Remember when you were pregnant and partied every night in Soho. No? Add to the exhausting demands of client entertaining a boss more than unsympathetic to hourly attacks of morning sickness, its enough to make anyone take a long hard look at their career.
FOUNDER: Abby Parkes
Fortunately for Abby Parkes, founder of Bumble & Blossom and Luxury Yarns, she had a passion and the drive to turn that passion into not one but two businesses. Bumble & Blossom is her collection of cashmere gifts for adults and babies, all hand knitted in the UK using cashmere yarn produced in Italy and designed by Abby.
We spoke to her about making the switch from freelancer to founder.
After a career in TV broadcasting making trailers and ultimately as a freelancer designing branding graphics, she decided something had to give: ‘It was really great fun in my 20s, quite good fun in my 30s but then marriage and children came and it didn’t really fit. It was work hard, play hard, late nights out and enormous amount of pressure to be ‘fun’. There were women in senior positions but none of them had lives outside work.’
And then the question so many parents ask themselves – how to make a business around something you really love which will fit around a family?
Taught to crochet by her mother when she was just 5 years old, Abby has been knitting and writing patterns since she can remember. She founded her first business, Luxury Yarns, sourcing high-end yarns and knitting accessories and selling them direct to the consumer. From there her sister company was born.
As Abby explained, ‘I had been designing patterns for cashmere gifts, accessories, and ‘knit-kits’ for people to take home and make whatever they like – cowls, hats, mittens and so on. I was at a craft fair and someone asked to buy a sample. So this year I decided to focus on producing these unique pieces for sale and launched Bumble & Blossom.’
Designed from her bespoke patterns, adults can choose from a range of cowls, hats, mittens and shawls whilst baby gifts include cardigans, hats and Christening sets.
Abby still knits herself and also uses women from the UK hand-knitters association to create her pieces. ‘These are experienced women who set the prices for their work themselves – it works really well. They love knitting and it means they get to knit with really nice wool. Often people who knit spend a lot of their time knitting blankets for charity with cheap wool, whereas if they can knit with cashmere and also get paid for it, they are very happy. It’s mutually beneficial.’
So if you’re looking for something a little different, a luxury cashmere gift or an heirloom piece for a baby – check out Abby’s site. Designed and produced in Britain, popped in a ribbon-tied box and ready to go.
What is – or has been – your greatest struggle? My need to be perfect, and accepting that I am not. This applies to all areas of my life and is a constant struggle.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? A police woman – mounted policewoman specifically! However, my parents were very old fashioned and very little was expected of me (other than to get married and have children), so my goal was really to prove them wrong.
Best advice ever received and from whom? Never regret, it is a wasted emotion that serves no one. From my Godmother and long-time confidant.
Who do you most admire? Anyone who turns a tragedy into something positive. I met a lady 2 years ago who had had a stillborn daughter. Instead of drowning in despair, she started a charity making angel gowns for still born babies and late miscarriages, and her dedication is incredible.
What keeps you up at night? Worrying about my business… Am I doing the right thing? What could I do better? Should I be doing something else? During the day I know the answer to all of these questions, but for some reason my consciousness at 3am is never my friend.
When were you happiest? The day I gave birth to my first son. Cliché I know, but after trying so long and so hard to have children, the rollercoaster of several failed IVF’s, and facing the reality that it might never happen, I couldn’t believe that I finally had a child – and he was perfect.
Favourite object you possess? My engagement ring – because of everything it stands for – it’s from my husband’s mother, and I think was in his father’s family before that.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Oh My God” usually in response to something my children have done. Most recently, my almost 2 year old has discovered a taste for eating the dog’s food! If only he’d eat his own with such passion.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you? Care less about what other people think and instead be true to yourself. If only I’d known in my 20’s what I know now.
What is your guiltiest pleasure? Lindor. Enough said…
What change do you hope for in your lifetime? That we will start looking after our planet – properly. People will eat less meat, treat animals better and realise that we are slowly killing our planet.
Who might help you next? Rhiane Kirkby – I met her through a local ‘Working Mums’ network and she has given me so much brilliant advice for my website, brand, content and marketing.
Please recommend a brilliant female-led brand or business you have used recently. I am meeting Tessa Frost from Fig & Frost, so hopefully she will have some great advice. I have heard fab things about her Wardrobe Consultations so am thinking of adding it to my Christmas list!