In celebration of motherhood, our friends at Basil Bangs recently interviewed a selection of Mum's running their own businesses, sharing their family and business stories and go-to #mumhacks.
As part of this feature, our very own founder and wonder woman, Lucy Fenton, shares her tale of motherhood, the business juggle and her style secrets and shortcuts both in-store and at home.
Ahead of Mother's Day, we share some questions from the Basil Bang's interview and introduce you to Lucy's family.
Lucy, Pepa, Woody & Josh
You wear many hats - product designer, interior decorator, boss lady, mama. In your own words tell us about what you do.
I literally do a bit of everything. What I have realised is that when you own a business you really must be prepared to do anything and everything. At the moment I oversee the day-to-day operations of the business and look after the buying. I get pulled from one area to the other depending on where the most pressing need is at the time, but I'm always juggling multiple priorities, which can be challenging & overwhelming at times. Unfortunately, my Mum hat is often pushed to the side, but my kids & I are lucky to have Mr Fenton holding that side of our life together when other things get in the way!
Rewinding the clock… I read that fenton&fenton came about over a beer while you were in India. Take us back to those early days of f&f - what was it like? Do you still drink beer?
Yes!!! I absolutely still drink beer - some things never change!!! Back in the early days, things in many ways were a lot simpler. I travelled more and would hunt about markets and factories overseas & locally. We sold more one-off pieces, so it was a full-time job hunting for treasures and bringing them home to sell. I also spent a lot more time in the store on the shop floor, which I absolutely loved (and really miss). The team was smaller, so it was easier to be across everything. However, it also meant you had to do absolutely everything yourself. I have a distinct memory of unpacking an entire 20ft container on my own into a storage unit once. Now I look at my team of guys in the warehouse doing it and I am very grateful indeed.
Would you do anything differently if you were to start again today?
Lots of things! Hindsight is a beautiful thing… but even the mistakes we have made are part of the journey, so no regrets! The main thing would have been to invest in a great POS (point of sale) system/inventory management system in the earlier days. Excel spreadsheets, although great at the time, can only get you so far in managing that side of the business and implementing systems 5-10 years later can be really challenging. I also would have been quicker to delegate certain aspects of business management to people who specialise in those fields, such as human resource management, planning and budgeting - that way I could have been more consistently focused on what I love doing and what I am best at.
Do you have any fantasies of alternate jobs?
No, I honestly have no idea what I would do if I wasn't running fenton&fenton. When things are tough and I'm stressed out I try and remember that. But sometimes I think I wouldn't mind going back to a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job one day, ha-ha!
How do you stay creative when you're being dragged down by business-ing/mummy-ing/wife-ing?
This is very challenging. I tend to get very bogged down in the nitty-gritty, which makes the buying/creative side hard. When I am travelling I get more of the white space I need, and I'm always reinspired and bursting with ideas after a trip. I am trying to travel more and also have designated days where I focus on that side of the business. It's very hard to go from back-to-back meetings into a creative mode so I'm trying to separate these elements.
I'm always asked what it's like to work with my husband. How do you keep the cogs turning at work, and in marriage? Are there any tips that you use to keep things running well?
Division of labour! We have pretty clear and defined responsibilities and they tend not to overlap too much. I think at the start it was harder as you are still working out exactly who does what, but once you have that nailed down it's a lot easier. We do live and breathe our business, so sharing that same passion helps to keep the cogs turning. Although there are many times at 1 am when he will say 'I don't really want to talk about work now'.
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your home/work life?
No two days are ever the same. I could be in meetings all day, setting up for an exhibition, on location shooting, working on new products with Josh, getting involved in the digital side of the business, travelling overseas and visiting suppliers or just knee deep in emails and admin (more often than not, unfortunately). During the week I work long hours and don't see the kids as much as I'd like to. Luckily Josh wears that hat and always picks up the pieces at home if I am held up at work. We always spend the weekends as a family!
There's nothing like having your own business and having babies. 'Maternity Leave' as such doesn't really exist. How did you work that whole work/life/family 'shtick' out when the shop was cranking?
There was definitely no time for 'Maternity Leave'. When Pepa was born we still lived above the store so in many ways it was great as I was always still there, so it was easy to stay in touch. I could run downstairs in my trackies between feeds, consequently, she spent a lot of time on her play mat on the shop floor. At that time, we were renting a house at the beach that we escaped to almost every weekend, so it was a perfect balance of work & family time! By the time Woody came along, we had moved into a house, so it was a bit trickier. There was a lot of expressing in the office - I don't miss that! Having both Josh and I involved in the business made things easier, as most of the time one of us could be with them, Josh more so than me to be honest!
Has your role in the business changed over the years? How?
It's always changing and evolving. In the beginning, I basically spent 7 days a week on the shop floor. Now, I spend more time in meetings focusing on the team, strategy, buying, budgets etc.
Are there any personal rituals/routines that you are strict about sticking to?
I am very strict about Josh getting us both a coffee at 6.30am as soon as our favourite coffee place is open. The kids are up early and full of energy - so caffeine is a necessity! Plus, we always put all the toys away once the kids are in bed! I need at least a few hours a day toy free in my house or I will go mad.
What are some of your favourite things in the home that brings you joy (people not included)?
I love art! I have collected many pieces from a variety of artists over the years and they always make me happy. It reminds me of my journey, the places I've been, the people I've met and even how I've felt at different times. You can read Lucy's Tips for Buying Art here.
Which materials, textures and colours do you like to surround yourself with at home?
Velvet, wool, marble, timber, leather, linen, silk - basically everything!! And no colour is forbidden!!
What are you looking forward to this year?
2018 marks a decade since we opened so it is a big year for us. We are in the process of making some important structural changes to our team and the business as a whole. We are recruiting a few new senior positions. I am looking forward to getting this up and running so I can spend more time at home with the kids (without my laptop). I will let you know how it pans out.
We are also off to NZ, Bali & India - I still love to travel!
For the full interview and Lucy's #mumhacks, visit the Basil Bangs journal.