Guest Post by Laura Bonnell, Founder of Muklet on her Entrepreneurial Journey + Competition
Laura Bonnell has worked as a fashion designer for the past 18 years in London, New York, and more recently, California. During this time she has designed for many brands including Ralph Lauren, Barbour and Jack Wills. In 2014 she launched Muklet, an Americana & Vintage brand for Kids. She is also Mum to 2 boys aged 7 and 4, as well as wife to her 3rd child – her ‘man-child’ husband!
It’s a joy to share Laura’s moving entrepreneurial journey here:
2 years ago I took the decision to step away from the 9-5pm (well, 9-9pm in reality!) corporate world to pursue launching my own childrenswear brand. The decision came after a ‘series of unfortunate events (more of that later). It was also born from wanting to continue my lifelong passion of designing clothes, but finding a way to create a more flexible way of working, allowing me more time with our young family.
The journey to my career epiphany started during my 2nd pregnancy. At 5 months pregnant I noticed a suspicious mole, and after having it tested I discovered it was a malignant melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer. I managed to have it removed whilst I was pregnant, but had to wait anxiously until our little boy arrived to return for further surgery to see if the cancer had spread. 2 weeks after he was born I went back for surgery. After another agonising 2 week wait, we fortunately found out the cancer hadn’t spread any further.
Our family seem to have a habit of life throwing us many challenges at once. Not too many months after my ordeal my Dad was suddenly taken ill and admitted to hospital. After a few days and many tests we were told that he unfortunately had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It had also spread to his liver. It was too late to operate on, and 2 short weeks later, he very sadly passed away.
If you think that was the end of our run of bad luck, unfortunately it wasn’t! During my time running back and forth to the hospital to see Dad there had been management changes at work. Ever the diligent (or so I thought!) worker I hadn’t thought too much of it. A few weeks after Dad’s funeral, I was called into a meeting with my director and told I was losing my job! This was a just before Christmas. My first Christmas without Dad. I left the office stunned. I had loved that job, I’d loved working with the team, I’d even been working at home in between the hospital visits to see Dad. I felt so stupid.
After a short pity party at the local pub with my husband, I decided I wasn’t ever going to let someone hurt me like that again. I had wanted to be a fashion designer all my life, but this time I was going to do it on my terms. The next week, I dusted off my pencils and sewing machine, and got sketching and making,
With a few pages of designs, an idea for a brand name, and a cushion I had made I took myself along to a local small business networking meeting. I even had my contact details printed out on scraps of paper (because I hadn’t had time to make business cards!).
After getting some positive feedback I decided to go for it. I made some more things to sell, set up my website, and then started telling more people about Muklet.
I was ideally placed in South West London (with a high concentration of children) to research and target my market. Word quickly spread, and I managed to build up the business, quickly outgrowing our small office pod we had built at the end of our London garden!
With a renewed energy for life, and using our past year’s experience to fuel our desire to put our dreams into action, we decided to make another bold move. I’d met my American husband when I had worked in New York some years ago. After 9 (mostly rainy!) years in England we decided it was time to move back to the USA. We had however, struggled to secure jobs in the USA to move back to. After having had numerous Skype interviews, we found the response was often, ‘give us a call when you’ve moved back over here’. So, with no prospective jobs to move to, but with a strong will to escape the ‘Big City rat race’ we decided to put our London flat on the market, and let fate decide our next move. The flat sold 2 weeks later. A couple of months later, we packed everything into a 20 ft shipping container, and we moved our little family to sunny California!.
We’re now 10 months into our big California adventure, and I can confess it is the craziest, but best decision we ever made. The boys love the sunshine, the beaches, the outdoor lifestyle, and the space – something that’s essential with two very active young kids! As for us, we also love our more active (& sunny) lifestyle, and have both found some amazing freelance work opportunities that offers us flexibility to spend time together as a family, and allows me to carry on developing my children’s brand Muklet.
My path to this point may read like a ‘Days Of Their Lives’ story line, but I am a firm believer in allowing yourself to choose how to deal with the challenges that life throws at you. The phrase, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ rings very true with me! I decided after what we had been through the past couple of years to learn, grow and move forward. It’s a well-worn cliché, but life is short, and I’ve decided I’m grabbing it with both hands, because it certainly is one crazy, but awesome adventure!
BONUS HONEST MUM OFFER: To celebrate the launch of Muklet’s UK website this month Honest Mum readers can also take advantage of this special discount code to receive FREE SHIPPING on orders over £30/ $30. ENTER CODE: HONESTMUM17 Offer expires 30th September 2017.
Win a varsity jacket below.
Ends 30th Sept.
No cash alternative.
Winner must respond within 7 days of email sent or a new random winner will be selected.