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Mums in business: Their Nibs

Like many mums who have started successful businesses, it’s often brought about by necessity! Yorkshire-born Fiona Bell was working in London as a fashion buyer and with lots of travelling and a small son, she decided to leave corporate life and launch her own eclectic range of gorgeous prints for little ones back in 2003. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength incorporating gorgeous prints for us grown-ups too.  We ask her how she did it!

Hi Fiona, what inspired you to launch Their Nibs?
I was a single mum working as head of buying for a big fashion brand which meant I had to travel a lot and I got to a point where I just couldn’t balance it anymore – so knew I had to forge my own business to make it work and with my experience in fashion and interest in vintage it just made sense!

The retail market was obviously very different then, how have your customer’s shopping habits changed?
When I started it was all about having a shop, so it has been very interesting to move into the online-world and become accessible to customers from all over the world let alone just all over the UK! And knowing they can shop with us at 3am or from remote Scottish islands has been a very exciting thing to be part of!

What’s the most challenging aspect of running your own business?
All the admin to keep on top of! But it has to be done- and I reward myself by making sure I balance it out with a walk round Portobello market to remain inspired and remind myself why I am doing all this paperwork!

Any amazing ‘pinch me’ moments?
Kate Moss’s little girl Lyla-Grace being papped in one of our dresses was pretty amazing! And my son taking the photos for one of our photoshoots felt totally surreal too.

Any ‘I want to jack it all in!’ moments?
There has been some up and down moments, when the rates were raised in West London it was pretty heartbreaking but the support from all our loyal customers who continue to shop with us, followed us online and support us has been amazing!

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Not to take yourself to seriously is definitely one piece of advice I hold on to. I also love quotes from Holly Tucker who founded Not On The High Street – she is full of inspiring snippets for all of us doing it ourselves!

Your gorgeous clothing for little ones and mums is known for its ‘traditional with a twist’ style – have you ever worried that the big retailers may copy? (as has happened with other boutique brands?)
Sadly this has happened to us before and we weren’t in a position to take the big retailer on but it is heartening to see social media’s response whenever it happens now and we won’t let fear of being ripped off stop us from innovating and creating the best, most beautiful designs we can!

Their Nibs’ gorgeous collection of prints

How did you juggle running your own business when your son (Their Nibs) was little?
I won’t lie – It was hard! He spent many Saturdays in the shop “helping out” but it meant that we have lots of precious memories together when otherwise we wouldn’t have been! With my little girl I am trying to get the balance right by working school hours and giving myself that flexibility to be there.

What advice would you give a mum who has a great business idea but is nervous about giving it a go?
I would encourage them to go for it, it will be hard but the rewards can be so worth it! And I think more than ever we live in a community of women helping each other up so don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help!

What’s the next challenge for Their Nibs?
We are expanding our adult prints and have designed some pyjamas for Fathers Day that we are so excited to share with you all!!

Do you have a top tip for new businesses?
Our top tip for any new business is don’t be afraid to ask for help/advice/support from others. It is hard to do things alone and sometimes someone else’s perspective can be the most useful tool!


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