Mumpreneur Means Business!

We speak to Elizabeth Pilgrim about coping with two shops, an online business and two small children

10 Devonshire Road, Chiswick W4 2HD Te: 0208 840 8197

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Babye was founded five years ago in Ealing when Elizabeth Pilgrim, went back to work to her successful marketing career as a Creative Director but found that even with flexible, part time hours, she couldn’t cope with family life and the pressure of work. She wanted to carry on working but on her own terms with the flexibility to work around children.

Like a lot of mumpreneurs today, she struggled with not wanting to work full time but wanting to do something and ‘babye’ was born really out of necessity – not being able to find good, stylish maternity and baby products locally. Elizabeth decided that there was a gap in the market for unique products that you couldn’t find on the high street.

With a background in marketing, she launched her first shop on Ealing Green in Ealing. One of the first retailers in the UK to carry iconic brands like Bugaboo, Storksak and Mozzee, babye quickly caught the attention of the industry. Babye became a finalist in the Drapers Best New Business Awards in 2005 and then in 2006, achieved a high profile when babye was asked to participate in a BBC1 programme about designer baby products. Since then, babye has been nominated for various other awards and is often quoted in the National and Women’s Press. As well as being mum to two young children, aged 7 and 5, she is now hugely involved in her local business community and voluntarily sits on the board of the Ealing Business Improvement District company where she represents small business as well as being a founder member of the Ealing Athena Ladies Networking group.

The business really started to develop when babye quietly launched a successful online shop in 2006 which now has a huge celebrity following due to their discreetness and excellent customer service. babye ships all around the world and offers customers fast turnaround, corporate gift baskets and free gift wrapping.

In the economic downturn, Elizabeth successfully negotiated a rent decrease, usually unheard of and has currently galvanised the whole street to fight the business rates increase through a rates appeal. Elizabeth is well aware that she can’t be complacent and has introduced a number of strategic initiatives to help combat the recession including a babyshower party service and a mums night out event called Mum Time Out.

Now babye has finally come to Chiswick to the lovely Devonshire Road, where discerning customers can find beautiful maternity clothes and gifts and a huge selection of exquisite baby products including baby Dior, Ralph Lauren, Bugaboo, Bloom, Boob Nursing Wear, No Added Sugar, Catimini, Bamboo Merino, MamaMio, Storksak as well as a huge selection of unusual gifts (quite often from other mums who have started their own businesses) from handknitted blankets and booties, Liberty Raggy Tags, glass baby bottles, handmade hairbows and gorgeous toys.

We asked Elizabeth….

Why did you choose Chiswick to launch your second shop?

I have always loved shopping in Chiswick and thought it would be a great area for babye, especially because so many of our babye customers in Ealing actually live in Chiswick. I particularly love Devonshire Road and just couldn’t resist No 10 when we saw it – it’s such a quaint shop – a lot smaller than our shop in Ealing but still bursting with character. We are great fans of Whisk and Big Jim’s who are also in Devonshire Road. Chiswick is full of mums and babies and although there is a plethora of babyshops, we think babye offers something different.

What next for babye?

We are looking forward to a good retail Christmas and am confident that shoppers will shop local this Christmas. We’re very excited about the Devonshire Road Christmas Fair – the Summer Fair back in June was a huge success for us. Great community feeling and full of residents and their children simply having fun. We want babye to be a real part of the Chiswick community and to care about it – championing reduced business rates, advocating a ‘shop local’ campaign and really trying to make a difference is what makes me tick. We are already in talks with a number of local companies where we think we can work together so very exciting times indeed.

Some people would be surprised at your expansion plans given the tough economic climate, why do you think babye will be successful in Chiswick?

We have grown organically and not rushed into opening lots and lots of branches. We have a strong position in the market place borne out of a great product range and excellent customer service. Our customers are very discerning and we want to strive to meet their expectations at every level. I think there is certainly a move towards shoppers favouring local shops and businesses and recognizing the true value of what's on their doorstep and that they don’t have to visit huge shopping centres to purchase what they need and that they can get it locally.

How do you cope running your own business with two shops, an online business with two small children?

I am really lucky to have a husband who also runs his own successful marketing agency, TBA Marketing and is completely hands-on with the kids and is fully supportive that we are able to share everything from the school run to doing the accounts. My children’s school has an excellent After School Club so on the odd day I can’t pick them up, it’s not a problem to get there a little later but mostly I like to be there to pick them up myself. I also have been really lucky with my staff – all the babye girls are lovely and really care about the business so much so that most people can’t tell us apart on the telephone!

October 24, 2009