Blogger, author and homeware brand founder Cherry Menlove shares the inspiration behind Cherry Menlove England, and why it’s so important for her to do something she loves and that fits around her young family.
Tell us about your career background
I studied for my degree in classical theatre at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. It was an amazing experience and I loved the work, but not the lifestyle. I wanted more control over my destiny. I wanted to make things happen instead of waiting for things to happen.
When I was working my ‘day’ job I began selling t-shirts that I’d designed myself online. Those days it was so much harder to get a decent e-commerce website up and running and lot more expensive too. PayPal wasn’t deemed as secure as it is nowadays and the rates for shopping carts were extortionate.
As a way to keep customers coming back to my site I started writing a blog. Gradually over time I became more and more interested in writing the blog than anything else. I wrote about homemaking, crafts, cooking and baking as there are all things that I love very much. From the success of the blog I was offered a book deal, and my book, The Handmade Home, was published by W&N last year.
How did your career change after having children?
My career has always been based from home so in that respect I have been incredibly lucky. I have a tremendous support network in the shape of my mother-in-law who has made herself freely available to help me and my husband. I have been given more time in the last few months as my twins are doing four sessions at pre-school, so I work around that. And I’ve made myself quite efficient, as most working mums do.
What inspired you to start Cherry Menlove England?
It came off the back of the blog. I had finished my book and wanted a new challenge. I wanted to create a place for people to visit that would inspire two reactions in them. The first being: “Oh, this shop is so lovely,” and the second: “And I can afford the things that are for sale in it!”
It was important to me to create something that was very good value for money without skimping on the customer service or the glossiness of something that would be perceived to be much more ‘high-end’. I didn’t feel like the two had to be mutually exclusive.
How did your idea evolve into the business it is today?
I don’t think it’s evolved much as I was always pretty certain of what I wanted to achieve. It has grown though, and with that growth comes many more exciting ways to express and create all that inspires me, and then offer that to the customer.
What criteria do you use when you source products to sell?
It has to fit with the aesthetic of the company and has to invoke some sort of emotional reaction in me. Even if it’s something as simple as, “Oh, that’s gorgeous!!”
How do you fit your business around your family?
I have a motto of family first. I’ve found that when the children are put first everything else fits in to place. When I know that they are okay, I seem to have more energy to fit everything else in.
I work very hard and the hours are long – at the moment my twins only do four single sessions a week at pre-school, which doesn’t leave much time in the ‘normal’ working day for my business. It would be easy to do a lot more if I had more of that kind of time available, but until they go to big school I’ll still be doing a lot of juggling. That said, wouldn’t change it for anything!
What skills from your career do you use in your business?
My creative mind.
What’s your vision for five years time?
I’d like to see continued growth, a larger range and to still love my job just as much!
What have been your biggest successes to date?
Finding my husband, him beating cancer, having twins after two losses, finding our house (it’s a project!), becoming a published author, setting up a shop and selling out of products.
I’m currently taking part in the #365grateful project on Instagram and it is a fantastic way of reminding me of how much I have to be grateful for. Almost every day I find things that are very small but that make me very happy. My husband and I have very simple needs like good food, great friends and a cosy home. So if everything else was taken away we know that we’d be just fine.
What have been your challenges – and how have you overcome them?
The challenges have almost always been personal (illness, miscarriage etc). So I’ve had to find ways to compartmentalise. It’s not always easy, but I’m getting better at it and it works!!
Who are you inspired by?
Natalie Massenet, Chrissie Rucker, Deepak Chopra and anyone who is a bona fide philanthropist.
What advice do you have for other ambitious mums?
Never lose faith in yourself. If your confidence takes a knock after having your babies realise that it’s natural and that it will come back if you let it. But that door has to be open. Go forth and soar – the business world needs you!