Friends Alex Bagguley and Natalie Cunningham had always wanted to start their own businesses – and when they had babies they came up with a brilliant idea. Pooling their skills, experience and passions they launched Heppy London, an online store for mums, babies, kids and gifts. They share their story with us.
What are your career backgrounds?
Before children Alex taught in reception and worked with children with special educational needs in Tower Hamlets. Natalie however has a background of retail – she managed a department store in Canada.
Both of us come from families who set up their own businesses, and this background has both inspired us but also educated us about the reality of being a business owner.
What is Heppy London?
Heppy London is an online store for mummies, babies, kids and pretty darn awesome gifts. We have started out with a small selection of products and hope to develop each category individually over time.
What skills and experience do you bring from your careers to Heppy London?
Natalie’s background in retail has provided an invaluable foundation to our business. We recognised from early on that our strengths lie in different categories and we enjoy running different parts of the business. While Natalie enjoys the technical aspects of the business (such as the website and photography), Alex thrives in PR, developing relationships and communications.
Other areas such as product selection and budgeting are combined. Along the way we have had to learn new skills and this has been part of the journey.
Friends and family have been valuable connections, as well as blasts from the past who have been wonderfully supportive. While we have some connections that have aided us, it’s important that Heppy London builds connections of its own- and this is going to take time and commitment.
What gave you the idea to start Heppy London?
Both of us were raised in families who owned their own businesses. It is something that we both had wanted to do individually but the right opportunity hadn’t presented itself in the past.
As new mothers we received many well-meaning (and expensive) gifts which were not always particularly practical or desirable. Gifts were often duplicated and even when bought from different places they were pretty much the same. Gifts were our starting point and we then spent many months developing this further.
From early on we had the aim for our products to be a bit different, to be practical and to be good value for money. From handpicking each product as mums we know our gifts and products are right for mums.
We also felt that in the newborn nappy cake-drenched gift market mums were being ignored – so the mums section of our website was born!
What’s your vision for the business?
We hope that with our hard work and passion that Heppy London will go from strength to strength. We are currently developing each category with more products and more gift options, all at reasonable prices.
We would love to eventually branch into our own line of baby gear and maternity wear, but appreciate that this will take time. We handpick every product you see on the website and love what we currently offer.
We have lots of plans but we don’t intend to rush them as we want to build a business which is strong at the core, and that customers can trust to deliver.
Who is your ideal customer?
Everyone! While we know that our website appeals to other mums looking for gifts for a friend who has just has a baby, or mums who want to treat their own child, we really try to appeal to everyone.
We want to reach out to dads who don’t know what to buy for Mother’s Day, grandparents who want to treat their grandchildren, friends looking for baby shower gifts – you name it! We even want to make it easy for the person given the job of spending the office whip round for a colleague going on maternity leave.
How do you choose your products?
This an exciting part of running our business, but a very time consuming one too! Together we decide what should be our priorities for the next line of products and then we both go in search for them.
We both have different preferences, but this is a strength as it means we bring different lines to the table to discuss and decide upon together.
We have developed strong relationships with our suppliers, and this is something we are proud of, but we are constantly looking for new clobber that we feel is a good fit for our brand.
What are some of the hardest obstacles you’ve had to overcome so far?
Most definitely time management and finding a work life balance! When it’s your own business it’s easy to get excited and want everything right here, right now.
As a result initially we spent crazy amounts of late nights and early mornings glued to our laptops. We learnt pretty quickly the need to prioritise!
What have you found surprisingly easy?
We have been happily surprised by the rate at which the business has gathered pace. After months of discussions and research we made some key decisions. Once these were made the pace of developing our business and enabling it go live definitely was upped!
How do you juggle the business around your families?
In all honesty sometimes with difficulty! We don’t feel comfortable with painting a serene picture of effortlessly juggling work and family life, because sometimes that’s not the reality.
Launching a business takes a huge amount of time and commitment. Our husbands have been a massive support (and probably deserve medals) but every now and again work takes over. We always know when this happens and part of it is recognising it, admitting it, and then adapting to restore the balance.
Which businesses do you admire, and why?
We are big fans of Freshly Picked and Susan Peterson (the lady behind the brand). Her story is inspirational, but what we admire most is her support for others in business, especially women and mothers. She is always willing to share her lessons learned and has many gems of wisdom!
What advice do you have for other ambitious mums?
Go for it! Know that it is hard work and not as glam as some people make it look, but that to own your own business is empowering and massively rewarding.
You can read more about Heppy London and browse their products on their website.