Bryony and Hannah are the brilliant mumpreneurs behind Poppy England who design and manufacture beautiful dresses for women and girls, as well as a range of other lovely products. Bryony and Hannah have been kind enough to spare some of their busy time and tell us all about them and their journey. You can see all they have to offer at www.poppyengland.com.
1. So first things first, tell me a little bit about yourself and your family?
Bryony: I am 32, I live in London, originally I come from North Yorkshire, a little town called Yarmwhich is where the business was founded. Poppy was set up by my parents in 1980 and ran successfully until 2001 when prints went out of fashion and manufacture moved from the UK
Hannah: I am 34, 40 weeks and 9 days pregnant with my first baby (we don't know if it's a boy or girl, will probably be a boy as we have a warehouse full of girls clothes!). After studying to be a designer/maker I worked out in Cuba, Argentina, China and USA as a ceramicist then interior designer before partnering with with Bryony to run Poppy, I now handle the sales, buying and general running of the business whilst Bryony controls the design (she's also an excellent business woman too!)
2. What's the story behind Poppy England?
Bryony: I went home to take over this business about 10 years ago. They had always done bold border prints and i felt there was a movement in the air towards all things nostalgic. So Poppy had a chance to grow again. With the help of my parents expertise I started printing my own fabrics from sketches and ideas I had. The main concept was to base the prints around a little girl called Poppy and her dog Fred, then I wrote stories to go with the fabrics. This way I hoped to make less disposable fashion and help children to have more involvement in their clothing. This way they would appreciate the clothing much more . We have now grown from not just making clothes for little girls but for big ones too!
3. Where there any struggles along the way?
Both: We had no idea how hard it would be, a business now has to work in so many different directions. The manufacturing process can be tricky as well as promoting and getting your self out there, then having to come up with new unique designs every 6 months and shops seem to go into sale so quickly, you think ' wow all that work for 2 months at full price!'.
Bryony: We think the biggest struggle is keeping up the momentum when you don't see light at the end of the tunnel. That's why it was so great to meet Hannah and for us to start working together really helped.
Hannah: I'm so lucky to have a business partner like Bryony, she works so hard, is naturally an amazing designer and best of all she's a great friend, even when times get tough or we disagree, we talk it through and work it out together, I couldn't do it without her.
4. Looking back is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
Both: Yes but then you also realise you had very few choices at the time and you have to take risks in order to move forward.
5. Are there any new products in the pipeline?
Bryony: Always... I am just working on the collection for AW15, so we work about a year in advance or so... it's always exciting to see the new things coming together. With us both being from a product deign background we would love to do more with our fabrics in interiors and furniture.
6. A lot of mums would love to work for themselves, what advice can you give them?
Hannah: Give it a try, it's tough but totally worth it when it works out. Being on maternity leave is a great opportunity to take a step back and look at what you really want out of life, even if you can't jump into a new business straight away due to family responsibilities, plan for the long term and start researching and building up a good business plan for when the kids start school. Take it slow at first, financially it can take time so if you have another means of paying the bills don't loose it, maybe cut down your 'normal' job so you work less days but still maintain an income, money is the main reason businesses fail so hold on to what you can until you are able to fully immerse yourself.
Bryony: I think it's hard to do it all on your own, especially if you are working from home all the time. It can be quite isolating and feel quite lonely at times. Although it's not always easy to work with someone else all the time, it's great in so many ways. Bouncing ideas of each other, perspective , you both have different strengths and weaknesses.