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PV Meets: LoLA

PV Meets: LoLA

LoLA

PV Meets: LoLA

ParentVille Parties meets creative Mama’s Alara and Selina; the founders of Children Creative Art Boxes LoLA. Today, they share with how they got started and their tips to running a successful creative business. Prepare to be inspired.

 

Tell us a little about yourself?

We are creative mamas and sisters-in-law, and started LoLA boxes through a belief that process-based artist-inspired experiences are an important way for children to develop problem-solving skills, analytical thinking and confidence. Alara has been teaching art for over 15 years and is the magic behind LoLA, creating wonderful art projects inspired by real artists. I am a designer and have managed to put that magic into a box along with clear instructions, illustrations and recommendations for related books and art trips.

What inspired your idea for your business?

As mums, we naturally have lots of chats together about children and growing up whilst thinking of creative things to do with our kids. When Alara moved back to England after having a creative LoLA space for children in Istanbul (for over 12 years!), it was quite natural for us to talk about how LoLA and inspiring art projects for children could be brought to the UK. Rather than being limited to only 10 children coming to a workshop, we wanted to support creativity in children in a bigger way, and reach children all over the UK (and the world!) so that can they be independently creative at home and have an awareness of both old and new artists’ work.

 LoLA

What were your challenges & how did you overcome them?

We first had the idea of LoLA boxes in October 2018, and then realised the best time to launch it would be at Christmas, so we only had a couple of months to create a product! Luckily as an experienced graphic designer, I was able to create the printed materials, branding and leaflets while Alara sourced the best art supplies. We drove our newly created boxes stacked up in our cars to the Babyccino Christmas fair in the hope that we would sell at least some, but after a frantic two months, not really knowing if we would sell any! We were so lucky to have such an amazing response, we sold out of our first box! Once we had felt the jubilation, it dawned on us this would be a monthly process with a new art theme coming out each month! So then the challenge was to hunker down and plan the whole year of 2019 with 12 exciting art themes, which bring together 36 artists and work, with varied art materials.

What has been your biggest success so far?

The best bit of our day is when we see the children’s art created from LoLA projects, and the responses to the boxes through messages from parents. It is indescribably rewarding. I think Alara and I would differ on what ‘success’ means… After having so much experience with children’s’ brands, Alara has been having fantastic chats with amazing leading figures in the art and education world about how important creativity is for children and some big names have responded positively. For me, we have been approached by a museum to create a bespoke box (in the pipeline so its hushhush at the moment) and that is a real moment for us both.

LOLa

How do you juggle motherhood/personal life/family life and your business?

As every working mother knows, it is certainly a juggle! Its important for us to take moments to talk about how we want the business to run and our lives to work. We try to set boundaries (and stick to them), but we have to admit, running your own business is quite obsessive and we talk at all hours of the day!

How do you find time to relax while not working?

I would say Alara and I lucky to have found kindred spirits in that we are people who multi-task and like to get things done. As do-ers, we both find it hard to switch off. Being with our children and giving them our full attention is the one thing that will pull us fully out of work mode and we’re lucky to have very supportive families. On our ‘downtime’ we love to take our children to lots of different art exhibitions – although we ARE taking mental notes about the exhibition so we can put it in the ‘LoLA recommends’ section ;), these are really enjoyable experiences where we can enjoy family time with a bit of culture!

Back to school

What is your top tips for starting a small business?

If you have a small business idea, ask yourself ‘who are we and what do we do’? If you can sum this up into a short sentence and communicate it clearly, it goes a long way. We also think its important to stay true to your ideals. We have had lots of feedback on the quality of our art supplies, and even though we could have chosen a cheaper option, we really want children to be proud of the great colour in their artwork and part of that is using quality materials.

If you could invite a special guest to an event who would it be?

Holly Tucker. We are slightly obsessed with her and have enjoyed following her ‘kidpreneur’ celebration at the Holly&Co shop!

Find out more about LoLA boxes here

Donna

Meet the Team: Our Chief Marketing Officer, Donna

Meet the Team: Our Chief Marketing Officer, Donna

Donna

Donna was born in London and raised in the leafy home counties. Growing up with two brothers, Donna’s childhood was filled with fun playtime adventures where they spent their time climbing trees, creating exciting potions in their mud kitchen, days trips to the beach or creating imaginary radio shows.

In her grown-up life, Donna studied Advertising Marketing Communications and went onto have a successful career in Television, where she worked on the channel strategy for brands such as the Discovery Channel, Comedy Central, Sky Living and Sky Atlantic. After meeting her husband, they moved to South West London where they went on to have their son & daughter. Donna’s passion for strategy, entertainment and content has led her to work in Digital Marketing, which she does around family life.

Donna loves organising a party and believes you can create the perfect party with a little planning and bundles of imagination. Donna recently organised a Superhero Party for her son’s fifth birthday and enlisted the help of ParentVille Party Entertainers Tom and Eloise to bring the party theme to life. Tom and Eloise kept thirty children thoroughly entertained as Agent Alpha & Doctor Delta. Everyone was so impressed, including the adults.

Donna’s top tips to organising a children’s party are:

  • Know your theme. You can get inspiration from our Pinterest or Instagram pages.
  • Plan ahead. If time allows, plan as much as you can a few weeks before the party date. To save on time and to get the best party, why not consider a party stylist. If you are unsure of what you need, get in touch with ParentVille Parties for a free party consultation.
  • Book your baker (Donna’s favourite is Leah who creates the most delicious from ‘Free from’ Cakes & Brownies and Zuzana for the most scrumptious cakes and biscuits), venue and entertainer as soon as you have a date. It will take the pressure of you and allow you to leisurely plan the rest of your children’s party
  • Remember little ones can get overwhelmed on the big day, so talk them through your plans so they know what to expect.
  • Just have fun.

Meet the team: Commercial Relations & COO, Sally

Sally was raised between Scotland and the Middle East. She studied surface design in London and Paris and now lives in West London with her French husband and two little girls. The family regularly travel ‘home’ to the Grampian Highlands to visit the woods and big skies. Sally enjoys creative projects, interior design and all puddings!

“When I plan a party I always check & double check the theme with my daughters. Even with an obscure initial idea from my 3 year old, ‘Fairy-princess-woodland-camping’, I always find what I need on ParentVille. Our favourite party accessory to choose together are party bags! There are so many wonderful options & ideas. My eldest daughter loves Wonnie’s sugar free cakes & Mrs Smiths cat biscuits!”

Take note of Sally’s Celebration Secrets!

  • I always make sure to pick a strong theme for any party. Doing this stops me deviating from my shopping list!
  • My favourite grown up girl & boy cakes are from Wonnie. Her style is impeccable & she is so wonderful to work with.
  • Flowers are essential for every party & every age. They always help to brighten up a venue and create a wonderful splash of colour in photographs!
  • My girls always love to give biscuits or sweeties as a ‘thank you’. This year I have ordered from Candy & Mrs Smith.
  • I send cupcakes from Jennie into school on a regular basis. Whether to mark a birthday, new term or ‘just because’ – the teachers love it!

Meet the team: Our Brand Ambassador, Danelle

Danelle was raised in Michigan, USA. She studied her Bachelor’s degree at Oakland University in Michigan and was travelling from a young age throughout USA, Europe and Lebanon. After working and travelling for a corporate real estate company, she ended up in London studying her MBA in 2006 and has lived in London ever since.

She works with various start-ups and companies with eOffice Coworking Office Space and now assists with Parentville Parties. She has 2 daughters with her partner Pier Paolo and they love travelling between the USA and Italy with their girls :).

Danelle loves Parentville because it is working mums organising an amazing platform for kids parties. What she looks for her daughter’s parties is something quick, efficient and amazing. She loves how she can organise her daughter’s party very easily with Parentville, while working full time and managing her family. Her party tips – always have entertainment, and ensure the kids are kept busy non-stop:).

“If you are going to work for yourself you have to enjoy it”

We support small businesses and that’s why we love to share the inspiring stories of our entrepreneurs. Griselda is one of the new members of Parentville Parties family and we are thrilled to share with you why and how she started her own business of gorgeous Handmade Biscuits that bring delight and pleasure, both to look at and to eat!

Read why Griselda left her previous career behind, her wise advice to fellow entrepreneurs and how she embraced this new adventure.

ParentVille: Why did you decide to have your own business? unnamed

I left my previous career after having two beautiful daughters. As they got older and started school, I realised

I wanted to work again, but in a different capacity. I wanted to do something that I felt passionate about and incorporated things I enjoy, and was good at.  

P: And why baking biscuits?

I spent a long time looking at various ideas, and trying to figure out what direction to go in. Enchanting Bakes came to me early one morning and I knew instantly it was what I was going to try and build as a business. I enjoy both the planning and development side of the business, and obviously, I love the baking side. Both the creativity of designing biscuits, and making them. 

P: Tell us more about your own background prior to this venture

I worked in media both magazine publishing and digital marketing and advertising. It was a really exciting place to be, as I started working in digital media when it was a fledgling business. That gave me some good grounding in starting my own business, and some of the challenges you face.

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P:Talking about challenges, what was your biggest one when you first started?

Trying to do everything instantly without thinking about the best way to do it. I think my natural enthusiasm is both a blessing and a curse as I get so excited about working on new biscuits and orders, but still need to accept it takes time to get the products, packaging, invoicing, website and internal systems right. The great thing about running your own small business is you get to learn on the job, and can turn most mistakes into a positive. However, it can be overwhelming unless you break things down into manageable chunks and deliver against one thing at a time.

P: Is London a good environment for starting a business?

It’s my hometown so I will always think it is the most amazing place to be! It is very useful as many of my corporate clients are near enough for a face to face chat if needed, and it helps on timings when they want to send couriers to pick things up.

P: What is your biggest achievement so far?

I made just under 2,000 biscuits in a few days for one of my corporate clients which kept me busy. Without sounding too trite, I would say that my main achievement is setting up a successful business from a standing start that genuinely makes people happy, and is both enjoyable, interesting and profitable.

P: Who are your clients?enchanting bakes halloween

People who like biscuits! I also work more and more with organisations such as corporate clients, event planners, wedding planners etc. But anyone who loves beautiful and delicious biscuits is a potential client.

P: How do you maintain your work/ life balance?

I work during the day when my children are at school and I am very organised about squeezing every last useful minute out of that time. I tell myself I can work through the night once the girls are in bed if there
is a huge order to complete – I haven’t had to yet – So I try to make sure work and life are complimenting each other. I love what I do so working occasional weekends etc, does not seem too much of a chore. My husband
is very supportive in helping me if I have a deadline or large order, and we will plan how and when we can both work, without compromising family time, and childcare.   

P: Any advice you would give to a fellow entrepreneur?

Firstly, do something you love. It is a cliché, but if you love what you do, you really don’t resent the late night emails and planning. If you are going to work for yourself, with all the pros and cons of that, then you have to enjoy it.

Make sure you are legal, and then just get on with it! There are strict regulations about setting up a food business, but once you have the basics in place, just get on with it and learn as you go. Business planning is a fluid thing – not set in stone….

Griselda's new baby cookie box at Parentville Parties

Finally, check who you know and ask for favours. You’d be surprised what your friends and family all know about. My friend the designer who did my logo, another friend who works in the food industry and helped me get set up, my daughter’s friends dad who is a lawyer and checked my terms and conditions, and those amazing friends and family members who ordered biscuits when I first got going and gave amazing feedback that helped me shape things moving forward.

P: what are your favourite hangout places during the weekends?

I love being at home with the girls and my husband – just pottering about! We also love heading off on activities be it swimming, cycling or just wandering along Southbank and seeing what’s going on. I still enjoy cooking for friends and having large, loud meals. I’m also an avid runner and try to do a 10K every 3-4 months to keep me going.

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P: What are your future plans? 

To keep making amazing biscuits that make people happy. Hearing that our biscuits have been enjoyed and made people happy is what we are all about!

P: What is your favourite kitchen appliance/hack? 

I love my KitchenAid stand mixer. It genuinely makes me very very happy!

P: What is your choice drink in a coffee shop? 

Skinny Flat White. Plus a good look at the biscuits and cookies.

A diet coke with Alexis

We met Alexis, the founder of The Essential Bag Company and sat down for a refreshing diet coke while the sun finally decided to join us ! Alexis told us all about her business, and how she managed to juggle being a founder and being a mum!

Parentville: How did the project start? Where did you get your inspiration?

Alexis: The idea for The Essential Bag Company was born out of my experience of receiving gifts when my daughter was born and my experience of looking for high quality gifts for colleagues and friends. I searched for luxury baby gift bundles to send colleagues who were going on maternity leave or for friends with new babies. However, all I could find were hampers or gift boxes that contained unbranded products whose quality was questionable or which contained lots of items which I knew, as a new mother, would never be used. This gave me the inspiration to create a new gifting concept of filling a baby changing bag, a key essential for new parents, with gifts from luxury brands that customers know and trust. Our brands include Petit Bateau, Rachel Riley, Aspinal of London, Storksak, Charbonnel et Walker, Crabtree & Evelyn and many more…

 

P: Tell us more about your background. How did your career change after having children?

A: I trained and worked as a lawyer for 8 years before setting up The Essential Bag Company. I’ve always wanted to run my own business and thought that it was the right time to do it when my daughter was about to start school last year and I was pregnant with my second child. I wanted to have more flexibility to collect my daughter from school and be able to attend events such as sports day, school concerts etc. Running my own business gives me a lot of control over my work so I can fit it in at times that suit me, even if it means working most evenings.

 

P: What was your biggest challenge when you first started your own business?

A: Trying to do everything myself on a limited budget – marketing, social media, supply chain management, customer service, operations, accounts and more!

 

P: What’s your Unique Selling Point and who is your target audience?

A: The Essential Bag Company’s two main USPs are: (1) instead of using a basket or box, we present gifts in a baby changing bag that will be used by the recipient for years to come; and (2) we exclusively use products from brands customers know and trust. When sending a gift, customers can take comfort that they are sending a high quality gift as they know the luxury brands we work with.

The majority of our customers are from corporates, law firms, banks and other offices. Our gifts are very popular as maternity leave gifts and gifts sent to colleagues and clients who have had a new baby.

 

P: What is your biggest achievement so far?

A: After just one year in business, I am proud that we already have very loyal customers who order regularly from us and who endorse our business concept. Have a read of the testimonials on our website (http://www.essentialbagcompany.co.uk/testimonials/) to give you a flavour!

Headshot 3 B+W (HR)

 

P: Why is work important to you?

A: Working is in my blood – it’s what makes me tick. When I was a child (about 7) at school, I took it upon myself to sell religious magazines for the nuns in my convent. Within days I had sold the lot during breaks and lunchtime and they remarked that they had never sold more than a couple in the past! Later, I went on to run the school supplies shop and always got involved in any entrepreneurial opportunity that I saw. Today, I still get a buzz from working and can’t imagine not!

 

P: How do you maintain your work/life balance? 

A: With difficulty! I try to compartmentalise my days into three parts – work, time with children and ‘me’ time. I am quite strict with myself so when I am doing any one of those three things, I focus solely on it. For example, when I am with my children, I don’t send work emails (unless urgent) or make work calls. I also believe in having some ‘me’ time every day when I can switch off mentally. For me, it’s a 45 minute gym class but it could be reading a newspaper or going for a walk. I feel more productive and stronger for the rest of the day once I have that bit of time to recharge.

 

P: Is there any advice that you would give to a mum or dad who wants to start a business? 

A: Do your research and, if you think your idea is viable, then go for it! Don’t procrastinate as you will learn on the job. Nearly every business owner I’ve met says that 3-4 years after starting their business, the business barely resembled the business they launched with. I can see how much The Essential Bag Company has evolved in one year, for example, the demand for us to sell changing bags individually has meant that we introduced our ‘Just a Bag’ range.

 

P: What are your favourite hangout places / activities as a family?

A: We like being outdoors so I spend most of my time with my children in local parks in Fulham (Bishop’s Park, South Park, Hurlingham Park). The children are happy and the mantra is true “Happy children, happy life!”

 

P: Your funniest parenting moment!

A: When I was potty training my daughter, I had to get out the portable potty in a supermarket aisle and then carry the bag of ‘goods’ around with me while I shopped!

 

 

If you want to know more about The Essential Bag Company check out their website, Facebook, and Twitter 🙂

 

The Essential Bag Company is offering all Parentville parents 10% discount, check out our Parentville favourite selection here

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