I absolutely love this #gatherinspiration feature because it allows me to begin relationships with those I’m completely in awe of what they’ve achieved. Having recently taken Mama Design’s brilliantly practical Business Club course I contacted Keira O’Mara, founder of hugely successful Mama Designs to talk all things award winning products and ten years in business.
Huge congratulations on celebrating Mama Designs tenth birthday. Can you tell me how it all began?
It all started with a scarf. When I had my little boy I was really self-conscious about feeding in public. I had this idea to make a discreet and supportive breastfeeding cover. When I was unable to find one I decided to design one – and the Mamascarf was born. I had a small run made up and a friend generously allowed me to be on her stand at The Baby Show with a poster and sample. It was really well received and it just took off from there. I got a great PR break being a case study as a mum setting up business post redundancy and I was interviewed on the BBC and featured in national newspapers all in my first year.
When did you know Mama Designs was a viable business?
I think I knew after the first year that it could really be something. I’d got quite a few retailers on board starting with JoJo Maman Bebe and then Mothercare, Boots and John Lewis. I then realised having one product wasn’t sustainable so like with all MamaDesigns products as a direct result of my own experiences and what I needed at that time I started researching about my next problem - sleeping bags which bought about Babasac. The inner layers zip out so it’s multi tog and can be used all year round. It took way more time and was so much harder to develop and sell than Mamascarf but ultimately it’s become our star product.
It sounds like it’s just gone from strength to strength. Have there been any low points?
Many! Owning and running your own business is one massive rollercoaster. Working from home can be lonely so building a network of supportive people around you is key. Also, you never really switch off, you always have to be available and the buck stops with you regarding decision making but this is all part and parcel of it all. I wouldn't change it for anything though as it's so rewarding seeing something you have created grow. I love the freedom it gives me and I love being my own boss. It isn't easy but if you're determined and have the passion and enthusiasm you can make it happen. The one thing that always sticks in my head is "What if you don't do it and someone else did - how would you feel?” That's when I knew I had to do it.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
It has to be leaving the world of employment and that guaranteed income. Launching the Mama Designs Business Club and first course ‘Grow your Business on a Budget’ is also quite a leap in a new direction. We are always told to invest in ourselves but this can be hard when you are a start up and money is tight. I really wanted to make it affordable and therefore accessible to as many people as possible. I have been mentoring other business owners for the last year and I absolutely love it.
What’s been your proudest achievement?
I think that the national press coverage and being featured on TV (BBC and ITV’s This Morning) have to be up there. Also winning national product awards has been another one.
And finally what do you like to gather?
Ironic considering it’s what started this whole business but I just love scarves. I wear them all year round.
Mama Designs first course Grow Your Business on a Budget is out now and can be ordered here.
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