The bond between parent and child is unique – few businesses embody this like Mama and Cub. Not only does the Gold Coast-based shop help parents create a beautiful, nurturing space for their little ones, its sellers live this ethos every day: they are a mother and daughter dream team. When Christine and Kate aren’t hand-making orders or working with parents around the world on custom designs, they’re spending time with family. Their shop was a perfect chance to do both.
“Mama and Cub had been brilliant for both of us,” says Kate. “A lot of hard work and in some cases a very steep learning curve, but we are really proud of what we have achieved and the whole process has brought mum and I even closer together.”
It’s a far cry from life for both mother and daughter only four years ago. Kate was “ridiculously busy” working the corporate life with an international start up, while mum Christine had been in the same job for over 20 years. Both loved sewing, so when a family member became pregnant and couldn’t find the items she wanted to deck the nursery – they ended up making them all. The pair found so many beautiful fabrics from around the world, and had so many ideas, that they couldn’t stop there. Mama and Cub was born.
In the beginning both kept their jobs, but the shop naturally evolved into something much bigger than they had imagined. “Christmas came around, and we just couldn’t get through the orders in time,” says Kate. “So mum quit her job and I followed her about a year later.”
Today, the shop is a full-blown business and full time job for both, run out of a home garage and spare room. The love of modern fabrics is still there, the pair working with parents around the world on custom colour schemes and designs to create the perfect nursery for their little ones: everything from quilts to bassinet sets to pennants and cushions.
As well as a business, the pair shares a close-knit family and an intrepid spirit – Kate is mum to William, her one-year-old son with Cystic Fibrosis, Christine is a proud mother of three and grandmother of two. Combining family and business has been a pleasurable – as well as profitable – enterprise. “We’ve always been close and we needed each other’s skills and expertise to make this work,” says Kate. “We really enjoy the fact that we see and talk more to each other because of the business.”
We caught up with the mother daughter duo about how they’ve created a thriving shop together, and fostered a sense of family along the way.
Christine, how would you describe your daughter Kate in 3 words?
“Energetic, organized, and determined.”
Kate, describe your mum Christine in 3 words:
“Hard-working, designer extraordinaire, calm”
How would you describe the process of working together? How do you decide on who does what tasks?
Kate: “Mum has been sewing for over 50 years, she is so much quicker and more efficient at that side of the business, which makes things clean and simple. In the beginning, there was time for me to sew and create, but now with William and the number of orders we receive, I stick to the computer side of things, doing marketing, communication, and invoicing, and the occasional little creative project on the side.”
Together you do everything from custom design to hand-making your items yourselves – can you take us through how you make a piece from start to finish?
Kate: “We work with our customers closely if they are wanting to custom create their own nursery design, putting together fabric collages, mock photos, some want custom screen printed designs. It can be hours of work sometimes, with many, many messages back and forth – a lot of expecting mums just want everything to be perfect!”
“I work with customers and once everything is finalised and paid for; I pass the invoice over to my sister Michelle who works with mum to order the fabrics and materials we need. Once we have our fabrics, which are typically imported from the US, mum does the majority of the cutting, ironing, sewing and shipping out to our customers. Depending on the orders we have a turnaround timeline of between 3-5 weeks.”
What’s the best part of having your own shop?
Kate: “The flexibility to work our own hours and from home, being able to have a nap in the afternoon, and working with family!”
Christine: “Being able to spend more time with Kate, having flexible hours and being my own boss has been a breath of much needed fresh air, I am so much happier!”
What are some of the best things about having a partner to work with?
Christine: “Being able to have two opinions and views on everything from costs to design and fabrics. We share the highs and lows, and working with someone else means we’re both able to focus on our strengths.”
How have you grown your shop from the early days?
Kate: “We used competitions and social media to get our name out there. We always respond to messages as quick as we can, and we’ve focused on getting better and better with our photo shoots and being flexible to what customers want, to keep our range on trend and ever expanding.”
What does a typical week look like at Mama And Cub?
Christine: “We live two hours away from each other, so there are at least five phone calls a day back and forth asking about fabrics, order updates, or just to share design thoughts. At least once a week one of us make the trip to see the other. I am usually cutting, ironing, sewing, taking photos and in-between our orders designing new nursery sets.”
Kate: “For me, just time on the computer in between my mum duties, responding to customers, working with mamas to custom-design their nursery set, reviewing photos, organising Facebook and Insta posts, adding more listings to our store, and now our pattern website as well.”
What has been the most memorable moment so far?
Christine: “Quitting our jobs!”
Top 5 tips for working with a family member on an Etsy shop:
- Keep it fun. “Go out and get a coffee, have fish and chips on the beach or whatever and just throw around ideas!”
- Your closeness is an advantage – use it. “Working with a family member is awesome as you really know the in’s and out’s of the person before you even go into business with them. What they love, what upsets them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what pushes their buttons, their work ethic and so on. All I can say is, take advantage of this, for good, not evil, and use it to grow your business. Have a great time and strengthen that family bond with your business partner even further.”
- Keep track of your finances. “Keep up-to-date with finances and where you are sitting, so everything is clear. Really sit down and work out your costings – there are so many little things that need to be accounted for, fees, book keeper, e-commerce, exchange rates, time customising for customers, machine maintenance…. the list goes on! We got so busy, we forgot about this constant monitoring and it just wasn’t worth it for the time we were putting in, but we got back on track quickly.”
- Communicate, and don’t sweat the small stuff. “Talk to each other and be clear about the amount of time that each is putting into the business. Try not to get angry or upset – mistakes happen and you just need to go with the flow.”
- Work hard – but stay flexible. Kate: “Go into the business with an open mind – it is going to be hard work! We are always trying to streamline our ordering and labour processes, expanding and culling our items due to demand, labour intensity and profit margins. We would love to get to a point where we are not working so hard – ha!” Christine: “Keep experimenting with your products constantly. Sometimes we think a design is going to be so popular and it is a total flop, other times we are not so sure about a design and the mamas love it!”
All images by Roar Films