Sleepless nights, pure drive and determination, weekends at Glasto and in Ibiza, mum taxi, multitasking central – meet the inspiring woman behind Poppy + Ned, boys, girls and babywear fashion brand
“[Starting your own business is] not for the faint hearted – be prepared to work all the hours god sends, for free, for at least the first year but the passion and drive for what you create will keep you going.” – Jessica Seaman
Jessica Seaman started her own kids’ fashion brand, Poppy + Ned while pregnant with son number two – of which she now has three. We caught up with Jessica just after she had been to Glastonbury this year – the only child-free weekend her and her husband make sure to take annually. Here, Jessica offers loads of seriously sound advice for any parent wanting to get into the world of fashion design or even starting any kind of business of their own. Listen up, because these are wise words indeed. And rest assured, nowhere do we mention that gross word, ‘mumpreneur’ – hooray!
In the second of a new series on FashCatherine, editor Catherine Hudson finds out about the woman behind the brand, and gets Jessica’s advice on how to inspire women, through highs and lows, to reach similar, great things in business. Read the first in the series, with Caroline Watson, stylist and bag designer, here.
1. How would you describe your job, and how much of your time does it take up?
I launched my own baby and children’s clothes collection, Poppy + Ned, when I was pregnant with my second child. I now have three boys, so life can be a little hectic at times. Splitting yourself between work and mummy duties is never easy. But I thrive off being creative and working on Poppy + Ned doesn’t feel like a job for me – it’s relaxing to have that time to myself. I design, make up samples, speak with manufacturers… there is lots of juggling involved, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
2. How did you reach the job position you are in now?
I had been in the fashion industry for many years, and also designed outside as a hobby and a way to relax really in my spare time. Whilst pregnant with my second child, I suffered from the worst bout of insomnia. I would spend almost six nights awake each week, pacing the house while my little ones slept. Horrendous. But then I decided to do something useful with all these hours I had spare, and began designing my own fashion label. It literally turned my life around. Rather than feel upset that I was awake at 2am, I was busy speaking with manufacturers, choosing fabrics and designing new seasons collections. The sleep eventually sorted itself out, and the payback for all those late nights developed into what Poppy + Ned is today. Sleep deprived and exhausted, I had somehow managed to create a brand that was successful and stocked around the world. It was exhilarating.
Images throughout of kids wearing Poppy + Ned clothing
3. What was your biggest setback and how did you overcome it?
There were many! Finding the right manufacturer takes time, and sadly money gets wasted along the way. A wrong manufacturer could ruin your whole season, but once you find the right one you want to hold on to them, like a new best friend. Setting up your own business, usually means you are a one man band, at least initially. You are designing, dealing with manufacturers, packing boxes of orders, sorting your own social media campaigns, literally running an entire company on your own. Saying you are ‘showing in New York’ sounds glamorous, but getting there takes a ridiculous amount of (unpaid) work. It’s a joyful day when you’ve earned enough to have some helping hands.
4. Did you ever feel held back in the workplace, because you are a woman? If so, how did you conquer that?
Being in the baby and children’s clothes business fortunately means you meet a lot of people in the same boat = mother’s who were previously in the fashion industry who have had children and set up on their own. This creates a lovely atmosphere, which I’m thankful for. It’s a supportive network of like-minded people, just trying to do their thing and in my opinion there’s a place for everyone. Dealing with some shops can be the tricky part, chasing unpaid orders is a soul destroying task. Honesty, is always the best policy, and you have to stick firm to what you need. Small companies can’t afford to offer 90-day payment terms and though the order may be the best thing since sliced bread, if it doesn’t work for you financially, you have to say, and hope they understand.
5. How have you gained confidence within your working role?
Absolutely. I have made lots of mistakes along the way, and I am continually learning. Knowing your way around an industry feels good, but there is always something new to learn. And particularly in the fashion industry, things change so quickly, you have to learn to adapt to ever changing situations.
6. Work aside, how do you prioritise your social time? Who gets the most of your attention?
Haha, I have 3 kids, what social time?! My non-work time is spent with my children and their various out of school activities. I have definitely got into ‘taxi driver’ mode for my elder two boys but the youngest thankfully still loves do do things with me. My husband and I have a child-free weekend at Glastonbury Festival each year, which despite the mud, is some great ‘me’ time. And if we’re lucky we might sneak a wee weekend to Ibiza, once in a while!
7. How do you relax?
I love to read. Actually I think I have developed into a news reading geek! Weirdly it relaxes me of an evening. I like to read Spiegel online, The Independent, and Grazia for my fashion fix. My guilty pleasure would be the Daily Mail website, which my husband hates with a passion, but the celeb gossip is slightly addictive!
8. What would you say to women who are interested in starting a career in your industry?
If you have a serious drive to create something of your own, then go for it. It’s not for the faint hearted, be prepared to work all the hours god sends, for free, for at least the first year but the passion and drive for what you create will keep you going. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, you’ve just got to keep digging your way through. I hate giving up on anything, and if i set my mind to something, I’m going to do it the best I possibly can. Oh, and write a business plan, a proper one, not just for show for the bank. It genuinely will help you along the way.
9. How do find your own inspiration – for work, and for play?
My work inspiration can come from anything, a walk in the park, a child on the beach, a beautiful postcard. I think I daydream far too much, but these are when I get my best ideas! Music is a great form of inspiration, I love all types of genres for different occasions. Composer Craig Armstrong brings out my beautiful girly dresses, while a bit of DJ Shadow can take my collections in a whole other direction!
10. What are your three top tips for starting your own business?
Stick to your business plan. Trust your instincts. Always remember, when things go wrong, it’s okay, nobody died, you just keep doing the best you can do and everything else will fall into place.
11. How ambitious are you? Are you still striving for more success? How?
I think I’ve always been pretty ambitious. I had such drive as a child to succeed, to help my mum, to do better and make my own money. Never having anything handed on a plate instilled this great ‘worker’ attitude in me that’s always been there. I never stop, but I like it that way. Nobody’s going to come knocking at my door with a great opportunity, I have to keep knocking at theirs ’til they let me in.
12. What is your favourite/best social media tool?
It makes me sound so mummsy but I love Facebook. I love the interaction, people actually chat and have something interesting to say. It’s very real, and I am such an open book character that suits me. Instagram is pretty to look at, but is doesn’t rate high on the ‘real’ factor. Some people, like Mother Pukka, would be the exception to that, she makes me laugh a lot. Facebook feels like the right fit for Poppy + Ned – I can chat with real mothers about our collections, and learn from their feedback.
Read the first in our ‘women inspiring women’ series, with Caroline Watson, stylist and bag designer, here.