Earlier this week I had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah Birchall, founder and designer, of independent kidswear brand, Cub & Pudding. The brand offers gorgeous, unisex clothes for ages 0-8 years, and was launched by Sarah in April 2019 – initially as her side hustle. Motivated by the success the small business was having, Sarah made a staged approach, from firstly reducing her weekly hours at her day job to increase her time spent on Cub & Pudding, to now working for her business full time.
With LOMIE being our side hustle, it was great to have a chance to chat with Sarah about her experience thus far, pick her brains about various things, converse about the highs and lows of small business life and discuss the impact of COVID-19. What I found particularly rewarding and heart-warming about the discussion, was the opportunity it gave Sarah to reflect on her successes and all that she’s achieved to date – something you don’t get the chance to do when you’re so involved in the day to day!
You can read more from our conversation below:
Tell me about the inspiration behind Cub & Pudding and your brand ethos?
It all came about from my own shopping meandering, and trying to find clothes that I wanted to dress my eldest son in. I’d always chosen to dress him in lots of prints and leggings rather than the blander boys’ options. He’d gotten a bit of a reputation amongst my friends for his leggings collection – and I rather enjoyed the attention on his behalf. I found that my favourite go-to brands were all European-based, so I thought why not have a go designing for him, and his little sister, myself?
Our ethos as a brand is to create season-less collections. I want to distance from the pressure to buy and sell new as the fashion calendar dictates and have designed wares that can be layered up or down throughout the year as the weather changes - also promoting a more sustainable way of clothes-buying.
What does your typical workday look like for you now that you’re committed to the business full time?
A typical day varies - I divide my time between the studio I share with my husband and friend, a mile from my house, and home. I tend to come into the studio to pack orders and get my head down replying to emails and working on marketing tasks, whereas at home you’ll more likely find me on a Facebook Live, with a business coach or watching a business seminar.
Tell me about your supply chain and production. How does ethics and sustainability come into play when you’re designing the line and running your business?
I produce in a small female-run family business in Porto, Portugal and work with an agent who is my eyes and ears on the ground over there. The fabric is sourced in Portugal and printed and produced in the factory. Visiting the production hub was important for me to ensure I could truthfully tell my customers where their clothes were made. I was last there in October and there’s a genuinely upbeat vibe in the factory. They close sharp at 1pm for lunch - literally down tools and head out to eat. There’s a lot of family connections there too, the owner’s brother works on the digital grading and also a lot of men working on the sewing machines. I rather like the reversal of stereotypical roles.
What is a particular highlight you’ve had from running your business? What are you most proud of?
I had a launch party a month after going live. It was such a heart-warming sight to see my friends and a lot of new faces that I’d become close to since starting the business, all come out to support and celebrate with me. It had been a miserable day, but the sun came out that evening and spirits were really high.
The biggest buzz I’ve had so far are from two celebrity shares - Dawn o’Porter and Fearne Cotton. Both are known for infrequently sharing images of their children on social media, so to be part of their wardrobe when they did, was hugely satisfying.
Has COVID-19 impacted on your business and your way of working at all?
So far so good! If anything, sales have picked up as I think people are really rallying round to support small businesses during this tricky time. I’m wary of what may happen if the Post Offices shut, but I feel lucky that I can function with normality as an online business with stock already in my hands.
What does the future hold for C&P?
New products, collaborations, tenacity!
What’s one piece of advice that you’d give for other mothers who are tempted to start their own business?
Research, research. Make sure it’s something that is going to make you happy in the long-term and accept that 50% of your reality will be the dream and 50% will be the less sexy parts of business life that can sometimes be daunting (accounting, tech issues. SEO knowledge, copyright). If you still feel empowered, then go for it. Life is short and you can do anything if you put your mind to it.