nature of the product but also when you start up there is so much to learn and consider - sadly it’s not quite as straightforward as you think when you have the initial idea!
Once we felt comfortable with our product we then developed our brand and moved everything forward from there. Everything we had worked on was encapsulated in a pretty in-depth business plan that kept us on track. It took a long time and whilst at times we felt like we were hitting a brick wall we’d try hard to stay focused and positive and to find solutions to problems.
There is so much we’ve learnt since setting up and as such, so much advice we’d give. However our top 3 tips are probably… make use of people you know - we learnt so much from businesses and mums who had already set up. Get the ‘boring’ but essential processes in place e.g. bookkeeping/accounts etc. it’s so easy to just focus on the fun stuff but if you don’t have basic admin set up you’ll be stuffed in the long run! And trust your instincts when making decisions; you’re usually right!
How do you juggle being a working mum and business owner?
We’ve not had a huge amount of childcare through the process of launching, so we’ve mainly worked when the kids slept. When they were about 18 months and still napped in the day we nailed a co-ordinated nap time and would put one in a travel cot at the other’s house. It was brilliant and we managed to get quite a bit done together. However sadly day time napping is a thing of the past so we work mainly in the evenings. Although both Lara & Ollie now do go to nursery for a few hours a week so we can get together and plough through the to do list, packing orders etc.
There isn’t much routine and sometimes it’s a case of flying by the seat of our pants and we just write a huge to do list, prioritise and simply divide and conquer.
Like so many mums we’ve nailed the art of pushing a buggy whilst emailing/texting/posting! And we’re not going to lie, the TV is quite often turned on so we can chat, email and work through things. The kids think we’re the best!!
And our husbands are fairly understanding and supportive when we forego day to day life admin – piles of washing get ignored and cooking dinner becomes another takeaway!
What’s the proudest moment for your business to date…?
Actually launching the business was a pretty awesome moment after over 6 months in development where we often felt like we were taking one step forward and 10 back! We’d also say being accepted and having a stand at our first Playtime Paris international trade fair and receiving a phenomenal response from buyers felt like a huge achievement. Whilst we’re both fairly modest people, we did feel quite proud that we were there, even though on reflection we weren’t actually prepared or very organised!
Looking to the future, what are your brand dreams and aspirations…?
Now that would be telling ha ha!! We want to build the business but ultimately carry on doing our own thing and doing it to the very best of our ability. We want to carry on working with people and brands we like and who inspire us and meet lots of new people in the process. We’re hoping that soon we’ll have a bit more time to spend working on and really developing the business - this should happen when the kids start school which is really exciting!
And a bit more about what inspires you…
We’ve been really inspired by lots of other mums who have set up businesses and have juggled the reality of full time parenting and launching a business. There are too many to name but lots of these awesome women have given us so much support, encouragement and inspiration and lots have become good friends too.
Who’s your favourite Instagrammer and why?
What a question - there are so so many brilliantly clever, funny Instagrammers as well as feeds that look visually beautiful and are really consistent and coordinated. Some of the beautiful interior feeds who nail this are @chloeuberkid @wilwig and @laurielauriane.
We’re also big fans of the ‘honest tell it how it is bloggers’ like @marybadassmeadows @notsosmugnow and @toomuchmotheringinformation
Another great one for craft ideas and life hacks for busy mamas is @_ladyland_
How do you switch off…?
I think the only time we're truly switched off from the business is when we’re asleep!!! I think that’s the nature of having your own business. Although jokes apart, we try and take holidays as holidays so minimal holiday working. And we try and have Sundays as days off to spend time with our families and although we’re likely to WhatsApp each other, we do try and switch off, pub lunches, long walks, typical family things etc.
What product could you not live without as a parent?
We both bought Stokke Tripp Trapps when we were weaning the kids and whilst they felt like hefty investments, they’ve been and continue to be amazing chairs - and they look pretty good too.
We also love Kokoso Baby coconut oil, Play & Go mats and any book from SmallPrint Books.
We love holidays at Our Kid, can you recommend a brilliant family-friendly destination/hotel or experience?
Anna is from Jersey in the Channel Islands and would definitely recommend it as a great place to go (obviously!). It’s only a short flight - about an hour from most UK airports and whilst the weather isn’t guaranteed there is so much to do with kids from the amazing Wildlife Park, Tamba Dinosaur Park, museums, castles, boats, beaches, cliff path walks etc. The hotels and restaurants are family friendly, it’s no more expensive than anywhere in the UK and it’s absolutely beautiful. Check out the Visit Jersey website: www.jersey.com and if you go, make sure you visit Sumas Restaurant - it’s run by her brother Paul (www.sumasrestaurant.com).