You know me. I love a bit of ‘mama merch’ and combine that with an indie maker and seller who is a mum herself and you’re onto a winner. Insta famous Mutha.Hood is a indie brand that I really love and I was super keen to get the mama behind the business to feature in my Start Up Stories. Gemma is lovely and one inspiring lady, enjoy finding out more about her brand, how it started and how she runs it. Oh and keep scrolling right to the end as there’s a little treat for you my dear reader.
My name is Gemma, I have a deep need to own everything that is embroidered, multi-coloured and adorned with pom poms. I also run Mutha.Hood.
Tell us a little bit about your business
Mutha.Hood has been running for a year. It was actually its first birthday a few days ago and I’m still blown away by how much it has grown in that time. I sell merchandise that aims to empower and celebrate women.
Once you had the idea how did you go about turning it into a reality?
I’m very lucky that my working background helped to give me the confidence to take the leap. Before maternity leave I was an Assistant Buyer for a high street clothing company. I learnt all about garment quality, printing techniques, cost prices, negotiating and the importance of sticking to your brand identity. I also used to be a TV Researcher so I then utilised those skills to learn as much as I could about the stuff that I didn’t know about like shop set up and Illustrator. I set up through Big Cartel, found a UK based printer, took some pictures and hustled on Instagram… the rest is history.
What’s been the hardest part of your life as a start up business so far and how do you overcome those kinds of hurdles?
This year has been challenging because neither of my girls are in childcare, due to a house move. I’m a completer-finisher through and through and balancing looking after them with the demands of a third growing baby, my business, has caused some pressure. I’m lucky that my Mum lives near-by so she has them 1.5/2 days a week, and that Dom is happy to sit next to me every evening in the office whilst I work; often agreeing to fold tees with me whilst I force him to listen to Zayn for the millionth time.
I run on black coffee and chocolate biscuits when I’m working, what couldn’t you live without?
The Instagram-Chats from my followers. It can be a lonely old road setting up on your own. Not least because there’s a serious lack of water cooler chat. I love the messages I get from people and they brighten my day and reassure me that I’m making a difference. I don’t just want to sell products, I genuinely want to help women feel good about themselves. That can either be through fun, printed tees, or by sharing snippets of my life and internal ramblings through Insta-Stories. So when I get a comment or a message from someone, it makes my soul happy.
I know from running this blog and my own online store that when you’re a primarily online based business you need a strong social media presence, which is your favourite platform and do you have any tips for running it?
I think it’s clear that I am IN LOVE with Instagram. I love the community that exist on there, the inspiring people I’ve found and the banter that it provides. Part of the reason why I’ve achieved what I have on it is because I love it so much. I reply to almost everyone who gets in touch with me, I’m the biggest Fan-Girl when it comes to my Insta-Heroes, so I don’t simply use it as a tool to sell my wares and I think that shows. I recently signed up to Iconosquare. It’s got wonderful analytics and scheduling but I mainly started to use it because my thumb began to really ache from all of the comments I was leaving. It’s a great tool when you use Instagram as heavily as I do for a business.
What is the best part of running your own business? Has there been a ‘pinch yourself to check it’s real’ kind of moment for you?
I love the connections that it has brought me. Motherhood can be a lonely place, I never found a good network of friends in playgroups and I feel like I’ve found them through running the business. When people are so nice to me and supportive it really makes me feel so grateful. I’ve chatted to some lovely people and when my Insta-Heroes share what I’ve thought up and started to sell I literally can’t stop the happy tears. DLAM, MOD (#MODNZOK4EVA), Alison Perry, Make Do & Push, InPoLife, LittleFlea, Molly Forbes, Lisa Dawson, The Frugality … and the God-dess that is Erica Davies. These are women that I literally adore to the same level as I once loved Keanu Reeves so that pretty much makes me beam from ear to ear.
Has being a parent influenced the way your business works?
Being a parent is the reason why the business started. It shook me to the core but by becoming a Mum it made me realise the importance of helping other women know that they’re awesome. I also wanted a business that could work around the children; so I try my hardest not to let it interfere too much with our time together.
Running an online business must overwhelming at times, what do you do to manage your time and what tips do you have for avoiding being overwhelmed?
Last night I had a melt down in front of Dom over tissue paper. I don’t think I’m the wisest when it comes to not feeling overwhelmed. Although, a big step forward has been acknowledging to myself what this is. It isn’t a little hobby, it’s a valued business and I need to start believing in it more. It needs the time that it’s demanding and it’s okay for me to give it.
What’s your current favourite item or range in your store at the moment?
The Strong Girls Club Tee. I loved it the moment the stock came in and seeing so many wonderful women and kids wearing it has made me love it even more.
Got any new products or projects in the pipeline?
I’m always thinking of new bits, I don’t think my brain ever stops really. I’m working on some new jewellery which has taken months to come to fruition, some new enamel pins and, of course, some new graphic tees.
Whether practical or inspirational, what is your top piece advice for anyone out there wanting to take that leap and start their own business?
Do what you know, do what you love. I love everything about what I do – the designing, the customer chats, the admin, the ‘gram and I think that shows through the business and my enjoyment of the business as it grows. I also think it’s important to set yourself small targets, then you won’t ever be disappointed in yourself and bail too early on your idea. You can sit there and wish to be as big as the already established brands, but if that’s your only goal you’ll feel like every achievement isn’t quite good enough, and the pressure can put you off. My first mini-goal was to see my tee on DLAM (@dresslikeamum), then sell a new design, the next was to break even, … each one that I achieve reminds me of how far I’ve come and on the nights where I’m packing orders until 2am, worrying that I’m not balancing it all that’s a good reminder to have.
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