Home > Life > TMC Talks > TMC Talks to Dominique Hughes and Rebecca Da Silva Lima Founders Of Jem & Bea.
What is the story behind Jem & Bea?

We started the brand 8 years ago when baby changing bags were pretty dire! We had 4 kids between us at the time and had never been able to find a changing bag that looked good and was functional. We set about creating a range that would tick all the boxes – fashionable, functional and luxurious. Rebecca’s background is as an Accessories Designer for luxury brands such as Burberry, Mulberry and Anya Hindmarch, so it was important that the bags were very well designed, using exceptional materials. The brand (like babies!) has grown with our customers which has meant we’re constantly evolving to suit parents needs and we now offer a popular range of toddler bags, as well as personalised pouches and oversized multi-use totes. More recently we introduced our ‘Jem + Bea Friends’ section on our site, where have cherry-picked a beautiful selection from other brands we love and that can work with your Jem + Bea bag. All the brands have a similarly aligned ethos in terms of style and sustainability – from baby carriers from Studio Romeo to drinks bottles from One Green Bottle.

What does your day or week entail?

Everyday and week is different which definitely keeps things interesting! Like any parent with school-age children, we have to navigate the school days and holidays, inset days etc to ensure we can keep on top of things. We have an office/studio in the town where we both live (in Kent) which means we can focus on work and have all our bag samples and materials around us. We started literally at the kitchen table, so it’s great to have a dedicated space to focus on the brand. On a typical day, we would get the kids into school and if there’s time do a workout before work to clear our heads, then be at our desks by 9.30ish. We’ve normally got lots of emails to hit off that have come in overnight as we have stockists and suppliers globally. So we’ll spend the first hour head down doing that. Then we might have meetings in house or on Zoom with our team wider teams such as digital marketing agency, PR team, or stockists.

What has been your proudest moment of Jem & Bea to date?

We’re always super proud when we are nominated for design awards for our products. Closely followed by seeing our bags in some of the largest department stores in the world, from London to New York to the UAE. We also had a pinch-us moment when we saw one of our bags out and about on a cool mum in NYC a few years ago – it was then that we realised how far our brand was reaching!

What has been your biggest challenge?

Brexit has been our nemesis the last 18 months. There was no solid advice coming from anywhere as to how this would change small businesses importing and exporting goods. It’s been hugely expensive and time consuming to navigate! But we’ve adapted the business and taken the hit and the orders are still coming in from the EU so we think the dust is settling now! Phew.

Something you’ve learnt that is crucial to either your job or to success:

The nursery market is always changing and evolving so to be successful we need to keep a close eye on lifestyle trends and what parents want/need to help them day to day with their little ones.

Greatest piece of advice you’ve been given? And worst?

The worst advice we were given when designing our first range was from a large UK department store. They told us that changing backpacks wouldn’t sell! This was 7 years ago and fortunately we didn’t listen and continued with our now best-selling backpack designs regardless.
Best advice has been to focus on what we do well, stick to that and be the best at it.

Who/what are you most inspired by?

Above all parents. We’re always inspired by mums and dads we see out and about for fashion and lifestyle trends. These are emerging all the time and we want to ensure we stay on top of these and adapt our range to suit the needs of the new generation of parents.
As well as this, fashion and social media influencers are always a big inspiration.

How important is it to switch off?

SO important but very difficult at times! Social media platforms are 24/7 so somethings can’t always wait. But we both ensure we have some downtime at weekends. When you run your own business you can never really switch off, even when on holiday. But that’s a small trade off for being our own bosses and the flexibility that comes with that.

How do you manage your work / life balance?

This is always a tough question as we both feel there isn’t a balance most of the time, just compromise. We are still a small team as we have grown the business organically, without financial investment and oversee every area of the business – to our detriment perhaps. But having built a brand we love it can be hard to let go on the details.

How do manage mum guilt?

It’s true to say that feelings of guilt creep in when we aren’t giving enough time to our family or to the job. To put a positive spin on that, what we are doing is demonstrating to our children a good work ethic, that with hard work and commitment you can make something great, AND do something you love and make a career out of it.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?

Have more lie ins!!!

Words you live by

You only fail when you give up.

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