Millie & Sebby: Starting an Affordable and Classic Children’s Clothing Brand With my Mum

The next story in our Journey to Parenthood series comes from Millie. Millie is a mum of 2 young boys, and she took the step to create a business with her own mum while on her second maternity leave. She discusses the journey of starting a business as a mum herself and with her own mother; how gratifying it is making this a reality, despite the pressures of being a full-time working mum.

Throughout our series, we are exploring various paths to parenthood and the journey of parenthood itself. Showing different perspectives of how there is never a straight-forward route and going through tough times, especially as a Mum, can be completely overwhelming.

A Business 30 Years in the Making

Journeys to Parenthood: Millie & Sebby
Millie & Family; Photo credit Janet D Photography

Hi! My name is Millie Carter, and I am a mum to two sweet boys – 5 years old and 1 year old. I work full-time leading digital strategy for a large hospitality company. I lead a team of eight, which I established last year, and we work closely with hotels to support their digital marketing initiatives. In 2018, I co-founded a baby clothing brand with my mum during my second maternity leave.

Millie & Sebby is the product of years of dreaming up – first by my mum when I was a little girl and then by me when I first became a mum.  Luckily for us, we were able to make it happen while I was on my second leave.  My mum had always thought about starting a children’s clothing business when I was a little girl.  Growing up in Peru, I remember seeing sketches of designs that she’d draw during her free time – whatever little time she had.  She even sewed some for me.  But running a business and being a full-time mum is a lot of work and everyday life kept postponing her plans. 

Eventually, we moved to Spain, which introduced us to new details and designs of children’s and baby clothing and then to the United States where I finished my schooling and attended university.  I received my university degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Science and became a management consultant at a large Big Four firm.  As luck would have it, I had the chance to work on a multi-national project and move to the UK for what I consider to be three wonderful years.  I spent time getting lost in London and exploring Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and various cities across Europe.  After my second year in the UK, I began to think about graduate studies and decided to attend business school so that I could realign my career to brand management.  A year later, I moved back to the US and earned my MBA from Harvard Business School.  Upon graduation, I took a traditional brand management role which taught me a lot about building brands, the importance of connecting with consumers, and running a P&L.  All skills which would come in handy for the creation of Millie & Sebby.

Fast-forward 2 years, and I was now a first-time mum looking for clothes for my baby.  My mum and I went shopping together a few times to find clothes for the baby.  We were always surprised that there were only two options: beautiful clothes that were designed for special occasions only, and everyday wear that was cheaply made and catered to volume and low prices.  We also noticed that good material was hard to find.  My mum kept saying, “We could find good Pima cotton and make this!”  It was important to us that we created articles that were comfortable and durable in designs that were timeless, so we committed to work with 100% Peruvian Pima cotton just like some of the clothes my mum had bought for me when I was a baby.

Millie & Sebby was born out of the idea that babies need comfortable clothes and that beautiful clothes do not have to come at the expense of comfort or break the bank.

During my first maternity leave, we were in our exploration phase.  And for two years thereafter, we saw what was available in the market, the designs, and the price points.  Among our first tasks was to think of our name and brand look and feel.  We wanted to have a name that was meaningful, and we also wanted to convey timelessness, comfort, and beauty in the brand’s visual identity.  Our name came from the fact that it took two babies for this brand to take shape, Millie and Sebby (after me and my oldest son).  We decided on beige with grey tones for our brand colour, and we chose a depiction of Sebby’s lovey,  a cuddly lamb by the name of Yaya, for our logo.

Things picked up during my second maternity leave as we had identified a manufacturer.  My mom and I were also living in the same city which made communication easier.  I also wasn’t learning the ropes of being a mum anymore.  I was more confident in my ability to take care of a newborn and that freed up mind space and time. 

In between nap times, I would have calls with our manufacturer, the small business ombudsman to make sure we were abiding by all regulations on baby clothing, customs, customs brokers, etc.  I set up our online shop and worked with a photographer on product and lifestyle photography.  This was one of the fun aspects of the job where my full-time experience came in handy, since as a brand manager, I had spent a few days orchestrating product photography shoots.  

The Product becomes a reality

Journeys to Parenthood: Millie & SebbyIn November of last year, we received our first order from the manufacturer.  I never knew that when you sent shipments through cargo they took so long to make the route that takes airline passengers less than a day to complete.  After a couple of weeks of waiting for the shipment to make all its connections, I received a call from our customs broker that our shipment had arrived!  My husband, kids and I drove to the airport to receive the package once it had cleared customs.  I was asked to inspect the box and sign for it and two nice gentlemen helped us load it onto our car.  Once we got home, my mum and I were beyond excited!  That evening, my mum and I carefully catalogued each item that had arrived and entered it into our inventory.  I spent a couple more weeks finessing our website and the day before Thanksgiving, I launched our site and informed family members and friends that we were officially open for business.  

 A few friends from business school bought items for their children right away and others sent me feedback and pictures of their children wearing the items.  I even asked some of them to send me pictures of how the boxes arrived and how the product looked after being handled by the post office.  I was and still am so grateful for their advice and feedback.  Even today, I leverage their expertise as a sounding board as I think about ways in which to continue to grow and evolve the business.

Has everything been perfect since we launched?  No, but we have learned a ton!  We continue to look for ways in which to test and learn and change as we need to.  In March of last year, we attended MommyCon in Chicago, a nationwide convention series for parents and parents-to-be where we had the chance to get first-hand consumer feedback, made some sales, and develop relationships with other mum entrepreneurs.  

So, where are we now?  We have distribution at a baby store in our home town in Arequipa, Peru which we are leveraging to test new products and get learnings on designs early on before we place a larger order.  We are also looking to make our next run of production and expand our sizes to include toddlers.  Most recently, we are looking into expanding into baptismal/christening gowns – so look out for that in the coming months.  We continue to be enamoured by beautiful prints and are always on the lookout for what would work in our designs.  We have also learned a ton about what mums want vs. what they think they want and that’s something that a survey would never have told us.  

Being an Entrepreneur and a Mum

Journeys to Parenthood: Millie & Sebby
Millie & her boys; Photo credit Jamilla Yipp Photography

Starting a business is no easy feat, but it always helps to work on a business about something you love and care about and baby and childrenswear is something we deeply care about.  Our dream is to eventually run sizes all the way up to age 12, but we’re taking it one bit at a time.  My mum and I are great partners.  I’m still working full-time and make time for the business after hours.  I wouldn’t say it’s easy because, of course, there are days and weeks when I wish I could have more hours in the day to devote to the business, but I can’t stop sleeping. So we take it one step at a time.  But most importantly, we remain committed to what we do and seeing this business grow as my boys grow. 

If you enjoyed reading Millie’s blog you may also enjoy reading Michelle and Finn’s stories too – they are also part of our Journey to Parenthood series. 

If you can relate to this story and would like to connect with other parents in your situation, our Dribble Facebook Community is full of advice, support, chat, events and much more to meet other Scottish families. We also try to take the online offline too by arranging some Dribble events, including our monthly Breastfeeding Meet-up.

Remember you’re not alone.

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