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)
The reality of a 'successful' products business - with Lauren Hampshire, The Milky Tee Company
Welcome to the Bring Your Product Ideas to Life podcast, practical advice and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products. He is your host Vicki Weinberg
Vicki Weinberg (00:00:22):
Hi so I am so excited today to speak to a Lauren Hampshire. So Lauren is the founder of The Milky Tee Company and she sells trendy unique breastfeeding tops with hiddens zips. Lauren is a mum of two who struggled to find Practical comfortable and stylish clothes to breastfeed in. And so she decided to design her own. Lauren has won the Paypal International award. She has had lunch with Richard Branson and today she's going to talk to us about how she got started, but also how, what you see on the outside isn't necessarily always the reality. If you want to find out more about Lauren you can go on to themilkyteecompany.com and I will link to her website and all of our social media in the show notes. And also just to say, we are recording this in our own homes at the moment, and we do have children here.
So there may be a bit of background noise. So please bear with us, so over. your Lauren and I'd love it if you can just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lauren Hampshire (00:01:17):
Hi, there Vicki, thanks for letting me be involved in the show. So, yeah, so I'm a mum of two and I'm, I'm originally from Northern Ireland's, as you can probably hear it from my accent. And I now live in Kent. I used to work as a broadcast journalist, but after having my second daughter, it was just going to be too difficult with childcare and things like that to be traveling in and out of London. And I also, one day was kind of at home trying to order breastfeeding clothing and really struggled to find anything that kind of looked like a normal clothes and didn't have an ovbious flap or where. I Didn't have to wear a lots of layers. Then I also find so some of the styles, not, not very trendy or a bit more kind of, I guess old-fashioned and not the sort of thing I would normally wear.
Lauren Hampshire (00:02:03):
So I, I looked and, you know, thought, why has nobody just like zips and a tee shirt? And I, when I couldn't find one, I decided to design my own. So when my daughter was two weeks old, I ordered a t-shirt pattern online. And I'm very lucky that my mom-in-law is a mid-wife and also a thing stress and armature seems to
us, but she was really good. So with her help, we basically came up with her design. We tried it in lots of different ways, try the zip and lots of different ways. And then eventually came up with a design that was originally just for me to use. We bought the material and some tips, and I just created a tee shirt with some of the tips, basically.
Lauren Hampshire (00:02:44):
And as I said, you know, originally it was just for me to use for breastfeeding because my daughter was exclusively breastfed and it was the complete boob monster. So she just constantly, he was on my boom
and yeah, so then I thought, well, if this will work for me, it would work for lots of other mums. And that's kind of where the idea came from.
So you made your t-shirts, did you have any experience like we have textiles or fashion or anything before, because you said, you said really casually you've bought a t-shirt pattern and then made that up. Is that something that you've done Before?
Lauren Hampshire (00:03:16):
no. I mean, I've always, I've always loved art and creativity, but I'm, I'm not particularly great with, with like textiles. I've learned a lot in the last couple of years, but in the past, actually I had, I did use doing a sewing machine and I did when I was 23, a had a business actually to inherit extensions. That was my first ever business, but I was 23 and I used to have to So all the hair. So I did know bits. And so in that way, so I'd had a little bit of experience of it, but in terms of the expertise that it was actually my, my mom and all who really helped with the expertise side of it, of, of really putting the tee-shirt pattern together.
Lauren Hampshire (00:03:56):
But also now a day that there's so much, you can learn by watching things online. And I loved kind of learning, I'm watching videos. So if I have learned a lot over the last couple of years and taught myself a lot more about textiles and so, and, and different things like that,
I just loved the fact that you had a problem. And then you just thought I'm going to fix this and you just went out and, you know, and I found the solution. That's a fantastic, and especially now that, you know, you identify other people who might benefit from that. And then obviously you started selling your t-shirts. You mentioned on your website that I took a few years to go from having an idea to actually launching your website. I'm can you talk us through that process a bit?
Lauren Hampshire (00:04:35):
Yes. So it took two years, almost two years. Exactly. And it really, from me first ordering that teacher pattern two, then actually launching the website as, so for a while I kind of got, is this actually ever go to happen? But I had at the same time, I'm glad I took that time. I mean, obviously had a baby at the time. She was two weeks old. When I first started, they had the idea. So I, I was sleep deprived. I was exhausted. So I couldn't really give it my all, but also things take time. So over those two years, I spent time getting the registered design, right. So I protected the design, which you have to do before you even sort of put the product out there in any way, because if you publicize the product and you haven't protected it, then you can no longer sort of patent it and you get a design.
Lauren Hampshire (00:05:23):
Right. So that would be one of my tips that I would have would be to, sorry, it would be to make sure that you have to get the protection on your design at, before you make it public in any way. So I went to a solicitor, M I got some advice I set up as a limited company. I find an acquaintance. I find sort of everything that I needed. I tried lots of sampling. I tried lots of different places, lots of manufacturers. And so that all took a while to get everything right. Really. So, yeah, it took it to two years, really from idea stage to following through all those other things. But I was glad I did that all at before actually launching. And obviously then things like getting a website as well.
Lauren Hampshire (00:06:06):
So finally in February, 2010, I finally had it all ready and, and then I was able to launch.
Fantastic. And do you, do you just sell on your website at the moment or you selling anywhere right now,
Lauren Hampshire (00:06:18):
Mainly on our website, I also do do baby shows. So I sometimes sell it to you directly to people at BB shows, but they have looked into Retail that there are pros and cons and think of Retail and that obviously they take a huge percentage and say, you have to make sure that there is enough profit And I at the moment, because I like my, my quality. I spend a lot of money on our products because I want that the quality to be good. So we don't really have enough, unfortunately, to have a big enough margin to go into retail. And last we were selling thousands and hundreds of thousands of them. So at the moment, for me, it works best just to sell them online and then directly to customers, a baby shows.
That definitely makes sense. I also think it makes sense for you. You said about how it, you know, it took us awhile to get there, but it's worth going through that process. I agree. I mean, it was over those two years, it sounds like, you know, you did a lot of work and you make tremendous progress and then I think that's how long it takes and that's how long it takes. And I think that's a good message for people that you don't have to go
from idea to launch in something in weeks you can, but, you know, if it takes it all the time, so, you know, so yeah.
Lauren Hampshire (00:07:28):
Yeah. I think we have to many things telling us know it's kinda like be a millionaire or in 10 days, you know, if we got this idea that everything needs to be a rush week, this idea that we need to do everything right. And I, and everybody else did it overnight and everybody's turning over millions and, and you know, this base of a week and for my experience and from the people that I know, and from people in business that I've spoken to, the reality is very different and it does take time. And I think you're better to take your time to make sure you do things right than to rush and get things wrong.
Absolutely. And actually, you've kind of led me on to something else I wanted to talk to you about, which is, I mentioned in your introduction that you, you know, you've had some good success, you've won awards, you've met Richard Branson, which, you know, is, it sounds very, which is really impressive. But when we sort of have a quick chat before this interview, you mentioned that what you see on social media and may not always be that sort of the reality of someone's busy. So I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit more, please.
Lauren Hampshire (00:08:27):
Yes. Yeah. I've been really lucky to, to have won awards, but I think sometimes that does make people have a view on things that you are suddenly a millionaire and you're making loads of money and that everything's so glamorous and that I spend my life going to these fabulous Award this when really that's going to be one or two days out of the year, the other three, 163 or four days of the year. I'm, it's filled with a lot of stress. A lot of pressure financially business is very tough. There are lots of things to pay out four when I won the Paypal International award, the prize was that you've got a, you didn't have to pay your Paypal fees, go up to the value of a a hundred thousand pounds.
Lauren Hampshire (00:09:12):
But that didn't mean I got handed a a hundred thousand pounds that was basically the Paypal fees or paid up to that point. If I manage to make that the number of sales, which is a very unlikely. So when the press got a hold of it, all the headlines where a mom, wins a hundred thousand pound prize. So I think everybody said that they thought I was rolling in it. And I suddenly just been handed a a hundred grand. And I was like, no, I really wished that had happened, but that's not quite how it works. So sometimes the headlines aren't quite what the reality is, and it just because you won an Award as much as it is lovely. I do think that people need to realize that, you know, that's one, as I said one evening, and it's very nice and it's very glamorous, but there's a lot of hard work that goes on.
Lauren Hampshire (00:10:02):
And even sometimes when I won those awards, I was then coming home on with sometimes sort of feeling a bit rubbish a bite myself, because I was like, Oh, I'm winning these awards, but actually financially I'm not making as much as I think people think I'm making and I'm still feeling overwhelmed. And sometimes I felt a little bit like a bitof a fraud because I was like, everyone's thinks that, you know, I'm, I'm a millionaire and I'm not, and there's this pressure of this idea that, yeah, I'm making loads And that everything is easy. And it suddenly, it all happens so easily from me and everything's going great. And that's not the reality. And I do think it's important for people to not get blinded by the things that they see on Instagram or the fancy awards.
Lauren Hampshire (00:10:44):
They see people winning because that can really make people feel that they themselves are failing and that their business isn't making as much money as everyone. Else's when actually the reality is nearly every
business I know at the moment is finding it fairly tough. Its quite a tough time, obviously at the moment with coronavirus, it's extremely tough. But even before that we've had Brexit, we've had lots of different things over the last couple of years that have made, you know, business a bit, a bit tougher. There are lots of great things about it. And I, I'm still loving the fact that I started the business and we're selling well and you know, our turnover is good, but I just don't want people to think that, you know, you'll be a millionaire really easily and that everybody else is because I think it's important that we don't all have these unrealistic expectations put a huge pressure on ourselves.
I think you're right. It is really important. And I mean, part of my goal for this podcast was to have guests on that were relatable because they're not, you know, running multimillion pound companies and things like that. And I guess, yeah, that's why I wanted to talk to you about your awards because as you say, it may from the outside seem really glamorous, but the reality often isn't as it appears and that's it, I haven't had to be prepared you for that question. A lot of them, but I think since we were subjects, I'd love to know. So how was it having lunch with Richard Branson complete aside?
Lauren Hampshire (00:12:04):
Yeah, it was brilliant. He was basically what happened was so I entered a thing called the volume awards, which are the Virgin awards and a, I don't think they're random last year. The last time we ran them was in 2018 and I didn't think I had any hope of winning at all and find out I was a finalist, went along to the finals on my own because I was so sure I wouldn't have won. So it was like, I will not bring anyone with me. I'd just go for, for a nice little day and ended up winning, which was a huge shock and had to do it with a hug. I was like, Oh God, what not to do was to do that afterwards, the winners, then I got invited dine to a, sort of a special lunch that was put on and there was Richard Branson.
Lauren Hampshire (00:12:46):
And so he was so lovely came over and spoke to all of us. And we all had a little bit of food. It was the very casual buffet. It wasn't, wasn't like a sit-down lunch, but yeah, we chatted to me. He carries around a little notebook. So he took down notes about my business and actually then mentioned it in one of his blogs. A couple of weeks later, I also met his lovely daughter, Holly Branson, who then had a baby a few months later, although she was pregnant at the time I met her, but it hasn't been publicized yet. So she was like, when I met you, I was pregnant, but I couldn't say anything. And it was the early days. So she has had a couple of our t-shirts and shes worn our T shirts, which has been great.
Lauren Hampshire (00:13:25):
So yeah, both Holly and Richard were really lovely, very, very supportive. As I said, he mentioned me and him is his blog and that was picked up by Forbes magazine, which is amazing. So yeah, its been nice to, to have someone like Richard Branson see my product to believe in it and thinks it is a good idea. All right.
It's fantastic. And you know what a great endorsement I'd love to, to switch gears a little bit and talk to you about expansion 'cause when we had our sort of a pre-interview chat, you shared to me your views on expanding your business and, and you know, and at what speed at which is to expand and perhaps why it might be wise not to try and do that to you quickly. So if you're happy, you'd be great. If you could just share your own experience with that.
Lauren Hampshire (00:14:09):
Yeah. Well I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and expand very quickly after winning the International of the Paypal international Award because actually when I won that award, I don't need a trading for 10 a half, three months or so. It was very, very new. And because I won the international award, I then was like, right, well I really need to become this huge global brand. And I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to suddenly hit America. And North America is huge and it takes a long time to do that. I was still running the business from my kitchen table all my own while also looking after the children. So I think that just really put our too much pressure on myself.
Lauren Hampshire (00:14:49):
And this is kind of going back to what I said earlier about you see people winning awards and you see the glamorous side of it, but that's not the whole picture because actually, you know, behind the scenes, it was me trying to take on everything, trying to do everything on it and really feeling quite overwhelmed. So this is back in through of 2018 or early 2019, I was really pushing a lot into right. Okay. I need to hit America. And the great thing is there is lots of support for people to do, want to expand internationally. So I had been working with The Department of International Trade and they are great and they do offer lots of support. So if anybody is wanting to expand, I would recommend that I also then have not yet got the trademarks, the US trademarks have applied for the Australian trademark.
Lauren Hampshire (00:15:33):
So I've been doing all of the, those things and getting those things in place. But what I would say is if you do want to expand, first of all, yes. Get the support there, but yeah. And make sure it might be your, you know, just totally do it on your own. And I'm not trying to expand my team and trying to focus on making things here in the UK, getting a bigger team. I'm getting things totally perfect here. Before really then expanding it because I think it's much better to maybe do it in your own domestic market before then trying to branch out. And in many ways, I'm glad that I've taken a little bit of a step back from pushing so much into the US because I'm wanting to create a lot more products and there's a lot more that I wanted to do.
Lauren Hampshire (00:16:15):
And there's a few changes that I want to make. I'm in the process of moving everything to organic cotton. We're a a hundred percent cotton at the moment, but I'm moving to organic cotton. And actually I think it's better to get everything to be perfect. Maybe we test the waters here with the new products and then really
focus on America. It might be in the next year or two. Right.
It definitely makes sense. And you touched on building the team. So what I'd like to know is, so when you started out, you mentioned was you and your mother-in-law and I know that you were creating all the products yourself, you were shipping them out from your kitchen table. So what's changed in the past. And my rights two years, do you use, you've been to, what's changed for a few years. What's it look like?
Lauren Hampshire (00:16:55):
Yeah. So I ended up, I don't make them with my mom in, at all or not. They are manufactured abroad. So we have a wonderful manufacturer and they are, we manufacture them in, in Turkey. We have a, a great relationship with our manufacturer there, make sure that everything is ethical and things like that. Our sweatshirts are then made in Portugal. So we work with them, all companies that are under what's called the EEN network, which has the Enterprise Europe network which, that's the Turkish ones are in as well. So yes, we do that for the manufacturing side of things because we just couldn't get the numbers that we needed. We sell thousands and we produce thousands.
Lauren Hampshire (00:17:35):
And so you need to find a manufacturer that can help with you create that number. And I did look within the UK, but we just couldn't find manufacturers that could, could do the volumes that we need it. So then it, so that was one side of it. I know I also have a fulfillment center. So rather than the packaging, everything from my kitchen table, we have a fulfillment center. So they do the packaging and the posting. I actually do run the fulfillment center with my husband. So that is actually on our own fulfillment center. So we do that at the moment. And then we also know that I work with a wonderful production manager who has a background in textiles and studied fashion design and so on production.
Lauren Hampshire (00:18:21):
So she works with me, so on a freelance basis and I also work with a digital marketing agency. So yeah, I'm sort of working with other people. And I also have a wonderful girl Holly who helps me out with a social media and she is also kind of a face of our brand. So she does our model and, and things like that. So yeah, there was a bigger team of us, which is great
Fantastic. Thank you. And just as a, it just a few final questions before we wrap up below. And so can you tell us what you love about selling your products?
Lauren Hampshire (00:18:52):
Their, one of the great things as well, because it was something I Def I needed and it came out of a genuine need to be able to create something that has helped other people and that people email me to buy it and
message me and say that it's helped them. I mean, that is just like amazing. It just means so much to me when I got such lovely messages and when people send us photos of them using them or that they say that it's really helped them to feed when they were in public is really lovely because I know that that's something that I struggled a little bit with. So anything that I feel that can help mom's to feel better about breastfeeding and also to feel better in themselves because I wanted them to look like normal clothes so they could be worn even off.
Lauren Hampshire (00:19:36):
Do you finished breastfeeding, but I'm that you can also still feel like you're wearing a trendy slogan t-shirt with jeans, you know, so you don't have to change your style just because you become a mum. So yeah, that, that really means a lot. And I'm so glad that I did it for that reason. The other great thing I might add is that I, I do get to see my children a lot. I get to go to sports days when I need to get to go to their nativities when I need to, you know, my four year old hasn't started school yet. So she was still with me. She does go to a childminder a few days a week, but then the other day she's with me. And so I still get a lot of time with my children and to be able to run a business, so to make some money and also still be able to be with my children a lot.
Lauren Hampshire (00:20:18):
His is such a blessing. I know I'm really lucky to be able to do that. And it's also nice when you go on holiday and you can still make some money for, you can have gotta be sitting on your sun lounger. You are, and you're looking at your PayPal account and you're like, Oh, that's pretty nice. It still made some money, even though I'm lying on a sunlounger. So yeah, that's definitely a plus of running a products business.
Okay. Thank you. I read, you know, I relate to it, all of those ideas to Episode a few weeks back about reasons I love selling products and yeah, you've had quite a few of mine is just so nice to have that flexibility and not have to work all of the time.
Lauren Hampshire (00:20:50):
Yep. And you saved a lot of money in commuting. I'm saving alot of money in train fares.
that's all so true. And I have one final question for you Lauren before we finish, which is what would be Your number one piece of advice that you would give to someone else who was looking to start their own products business?
Lauren Hampshire (00:21:09):
So my number one piece of advice, I think we've, we've kind of covered it a little bit is to not rush and two, make sure you have everything in place that the product is perfect. Make sure you've done your sampling,
making sure that you've got all the legal things in place and protected your design. If it is unique, to make sure that you've got your patent and placed before you make it public, because you don't want to launch without protecting. And then you lose that right. To be able to protect it. And also you don't want to launch a product that there is a problem with it. And then you end up having to recall them all to make sure that your product is right, making sure that it's protected and don't rush. And then launch once everything is in place.
That's brilliant thank you. And I think that everyone will find that really useful. So thank you so much Lauren. I will put links to every where people can find you in the shownotes. And I hope people will go in and take a look at your t-shirts. I think it looks fantastic. I'm, you know, passed the breastfeeding days that had I had your total will be the rounds back when I, you know, about when I still have a little babies that I definitely would have bought them because they looked fantastic. Thank you for all of your time.
Lauren Hampshire (00:22:15):
Thank you for having me.
No problem. We'll thank you so much. Thanks then. Bye bye. Take care.
So hope you enjoyed this interview with Lauren, if you'd like to be interviewed for an upcoming episode, I would love to hear from you to be sure to send me an email Vicki@tinychipmeenk.com. Don't forget all the links we've mentioned today. It will be on the show notes, take care of it. See you soon.