When it comes to gorgeous children’s cashmere that doesn’t cost the earth, Olivier Baby & Kids is where it’s at. The baby bonnets are the perfect gift for a newborn whilst the jumpers for older boys and girls are divine. Established by sisters Emma Davison and Alice Smith in 2011, the brand has now expanded to include beautiful Liberty-print cotton dresses, rompers and trousers – all of which have the timeless, innocent stamp that Olivier Baby & Kids has become known for. With 5 children between them and a rapidly growing company, we were intrigued to know just how Emma manages to juggle work, life and being business partners with her sister.
What’s the idea behind Olivier Baby & Kids?
We wanted to create fun, fashionable clothes that were both beautiful and hardwearing. We felt there was a real gap in the childrenswear market for unique and exciting cashmere knitwear, particularly for boys as we found boys’ clothes were either mass produced or not very inspiring. We established the brand after the constant chat about nappies, no sleep and the naughty step was getting us down so we needed a new focus! With 3 girls and 2 boys between us we already had our focus group and began testing a variety of products. Cashmere knitwear really is incredibly warm and hard wearing and if looked after properly it can endure the toughest of tests – tree climbing, tractor riding, even the most rigorous game of rough and tumble.
How many days a week do you work?
We both work 5 days a week, but are lucky enough that we manage to juggle our hours between our school runs and lives as parents as well. We are growing the business and have just taken on two more employees so this makes sure that there’s always someone available. We are all working mothers so all in the same boat!
How did you go about turning your idea into actual wearable clothes?
When I had Rose, my second daughter, I really wanted to take up a new hobby and that was knitting! I also really wanted her to have some cashmere so I thought that I’d combine the two. Lily, our Bulgarian nanny was the most wonderful knitter and she taught me how to knit, so we used to spend time together knitting hats, snoods and cardigans for Amber and Rose. Soon mums at the school gates were asking me if I would knit their child a cashmere hat and between Lily and I there became more of a demand. Lily had lots of friends back home who were incredible knitters so we realised there was a production line in the making! Combining this with Alice’s business mind and her quest for fun, fashionable children’s wear and our brand, Olivier Baby & Kids was born. Three years on, Lily is our Production Manager and she and I produce the handknitted items across each collection.
Were you ever worried about working with a sibling?
We’ve never worried about working together. We’ve always got on very well, but we are also very different and automatically fell into our roles. I look after the design and production of each collection and Alice pulls it all together behind the scenes. We are both very creative and have the same ideas for photo shoots, and the style and feel of our brand, so we work really well as a team driving the brand forward.
What’s the best thing about going into business with your sister?
We know each other inside out and aren’t afraid to speak our minds! We both have as much to gain from putting everything in to the business as we do to lose, so in that respect we are very much on the same page.
What’s the worst thing?
The worst thing I guess is trying not to talk about work all the time when we’re together with our children! We really have to think about switching off and steering the conversation away from work!
Talk us through an average day in your week….
I drop the kids off at school, come home, have a large cup of coffee, sit down check my emails, speak to the factory and the knitters to make sure everything is going to plan, chat about new samples, drawings and collections that are forthcoming, all whilst keeping an eye on social media and updating our blog.
How do you deal with childcare?
All our children are of school age, which makes things a bit easier. We both have au pairs who help with the beginning and the end of the day and if we are out and about. It’s lovely to have some continuity with childcare, so we feel very lucky that our children can have what feels like another member of the family living with us and helping out.
And how about holidays? They can be a real logistical nightmare for working families…
During school holidays and half terms I tend to juggle a bit. My mother is wonderful and she helps out whenever she can plus Alice and I tend to pile all our children together so we can get on with work. We also mix it up a bit with play dates and sports and drama camps as well as some time off for family time. We always try to have a two week summer holiday as a family as it’s the only time in the year we feel we can do it for that length of time. We also try and do our photoshoots over the school holidays. This way all our friends’ children, as well as ours, who model for our collections are out of school and available and it is like a holiday camp of its own! Only last week we were in the throws of our autumn/winter photoshoot and we had about 13 children in one room at one time – it was total chaos but in a good way as they all got on brilliantly – and it works. They seem to want to get in front of the camera with each other!
Do you have a set routine to your weekends or is it more go-with-the-flow?
We try not to have a set routine to our weekends as our weekdays are ruled by routine. We each spend quality time with our husbands and children on the weekends as we often feel like we don’t see enough of them during the week and feel that family time is precious.
Do you think you’ve achieved a good work/life balance? If so, how do you think you’ve managed it?
I am constantly trying to find the right balance! I do think I am lucky to be able to juggle the two. On the other hand I think we always feel we could and ’should’ do more both at home and at work, but I think that is human nature. I feel really fortunate that I have a job that allows me to spend time with the children when they finish school rather than leaving home at the beginning of the day and getting back home after they have all gone to bed.
What’s the best thing about being a working mum?
I feel really proud of all that I’ve achieved and how the business all began and to think how far we have come even at this stage. My husband and I are proud of the fact that we both work and share the parenting responsibility and I think it’s really healthy for children to see us as equals in the working world and at home.
What’s the hardest thing about being a working mum?
Just trying to find the right balance between work and motherhood and trying not to feel guilty all the time!
Do you manage to carve out much ‘me’ time for yourself?
Not really! If there was more time in the day I would try to read more and enjoy a variety of creative hobbies, although I’m lucky that my job is pretty creative! My children are still really young so they demand much of my time when I am not working, which is fair enough. I do manage to get together with some friends at least once a week where we all go for a run. I consider this ‘me’ time as it’s a chance to catch up with friends and take some exercise at the same time as well as get some fresh air as it is easy to be stuck at your desk or stay at home all day without escaping the house.
If you could give any advice to someone looking to juggle work and family, what would it be?
Enjoy the moment. When I’m working I try not to get distracted by all the jobs I could be doing at home and when I am with the kids I want to enjoy every minute I am with them. I would also say if you have a dream about setting up your own business that allows you to work from home and enjoy the benefits of being a working mother, then go for it, don’t be afraid of giving it a go!