Ovi and Reu provide beautifully curated gift boxes for new and expectant mums, it’s not a surprise to find out that this business was started up by mums, three mums to be precise – one is even a grandmother. I’ve featured one of their Parisian inspired gift boxes and now I’m excited to share their Start Up Story with you. I found is such an interesting read and I hope you do too.
We are Emily, Laura and Jean: two new mums and one new grandma who set-up in business together last year whilst Laura and I (Emily) were on maternity leave with our sons Oliver (Ovi) and Reuben (Reu). Jean is Emily’s mum and Ovi’s grandma. Gosh that sounds way more complicated than it actually is!
We are actually all teachers by training; Laura still teaches at primary level here in Bristol, Jean recently retired from being a Deputy Head in Hampshire and I left my job teaching secondary English at the end of my maternity leave in October. We try not to get sucked into conversations about ‘how to get kids into reading’ when in a business meeting otherwise nothing gets done…
Before teaching we managed to rack up a pretty impressive wealth of experience ‘doing other things’ including working in advertising, interior design, PR, The Civil Service…no one trick ponies here that’s for sure!
Laura and I live in Bristol; we think it’s one of the greatest cities in the world as it’s so brimming with life and design and it’s so family friendly. And Jean lives in Hampshire where she enjoys the rural idyll of village-life. So between us we have the best of all worlds.
Tell us a little bit about your business
At Ovi and Reu we provide beautifully packaged and letterbox friendly gift collections for new and expectant mums. Our gift collections are lifestyle themed so you can choose the collection which best reflects the preferred lifestyle of the mum that you are buying for – from Coastal, Country, Parisian or, for the mum-to-be, the Expectant Collection. We also have the new Highlights Collections which echo the three main lifestyle themed collections (Parisian, Coastal and Country) but are more compact and feature some of the most popular products from each. The Highlights Collections start at £35.
We are lucky enough to spend our working days seeking out interesting and beautiful gifts from British based companies to help make mums feel amazing. It’s all about celebrating aspirational lifestyle with your beautiful new bundle in tow.
What made you want to start up Ovi and Reu?
It all started in the early days of being at home with Ovi when I found myself answering the door to deliverymen on pretty much a daily basis. They just always seemed to rock up with an earth shattering bang on the door at the worst possible moments – just as I had settled down to feed Ovi, or do some expressing, or finally managed to get him (and sometimes even myself) off to sleep. It’s always so lovely and exciting to receive a gift in the post, but there’s nothing quite like seeing something slide magically through the letterbox and on to the mat where you can pad over to retrieve it in your own time and in any of the various states of undress with which I associate those early days of motherhood!
Once I got Laura and Jean on board things really took off – we loved the idea of sending out letterbox friendly collections of gifts which were all about celebrating the lifestyle that you envisage embracing with your new baby. If you were a cosmopolitan woman before you had your baby then you can certainly still be one afterward – hence The Parisian Collection contains gifts which a stylish urbanite would enjoy. Meanwhile The Coastal Collection is reminiscent of life by the ocean with the colour palette, scents and general vibe of the gifts enclosed.
Once you had the idea how did you go about turning it into a reality?
Well it all started out in a very civilised fashion with lots of long lunches and sketching and scribbling down ideas. In those early days the boys were still little enough that they would sleep peacefully through our long and rambling meetings. But as things became more serious we had to change the way we worked to suit having increasingly mobile and demanding little people in tow! Meetings had to move to after bedtime and became less about creative ideas and more about strategy and (inevitably) accounting and finances.
We took lots and lots of help and advice from the many talented and inspiring people in our lives and step by step we produced everything we needed from the logo, the website content, finding and sourcing the perfect letterbox friendly packaging and of course, finding the products from our wonderful suppliers. Eventually we found ourselves at a point where it was ‘now or never’ and we took the plunge in November and launched the website. Since then it has been a pretty fast learning curve and the look and feel of the brand has changed a lot in even these first few months of life as we have responded to our customers’ and suppliers’ needs.
Have you made any mistakes?
Ha! Yes. Several. And I’m sure we are still in the process of making some!
As I said before, it’s such a steep learning curve and just when you think you’ve got one element nailed, something else crops up that causes you to re-think that whole approach. For example we used to have lots of beautiful photography on our website that was all about illustrating the lifestyles that we want to celebrate but we had to cut all that out to become more product focussed in our look. There was a lot of time wasted there but hopefully we can find a place for that work further down the line.
Best thing about running your own business?
It really makes you appreciate the people in you world and how generous and inspiring those people are. Our company is very definitely a team effort – not just the three of us but our entire support network of friends and family who are a constant and invaluable source of help and support.
Obviously it is also amazing to work in your own space, in your own time, to your own agenda and on your own terms. That is absolutely phenomenal.
The hardest thing?
Getting the balance right between being in ‘work mode’ and ‘mummy mode’ throughout the day is really tough at times. Throughout the last year we have experienced the highs and lows of working during nap times, after bedtimes, before they’re awake, when feeding in the middle of the night and at weekends. Right now I’ve got one eye on the monitor as Ovi slumbers away and we’re often against the clock in that sense!
What inspires you?
The people we know. The world has opened up in the most incredible way since we have had children and it’s been such an inspiring and life-affirming experience. The other mums that we meet and hang out with on a daily basis are the reason why we are doing this; it’s all about celebrating our lives as they were before and as they are now. Also the incredible suppliers that we have met. The British design industry is a thriving and beautiful place to be and we just love having the opportunity to spread that love.
Any advice for anyone out there thinking of starting up their own business?
Get yourself a gorgeous new notebook (check out Studio Sarah for this!), find an inspiring place to go and sit for two hours (we love coffee shops or kitchen tables) and get scribbling. Then find a sounding board – whether it’s a potential business partner, a life-partner or your best friend – start off the way you mean to go on by listening to, considering and responding to the ideas of others.
Think about the people around you – what do they do and how might they be able to help you out. You’ll be amazed at how talented and generous people are with their time and skills.
But mostly, just crack on and have a go. I was given the excellent advice that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would fail… but that this is really the beginning, not the end of the process of living.
Ovi and Reu have recently launched a gift box subscription service for expectant and new mums – because there’s nothing quite as lovely as receiving a letterbox friendly package of beautiful boutique goodies once a month for several months in a row.
The three month subscription, which is called Bump, Birth and Beyond (£69 for three boxes), is intended to begin during pregnancy, with the Bump box being delivered before baby has arrived and the second two boxes being delivered after the new bundle has joined us ‘on the outside’. There is a combination of indulgent and beautiful gifts from boutique designers and suppliers, as you would expect from Ovi and Reu. And don’t fret – in case you’ve missed ‘The Bump’ window, there is also a two month option which is called ‘Newborn & Beyond‘ (£45 for two boxes).
I’m happy to share a discount code with you!
Use the code NEWMUMMY for 10% off your order
Want to read more inspiring Start Up Stories? Just click on the image below