An interview with... The BShirt Founders!
We love the concept of the BShirt! Tell us a bit more about how you came up with the idea?
When I (Lisa) was volunteering as a breastfeeding peer supporter in my local Sure Start, I saw so many women struggling to get a good latch because they were afraid of exposing themselves. They were wearing intricate, expensive clothing, and it was getting in the way of establishing breastfeeding. I suggested that these women could simply cut big holes in a vest top and wear that under normal clothes. The ones who took my advice found it was much easier to get a good latch and their confidence increased. When I met Philippa at pregnancy yoga (we were both pregnant with our second children) Philippa noticed this bizzare top I was wearing, and when asked where I got it she was astounded to learn I had made it myself! We felt that there might be something in this ‘vest with holes idea’ so we started some product development and market research and 2 years later we were in business!
What has been your career highlights?
It’s been such an amazing journey so far but the biggest highlight has to be the impact the top is having on new mums. We survey our customers before and after they receive their Bshirt. The data shows 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. That just blew us away!
We love that it’s pure lanolin and that it comes from the wool of free range sheep, shorn only to keep them cool.
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 is so important about good health and leading a natural lifestyle?
Your health is really the most important thing you can look after but it’s so easy to neglect it. Our busy lives often don’t allow the time it needs to take those extra steps to make healthier choices, therefore if you lead a more natural lifestyle good health tends to follow. So for us that means getting out in nature, picking wild blackberries with the kids, noticing the seasons, sourcing local produce and reducing plastic waste. If you incorporate those things into your lifestyle your health will benefit.
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 compliment 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’s your favourite way to keep a healthy lifestyle?
For us it’s literally on our door-stop – we live in Totnes, one of the most beautiful market towns in the UK, and we are so fortunate that we can walk our kids to school on quiet little roads, walk to work, see people you know in the street, see green rolling countryside, have access to organic and Fairtrade shopping on our high street – as well as a Zero Waste shop – and all without having to go anywhere near a car. You’d have to work pretty hard to have an unhealthy lifestyle in our town. But it’s no accident that we live here. We moved here with our families because we wanted all the choices we make that affect our families to reflect our values.
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 its 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.
What steps do you take in your life to be more natural? Do you encourage your children to have a more natural lifestyle?
We both have organic fruit and veg boxes delivered to our houses and our kids act like it’s Christmas day when it arrives, they always gobble up the peaches and strawberries straight away. We try and buy local and organic wherever possible. We cook homemade meals as often as we can, and although we both have fussy eaters we know that eventually, if the kids see healthy food every night, they will come around. It might take until they are 20 years old but our family eating habits will have an influence on them for their whole lives. We do allow them to have sweets and treats (sugar will always be a challenge that we’re not sure we have the answer to) but they have such healthy active lifestyles that we think we’re pretty much on the right track even if we’re not perfect.
What does the term Go Natural mean to you?
Less processed everything. Basically if you can read and understand the ingredients then it’s natural!
What advice would you give to someone looking to take more steps to live a more natural life?
It’s easy to say ‘buy organic’ or ‘eat more fruit and veg’ but really it’s about the lifestyle changes. So working out what you value as a family and if it’s more time together and eating healthy food then cooking a meal together could be a goal. It often means buying less and doing less, which is liberating.
What’s next for your careers as The BShirt and individually?
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 team 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 (mainly working mums) is empowered, inspired and motivated to do their very best every day. What’s next for Bshirt? We are expanding our product line, continuing to expand our team and are launching our own Charity where we can empower women all over the world to breastfeed with confidence.
What do you feel are the benefits of 100% natural products? What other 100% products do you use?
So many products on the shelves today contain chemical nasties and using natural products helps reduce these chemicals in our environment both in and outside the home. We don’t want to risk exposing ourselves to the potential harmful effects of these chemicals and are trying to switch to natural products as much as possible. We are now using natural soap bars instead of shower gel and hand wash, natural make-up and natural cleaning products for the home.
What does ‘green beauty’ mean to you?
Green beauty means using beauty products made with natural, ideally organic, ingredients.
Have you had any frustrations with natural products over synthetic products?
We have found some lovely natural products and it makes them even lovelier to know that they don’t contain any nasty chemicals. It can be hard to source natural products and we have spent many hours trawling the internet for the perfect natural lip stain! We have occasionally found that certain brands of lip stain don’t last as long as some of the synthetic versions we have tried, so our top tip is to order samples first so you can see what works best for you.
And what’s more?! The team are also donating £2 for EVERY Bshirt Lift the Flap in Seashell Pink sold during the month of October to the Pink Ribbon Foundation, for Breast Cancer Awareness month! Enter our social competition to win your very own BShirt now!