Thanks so much to the British Business Awards 2019 for shortlisting us for this award.
About our business
Weheartfamily, ltd - trading as The Bshirt - is the kitchen table business of Lisa and Philippa - two friends who met at baby yoga who had the mad ambition to start a business together. Four years later and the business has grown into a fully fledged ethical breastfeeding clothing brand with four staff members and a town centre office in Totnes.
Lisa is a mum of two boys: Nico (8) and Xavi (5) and breastfed for a total of 4 years. Lisa is an NCT trained Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and has counselled breastfeeding mothers voluntarily for 3 years. Philippa is a mum of two boys: Albie (8) and Brandon (5) and breastfed for a total of 4 years.
Launched in 2017 the business made a profit in its first year of trading. The Bshirt has grown in popularity amongst British women with word of mouth being our biggest growth driver. Sold exclusively online through their own website and Amazon, the Bshirt has gone from strength to strength. Having experienced such rapid growth, Lisa and Philippa have taken on staff to help with the work load. They are now a team of 4 employees handling all things from customer services, returns processing, social media engagement, advertising, blogging, photo shoots, logistics, bookkeeping, inventory control, product development and stock management.
Why we started our own business
We decided to launch our business because as parents we have skills that aren’t immediately recognised by traditional employers. We are ace time managers, jugglers, peacekeepers and multi-taskers. Those skills have been essential to starting a business, which can take on a life of its own. It’s been great setting our own hours and feeling like we are available to our kids on our own terms, and not just tied to our jobs.
So our business was designed to fit in with our roles and responsibilities as parents. It’s a daily challenge. We try to minimise stress while running our own business, however, there is always pressure. There is never enough time for everything. We’re learning the art of delegation at work and at home. Division of labour! We tend to work hours to fit in with the school day - so we work 9am to 3pm - so that we can do the school run. But we might work evenings a few nights in the week to catch up (however this can be done at the pub!). The highlight for us was being with our kids over the summer holidays - spending the day at the beach then home for dinner where we handed off to Dad, who relished taking the kids to the park for a play while we got some evening time in at the office. It’s a balancing act but it can be done.
We don’t have one set of rules for the directors, and another for the staff. Everyone is able to work flexibly. We currently have 2 employees who happen to both be single mums. Their need for flexibility is much greater than ours because they haven’t got another parent to tag team with. So we allow our employees to set their own hours and allow this to fluctuate each week. So one week is never the same as another. That way if something comes up and our employee needs to be out of the office - they can be. They can work at any time of day or any location they choose. At home - at the office - anywhere. So long as their set hours per week are completed we give 100% control over to the staff member to manage their work and life schedules. This empowers the staff member to be in total control over their life/work balance. That’s quite a powerful thing and something that is bizarrely lacking in most workplaces.
By trusting our staff with their own time management we have empowered them to be wherever and whenever they are needed. We reduce workloads during the school holidays and encourage staff to take time off with their kids. We run a skeleton crew so that one person is in each day and often do a 5pm-9pm rather than a 9am-5pm during the holidays.
A typical Bshirt Day
Our days begin very early - our youngest children still don’t sleep through the night despite being nearly 6 years old. So most days we are up before dawn making sure we have clean football uniforms and then we walk our kids (we have 8 between the 4 of us staffers) to school. We have an office in town so our total commute time is about 10 mins by foot. After the kids are at school we allow 30-60 minutes of personal time for staff. We can grab coffee with a friend, go to a yoga class, do some shopping or go for a run. The work day starts at 10 and we might have a meeting or two before grabbing some yummy and healthy lunch from the market. We are always at the post office dropping off parcels! Then it’s time for the school run at 3pm and our various afterschool activities. Some days we are chilling at home after school, other times we are enjoying play dates or swimming lessons or guitar practice. Our hubbies are home by dinner time and we try and get some family time in before it’s off to bed for the kiddies. We tag team our domestic responsibilities so whomever is on bedtime duty their significant other sorts the house out from the day’s carnage. We’re pretty shattered after the kids are asleep but we aim to get 1 hour TV time each night (it’s a goal rather than an average). Then it’s time to do it all over again!
What motivates us
We’re really concerned about the way people are living at the moment - the fact that the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates just highlights how little people are aware of how they are living and the impact this has on their health, their children’s health or the planet. As social entrepreneurs we are always meeting people who started businesses that are making a real difference to our society and the environment. It’s an inspirational time to be a businesswoman. We've made the decision to only use Organic GOTS certified cotton in the manufacture of our garments as well as using plant based home compostable garment bags and recycled paper mailing bags. This is a costly decision for us and our profit margins (as well as cash flow) would be a lot easier if we simply did what everyone else does and encourage unsustainable mass consumerism. By sticking to our ethics, our business can hold its head up high and say that we are part of the solution, not the problem.
The Future of Bshirt
The Bshirt has big plans! We've successfully launched an ethical breastfeeding clothing brand in the UK and this year we have begun exporting to the USA and Europe. Our vision is for our brand to be a one-stop-shop for all breastfeeding essentials. Breastfeeding is the ultimate in non-consumerism - you literally don't need to buy anything. However, the toxic market place that we exist in tells new mums that they need to buy hundreds of things. We believe that there are a few essential items that can make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable, so we want to expand our product line to include these items. All the items will be our own products and ethically sourced and manufactured. Our dream is to empower women to breastfeed with confidence for as long as they and their baby wish, to reap all the associated health benefits, and to lead the way to reduce waste and unnecessary consumerism.