Welcome back to ‘Interview With A Mum In Business‘. Today I’m introducing to you Anne-Clare, the Mum behind an amazingly innovative kids activity brand called Cotton Twist. Have you heard of Cotton Twist before? If you haven’t, you are going to love them and you are also NEVER going to be stuck again for children’s gift ideas.
Anne-Clare is also kindly giving away some Cotton Twist vouchers to a very lucky reader. You can enter the competition at the bottom of this post.
Interview With A Mum In Business Featuring: Cotton Twist
If you haven’t heard of Cotton Twist before, you are about to fall in love with the brand! Especially if you have kids. Cotton Twist is a children’s party and gifting website. It’s packed full to the brim of creative kids activity boxes, personalised play tins and so much more. You really, really need to go over and take a peek.
Before you do though, I’m going to hand you over to Anne-Clare who is going to share with you a lot more about her business, how it came about and how she juggles it alongside family life.
Tell us a bit about your business? Why and when did you start it?
I officially set up Cotton Twist in January 2015. I’d just had my third child and knew this was my opportunity to try and make this project work whilst I juggled a little one. The company started with mini craft activities as party bag fillers, but has subsequently expanded into the gifting space for children. The emphasis is on good old fashioned fun and draws upon good quality components, often wooden, instead of the piles of plastic we’re often faced with.
How did you get the idea for your business?
A friend had produced a similar low key idea for her daughter’s party. I thought it was a brilliant idea. I made some prototypes for my eldest child’s 3rd birthday in the same vein. Originally the two of us went into the business together, but I bought her out of the business about a year ago.
Where do you like to work from?
When not in my new office, I love to work from White City House in Shepherds Bush. I love the fact that I can’t speak on my phone so I try to have 6 hours of uninterrupted design time. Oh and copious amounts of fresh mint tea and yummy food.
How do you balance both work and family life?
With difficulty! There are lots of plus sides now that I have a separate office down the road, but it does make sick days and holidays a bit more complicated. I also struggle at bedtime as they are stretching later and later. I work almost every evening at the moment so that I can do pick up everyday, but I sometimes wonder whether I’m trying to do everything, but not doing anything particularly well.
What is your vision/dream for your business?
My dream would have to be for the business to be recognised as a well known children’s party and gifting brand.
What have been your biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me, has probably been the struggle to get suppliers interested in my orders. I have components custom made for the packs and gifts, and although I think 10,000 or 20,000 units is a lot, it’s a drop in the ocean for them.
What has been the highlight of running your own business?
There are so many highlights for me so here are a few: watching this little idea turning into a brand, feedback from customers can be so heart warming, mad Christmas rushes when we’re all working our socks off, moving into the new office this February, winning a Junior Design Award for best party brand.
How did you fund your business?
As mentioned, I set up the business with a partner at the beginning. We both put £400 in and grew the business organically. It took a good 12 months before we could really afford much. But, we were lucky enough to get accepted onto Not On The High Street in the early days and this really helped with the cashflow.
What advice would you give to other mums starting a business?
Have a passion that you know you want to live and breathe. You can’t resent the late nights and the juggling or it just won’t work. I would also suggest networking with other small businesses. Running your own enterprise can be lonely despite loving what you’re doing. There are other small businesses out there who are happy to share highs / lows / dos and don’ts.
I’m a member of ‘The Mamahood’ marketplace and the contacts I’ve met there have been invaluable. Finally, don’t wait too long to go to market. I always remember reading that you should be embarrassed by your first product, otherwise you waited too long. It’s so true. There’s a lot to be said for testing the market.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I generally do the school and nursery run by 9am then rush to the office. I’m usually able to stay in the office until 2.55pm when I have to rush to get my littlest one. Depending on the number of orders, I often lend a hand with dispatch, then the rest of the day will be a mixture of phone calls, design and sourcing. I’m rubbish at making time for myself in these hours as they feel so precious. You can often see me running out of the door to nursery pick up.
I try to focus on the children between 3 and 7pm, but I’d be lying if I said this was always the case. In an ideal world I’d compartmentalise these two different roles, but that’s a bit of a pipe dream. My husband often takes over from 7pm and I hit the laptop again. It’s not entirely sustainable to be working this hard, but things are improving year by year!
Do you have any tips to banish the mum guilt we all feel?
Mmmm – I think Mums are destined to eat themselves up with guilt so not sure on this one. I do think we need to remind ourselves that we don’t need to entertain our children all of the time. It’s also important for them to make their own fun and to get bored.
How busy does Anne-Clare’s day sound? Thank you so much Anne-Clare for this really lovely insight into your amazing business. We really do hope that you become a staple kids gifting brand really soon. It would be so well deserved, your products are amazing!
Anne-Clare is is also kindly giving away some Cotton Twist vouchers to a lucky winner. How much would your kids love some of her products? To enter, simply fill in the rafflecopter below.
How unique are Cotton Twist products?
Oh my goodness, I am 100% buying so many of these boxes and tins for both Christmas and birthday presents in the future. I think they’re such a genius idea. My daughter is now at school too, so all the ‘class’ birthday invitations have started to roll in. It’s going to be so much easier to shop for all their birthdays with Cotton Twist.
You can find out more about Anne-Clare and Cotton Twist here:
That’s it for today’s interview. If you missed last weeks interview with Rebecca, from kids homeware store ‘Little Jagger’, you can catch up with it here:
- Interview With A Mum In Business Featuring: Little Jagger
So, what do you think of Cotton Twist? Which of her products do you love the most? Let us know in the comments below!