If you missed part 1 of my interview with Lauren Manville about her styling business, I highly recommend jumping back to it [check it out here] and discovering more about her background in design, as well as her previous career in speech and language therapy. Lauren has used her array of skills and expertise to create a truly unique business, but like many great entrepreneurs, her next idea wasn’t far behind the first, and she’s ready to launch business number two very soon; Mother Rose, a premium fashion brand for those interested in motherhood. You might think starting and managing two businesses at once is impossible, but Lauren lifted the lid on her process, sharing with us her journey so far and tips for starting a brand from scratch.
You started two businesses at once – that’s incredible! Why did you decide to do it this way?
I realised that while it was amazing to start Lauren Manville Style, I wasn’t designing. Designing is what I wanted to do, so I started thinking about where there is a gap in the market. I thought, so many of my girl friends are pregnant and struggling with confidence, not being able to feel like themselves and tap into their essence. I started designing a maternity brand, although I’m not calling it a maternity brand. The designs are a more general clothing brand that just happens to work for pregnant women, so you can also mostly wear them if you’re not pregnant. The pieces will last from the early days of pregnancy right through to postpartum, so they expand and contract, and they’re also designed with breast feeding in mind. I knew this was what I had to do. I put together my business plan for both businesses in September, officially became a business in October, and then went away and started working on everything.
It sounds like a fantastic concept. What sparked the idea in the first place?
The brand can be for pregnant women but the pieces are chic. They’ve been designed for women who are essentially business women, but who are also fashion lovers, so they are really beautiful garments. No standard maternity jersey wrap dresses, nothing big and flouncy, just really cool shapes which are flattering. Women are having children much later now, and so they are in a position where they’ve established themselves in their career and they’re used to having a disposable income – why is it that when you get pregnant you don’t have the same fashion options? Of course, they’re going to have less money because they’re going to be putting it towards a little person instead, but that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden they should have to go to a meeting feeling totally disconnected from themselves, and having no sense of style and no sense of self. Pregnancy is a slight identity crisis, and the further along they go in their pregnancy, women do tend to lose confidence.
It sounds like you really know who you are targeting with the brand. Would you say your target market for Lauren Manville Style is the same as Mother Rose?
I don’t think it’s the same. The style business seems to be gaining more momentum and more interest from women in their midlife years, whereas Mother Rose is going to be directed at women who are late 20s through 40s, because women are having babies much later now. I want to make sure it’s directed at all stages of motherhood. Mother Rose will be for pregnant women or women interested in motherhood, whereas Lauren Manville Style is a bit more attainable for all women. I genuinely would love that to be for anyone. I’d like to be able to create services for people with all different incomes, whether it be a workshop or a night out, or a whole style overhaul. Whatever your budget or your schedule or your inclination, I’d love to be able to create something bespoke.
Will both businesses come under your name or are they two separate entities?
It’s under one name, so the business is Mother Rose Limited. One side is Lauren Manville Style, and the other side is Mother Rose, which is the clothing brand. They link because they are both focused on helping women regain their confidence. In terms of how I’m dividing my time, it’s tricky. I’ve decided I want to do a June launch for the clothing brand, so only a few months away!
Wow, so soon! What stage are you at with it?
Basically I haven’t given myself much time! I knew what I wanted the designs to be, but I didn’t want to put my name on something that I didn’t believe in, so it’s taken some time. I’ve been trying to split my week; Monday and Tuesday I work on Lauren Manville Style, Thursday and Friday on Mother Rose, Wednesday I’m splitting the two. That worked quite well for a while, until I made the decision that I wanted to have a June launch, and I had to basically put aside around three weeks for Mother Rose which I’ve just done the past few weeks. I’ve been solely focused on that. I’m now at the stage where just yesterday, my samples started to arrive, which is really exciting! My fabrics have pretty much been ordered and things are underway, it’s all go! Now that I feel like that’s on track, I’m back to working on Lauren Manville Style. With two sides to the business, you’ve just got to keep them both moving. It works for me but it means that the admin side is hard.
With two sides to the business, you’ve just got to keep them both moving.”
Is it just you alone running all of these elements of the business?
When it comes to actually creating the styles, I’m not physically making them, I have designed them all and then have a sampling unit to realise them. In terms of me running both businesses then yes, it’s just me. I know that clothing brands can take a while, and because I devoted so much of my time to the Lauren Manville Style side of the business – October, November and December being totally the Style side – I put my all into that with the networking and everything. From December, even though I had Mother Rose in my mind before, I allowed myself to really go for it then. It’s full on, because it might take a while to make money from Mother Rose, so of course I need to drive interest from Lauren Manville Style alongside.
Would you be looking to get the brand into stores or sell it on your own website?
I’m quite particular about where I want it to go. The stores I want it to go in, it might not get to for a while. I’d love it to be picked up straight away, don’t get me wrong, but the reality is that it probably won’t, so I’m going to have to sell it on my own site. I’m trying to be realistic but I do feel like there’s a gap in the market, so I’m hoping that people love the designs as much as I do.
Do you think launching a brand alongside your other business is affecting your work life balance?
It’s really hard if I’m honest with you. I got married last year, and I think for most people who get married, their marriage is the most important thing in the first year, and while my husband is absolutely my most important person, I’ve actually been working ridiculous hours the whole time. I’ve been working 14, sometimes 16-hour days since I started, so do I have a good balance? Not really! But I’m working on it, and actually if I had just launched one business, would I have done the same? Probably. I think I am that kind of person. When I get into something, I throw myself in entirely. Also I feel like I’ve got a goal to reach, I know what I want, and I’m so aware that this motivation I’ve got might not last forever, so I want to hammer it while I’ve got it.
I’m nearly in my 6th month of business, and I do feel I’m getting slightly better at it! I’m able to say to myself, actually everybody has a lunch break, why shouldn’t I? I’m very lucky that I work from home and live right by a park, and I can get up and walk around which is so important, mentally. To be able to physically remove yourself from the space is important, otherwise you’re living and working in one spot and you’re unable to separate those parts of your life. I have an active social life which is important, and obviously that’s taken a bit of a nose dive since launching, but I get my energy from people, so when I first went off on my own I struggled a lot. I don’t like being on my own. Initially I was really grappling with this, then it was a case of getting over it, because what are you going to do? That’s been one of the best things that’s happened to me, it’s made me feel better working on my own and allowed me to be calm and happy. I always have music on really loud! When I’m in the creative mode it’s always really loud, and when I’m doing something else it’s much calmer. Music is a really telling part of where I’m at in my day. I do think now I’m getting better at the balance as I allow myself weekends off. I think when I launch Mother Rose in June I’ll be feeling so relieved, and I’ll have to dial it back otherwise I’ll just burn out.
The funny thing is, when you need to do something, you’ll do it. When someone’s working ridiculous hours, for example a lawyer working on a case, then they just do it, right up until that point when the case comes to an end, and then your body just drops and that’s when people get ill. Your body can do it, up until a certain point. There have been a couple of moments where that’s almost happened to me.
When you feel those moments coming on, what do you do?
Yoga is just the best. I walk a lot, do a lot of yoga, and honestly just being with my husband and my friends helps. I like to go out dancing a lot, not as much as I used to sadly, but I miss dancing and music, when I haven’t done it in a while I miss it.
Do you have a mantra you tell yourself every day?
I have a couple! I went to see this incredible life coach who gave me some great things, one was “You are enough” and one was “Good will happen”. I’ve experienced a lot of trauma in my life so I’m always ready for bad things to happen. She told me that I should instead expect good things to happen. It’s all going to be fine. And also to breathe! And not to be so focused on the goal, be focused on the journey. So basically one of those 7 mantras!
Where do you go when you want to feel inspired?
An art gallery! For me, I need art. One of my mum’s talents is that she’s an artist, and I’ve always grown up with it in my life. I was going to study history of art before. I take a lot of my inspiration from art.
If someone wanted to start a fashion brand like you’ve done, what advice would you give them?
I’d say the biggest advice is research. I spent many an hour in the business section of the British Library, reading and researching and learning, going to every free talk available. Grab a coffee with anybody, that’s what I’d say, and if you do want to start a brand, learn your market and know it inside out. Don’t be afraid of competitors, learn them. Make sure you are the person who goes to the factories, go to meetings with every single person. It’s your brand, it’s got your name on it, make sure you know how every finish will be, where every seam will go.
Don’t be afraid of competitors, learn them.”
You can find out more about Lauren and her business at LaurenManvilleStyle.com, and keep your eyes peeled to find out when Mother Rose is launching!