All great businesses begin with a lightbulb moment. In this interview we speak to The Mumsie founder, Janneke Williamson, about her journey from a career in the film industry to fashion innovator as The Mumsie’s ‘Queen Bee’.
Tell us about your life before you were a mama.
I’ve been drawn to the film industry since I was little. After finishing school, I worked behind the camera in production, editing, producing and directing commercials and films while pursuing an acting career in film and television. I met my husband on a TV commercial for Bundaberg Rum where I was playing a Swedish backpacker "Drop Bears??!!" and the rest is history!
Since then, nearly 20 years ago, Rory and I have worked in front and behind the camera in Oz and internationally. At one point we moved to the States where we lived in LA and worked on some fun projects, some big budget and small budget films, before moving back to Oz. We then settled in Bondi in Sydney before making the move to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
Why did you start The Mumsie?
I love coming up with new ideas and hacks and am notorious for coming up with new inventions. One day I was at kindy drop off with my 3-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter and I was wearing a cool pair of vintage overalls. I was struggling with my baby carrier at the time, putting it on on top of my overalls and looked down at the bib of my overalls and thought, ‘Hey why can’t I just pop my daughter in here for a few minutes?!’
I went home and jumped on google, hoping to find some no-fuss, safe, hands-free baby-wearing dungarees and was surprised to see they hadn’t been made before. I thought it was a great idea and when I pitched it to my husband he said ‘That’s brilliant! You have to make them!’
I don’t have any experience in fashion, but have always been savvy with a sewing kit. So I headed to a local fabric store and bought some denim to start the design process. I sketched my ideas to illustrate how they would work, then started cutting out different shapes of denim so that the bib was comfortable for both me and my daughter. Aaaand that was just the beginning!
The thing I love most about this business is seeing the success stories of all our happy mamas (and happy papas!). That puts the biggest smile on my face...playing a small part in helping a new parent bonding with their baby, while making the parent juggle a little easier along the way. Those early years are such a special time and I just love the practicality combined with the love and bonding. Sharing that with our Mumsie community makes my heart sing.
What was the biggest shock of motherhood for you as a first-time mama?
I had always heard that sleep was a going to be challenging and I remember really struggling with the lack of solid sleep at the beginning. Being a first-time mum you really don’t know what to expect but the second time round it becomes a bit easier. At first you think ‘oh my gosh am I everrrr going to sleep againnnn?!’
But the second time you realise that it all goes in phases and every 6 weeks or so you’re in a new phase, a new chapter. A new challenge, but also a new stage of wonderment watching these amazing babies grow into big personalities that you adore with every cell. It’s the most incredible blessing becoming a mama, sleepless nights and all.
You used to live in LA and Sydney. Do you miss city life or are you a coastal convert?
Growing up in the country, I absolutely loved city life when I was younger having moved to the big smoke as soon as I was 18. But living in a tiny apartment with an energetic 2-year-old, tractor-obsessed boy made us start to think about a simpler lifestyle. I grew up in the Hunter Valley and after living the city life for nearly 20 years I felt the pull to the coast.
When we moved back to Australia from LA we had dreamed of moving to Byron Bay, but our careers steered us back to Sydney at the time. We have family on the Sunshine Coast and have always loved visiting Noosa on our holidays. We thought ‘why not?! Let’s give it a go!’ Since our sea/tree change, we have both had big career and lifestyle changes and haven’t looked back. We absolutely love living here in Noosa so much and it’s an amazing place to bring up little kidlets. They don’t know how lucky they have it!
We do love to go and visit my parents in the Hunter Valley in NSW where I grew up. The hardest thing about living up here on the Sunshine Coast is being away from my parents and my sister and her family. We are a really close family and my mum is currently battling brain cancer. It’s been a really stressful and challenging time especially now with border closures and lockdowns. I am desperate to go back to the Hunter to see mum and dad as soon as possible, so right now yes we do love it here, I just wish we could see our family. I know everyone is going through struggles at the moment, whether they are in lockdown, separated from loved ones or in another stressful situation due to this pandemic. My heart goes out to anyone in our Mumsie community who is struggling right now.
What are the biggest pros/cons of being a ‘mumpreneur’?
Oh I hate that term! Mumpreneur makes it sound like running your own business is a hobby. Honestly speaking, I really struggle with the work/life balance. Trying to be a mum like I don’t have a job; Trying to have a job like I’m not a mum. Coming from a very diligent working background I really do struggle to find the balance in my life but I’m starting to just go with the flow a bit more. I never expected The Mumsie to become such a huge commitment so quickly, and as my daughter has grown up I’ve really struggled with the mama guilt feeling like I’ve been so busy and distracted during her younger years.
I remember the first seamstress I went to see with my original idea for the overalls. I had a baby on my hip with this hand-stitched prototype. She looked at me and said, ‘Oh honey, you don’t want to get into the fashion business. Just go home and spend time with your beautiful daughter.’ Incredulous with her response, of course I ignored her and found another seamstress!! But I have so many mixed feelings about that memory. The challenges of starting and growing this business have been huge and whenever I’m having a tough moment I hear her voice in my head. Hahaha.
But I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be building my own business, living out of the city, having the flexibility to spend time with my children (albeit sometimes distracted). I do my best to be as present as possible and when I’m having a bad day I remind myself that I’m setting an example of a hardworking, strong woman who is building something from scratch.
How do you manage the work/motherhood juggle?
When I started The Mumsie it was just an idea and I naively had no idea what it really meant to run this kind of business. I’ve learned along the way and just kept going. I’ve been a notorious ‘serial starter’ (but not a finisher) in the past, but with this project I’ve just kept going one step at a time and haven’t given up. Even when I’ve had my whole website stolen and shut down from thieves, or my Facebook accounts taken over by hackers, or you know just a casual global pandemic to throw in the mix. I’ve just learned along the way and never given up no matter what challenge has been presented.
Over the last three years the business has grown from me running it alone at home to having an amazing team to support me. My team has really helped me find some space to be able handle the juggle better. It is still a juggle, but having the right people in your team makes it a completely different game. I’m so grateful to my Mumsie family for being there for me and helping build the business into what it is today!
What’s your favourite way to spend quality family time with your hubby and kids?
We love going down to our favourite pocket of sand down at Noosa to catch some waves and spend the day together relaxing in the sun, or driving to the hinterland and being surrounded by nature. My absolute fave is spending time in nature, cooking yummy food together and playing monopoly deal... it's our latest obsession and so fun to play with the kids!
What’s the biggest lesson your kids have taught you?
To slow down and be present. Find the space, allow yourself to be distracted from what you're doing to be present with them, no matter the task, and take the time with these amazing kids. I write this as they jump on top of me a little past their bed time and being as cheeky as ever. I love them more than anything and they have grown my heart a million times bigger than it ever was. Now go to bed!! 🤣🤣 Sleep regression still happening with a 4 and 8 year-old haha!
What’s the number one quality or value you want to instil in your children and why?
Kindness. Being kind to other people is the most important thing. Have time and space for other people and always be kind, honest and spread the love.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given as a mother?
Try and find the time to fill your cup so that you have the time and energy to do your most important job. Put your oxygen mask on first so that you can do all the things for the ones that need you. I think I manage to do this only about 20% of the time but it's a work in progress!!!