Babyboo (the brainchild of Vicki O'Callaghan and Michelle O'Riordan) is an innovative kids clothing brand which has fast built a cult following in Ireland, now the rest of the UK.
Their USP? High-quality basics for little ones that are eczema-friendly and kind to sensitive skin.
"My daughter Ruby, had awful reflux and eczema and drooled a lot and I couldn’t find a bib that functioned well and looked well," explains Vicki. The pair then went on to develop the brand's iconic Droolbusting Bandana Bib. which is a game-changer for teething babies.
Vicki explains to Mother&Baby how the successful baby bibs business went from living room to warehouse in just under four years...
Where did your idea for BabyBoo come from?
We created BabyBoo after we struggled to find quality clothing for our children who were suffering with eczema and reflux.
My daughter Ruby, had awful reflux and eczema and drooled a lot and I couldn’t find a bib that functioned well and looked well. As any parent with a drooly child will tell you if you have to constantly cover their clothes with a bib then it’s nice to have one that looks as cute as the clothes you’re covering up!
Anything with plastic at the back used to flare up her sensitive skin and she constantly had a dribble rash under her chin. Michelle’s kids all had sensitive skin so she was only too aware of the same problems.
So we developed the DribbleBoo bandana bib which has 3 layers, the front and back are made using certified organic cotton and the middle layer hypoallergenic fleece to ensure nothing soaks through to clothing. We have an extra layer of cotton at the neck which folds down to ensure a snug fit which means dribble does not slip inside the neck or sit on the neck and prevents dribble rash under the chin.
Since then we have extended the range to a newborn sized bib which actually fits a newborn, a feeding bib, robes, sleeping bags and suits, blankets, burp towels, muslins, hats, scarves, pyjamas and we’re about to launch a new product.
What were you doing before you started your business?
My background is digital marketing and project management – I worked for 18 years for a publishing group across their digital and print products to implement social media and digital marketing strategies and grow their digital presence.
It was a natural progression to want to then grow my own brand. Michelle’s background is HR and she looks after all the financial side of the business as well as staff, logistics and the warehouse management.
Read more: 15 inspiring mums who started their own business on maternity leave
What are the toughest challenges you’ve faced?
There are many very steep learning curves when you start your own business, we found the accounts and financial side of the business a big challenge so we have a fantastic accountant who works with us. The other big challenge has been the whole customs and shipping side of the business, duty and customs, importing and different shipping options etc can be so so confusing. Keeping items stocked is always a challenge as well.
Talk us through a normal day
I drop my daughter Ruby to school and I’m in the warehouse by 9:15 am.
We recently built an office into the warehouse for us to work from which has made a huge difference to productivity for both of us. I work from my desk to answer customer service emails that have come in since 9 pm the previous night across email, Instagram and Facebook. The day varies from then onwards, I could be putting stock online or writing a piece like this or putting together ads for social media.
Yesterday we had a delivery from one of our manufacturers and I had to be lifted on a forklift into the back of a truck to help unload 70 boxes which had come free from their pallet. There’s never a dull moment. I work here until about 4 pm most days then go home and do an hour of housework or meet a friend for coffee and then collect Ruby from the childminder. Then it’s homework, dinner, bedtime, lunch prep and laptop back on to check in on orders and customers.
On a Monday and Friday, I collect her from school at 2 pm and switch the laptop off until after bedtime.
Michelle has 4 kids so her day is a little different, she drops to school then comes in and works here until 1.30, she generally will be doing accounts or VAT work or right now she’s reorganising the warehouse to fit those 70 boxes in!! She collects the kids from school, homework, dinner, bedtime and then laptop back on again. We both love the fact that we can be flexible with our hours and work around our children.
How do you juggle being a mum and running a successful business?
I’m not going to lie it can be tough going at times, the business can be as demanding as another baby time-wise but we’re lucky there are two of us here to share the responsibility. We work well together, we have different strengths and we know each other really well so we’re not afraid to tell the other one to step back when we feel they need a break.
We both try to switch off from the business when with our families, I don’t go on social media on Sundays generally and focus on spending quality time with Ruby. It gets difficult when we have an event to attend or for the popup shop in Kildare Village we were both away for 8 days which was very hard and something we have both agreed we won’t do again. We’re still learning and trying to achieve that balance, I guess the good and bad bit is that we both obviously love and prioritise being mums but we also love the business.
What is your advice to any mums who want to start a business?
Do your research, figure out if your idea has a unique selling point, will there be a demand for it, is there a gap in the market?
Then don’t try to do it all yourself, if you’re not a marketing expert then hire one or do the training, if you know nothing about accounts of VAT don’t attempt to do your own books, engage a good bookkeeper or accountant.
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