A Durham woman has launched an alternative store for baby clothes, inspired by her own daughter who was born almost three months too soon.
Michelle Jones, who is a part-time business lecturer at Bishop Auckland College, decided to put her money where her mouth is and launch an online store selling niche baby clothing, gifts and skin care products.
The Durham City-based former model runs Freya-Lillie, named after her daughter, from her spare room at home, and imports stock from all over the world including recent shipments from Finland and Australia.
Driven by conversations with other mothers about a lack of variety in baby clothing, Ms Jones set out to provide niche products that are not readily available on UK high streets.
She admitted setting up the business has been challenging, but said it feels more like a hobby than work.
On the parallels with her day job, Ms Jones said: “The reality has been a lot different to the textbooks, and I’ve discovered many things that I’d never thought about in the classroom. My background has really helped though and the great thing is I can now speak from experience.”
She added: “I’d always been interested in fashion but after I found out I was having a girl that interest moved into baby clothes.
“I wanted to provide somewhere where people could buy clothes that were different from those on the high street. So now I bring all these great brands which are less known together under one roof and offer mums another choice.”
Freya was born 11 weeks early which has led Ms Jones to donate 5% of her sales to the charity Tiny Lives, which supports premature and sick babies.
After two weeks spent in Newcastle’s RVI and another month in the University Hospital of North Durham with Freya, Ms Jones returned home to launch her enterprise.
She explained: “It doesn’t feel anything like a job at the moment, and I’m really enjoying putting the time into researching my stock.
“I would love to get a shop, but for the moment it’s good to keep the overheads down. The high street isn’t doing too well, so it makes sense to be online for now. The difficulty of course in being online is getting people to your website — that has been a big learning curve for me.”
She added: “Finding clothes for Freya was difficult as she was so tiny, so I decided to stock premature baby clothing too. She was also so delicate that I was very conscious of what I was putting next to her skin and so I offer an organic range too.”
Ms Jones now plans to explore hosting baby clothing parties to market the business and hopes to recruit other mothers to sell on her behalf.