We met Alexis, the founder of The Essential Bag Company and sat down for a refreshing diet coke while the sun finally decided to join us ! Alexis told us all about her business, and how she managed to juggle being a founder and being a mum!
Parentville: How did the project start? Where did you get your inspiration?
Alexis: The idea for The Essential Bag Company was born out of my experience of receiving gifts when my daughter was born and my experience of looking for high quality gifts for colleagues and friends. I searched for luxury baby gift bundles to send colleagues who were going on maternity leave or for friends with new babies. However, all I could find were hampers or gift boxes that contained unbranded products whose quality was questionable or which contained lots of items which I knew, as a new mother, would never be used. This gave me the inspiration to create a new gifting concept of filling a baby changing bag, a key essential for new parents, with gifts from luxury brands that customers know and trust. Our brands include Petit Bateau, Rachel Riley, Aspinal of London, Storksak, Charbonnel et Walker, Crabtree & Evelyn and many more…
P: Tell us more about your background. How did your career change after having children?
A: I trained and worked as a lawyer for 8 years before setting up The Essential Bag Company. I’ve always wanted to run my own business and thought that it was the right time to do it when my daughter was about to start school last year and I was pregnant with my second child. I wanted to have more flexibility to collect my daughter from school and be able to attend events such as sports day, school concerts etc. Running my own business gives me a lot of control over my work so I can fit it in at times that suit me, even if it means working most evenings.
P: What was your biggest challenge when you first started your own business?
A: Trying to do everything myself on a limited budget – marketing, social media, supply chain management, customer service, operations, accounts and more!
P: What’s your Unique Selling Point and who is your target audience?
A: The Essential Bag Company’s two main USPs are: (1) instead of using a basket or box, we present gifts in a baby changing bag that will be used by the recipient for years to come; and (2) we exclusively use products from brands customers know and trust. When sending a gift, customers can take comfort that they are sending a high quality gift as they know the luxury brands we work with.
The majority of our customers are from corporates, law firms, banks and other offices. Our gifts are very popular as maternity leave gifts and gifts sent to colleagues and clients who have had a new baby.
P: What is your biggest achievement so far?
A: After just one year in business, I am proud that we already have very loyal customers who order regularly from us and who endorse our business concept. Have a read of the testimonials on our website (http://www.essentialbagcompany.co.uk/testimonials/) to give you a flavour!
P: Why is work important to you?
A: Working is in my blood – it’s what makes me tick. When I was a child (about 7) at school, I took it upon myself to sell religious magazines for the nuns in my convent. Within days I had sold the lot during breaks and lunchtime and they remarked that they had never sold more than a couple in the past! Later, I went on to run the school supplies shop and always got involved in any entrepreneurial opportunity that I saw. Today, I still get a buzz from working and can’t imagine not!
P: How do you maintain your work/life balance?
A: With difficulty! I try to compartmentalise my days into three parts – work, time with children and ‘me’ time. I am quite strict with myself so when I am doing any one of those three things, I focus solely on it. For example, when I am with my children, I don’t send work emails (unless urgent) or make work calls. I also believe in having some ‘me’ time every day when I can switch off mentally. For me, it’s a 45 minute gym class but it could be reading a newspaper or going for a walk. I feel more productive and stronger for the rest of the day once I have that bit of time to recharge.
P: Is there any advice that you would give to a mum or dad who wants to start a business?
A: Do your research and, if you think your idea is viable, then go for it! Don’t procrastinate as you will learn on the job. Nearly every business owner I’ve met says that 3-4 years after starting their business, the business barely resembled the business they launched with. I can see how much The Essential Bag Company has evolved in one year, for example, the demand for us to sell changing bags individually has meant that we introduced our ‘Just a Bag’ range.
P: What are your favourite hangout places / activities as a family?
A: We like being outdoors so I spend most of my time with my children in local parks in Fulham (Bishop’s Park, South Park, Hurlingham Park). The children are happy and the mantra is true “Happy children, happy life!”
P: Your funniest parenting moment!
A: When I was potty training my daughter, I had to get out the portable potty in a supermarket aisle and then carry the bag of ‘goods’ around with me while I shopped!
The Essential Bag Company is offering all Parentville parents 10% discount, check out our Parentville favourite selection here