Meet mumpreneur and mum of 3, Baukjen De Swaan Arons who co-founded Isabella Oliver along with Vanessa Knox-Brien and her husband Geoff van Sonsbeeck. Their super-stylish collection of maternity wear is for “women who love clothes”, and has been worn by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Gwen Stefani and Heidi Klum. With the success of their maternity range it seemed only natural to enter the womenswear market with a ready-to-wear collection, Isabella Oliver 365.
Tell us about yourself?
I was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands but moved a few years later to London where I still live. I’m married to Geoff (who together with Vanessa are my business partners) and we have 3 children aged 6, 5 and 4. I’m one of the co-founders at Isabella Oliver. Today we’re 6 years old. With a few exceptions, I still look forward to coming in to work every day.
What time do you get up?
6.30-7.00. Our kids are our alarm clock.
What daily rituals must you do to feel normal?
Everything revolves around the kids in the morning. I’m glad if I’ve had breakfast and put on some mascara before I leave home.
What do you wish you’d do every day, but haven’t been able to incorporate into your routine?
Swimming in the morning.
What’s the best thing your mother ever told you?
That she’s proud of me…
What’s your mantra/personal philosophy?
I have lots that I always forget… maybe the most consistent one is “Treat people like you’d like to be treated yourself”. I don’t always get it right though.
I want my children to know…
They are the best thing in my world (also applies to my husband).
Who inspires you?
My mother, my grandfather who passed away years ago, my husband, people I work with, people who put others before themselves.
What are you passionate about?
My family, Isabella Oliver.
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
I wish I had known how much joy our kids bring to our lives, Geoff and I would have loved to have them in our lives a couple of years earlier.
What always puts you in a good mood?
Breakfast in bed on Sunday mornings with my husband and the 3 kids (my kids are in to cooking at the moment and love to make breakfast with us).
Tell us about your business.
Isabella Oliver (named after our eldest children) launched online in the UK, 6 years ago as a maternity brand. The response was fantastic and we’ve had years of massive growth. Over the years, we’ve launched in to the US, Canada, France and Australia and also launched a womenswear collection called Isabella Oliver 365.
What’s your professional background?
Masters in Business Economics. I’ve worked at P&G, KPN and Orange always in marketing and brand roles.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
When Vanessa and I were pregnant for the first time (with Isabella and Oliver), we couldn’t find clothes that we felt stylish and comfortable in. We felt there was a gap in the market and took it from there (together with Geoff).
What is the best thing about owning your own business?
Seeing your ideas go live and building a business together with Vanessa and Geoff.
How have you overcome obstacles in your business?
After you’ve had a couple of crisis’s you learn that you get through them and are still standing the next day. You become calmer in dealing with them. We’ve got a great team here and the skills and wisdom here help deal with all the challenges we meet.
Any tips for mums thinking of starting their own business?
The big one for me is that it’s important that it’s not just you who loves your business concept but also your target customer. Ensure you research continuously and know what they want, how they want it, at what price and how. Becoming a mother is a major change in a woman’s life and you see many become entrepreneurial at this time. Vanessa and I have loved brainstorming with women on their ideas and challenges. You have to support each other and we’ve received a lot of support and make sure we give back.
Most challenging moment to-date in running your own business?
It’s been very challenging to finance our growth. We’ve avoided selling shares/getting investors and that has meant that the ever bigger bills as you order more stock, employ more people etc has to be financed by the money you’ve made. I had no idea how stressful financing growth is.
What has been the most proud moment?
There are many. I’m been very proud of the team here with whom we’ve achieved so much. I’m proud of my business partners Geoff and Vanessa and how we’ve grown this business together and how we support one another. I’m also extremely proud when a woman tells me how she loves wearing our clothes. I think the kids are proud of us and that probably is the biggest one.
How do you balance your life as a business owner, woman, a mother, a friend?
I think it’s a challenge for all mums to balance being a mum, friend, wife/sister/daughter. I do my best. Most times I feel I do ok but some days I forget something important like someone’s anniversary and I feel bad. I like to think that if someone is in trouble or is feeling low, I’ll be there. I use lists, calendar reminders etc to keep my life organised so I don’t forget personal things that are important.
Do you do much travelling in your business?
We try to limit this as we have young children at home but a few trips are necessary.
How often do you travel?
For work, once or twice a season. For family and friends, once a month.
What’s your favourite destination overseas for shopping?
I love New York for the shopping and the entrepreneurial spirit.
What is your favourite family holiday location?
Anywhere where we can swim with the kids, be outside all day, it’s warm but not hot and we can just be.
What are your favourite online shopping sites at the moment?
What are your favourite designers/labels?
Describe your style and your children’s?
I love dresses which I accessorise with statement jewellery. I love shoes. I dont like over complicated looks, it’s not me.
What’s your favourite market to visit?
Borough Market in London.
What places in your neighbourhood do you like to go to for shopping?
The baker which has gorgeous French bread, the deli for hams and salamis, GAP for basics for the kids and UK shops that have nice things for the bath. I also love book stores. I could spend hours there if it didn’t drive my kids crazy.
What are your favourite websites, magazines or blogs for shopping inspiration?
I love Elle Decor for interiors (speaking of which, there are so many amazing houses in Australia!). For fashion I like many websites and blogs, but the top 3 are Fashion Stylist, Liberty London Girl, Fashion Toast.
What are your favourite fashion & beauty finds for the moment?
Isabella Oliver’s Sevilla Dress in Berry, Christian Louboutin’s Charme 100 ankle boots (if only…), the re-emergance of pouty red lips (pictured above).
What are your children’s favourite fashion finds for the moment?
For my boys: No Added Sugar. For my daughter: anything Pink!
Compiled by Hannah.
Hi there gorgeous mama! Sign up to the Kid Magazine weekly newsletter to receive beauty, style, recipes and parenting tips plus special offers and more!