How, why and when did you start your business?

I had always wanted to start a business but was searching for the right product and waiting for the right time. The opportunity became pretty clear after having my first child Isabella seven years ago. I realised there was very little on offer in the Australian market in the way of good quality, 100% cotton sleepwear. Most of the sleepwear on offer in Australia back then was stiff flannelette or cotton PJs with tight drawstrings and waist elastic or PJs made with synthetic blends – both of which were unsuitable for my daughter’s sensitive skin.

A friend of mine used to travel a lot and she often sent back beautiful sleepwear gifts from her travels. It was form-fitting and made from a soft cotton rib in styles that were functional and designed around staying warm and sleeping in comfort. It also didn’t twist or ride up when Isabella moved around in her cot. After some comprehensive market analysis, I found there was a gap in the Australian sleepwear market for this style of good quality sleepwear. Most companies who produced all-in-ones for babies stopped at size 1 or 2. But the all-in-one style is obviously really comfortable for sleep and relaxing at home so we found there was a significant market out there for this style of sleepwear for older children. It was also important for us to offer great sleepwear in fun and colourful prints that were a departure from the standard ‘stars and moons’ or the many licensed products on offer.

What is your relevant work background? Who creates the designs for Snugglebum?

I completed my marketing degree at Monash Uni (Chisholm Institute). In my early years, I worked for David Jones in Melbourne, where I developed an appreciation for high quality designs, fabrics and manufacturing. Snugglebum is designed in Australia by a pool of designers that I’ve been working with since we launched the business. I love designing PJs for children that let them be kids – no Hollywood stars or characters – just simple, fun, colourful prints. We manufacture offshore – predominantly in China – and have a very good relationship with our manufacturer who has been with us from the very beginning. The Snugglebum business is solely run by me with a lot of support and input from my husband, Chris and my family. Chris is a great advisor and has a very good business mind. He also has a great eye for colour and detail, which is really valuable.

Do you work from a home office? How do you do the juggling mum act, do you have a nanny or is your husband sharing the childcare?

Up until mid last year, I operated the business from home. However, it grew to a point where we needed to expand our warehousing and distribution space so it was also a great opportunity to achieve this and give our family some space from Snugglebum. Working from home was really convenient and obviously kept our overheads down but I was finding switching between work mode and ‘mum’ mode increasingly difficult.

Having separate work and family space allows me to be more focused in the office and to switch off when I go home. Not always that easy in reality but I am getting better at it! And I still have the flexibility to do school drop-offs and pick-ups and the occasional school reading.

My husband [ex Western Bulldogs captain Chris Grant] retired from footy when our third child, Ollie was born almost two years ago. He’s since has picked up the role of caring for him and keeping the house going. We also have a nanny for a few hours one day a week to give my husband a break.

Do the children have any role (apart from wearing the clothes!)?

Our children [Isabella, 7; Sascha, 5; and Oliver, 22 months], their cousins and friends often feature in our Snugglebum brochures, which they find lots of fun. Our kids also give me feedback on the prints, especially which ones are their favorites. This is extremely important to me as they are my consumers and I want them to really love their PJs!

Do you have a favourite piece? What is the most popular piece in the range?

My favourite style would have to be our all-in-ones on my children – they look so comfy and they are so soft –  I wouldn’t mind wearing one myself! Our western print with cowboys and Indians is a sentimental favorite – it took a lot of design work but was extremely popular so it was worth it.

As my children have grown, I’ve had to keep extending our size range. We now go up to size 14 years with a great variety of fits and styles. Our loose-fit PJs for the eight to 14 year old kids are doing really well now as there is very little on offer for that age group.

Celebrities including Bec Hewitt, Libbi Gore and Tiffani Wood are said to love Snugglebum products for their own children. Have they told you why they like the products?

We have lots of media and sporting celebrities who purchase Snugglebum – the general feedback is they love the designs, the soft fabrics and the comfy fit. Most people tell me that once they have tried Snugglebum – they can’t go back to the old style PJs. I also get lots of great feedback from parents of children with eczema and skin sensitivities as our all-in-ones make it harder for the children to itch and scratch their skin overnight and exacerbate the problem.

For me, the greatest feedback is when parents and friends tell me their kids love their Snugglebums so much they struggle to get their PJs off their children and in the wash – this is what makes it all worthwhile for me!

By Gill Canning

 

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