What inspired you to start Hippychick?
I started Hippychick when my first son Tom was born. I’d been working in London in marketing and we moved to Somerset while I was pregnant. When Tom came along what really hit me was the dearth of products on the market at the time that would actually help me with the practical side of parenting.
I had always wanted to run my own business, ideally selling tangible products that made a difference to parents with young children, and the Hipseat became the first product we launched under the Hippychick brand. We all do it, prop our babies up on our hips while multi-tasking trying to prepare a feed, answer the phone, eat a piece of toast – but the upshot is that you can’t help but jut your hip out to the side. And that in turn, throws your body out of alignment.
The Hipseat is a wide belt which buckles around the waist, with a built in perch, on which a toddler can sit comfortably and up close. It was our inaugural product and we’ve never looked back, having sold thousands of them, not only across the UK, but internationally, too.
Have you always wanted to work in this area?
I always knew I’d want to have my own business at some point. My background is in marketing, but before I started Hippychick, I actually worked for an Indian Beer company, Cobra. Moving to Somerset from London was a big step for us. But we wanted to start a family and we really didn’t want to do this in London.
My husband was working in the Met Police at the time so he was away all week, literally leaving me holding the baby! However I’ve always been an active sort of person. I couldn’t bear the idea of not working so it made sense for me to start a business that was entirely relatable to my life stage.
What’s your top piece of advice for anyone looking to start a business?
Be true to your brand. Your brand is everything, and you need to maintain your brand values and integrity every step of the way.
Always going to the nth degree to research a product before you take it on. Even if you love it, it might not fit with your brand.
Don’t cut the marketing budget, even if the going gets tough. The businesses that continue to invest during hell and high water are the ones who survive.
Which are your favourite products that you stock and why?
The Hipseat, because it’s a product that has sustained the business for so many years. But you can’t fail to fall in love with our collection of ride on Wheelybugs. They are consistently best sellers, particularly at this time of year, and we just get so much positive feedback from our customers.
Hippychick is also the exclusive distributor of Trybike, a fantastic balance bike concept that offers a practical entrée to riding a bike for kids as little as fifteen months but which also has the most incredible vintage styling. I wish they’d been around when I was a little one.
I also love the products that I’ve had a hand in developing. Our Hippychick waterproofs all in one toddler suits have won just about every award going for their efficacy and attention to detail – qualities that are all synonymous with Hippychick and make the brand what it is.
Who is one of your biggest inspirations – either professionally or personally?
In business – Karan Bilimoria – I worked for Cobra Beer for four years – Karan is a true entrepreneur who always had a calculator attached to his left hand. Everything was about margin and brand value.
Personal – my husband – who drives me mad at times but who is always positive, never takes no for an answer, will always go the extra mile for anyone and has boundless energy and enthusiasm for everything in life.
What do you think makes a successful business?
It’s about the people. You have to invest in good people, and then when they’ve proved their worth, you need to do everything to retain them by rewarding them and investing in their development.
It’s hard when it’s your own business but I try not to micromanage. Staff will only develop if you empower them.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
The roller coaster ride that is the UK. And everyone in this type of business has had it rough in recent years with Brexit, the Pandemic and now the cost of living crisis.
Working in a sector that’s geared towards new parents is constantly evolving. It’s not selling to a cheddar cheese eater or a beer drinker who may stick with a brand for life. Reaching new parents always has to be at the heart of what we do as it’s a constantly changing market.
Which part of your job do you most enjoy?
I’m competitive – I think you have to be in business, and I love the wins. They drive me.
Do you find it easy to balance work and play?
Absolutely not, particularly when the business was still in the early years. What I most remember was sleep deprived nights, not because my children wouldn’t sleep, it was more because that was the only time I had to work and physically pack orders.
When my husband joined the business it shared some of the pressure. I would always advise those setting up a business with a young family that they must spend enough time with their children – it is absolutely true that the time goes too fast. Mine are all adults now but I will always feel satisfied that I did my very best not to sacrifice them for the sake of the business.
Talk us through your typical day – from waking up to going to bed.
It’s busy –
Awake at 6.30am feed and check animals (sheep (60), horses, chickens, cats) walk dogs (3).
Hope there are no escapees/issues to delay the start to the day!
Drive to work in Bridgwater and if time allows, 30 lengths swim at the gym on the way.
Try and be proactive (on a minimum of four things, as well as reactive to everything that is thrown at us during the day).
Don’t stop for lunch but quickly heat something up in the microwave.
Leave at around 4.30pm before it gets dark walk dogs, get horses in, check sheep (lambing in March).
When all is sorted outside, make a cup of tea and sit down and go through any urgent emails (or do farm accounts) before thinking about cooking supper, putting on the washing, cleaning the house.
Watch the news/a film or read book (currently reading The Count of Monte Cristo, my son’s favourite book, which is unfortunately more than 1000 pages long but brilliant especially if you are into redemption!)
Switch out the light by 11.00pm.