Mumpreneur’s testimonial: Mum of 4 Louisa Whitlock talks about her thriving baby bag business & juggling work with a young family

This month’s mumpreneur’s testimonial is by creator of Hamilton Turnberry and mother of four, 33-year-old Louisa Whitlock, who talks to us about her thriving baby bag business and juggling work with a young family.

created by Marmalade Photography

Where were you born and where do you live now?

I’m an Essex girl to my core. I was born in Rochford, lived on Canvey Island until I was 23 and then moved to Benfleet where I have lived here ever since.

Tell us about your children?

I have three girls aged 12, 8 and 2 as well as a one-year-old boy. And I’m hoping to have another in 2014.

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What prompted you to start a baby bag business?

After having my daughter two years ago, I decided to treat myself to a new baby changing bag as it had been six years since I had my last child.

I spent ages looking at what was available on the market and discovered most of the bags were either very expensive, too small or not very nice. Most of the mums I know end up carrying around a handbag as well as a changing bag as you just can’t fit everything you need in either one or the other.

So I did a poll on my Facebook page asking friends “what would make the perfect changing bag?” Loads of them came up with ideas.

I listened to all of them and then put all the ideas together. I also thought they should be like handbags. Not all women want to carry around bags with bunnies and flowers on them!

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What’s your company strap-line?

Products designed with you and your baby in mind. After all, they’re designed by a mum for mums.

What is your company ethos?

To be a company that genuinely cares about its customers. I reply to every single question that I get sent. Customer service is a must! I truly believe in my products and what my customers think of them.

Where did you get your work ethic from?

I began work as a freight forwarder at the age of 17. I’ve always worked hard. All I ever wanted to do was get a job. I moved from home when I was 18 as my parents split up and I needed to afford a place to live.

What else makes your bags different to others on the market?

My bags are high-quality baby changing bags that look like a handbag at an affordable price. Of course there are other changing bags that look a little like handbags but they are covered in pockets and still look like changing bags.

They’re also bigger – women that use cloth nappies for their babies cannot get a bag big enough to fit these into. In the past, they’ve had to use sports bags.

What’s more, most of them cost £250 or more! The most expensive bag in my range is the Duchess and will remain so with a RRP of £149. My most affordable bags are the Victoria and the Cambridge with an RRP of £59.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your designs?

I start by thinking of a style of bag and then the material I’d use to make it together with the lining. One day I might think that a sedate doctor’s bag would look wonderful but contrasted by a leopard-print lining would be fab.

How do you choose the names for your bags?

Some are named after my children. I have the Cydney, Ricchi, Vinnie and the Bobbie bag. I named my first bag the Hamilton and then I wanted to follow that with another classic name. So I googled the most expensive roads to live in in the UK and came up wth Courtenay, Victoria, Cottesmore and Westminster.

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What is your bestselling bag and why?

It’s the Hamilton. It’s made from classic black leather combined with a zebra print lining and it’s a great price too.

What are the smallest and largest bags you sell?

The Ricchi is my smallest and the biggest are the Courtenay/ Westminster/Kensington and Ilchester.

What bags are new for 2014?

For 2014, I’ve introduced the Ricchi, the smallest bag I’d made. The Vinnie and Bobbie are unisex bags which Dads are happy to carry too. There are lots more to be found at www.hamiltonturnberry.co.uk

Who are your business icons? People like Alan Sugar and Richard Branson?

No, my business icons are the two guys I worked for in the freight forwarding business for a few years. They started off with a carpet shop and now they are the biggest importers of carpet gripper in the UK!

What other parenting brands do you admire?

I admire the ladies that run the nappy and the baby sling libraries. They work so hard. They also helped me by reviewing my bags. I would send them to the libraries, they would show all the mums and then I’d collect them or give them one to give away in a raffle.

Who else is involved in the business?

My husband, Dan. He is a builder by trade but, for the last few years, he has stayed at home to help look after the children. He also takes care of all the orders and does whatever he can as we run the business from our home.

What other plans do you have for 2014?

I would also like Hamilton Turnberry to become a household name – one that’s associated with premium, but affordable, baby products. I have designed prams, pushchairs and car seats as well which are all waiting to be released.

What advice would you give other women with a young family starting a business?

Just because you have young children doesn’t mean you cannot start a business. You just need a good support network around you. It can be really stressful so you do need someone to help you and someone you can really rely upon.

I’m very independent. I don’t like accepting help from anyone but I have to. I chose to have all of my kids and I want to be the one to look after them. But I have lots of friends who work full time and their children go to nursery which suits them. We all have to earn money at the end of the day

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