As back to school photos fill up our social feeds and we get back into the routine of the morning alarm clock, mums Lisa and Philippa know all too well of the juggling act that comes from running a business and balancing the family routine.
Delighted to have just added a brand-new award win to their growing collection this September (Gold in the Best Baby & Toddler Gear by Mumii), the dynamic co-founders of The Bshirt are determined to put the priorities of raising their families first and make the business work around their growing boys.
Since setting up their social venture in 2017, the Devon based mumpreneurs have been determined to make sure office hours to fit in with the school run, whilst embarking on their mission to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK, which have some of the lowest rates in the world according to UNICEF.
So much more than just vest top, the Bshirt ‘Lift the Flap’ design launched less than two years ago and has already gained endorsements by leading breastfeeding experts, as well as the seal of approval by Instagram fashionista Dress Like a Mum.
Passionate about improving breastfeeding rates in the UK, Lisa and Philippa have had an overwhelmingly positive response from customers, who say wearing their Bshirts has helped them breastfeed more comfortably, with data from customer surveys showing that 83% of mums feel more confident breastfeeding in public wearing the Bshirt than they did in the privacy of their own homes before receiving the Bshirt.
Created by mums for mums, Lisa and Philippa are passionate about not just getting mums to milk it with confidence, but to carve out a business that provides a wage and supports their families, providing a fulfilling career that puts time with the family first.
“As parents, we have skills that aren’t immediately recognised by traditional employers. We are ace time managers, jugglers, peacekeepers and multi-taskers. We have to deal with endless to-do lists, navigate the mental load of family life and hold down a job! Those skills have been essential to starting a business, which can take on a life of its own. It’s been great setting our own hours and feeling like we are available to our kids on our own terms, and not just tied to our jobs. But there is never enough time for everything. We’re learning the art of delegation at work and at home. Division of labour! We tend to work hours to fit in with the school day - so we work 9am to 3pm - so that we can do the school run. But we might work evenings a few nights in the week to catch up. The highlight for us is being with our kids over the summer holidays - spending the day at the beach then home for dinner where we hand over to Dad, who relished taking the kids to the park for a play while we have some evening time in at the office. It’s a balancing act but it can be done.”
As the business grows, they are intent on building the foundations of the business based on these values and over the past 12 months have developed a team of seven - all of whom are working mums and whose hours fit around their family schedules.
“When we started the Bshirt everything needed to run the company was up to us. We were designing the product, doing the marketing, picking and packing orders, bookkeeping, accounting, admin, etc. Now as our business is growing our roles are changing. We have brought in some help to enable us to focus more on strategy and ensuring that our team (entirely working parents) is empowered, inspired and motivated to do their very best every day.”
The Bshirt team are proud to be building a business with a focus on providing opportunities for mums raising their growing families, at the same time as working to empower mums and improve breastfeeding rates in the UK.
Lisa and Philippa share their top tips for other parents who may be looking to start their very own venture…
What gave you the inspiration to launch your own business?
We are both very passionate about breastfeeding and all the amazing benefits it provides to both mother and child. Prior to having children Lisa was working in marketing and Philippa in digital. When we became parents, we refined additional skills including multi-tasking, time management and even peacekeeping! We wanted to put our professional and personal skills to good use in our goal of improving breastfeeding rates. This has been essential to starting a business, which can take on a life of its own.
It’s been great setting our own hours and feeling like we are available to our kids on our own terms, and not just tied to our jobs. We have created a business environment where our roles as mothers are valued and respected and we are helping to normalise breastfeeding for mums across the UK.
How do you both juggle being a mum and an entrepreneur?
There is never enough time for everything. We’re learning the art of delegation at work and at home. Division of labour! We tend to work hours to fit in with the school day - so we work 9am to 3pm - so that we can do the school run. But we might work evenings a few nights in the week to catch up. The highlight for us is being with our kids over the summer holidays - spending the day at the beach then home for dinner where we hand over to Dad, who relished taking the kids to the park for a play while we have some evening time in at the office. It’s a balancing act but it can be done.
What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to take the first step in a new business?
We say phone a friend! We could not run this business without each other and really value our partnership. At times we feel like we are married to each other because we are in each other’s pockets - texting each other at bath time saying, ‘can you check on that supplier?’ But we have gained so much from our partnership and the business wouldn’t be where it is now without the direction we’ve both given it. We each have a different set of professional and personal skills we bring to the table and we really complement each other well. As we are friends, to say that we have a business partnership isn’t really enough - it’s more like a sisterhood.
What are your best tips for balancing work, a social life, family and working out?
When you run a business you are passionate about, it’s easy to work on it 24/7. So, to have a life work balance it’s so important to be strict with yourself about finishing work on time. Prioritise the urgent stuff and accept that Rome wasn't built in a day! Turn off your phone notifications when you are not working so you you can check in with work on your own terms. We’re both runners and aim for two 5k runs a week although this is an aim rather than an absolute! We really notice our stress levels when we skip this, it can be tempting to skip exercise when you are busy. We try and get out to the pub or for a meal with our hubbies at least once a month for some ‘marriage therapy’, which when you have kids, is essential.
Who inspires you, both as a mum and as a business owner?
We’re really concerned about the way people are living at the moment - the fact that the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates just highlights how little people are aware of how they are living and the impact this has on their health, their children’s health or the planet. As social entrepreneurs we are always meeting people who started social ventures that are making a real difference to our society and the environment. It’s an inspirational time to be a businesswoman.
Fashion businesses that inspire us are Davy J who makes swimwear from recycled marine waste and Huit Denim who have brought the production of top quality jeans back to Cardigan in Wales.
About The Bshirt
The Bshirt is a social venture founded by two mumpreneurs with many years of breastfeeding experience between them. Leading the way to improve new mums’ confidence and help to make breastfeeding even more accessible - literally - friends and founders Philippa Doyle and Lisa Lessware officially launched The Bshirt in March 2017.
Co-Founder Lisa initially had the idea for The Bshirt after giving birth to her son. As she struggled to find easy to wear clothes for breastfeeding from her own wardrobe, keen crafter Lisa set out to tailor her own breastfeeding vest which would enable her to continue to wear both long and short sleeved tops.
Following numerous requests for the same design from family and friends (Philippa being one of the first) - the first Bshirt was born. After working to refine the design based on customer feedback from mums, the new brand is already gaining global interest.
The UK currently has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world and the NHS and UNICEF both list embarrassment as a key barrier to breastfeeding. The Bshirt is designed to improve confidence while breastfeeding.
The Bshirt is thrilled with feedback from customers which has highlighted 83% feeling more confident feeding in front of others while wearing their Bshirts*. (*Findings from Bshirt customer feedback survey)
The Bshirt launched their ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ Badge scheme in March 2018. To nominate or to register interest in supporting the scheme and displaying the badge, please visit the ‘Breastfeeding Revolution’ section of the website.
Available to buy online and with independent stockists, collections also include necklaces and breast pads. Profits from the sale of the Bshirt will be donated to established UK charities that support breastfeeding women. www.thebshirt.co.uk
GOLD – Best Baby and Toddler Gear 2018 for Nursing Clothing Brand
GOLD winner for MadeForMums Awards 2018, Breastfeeding accessory
GOLD (first prize) with Best Baby and Toddler Gear 2017 for Best Breastfeeding Clothing Brand
Platinum (first prize) with Loved By Parents 2017 for Best Feeding Top
Finalists for MadeforMums Awards 2017, Breastfeeding Accessory
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