So let’s hear more about how they did it…
What made you start Parent Apparel?
Debs and I had been working together for a few years on a previous business — an online kidswear shop called The Dandy Kid (run from a shop in Wendover and online). At the end of 2015 we wanted to experiment with developing our own range products but noticed that the adult clothing we sold was selling faster and starting to become more and more popular. We started to play around with some ideas and initially launched Parent Apparel as an experiment to see what would happen. We both always loved word play and also found many humorous frustrations with Parenthood, so when we recognised a bit of a gap in the market it seemed like a good opportunity to bring them to life. We started producing some slogans on sweatshirts and then launched officially in spring last year – it took over everything. We launched with a controversial slogan sweatshirt collaboration with a friend who had just started a blog called Mother Pukka (www.motherpukka.com) — The ‘Parenting the shit out of life’ sweatshirt was a massive hit and off we went. Anna was an amazing person to launch with. Fun and quirky and so many parents can relate to her. Since then we’ve also collaborated with many other parent brands it’s gone from strength to strength. We’ve just finished year one and it’s been brilliant.
Tell us about your career prior to starting Parent Apparel?
Both of us come from creative marketing backgrounds. Becks worked for many years in London agencies specialising in PR, events and marketing across youth brands and music. Debs was in Advertising, working for many big agencies, also working across many big lifestyle brands. Life before kids was fast paced, full of global travel and fun, but you throw kids into the mix and well something has to give. The demanding hours, lack of childcare and travelling is a terrible combination. It’s a sad reality but women do still have to make a choice between career and motherhood. It’s a shame really but it’s still very tough for women to get flexible working opportunities in the creative industries. That’s not to say they’re not out there, they’re just often hard to find. Our friend Mother Pukka is championing flexible working right now with a campaign called Flex Appeal — we both wholeheartedly support it. There just isn’t enough flexible working for parents out there. Hence why we started our own company as it worked for us. We both have supportive partners too, so between us all we just make it all work.
What has been the biggest highlight of Parent Apparel so far?
Ooo that’s a tricky one! You have no idea what will happen when you start a business. In the nicest possible way, although we have big plans for the brand, we initially just wanted to see where it would take us. We’ve had a crazy first year and didn’t expect to grow so quickly, we only launched officially last year. We’ve had many successful collaborations already, some amazing press and support for the brand. So, if we had to pick one it’s probably that — the love and support we’ve received. We’ve been incredibly lucky. From day one we’ve had nothing but overwhelming support from the blogging and instagram community. Instagram is this strange world really, but an amazing one for working parents. Parethood is a tough gig. If you’re in an office then you turn up do your thing and then go home. However when you become a parent you have to make some choices — to be with your kids at home or not. Sometimes this is the right decision for the kids but it can leave you feeling a bit isolated especially if you’ve left a career behind — you can feel a bit lost . When we started the business we didn’t really know anyone in the industry. But thanks to Instagram we’ve met a whole bunch of amazing inspiring people who’ve also helped our business grow. Instagram allows you to connect with likeminded people at any time of the day. Even when you live in a small town! It’s been a huge growth tool for our business and actually a bit of a lifeline socially really. Parenthood is a tricky time. Even more so when the kids start school. You’re just thrown together (kids and parents) and it’s very much like starting school again!. We’ve been lucky and evolved with some amazingly clever women (who have also started businesses from their homes around their kids). A lot of these women we also call friends now which is lovely. In such a short space of time we’ve watched many women go onto write books and do massive things! Parent Apparel is still very much in its infancy, but we are growing a brand and have lots of exciting plans so watch this space!
What are the challenges of running an internationally recognised brand in a small town outside of London
Oh you’re very kind! 😉 *Internationally recognised business* we’ll take that! I guess there are many challenges, but with the modern age of technology it makes everything so much easier to manage. More and more people are moving to the countryside suburbs to work in search of a better quality of life, so it’s not an unusual thing. I know many people running small businesses. Wendover is also only 30 miles from London, it’s nothing really. We are still very connected. We have a production house in Surrey who are very good. Although we both mainly work from home, we spend much more time together in London or at the production house (usually in-between the school runs, childcare juggling and everything else). You have the best of both worlds when you work from home, but I love to get into London and get some inspiration weekly. It keeps me sane especially living in a small town. You just have to make it all work for you and variety is often the key. Debs and I are very lucky as we work so well, so we will spend a lot of time together (virtually) each day. We both have a very similar work ethic and commitments, plus we both get the stresses and strains of parenthood and juggling a business. We’re not around between the hours of 3pm and 7pm usually, but neither are our target market. Where we live doesn’t really affect us. We have a good family support network around us both too which massively helps when things crop up!
What would you say to anyone who might be thinking of breaking out and starting their own business?
Know your market, know your product and be prepared to ask anyone and everyone for help. Accept that you will make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to change what you are doing. And make sure you have a laugh, every single day. And drink gin regularly — that massively helps too!
Yep, I can definitely drink to that! You ladies are such an inspiration — thanks for sharing your story.
In case you didn’t already know them, Parent Apparel is a lifestyle brand selling clothing, accessories and homewares for the family. The brand was set up last year by two working arents — Becks Clarke and Deborah Paterson. Becks lives locally in Wendover, whilst Debs is based in Farnborough, Hampshire. Debs has two boys (6 and 3) and Becks has two girls (8 and 4). Their humorous clobber can be found at www.parent-apparel.com.
All photo credits Emily Gray Photography