Designer Lauren Stonehouse tells us about her children’s fashion brand Oak and the Little Folk, and explains why family has to come before business.

 

On starting her business…

Before I started Oak and the Little Folk I was working for a security company, doing admin work three days a week. I’d been there nine years and it was sad to leave, but running my own business is a lot more fun! In the beginning I just sold leather shoes, then in March 2018 I started adding some handmade clothing to my store and haven’t looked back.

 

On her motivation…

I started my business for two reasons: in May 2016 my daughter, Amelia Oak, was born. I was given a year off work and, when that year flew past, I couldn’t handle the thought of leaving her so finding a way to work from home was essential.

The second reason I wanted to start my business was to help provide some financial support for my family since my husband, Mike, doesn’t have very good health. He was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, which is an inflammatory bowel disease in January 2015 and it was so aggressive that by August he had to have his large bowel completely removed. The last four years have involved surgery after surgery, and he’s still not well. In fact, six days after Amelia was born we headed back to the hospital so that he could have a surgery to make him a new bowel. Imagine, my daughter was six days old and my husband was heading in for a surgery like that! Thinking back to that time it was all a blur, and I’m still not sure how we managed.

The wonderful silver lining of Mike’s health problems is that he’s got to spend more time with our daughter than most dads would dream of. And we get to be together as a family a lot which is wonderful. I always joke that Mike is the fun one and I’m the practical one, so Amelia has a lot of fun playing with her dad and I keep her fed and alive. Every morning she goes and gives Mike a ‘big squishy hug’ and then asks him “how are you feeling today daddy?”. It’s just the sweetest thing!

As Mike is constantly in a lot of pain and has very little energy, due to his body not taking in enough nutrition, he can only work a few days each week. Working from home means that I get to be around to help if he needs me, as well as to be home with my daughter. Plus, I can contribute a little bit to the finances which helps ease the pressure.

 

On balancing business and family…

A typical day is pretty flat out. Working from home means I can get caught up with work from the minute I get up, way into the night, seven days a week. I 100% always start my day with coffee! My daughter is amazing and plays and sings to herself while I enjoy my coffee and then we make breaky together before I get started on my work.

Work is always done around Amelia, and also housework. It’s not particularly efficient, but it’s important to balance being a mum, wife and business owner. Sometimes the balance gets out of whack. Mike will often say it feels like I’m always working and we try and re-evaluate things to keep family before work.

I design a new collection twice a year, so that time is very busy; finding inspiration to put together a colour palate before I choose my fabrics. Sometimes I’ll make a new item for the collection, which takes a lot of practice and perfecting. Then I have to find some reps or organise a photoshoot to show off my collection. It’s a lot of work, but I love doing it! Seeing my ideas and designs come together is really exciting and changing my fabrics every six months keeps me from getting bored. I also love it when people put in a custom order and choose their own fabric. It’s a lot of fun seeing how a fabric will look all made up.    

 

On using leopard print in her designs…

Not everyone likes a lot of leopard print, so I designed the leopard sandals to be the best of both worlds. Personally I love it… but in small doses. I wanted to design a shoe that had some leopard print, but mixed with another fabric to balance it out. I’m really happy with the way they’ve turned out – and they’re my best selling sandal! There will definitely be more leopard print coming…

 

On what’s next for Oak and the Little Folk…

I’m in the process of designing an Oxford shoe that will be two-toned, just like my sandals. My daughter’s already wearing a sample and they look so good (if I do say so myself)! They’ll be available in more sizes than my sandals: from a tiny newborn shoe, up to age 4-5. I’m also releasing some overalls which I have put a lot of sweat and tears into. They’re nearly ready so I’m excited to show them off as well!

 

 

View the Oak and the Little Folk collection