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Moms Doing It For Themselves l Joanna Bennie

The dreaded hospital bag! It confounds many of us. What do we put in it? What do we wear in the hospital?

Joanna Bennie has the solution: high quality maternity and hospital wear, as well as pretty baby sets and recovery wear. We caught up with her to hear about her passion and why she set up MeMammaB.com

Tell us a little bit about your business.

My website MeMammaB.com is an online store selling a range of glamourous hospital maternity gowns, matching mommy and baby sets, along with matching pattern pieces like nursing nightgowns, robes and even pillow cases. I also offer novelty Labour Socks for a little bit of a laugh in the labour ward and to keep those feet cosy during the labour. Those are the things that every modern woman needs in her hospital bag and they make a perfect and original baby shower gift! All items are specifically designed for the labour and the hospital stay. Many celebrities like Pippa O’Connor and Anna Saccone included a Gownie in their hospital bag. It even featured in the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” film, where it was worn by Cameron Diaz and Elizabeth Banks. Unlike the hospital gowns, which are extremely revealing, these Gownies are designed to give a full cover that gives comfort and full coverage. They are absolutely massive in United States, but only new to Ireland. Also, in the last few weeks, I started working with an American company called Belly Bandit and now I offer the top post-pregnancy shapewear that helps to speed up the recovery after the labour and is recommended by physicians and hospitals after delivery. Again – they are so popular in States, with celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Christina Applegate, Molly Sims all raving about them.

What was your motivation to start up your business?

When I was pregnant with my first baby I researched absolutely every single hospital bag list available out there. I read all the forums and watched all YouTube vlogs. I checked out all the recommendations and started making my own list. On one of the vlogs I came across an American brand called Baby Be Mine, which was designing hospital labour outfits. It was going to be my first ever stay in the hospital and from what I’ve heard hospital gowns did not win any of the most stylish awards. I was always very much into fashion and remember thinking - Wow, this is brilliant! As it is a scientifically proven fact that if you bring your own personal items to the hospital with you, you actually feel better during the whole labour experience, I decided to purchase my own labour gownie along with a matching baby’s first outfit, nightgown and pillowcase. I also bought a pair of fun “Ready, Set, Push” socks. I absolutely loved the quality of those items and when I was wearing them during my labour they really made me feel special and more comfortable about the whole thing. As nurses and midwifes in the hospital have never seen anything like that before I was a bit of a celebrity in the labour ward, which gave me that very much needed distraction from the labour pains. I’m still looking back at those first photos from the hospital with my daughter and I’m loving every single picture we have. I can’t stress enough how important those first photos with your new baby are. They are for life!

When I was pregnant for the second time with my son, one of my first purchases was another matching set, this time in blue. When I went to the hospital to have my son, nurses actually still remembered me! I loved the whole experience so much that I decided to share this wonderful feeling with other women here in Ireland and this is how Me Mamma B was born. My mission is for every woman to feel as fabulous and glamourous as they possibly can on that very important day. Some hospital bag lists advise to bring your old t-shirts and nightgowns to the hospital. I strongly disagree with that. I believe that the day you have your baby is as important as your wedding day and you wouldn’t wear an old outfit on your wedding day, even though you know you only get to wear it once.

What is your background?

I have a Masters Degree in Economics. For the last 10 years I have been working in banking. I’ve worked since secondary school and have experience in many different professions. I’ve done a little bit of modelling back in school and during university I worked as a fitness instructor. I also worked for some time in retail and even as a Manufacturing Technician for Intel Ireland. I am married and have two children - daughter Helena, who is 18 months-old and a 4 months-old son Harrison. I decided to start up my own business when I was 9 months pregnant and I had it all set up and ready to go within few days. A week later my son was born.

What have been the highs and lows of setting up your own business?

The highs are easy - being your own boss is a great feeling. I get to be boss lady and mommy at the same time. I love that I can set my own schedule, even though it’s a crazy one. I have to operate 24/7 with two children under two and most of the days are hectic. Recently I took part in Pregnancy and Baby Fair here in Dublin and I was so positively shocked how many women already heard about my online shop and products that I offer. That gave me so much energy and made me so happy! Another high is motivation, which you will never lack when you are working for yourself. It is a completely different level of work satisfaction. On the low side - I find it hard at times to find time just for myself, but it was never going to be easy with two babies and my own business, so I knew exactly what I signed up for.

What advice would you give other moms wanting to start up their own business?

I would say if you can’t have it all under someone else’s rules you should pave your own way and make your own rules! Make sure you do your thorough research though. Identify a good business idea, but you definitely need to find your niche. For me Gownies were definitely that niche market, they were not available to buy anywhere in Ireland. Also at the moment, I am the only shop in Ireland that sells Belly Bandit’s C-Section & Recovery Undies. It also helps when you believe in products that you are selling. I wore the Gownies twice with both of my babies. I also used Belly Bandit products and I know for a fact that they are brilliant and work 100%. When somebody asks me if they work I say: yes, they do, I tried them myself.

Do you have any tips for balancing your work and family life?

Today’s moms are absolute experts in juggling many different things at once and they work hard in and out of the home. I’m very lucky to work from home at the moment. Some days though I don’t get any work done until kids are in bed and then I spend long hours at night replying to emails, preparing orders or researching new business opportunities. I must say that my children’s health and happiness is by far more important than any business decision I will ever make. Their wellbeing puts all of the stressful business moments into perspective. Without being a mom I wouldn’t be where I am today. Children are the real inspiration and my best ideas were born at the time when I was pregnant. I definitely have a different purpose and life goals now that I’m a mom and also it changed the way I look at everything. Having a toddler climbing up on my leg, while I’m breastfeeding my son and answering business emails on my phone, all at the same time, makes my life definitely more interesting. For me and many moms out there, time is a gift that can’t be squandered. Demands of the day always require advanced multitasking and time management skills, which I’m still yet to gain.

What would you say is your next step for 2016 / 2017?

I would love to add few fabulous maternity and baby brands to my shop. I already have few ideas in my head, but I need to do more research on it. I would love to find more time to be more active on social media. I believe that interacting with potential clients on Facebook and Instagram is very important for any business.

If you were to be granted three wishes for your business what would they be?

  1. For my business to expand and grow. I am already in talks with few brands that I tried and tested during my pregnancy and that I believe in, so hopefully this will work out.

  2. I would love to have more funds for advertising and promoting my business as those are extremely expensive and can definitely be an obstacle for new businesses on the market.

  3. I would love to start my own blog/website with useful tips for new moms and moms to be. I would love to have a “tried and tested” section in it, where women can compare different maternity and baby products and decide, which ones are the best for them.

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About the Author

Lucy Earley is MD of artisyn.ie, (former editor of Salon Magazine) and is a freelance writer, interviewer and editor. She's a delighted convert to the maternal side following the birth of her daughter, Lara, in August 2014

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