Boutique Label Disrupting Matching Fashion
In this month’s microbusiness of the month, we welcome Katrina Parsons, founder of Maeve & Me. Katrina Parsons is based in London and is a first-time mum turned boutique business owner. She designs matching outfits for stylish mums and daughters, helpings mums feel and look beautiful. Katrina shares her journey of setting up her very own business with us.
Katrina’s designs are truly charming. To learn more about this wonderful company, visit their website www.maeveandme.com and feel free to sign up for their free newsletter. You can also stay in touch via Social Media. Facebook: www.facebook.com/maeve.and.me/ Instagram: @maeve.and.me
Why have you decided to launch your business?
I was previously working in the casino industry as Head of VIP for a gambling company and I had known for a while that I didn’t want to be in this field forever, but still wasn’t sure what my next move would be. I don’t gamble myself (except on the very rare occasion on a night out or in Vegas) and had in my final time at that company really started to see the darker side of the industry. A lot of money lost to customers does come at a cost to their mental health and daily lives, and it was starting to take a toll on me.
When I got pregnant with Maeve I decided to stay in my job as I had no idea what being a mum would be like and I had the comfort of going back to employment. However when Maeve was 6 months old I was made redundant and that decision was taken out of my hands.
This gave me some time to think about my next steps and how I could use my skills and knowledge to actually help people and make them feel good when they handover their hard-earned money to a company.
Before becoming a mum I would never thought I would want to wear matching clothes with my daughter… However, after going through pregnancy, childbirth and then breastfeeding, I felt I deserved a moment to feel beautiful with my baby.
I spent months doing research online and in high street stores but my tiresome search turned up nothing appropriate. I found that the quality of the fabrics were poor (some even see through), they were too baggy/ tight or had terrible slogans on them. No-one had designed a product with new mums in mind, whether it be easy to breastfeed in or flattering in the right places.
I felt I could learn the design process and fill the gap in the market I was so passionate about and disrupt the current matching fashion market.
It must be very exciting to work with your daughter.
Does she always enjoy posing for photos?
It has been so nice to be able to build the brand around her so that one day she can hopefully takeover the business.
Everything I do comes from a genuine place, as bring a mum myself with a toddler is my ideal customer. This includes the organic content we shoot as well as how we design our clothes for active little ones to wear. Maeve is involved with everything.
I think she is getting more used to the camera now, both the iPhone and professional, but not sure she quite understands what it’s all about just yet… Although she does like looking at photos of herself and scrolling through the photos on my phone.
Our photoshoots are now very well planned and we make sure we have her favourite toys, snacks and bunny.
Shoot days are always hectic as she runs around the shoot with a very low attention span, looking for things to play with and getting frustrated if she can’t play hide and seek (not ideal if we are trying to capture her on camera).
Launching a new fashion label must have its challenges.
What was the most tricky part of the launch?
Yes it has been extremely challenging, but that has made the journey so far ever so rewarding. I don’t come from a fashion background so I had to self-learn everything from the very beginning.
The hardest part was getting the train(business) moving. It was the studying in the morning and during nap times, just to understand what fabrics actually were and where to even start with the design process. If you look at my google history from that time you would think I was studying at college level – I had to research every part of the fashion process as well as how to start a business.
Once the train was moving and the website was live, things have been easier and I’m just working on keeping the momentum going.
Which of your business achievements are you most proud of?
Probably the moment when I first held our samples and realised that all my research and late nights had actually transformed into a physical product. Whether or not I could sell it, I knew that if I put my mind to something I could do it. The product development part I found most daunting, but I’m still learning and still get such a kick out of looking at each finished product.
Tell us more about your press coverage.
When I was building my dream list of publications/ outlets I would like to land on, the baby magazine (Chelsea Magazine Company) was top of my list as it was exactly where I wanted to position my brand. When I reached out to them I was surprised to even have gotten a reply, let alone for them to tell me that they would like to feature me in their news section. A few months later when I was expecting to be right at the back in small corner with maybe 5 words, I was so shocked to see us on a full page with images right near the front!!! Probably one of my most emotional moments to date.
We were then approached by the amazing Absolutely Mama Magazine who not only featured us in an interview but placed Maeve and me on the front cover!!!
Since then I have been doing an online course trying to land some other PR without an agent. As a start-up company there are so many expenses so I believe with some guidance I can do this myself until the business is further down the line.
Do you have any tips for start-up microbusinesses?
I think what Kirsten from Collide Rings said in your March Microbusiness interview is extremely good advice. Get feedback as soon as possible and at each step along the way. Do this before you even spend a penny because until you can prove the concept or have a plan to prove concept, you don’t have a business.
I would also say that self-education is extremely value and rewarding to your business. I started with free podcasts, books, audio books (if you have a baby and struggle to find time to sit down), reading blogs – I was soaking up as much information as I could about each stage I was going through at the time.
I continue to do this now and have started to pay for courses from podcasters that I listen to. Research your courses first and make sure you trust the trainer before paying for anything. I always evaluate how much the course is, versus how much I think it could make for me if I took it. If it makes you more than it’s cost, then it’s worth it.
Would you have a funny business story you can share with our readers?
I took my designer out on a trip to Portugal so we could have a look at some factories that I was considering working with. Our range at the time used silk and cotton (woven fabrics), whereas most factories work with jersey fabrics (think t-shirts).
I had my eye on a particular factory as all my values aligned with his and we had had many phone conversations about my dresses.
When we walked into the factory in Portugal and had a look, around it became very clear that this had been a big big mistake. When we looked left and right we could see that they were only making 1 thing – jersey t-shirts!!.
The owner took us into his rundown, sweaty office and admitted that in fact he had never worked with woven fabrics before and would like to trial this on us. I looked at my designer in shock!! He continued to explain that there would be mistakes but “hey this is all a learning curve” … I stopped the meeting and said that this wasn’t for us, that we didn’t want to be guinea pigs and took the quality of our products very seriously.
Needless to say we had plenty of port back at our hotel that night!!