Wonderful Women Interview with Laura Bonnell, Founder of Childrenswear Brand Muklet
Welcome to the latest Wonderful Women, celebrating all the kick-ass, inspiring ladies out there!
This week I’m speaking to Laura Bonnell, a Freelance Fashion Design Consultant and Founder of Childrenswear Brand, Muklet.
Laura has worked as a Fashion Designer for the past 17 years both in London and New York and has designed for brands such as Ralph Lauren, Barbour and Jack Wills. After having her 2 sons (aged 5 and 2 years) she decided in 2015 to launch her own Childrens’ brand: Muklet.
Laura draws on her love of American Vintage for inspiration (her husband could also be referred to as American Vintage!) to design and make Childrenswear, Homeware and Gifts for Kids (and big Kids!). Muklet has been featured in Vogue, Mr Fox and The London Mummy.
Describe a typical day for you?
My husband wakes me up with a much needed latte around 7.30am. He’s American, and one of his first requests when we moved from New York to London was that we had to buy a decent (very expensive) espresso machine! We then tag team to get our eldest ready for school, and our youngest ready for nursery if it’s a working day for me.
I then head out and do the school and nursery drop, and sometimes a run to the post office if I have orders to send out. I then head to the office pod at the end of our garden to start work for 9am.
My work days are a mixture of freelance design work and working on Muklet right now. My freelance work is very flexible, so I can fit it around my other commitments like the school play, dentist appointments and of course my Muklet work.
I sometimes head into London for meetings, workshops or networking events, then it’s back for school and nursery pick up at 6pm.
Once the boys are home it’s usually a rush to get a platter of (mostly!) healthy snacks out for them as they are always ravenous! Then it’s bath, PJ’s, reading practice with my eldest, then Daddy’s usually home about 8pm.
I used to try and get them to bed earlier, but they always bounded out of room when Dad got home. I decided a few months back to stop the bedtime battle, and we now just go with the flow!
Sometimes my husband will decide to have an impromptu dance party with them in the living room, or chase them up and down the flat on scooters before bed (again, I have given up pointing out it’s probably not the easiest way to get them to bed, and again go with the flow!).
Then I usual make dinner whilst my husband reads stories. I’ve been using one of those food delivery box services recently, and I’m really enjoying eating healthier more interesting meals.
We then eat, watch a bit of tv (normally Girls, Parks & Recreation, The Daily Show or The Bachelor/ Baseball depending on who has the remote!).
I may then head back to the office pod once the boys are in bed to catch up on e-mails, sew some orders, or write my blog. I’m a real night owl, it’s when I feel really creative, and I’m always going to bed too late!
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I had a really awful couple of years back in 2013/14. I was very poorly when I was pregnant with my youngest, then my father suddenly passed away, and then I was made redundant a couple of weeks before Christmas.
I’m a firm believer that you can’t control what life sometimes throws at you, but you can certainly decide how to handle it. I decided not to waste time feeling sorry for myself, and see it as an opportunity to be brave and give starting my own business a go, which is something I have always wanted to do.
Taking a leap of faith from the relative security of a salaried job is not easy, particularly when you have a family to support. But the adventure and fulfilment of being your own boss is well worth the sacrifice. It’s not been easy financially to be able to support running my own business, but luckily I have been able to find flexible freelance work to pay the bills while I get the business off the ground.
I’ve just realised I probably should have said my two sons are my biggest achievement! Which of course they are, that’s a given! I am so proud of the little people they are turning into, but I’m also proud that I can show them what can be possible if you put your passion into something. I love that they are interested in what I’m doing, and want to be involved.
What’s in your handbag?
I should probably check. My 2 year old loves to go rummaging and hide away its contents. I’ve still never found two MIA credit cards! I have the usual bits and bobs, as well as an Epi Pen for my eldest, Clinque foundation and chubby stick blusher to hide my haggered face, and Muklet flyers, as you never know who you might meet!
What are your ambitions in life?
As simple as have fun and be happy. My boys make me happy (big one and small ones), but being creative and achieving something makes me happy too. If I can manage to find a good balance between my work and home life, then I’ve achieved my latest ambition.
I’ve recently started to build more of a following and interaction with my blog. I’m telling the honest story of my misadventures in launching a brand and raising 2 boys (and 1 man child husband!).
There is such a wave of Mums launching their own businesses at the moment, that I thought it might help and humour people who either have their own business or are thinking about starting one. I didn’t set out to be a blogger, but I’m really enjoying writing, hearing peoples stories, and seeing what other opportunities it leads to.
What advice would you give your pre-baby self, that you now know?
Enjoy as many date nights and lie-ins as you can manage! I’ve recently met a number of people starting their own small business before they’ve had kids, and I’ve told them to go for it. Paying for childcare and finding time to work has probably been one of my biggest challenges.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
This would be my dream – to be in California, with a lovely little lifestyle shop selling Muklet, and other little British Kids brands. I will hopefully be enjoying sunshine, an outdoorsy life, enjoying being creative whilst having fun with the boys.
What advice would you give a budding designer/retailer?
Find what your USP is, then be consistent. It will take time for people to find you, you need to make sure people can quickly tell if you’re someone they’d like to buy from or follow on social media. Get out there and meet your ‘tribes’. Whether that’s on social media, or at workshops or networking events. Try to find events that are more specific to what you do.
I came to Vicki’s ‘Turning Passion into Pounds’ because I wanted to hear her story about being a Mummy Blogger and hopefully get to say hello! I thought it would be likely that other parents would be there that had started their own business and I love the opportunity to meet those kinds of people and hear their stories too.
There’s a lot of free or affordable advice out there, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get going. Set your parameters of how much time and money you are willing to invest. Call in all the favours you can! I’ve had help from anyone and everyone that has been willing. I don’t have the budget at the moment to pay for a lot of things, so I often offer free Muklet clothes or a bottle of wine for help!
Collaboration has been a great way to build my brand awareness. I am part of a number of small business groups. We readily share information, and sometimes run joint promotions or attend fairs together.
My ethos is ‘Collaboration not Competition’, there’s real power in supporting each other and paying a favour or advice forward.
Get out there and meet your customers and get feedback. I’ve done ALOT of Childrens’ fairs, pulling along my little red Radio Flyer Wagon and a rail of Clothes to set up a Muklet stall. This has been the best way to see if what I have designed and made is actually sellable!
Finally, happiness is…
Feeling fulfilled and having no regrets. Life is adventure, go out there and have fun!
You can check out Muklet on their website. They will also be popping up at a number of fairs in the summer including Kirsty Allsopp’s Handmade Fair on September 16-18th
You can follow Laura’s progress and her move to the USA on her blog.