Lauren Hampshire is the founder of the Milky Tee Company, selling trendy and unique breastfeeding tops with hidden zips. Lauren is a mum-of-two who struggled to find practical, comfortable and stylish clothes to breastfeed in – so she decided to design her own!

She’s doing amazing things, including winning the Paypal International Award and having lunch with Richard Branson.

Today she’s going to talk to us about how she got started and how what you see isn’t always the reality…

Listen in to hear:

  • The inspiration for Lauren’s products (1:40)
  • How Lauren created the prototype for her first product – without having any experience (2:12)
  • Why it’s ok to learn as you go (4:00)
  • The process from initial idea to launching a website (4:26)
  • How (and why) Lauren registered and patented her design (5:05)
  • Where Lauren sells her products (6:13)
  • Why she’s not interested in selling to Retail right now (6:29)
  • Why what you see (on social media, etc) isn’t always the reality (8:30)
  • What it was like having lunch with Richard Branson (12:05)
  • Lauren’s views on expanding and growing your business – and why slower might be better (13:51)
  • How her business looks two years on (16:40)
  • What she loves about selling products (18:53)
  • Lauren’s top advice for other product creators (21:05)



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Transcript
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Welcome to the Bring Your Product Ideas to Life podcast,

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practical advice and inspiration to help you create and sell

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your own physical products. He is your host Vicki Weinberg

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Hi so I am so excited today to speak to

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a Lauren Hampshire. So Lauren is the founder of The

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Milky Tee Company and she sells trendy unique breastfeeding tops

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with hiddens zips. Lauren is a mum of two who

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struggled to find Practical comfortable and stylish clothes to breastfeed

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in. And so she decided to design her own. Lauren

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has won the Paypal International award. She has had lunch

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with Richard Branson and today she's going to talk to

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us about how she got started, but also how, what

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you see on the outside isn't necessarily always the reality.

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If you want to find out more about Lauren you

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can go on to themilkyteecompany.com and I will link to

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her website and all of our social media in the

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show notes. And also just to say, we are recording

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this in our own homes at the moment, and we

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do have children here.

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So there may be a bit of background noise. So

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please bear with us, so over. your Lauren and I'd

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love it if you can just tell us a little

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bit about yourself.

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Hi, there Vicki, thanks for letting me be involved in

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the show. So, yeah, so I'm a mum of two

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and I'm, I'm originally from Northern Ireland's, as you can

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probably hear it from my accent. And I now live

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in Kent. I used to work as a broadcast journalist,

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but after having my second daughter, it was just going

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to be too difficult with childcare and things like that

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to be traveling in and out of London. And I

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also, one day was kind of at home trying to

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order breastfeeding clothing and really struggled to find anything that

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kind of looked like a normal clothes and didn't have

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an ovbious flap or where. I Didn't have to wear

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a lots of layers. Then I also find so some

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of the styles, not, not very trendy or a bit

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more kind of, I guess old-fashioned and not the sort

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of thing I would normally wear.

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So I, I looked and, you know, thought, why has

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nobody just like zips and a tee shirt? And I,

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when I couldn't find one, I decided to design my

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own. So when my daughter was two weeks old, I

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ordered a t-shirt pattern online. And I'm very lucky that

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my mom-in-law is a mid-wife and also a thing stress

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and armature seems to us, but she was really good.

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So with her help, we basically came up with her

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design. We tried it in lots of different ways, try

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the zip and lots of different ways. And then eventually

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came up with a design that was originally just for

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me to use. We bought the material and some tips,

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and I just created a tee shirt with some of

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the tips, basically.

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And as I said, you know, originally it was just

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for me to use for breastfeeding because my daughter was

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exclusively breastfed and it was the complete boob monster. So

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she just constantly, he was on my boom and yeah,

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so then I thought, well, if this will work for

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me, it would work for lots of other mums. And

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that's kind of where the idea came from.

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So you made your t-shirts, did you have any experience

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like we have textiles or fashion or anything before, because

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you said, you said really casually you've bought a t-shirt

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pattern and then made that up. Is that something that

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you've done Before?

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no. I mean, I've always, I've always loved art and

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creativity, but I'm, I'm not particularly great with, with like

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textiles. I've learned a lot in the last couple of

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years, but in the past, actually I had, I did

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use doing a sewing machine and I did when I

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was 23, a had a business actually to inherit extensions.

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That was my first ever business, but I was 23

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and I used to have to So all the hair.

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So I did know bits. And so in that way,

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so I'd had a little bit of experience of it,

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but in terms of the expertise that it was actually

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my, my mom and all who really helped with the

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expertise side of it, of, of really putting the tee-shirt

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pattern together.

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But also now a day that there's so much, you

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can learn by watching things online. And I loved kind

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of learning, I'm watching videos. So if I have learned

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a lot over the last couple of years and taught

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myself a lot more about textiles and so, and, and

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different things like that,

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I just loved the fact that you had a problem.

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And then you just thought I'm going to fix this

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and you just went out and, you know, and I

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found the solution. That's a fantastic, and especially now that,

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you know, you identify other people who might benefit from

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that. And then obviously you started selling your t-shirts. You

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mentioned on your website that I took a few years

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to go from having an idea to actually launching your

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website. I'm can you talk us through that process a

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bit?

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Yes. So it took two years, almost two years. Exactly.

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And it really, from me first ordering that teacher pattern

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two, then actually launching the website as, so for a

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while I kind of got, is this actually ever go

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to happen? But I had at the same time, I'm

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glad I took that time. I mean, obviously had a

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baby at the time. She was two weeks old. When

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I first started, they had the idea. So I, I

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was sleep deprived. I was exhausted. So I couldn't really

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give it my all, but also things take time. So

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over those two years, I spent time getting the registered

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design, right. So I protected the design, which you have

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to do before you even sort of put the product

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out there in any way, because if you publicize the

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product and you haven't protected it, then you can no

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longer sort of patent it and you get a design.

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Right. So that would be one of my tips that

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I would have would be to, sorry, it would be

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to make sure that you have to get the protection

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on your design at, before you make it public in

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any way. So I went to a solicitor, M I

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got some advice I set up as a limited company.

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I find an acquaintance. I find sort of everything that

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I needed. I tried lots of sampling. I tried lots

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of different places, lots of manufacturers. And so that all

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took a while to get everything right. Really. So, yeah,

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it took it to two years, really from idea stage

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to following through all those other things. But I was

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glad I did that all at before actually launching. And

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obviously then things like getting a website as well.

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ready and, and then I was able to launch.

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Fantastic. And do you, do you just sell on your

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website at the moment or you selling anywhere right now,

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Mainly on our website, I also do do baby shows.

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So I sometimes sell it to you directly to people

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at BB shows, but they have looked into Retail that

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there are pros and cons and think of Retail and

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that obviously they take a huge percentage and say, you

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have to make sure that there is enough profit And

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I at the moment, because I like my, my quality.

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I spend a lot of money on our products because

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I want that the quality to be good. So we

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don't really have enough, unfortunately, to have a big enough

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margin to go into retail. And last we were selling

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thousands and hundreds of thousands of them. So at the

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moment, for me, it works best just to sell them

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online and then directly to customers, a baby shows.

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That definitely makes sense. I also think it makes sense

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for you. You said about how it, you know, it

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took us awhile to get there, but it's worth going

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through that process. I agree. I mean, it was over

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those two years, it sounds like, you know, you did

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a lot of work and you make tremendous progress and

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then I think that's how long it takes and that's

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how long it takes. And I think that's a good

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message for people that you don't have to go from

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idea to launch in something in weeks you can, but,

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you know, if it takes it all the time, so,

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you know, so yeah.

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Yeah. I think we have to many things telling us

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know it's kinda like be a millionaire or in 10

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days, you know, if we got this idea that everything

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needs to be a rush week, this idea that we

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need to do everything right. And I, and everybody else

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did it overnight and everybody's turning over millions and, and

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you know, this base of a week and for my

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experience and from the people that I know, and from

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people in business that I've spoken to, the reality is

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very different and it does take time. And I think

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you're better to take your time to make sure you

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do things right than to rush and get things wrong.

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Absolutely. And actually, you've kind of led me on to

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something else I wanted to talk to you about, which

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is, I mentioned in your introduction that you, you know,

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you've had some good success, you've won awards, you've met

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Richard Branson, which, you know, is, it sounds very, which

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is really impressive. But when we sort of have a

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quick chat before this interview, you mentioned that what you

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see on social media and may not always be that

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sort of the reality of someone's busy. So I wonder

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if you could talk about that a little bit more,

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please.

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Yes. Yeah. I've been really lucky to, to have won

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awards, but I think sometimes that does make people have

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a view on things that you are suddenly a millionaire

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and you're making loads of money and that everything's so

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glamorous and that I spend my life going to these

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fabulous Award this when really that's going to be one

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or two days out of the year, the other three,

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163 or four days of the year. I'm, it's filled

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with a lot of stress. A lot of pressure financially

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business is very tough. There are lots of things to

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pay out four when I won the Paypal International award,

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the prize was that you've got a, you didn't have

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to pay your Paypal fees, go up to the value

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of a a hundred thousand pounds.

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But that didn't mean I got handed a a hundred

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thousand pounds that was basically the Paypal fees or paid

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up to that point. If I manage to make that

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the number of sales, which is a very unlikely. So

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when the press got a hold of it, all the

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headlines where a mom, wins a hundred thousand pound prize.

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So I think everybody said that they thought I was

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rolling in it. And I suddenly just been handed a

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a hundred grand. And I was like, no, I really

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wished that had happened, but that's not quite how it

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works. So sometimes the headlines aren't quite what the reality

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is, and it just because you won an Award as

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much as it is lovely. I do think that people

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need to realize that, you know, that's one, as I

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said one evening, and it's very nice and it's very

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glamorous, but there's a lot of hard work that goes

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on.

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And even sometimes when I won those awards, I was

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then coming home on with sometimes sort of feeling a

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bit rubbish a bite myself, because I was like, Oh,

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I'm winning these awards, but actually financially I'm not making

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as much as I think people think I'm making and

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I'm still feeling overwhelmed. And sometimes I felt a little

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bit like a bit of a fraud because I was

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like, everyone's thinks that, you know, I'm, I'm a millionaire

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and I'm not, and there's this pressure of this idea

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that, yeah, I'm making loads And that everything is easy.

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And it suddenly, it all happens so easily from me

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and everything's going great. And that's not the reality. And

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I do think it's important for people to not get

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blinded by the things that they see on Instagram or

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the fancy awards.

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They see people winning because that can really make people

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feel that they themselves are failing and that their business

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isn't making as much money as everyone. Else's when actually

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the reality is nearly every business I know at the

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moment is finding it fairly tough. Its quite a tough

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time, obviously at the moment with coronavirus, it's extremely tough.

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But even before that we've had Brexit, we've had lots

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of different things over the last couple of years that

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have made, you know, business a bit, a bit tougher.

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There are lots of great things about it. And I,

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I'm still loving the fact that I started the business

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and we're selling well and you know, our turnover is

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good, but I just don't want people to think that,

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you know, you'll be a millionaire really easily and that

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everybody else is because I think it's important that we

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don't all have these unrealistic expectations put a huge pressure

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on ourselves.

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I think you're right. It is really important. And I

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mean, part of my goal for this podcast was to

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have guests on that were relatable because they're not, you

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know, running multimillion pound companies and things like that. And

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I guess, yeah, that's why I wanted to talk to

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you about your awards because as you say, it may

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from the outside seem really glamorous, but the reality often

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isn't as it appears and that's it, I haven't had

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to be prepared you for that question. A lot of

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them, but I think since we were subjects, I'd love

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to know. So how was it having lunch with Richard

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Branson complete aside?

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Yeah, it was brilliant. He was basically what happened was

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so I entered a thing called the volume awards, which

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are the Virgin awards and a, I don't think they're

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random last year. The last time we ran them was

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of winning at all and find out I was a

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finalist, went along to the finals on my own because

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I was so sure I wouldn't have won. So it

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was like, I will not bring anyone with me. I'd

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just go for, for a nice little day and ended

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up winning, which was a huge shock and had to

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do it with a hug. I was like, Oh God,

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what not to do was to do that afterwards, the

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winners, then I got invited dine to a, sort of

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a special lunch that was put on and there was

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Richard Branson.

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And so he was so lovely came over and spoke

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to all of us. And we all had a little

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bit of food. It was the very casual buffet. It

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wasn't, wasn't like a sit-down lunch, but yeah, we chatted

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to me. He carries around a little notebook. So he

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took down notes about my business and actually then mentioned

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it in one of his blogs. A couple of weeks

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later, I also met his lovely daughter, Holly Branson, who

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then had a baby a few months later, although she

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was pregnant at the time I met her, but it

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hasn't been publicized yet. So she was like, when I

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met you, I was pregnant, but I couldn't say anything.

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And it was the early days. So she has had

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a couple of our t-shirts and shes worn our T

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shirts, which has been great.

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So yeah, both Holly and Richard were really lovely, very,

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very supportive. As I said, he mentioned me and him

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is his blog and that was picked up by Forbes

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magazine, which is amazing. So yeah, its been nice to,

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to have someone like Richard Branson see my product to

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believe in it and thinks it is a good idea.

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All right.

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It's fantastic. And you know what a great endorsement I'd

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love to, to switch gears a little bit and talk

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to you about expansion 'cause when we had our sort

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of a pre-interview chat, you shared to me your views

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on expanding your business and, and you know, and at

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what speed at which is to expand and perhaps why

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it might be wise not to try and do that

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to you quickly. So if you're happy, you'd be great.

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If you could just share your own experience with that.

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Yeah. Well I think I put a lot of pressure

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on myself to try and expand very quickly after winning

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the International of the Paypal international Award because actually when

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I won that award, I don't need a trading for

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10 a half, three months or so. It was very,

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very new. And because I won the international award, I

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then was like, right, well I really need to become

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this huge global brand. And I put a huge amount

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of pressure on myself to suddenly hit America. And North

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America is huge and it takes a long time to

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do that. I was still running the business from my

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kitchen table all my own while also looking after the

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children. So I think that just really put our too

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much pressure on myself.

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And this is kind of going back to what I

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said earlier about you see people winning awards and you

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see the glamorous side of it, but that's not the

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whole picture because actually, you know, behind the scenes, it

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was me trying to take on everything, trying to do

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everything on it and really feeling quite overwhelmed. So this

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was really pushing a lot into right. Okay. I need

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to hit America. And the great thing is there is

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lots of support for people to do, want to expand

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internationally. So I had been working with The Department of

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International Trade and they are great and they do offer

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lots of support. So if anybody is wanting to expand,

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I would recommend that I also then have not yet

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got the trademarks, the US trademarks have applied for the

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Australian trademark.

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So I've been doing all of the, those things and

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getting those things in place. But what I would say

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is if you do want to expand, first of all,

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yes. Get the support there, but yeah. And make sure

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it might be your, you know, just totally do it

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on your own. And I'm not trying to expand my

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team and trying to focus on making things here in

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the UK, getting a bigger team. I'm getting things totally

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perfect here. Before really then expanding it because I think

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it's much better to maybe do it in your own

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domestic market before then trying to branch out. And in

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many ways, I'm glad that I've taken a little bit

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of a step back from pushing so much into the

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US because I'm wanting to create a lot more products

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and there's a lot more that I wanted to do.

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And there's a few changes that I want to make.

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I'm in the process of moving everything to organic cotton.

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We're a a hundred percent cotton at the moment, but

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I'm moving to organic cotton. And actually I think it's

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better to get everything to be perfect. Maybe we test

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the waters here with the new products and then really

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focus on America. It might be in the next year

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or two. Right.

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It definitely makes sense. And you touched on building the

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team. So what I'd like to know is, so when

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you started out, you mentioned was you and your mother-in-law

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and I know that you were creating all the products

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yourself, you were shipping them out from your kitchen table.

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So what's changed in the past. And my rights two

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years, do you use, you've been to, what's changed for

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a few years. What's it look like?

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Yeah. So I ended up, I don't make them with

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my mom in, at all or not. They are manufactured

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abroad. So we have a wonderful manufacturer and they are,

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we manufacture them in, in Turkey. We have a, a

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great relationship with our manufacturer there, make sure that everything

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is ethical and things like that. Our sweatshirts are then

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made in Portugal. So we work with them, all companies

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that are under what's called the EEN network, which has

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the Enterprise Europe network which, that's the Turkish ones are

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in as well. So yes, we do that for the

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manufacturing side of things because we just couldn't get the

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numbers that we needed. We sell thousands and we produce

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thousands.

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And so you need to find a manufacturer that can

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help with you create that number. And I did look

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within the UK, but we just couldn't find manufacturers that

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could, could do the volumes that we need it. So

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then it, so that was one side of it. I

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know I also have a fulfillment center. So rather than

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the packaging, everything from my kitchen table, we have a

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fulfillment center. So they do the packaging and the posting.

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I actually do run the fulfillment center with my husband.

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So that is actually on our own fulfillment center. So

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we do that at the moment. And then we also

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know that I work with a wonderful production manager who

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has a background in textiles and studied fashion design and

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so on production.

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So she works with me, so on a freelance basis

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and I also work with a digital marketing agency. So

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yeah, I'm sort of working with other people. And I

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also have a wonderful girl Holly who helps me out

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with a social media and she is also kind of

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a face of our brand. So she does our model

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and, and things like that. So yeah, there was a

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bigger team of us, which is great

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Fantastic. Thank you. And just as a, it just a

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few final questions before we wrap up below. And so

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can you tell us what you love about selling your

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products?

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Their, one of the great things as well, because it

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was something I Def I needed and it came out

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of a genuine need to be able to create something

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that has helped other people and that people email me

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to buy it and message me and say that it's

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helped them. I mean, that is just like amazing. It

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just means so much to me when I got such

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lovely messages and when people send us photos of them

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using them or that they say that it's really helped

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them to feed when they were in public is really

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lovely because I know that that's something that I struggled

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a little bit with. So anything that I feel that

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can help mom's to feel better about breastfeeding and also

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to feel better in themselves because I wanted them to

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look like normal clothes so they could be worn even

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off.

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Do you finished breastfeeding, but I'm that you can also

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still feel like you're wearing a trendy slogan t-shirt with

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jeans, you know, so you don't have to change your

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style just because you become a mum. So yeah, that,

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that really means a lot. And I'm so glad that

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I did it for that reason. The other great thing

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I might add is that I, I do get to

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see my children a lot. I get to go to

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sports days when I need to get to go to

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their nativities when I need to, you know, my four

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year old hasn't started school yet. So she was still

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with me. She does go to a childminder a few

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days a week, but then the other day she's with

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me. And so I still get a lot of time

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with my children and to be able to run a

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business, so to make some money and also still be

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able to be with my children a lot.

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His is such a blessing. I know I'm really lucky

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to be able to do that. And it's also nice

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when you go on holiday and you can still make

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some money for, you can have gotta be sitting on

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your sun lounger. You are, and you're looking at your

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PayPal account and you're like, Oh, that's pretty nice. It

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still made some money, even though I'm lying on a

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sunlounger. So yeah, that's definitely a plus of running a

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products business.

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Okay. Thank you. I read, you know, I relate to

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it, all of those ideas to Episode a few weeks

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back about reasons I love selling products and yeah, you've

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had quite a few of mine is just so nice

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to have that flexibility and not have to work all

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of the time.

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Yep. And you saved a lot of money in commuting.

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I'm saving alot of money in train fares.

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that's all so true. And I have one final question

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for you Lauren before we finish, which is what would

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be Your number one piece of advice that you would

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give to someone else who was looking to start their

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own products business?

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So my number one piece of advice, I think we've,

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we've kind of covered it a little bit is to

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not rush and two, make sure you have everything in

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place that the product is perfect. Make sure you've done

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your sampling, making sure that you've got all the legal

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things in place and protected your design. If it is

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unique, to make sure that you've got your patent and

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placed before you make it public, because you don't want

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to launch without protecting. And then you lose that right.

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To be able to protect it. And also you don't

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want to launch a product that there is a problem

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with it. And then you end up having to recall

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them all to make sure that your product is right,

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making sure that it's protected and don't rush. And then

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launch once everything is in place.

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That's brilliant thank you. And I think that everyone will

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find that really useful. So thank you so much Lauren.

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I will put links to every where people can find

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you in the shownotes. And I hope people will go

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in and take a look at your t-shirts. I think

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it looks fantastic. I'm, you know, passed the breastfeeding days

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that had I had your total will be the rounds

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back when I, you know, about when I still have

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a little babies that I definitely would have bought them

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because they looked fantastic. Thank you for all of your

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time.

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Thank you for having me.

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No problem. We'll thank you so much. Thanks then. Bye

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bye. Take care.

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So hope you enjoyed this interview with Lauren, if you'd

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like to be interviewed for an upcoming episode, I would

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love to hear from you to be sure to send

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me an email Vicki@tinychipmeenk.com. Don't forget all the links we've

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mentioned today. It will be on the show notes, take

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care of it. See you soon.