In this month’s mini takeover we have asked Mark Jeynes, co-founder and Vice-President of Rockin’ Baby to give us a little insight into his life and the brand he is so passionate about. We were lucky enough to meet Mark and some of his team at Bubble London. Rocking’ Baby is a baby sling and pouch carrier company who will soon be introducing their first children’s clothing line. The company has a wonderfully charitable conscience through its Mother to Mother campaign which both Katie and I, as mothers, found heart-warming and genuine. You can read more about the work they do in our previous post, but for now, it’s over to Mark.
Tell us about yourself in 5 words.
You’re a long time dead.
What do I mean by that? I mean I’m someone who squeezes every minute out of the day and cannot understand going to bed at 10pm. There’s a whole extra piece of life waiting to be lived until midnight and beyond. I’d like to think if I make it to my 90’s I might have had at least an extra 30yrs of living due to my inability to slow down. That level of enthusiasm and energy has done me well so far and I don’t intend to change it.
What made you decide to become a partner in Rockin’ Baby after a successful career with such large brands (John Lewis, Jojo Maman Bebe)?
I think you reach a point in your life when you wonder what you’re doing and what it’s all about. I guess some people would call it a midlife crisis but I’m not going to be that dramatic as there was no crisis as such. I just thought at 43 I’d like to think I could be doing something that really matters and will make a difference. It’s not about gaining personal recognition but a self awareness and how you could be contributing so much more than you are rather than just adding profit to an already large successful business.
I was supposed to do a BA in French and become a French teacher. That was the plan! Me working at John Lewis was originally going to be just a ‘gap year’ but 26 years later I’m still in retail and most of that has been kidswear: be it as a shoe fitter at Peter Jones, a Buyer at John Lewis or Head of International at JoJo. I loved working in a large company but as I started working in smaller companies I think I realised I had a voice and felt I could make a difference. You then start to think ‘I reckon I could do this myself’ and especially now after having done Design, Buying, Production and Sales, I have so much experience it seems less risky than when I had pipe dreams of running my own brand 10yrs ago. I still have the same energy levels but am so much more rounded as a person and have so many more skills. It takes age to recognise that about yourself.
But this is different. This is stepping away from the normal business model of retail and that’s why I like it because it’s still risky and exciting but ultimately is going to help hundreds of thousands of children.
What makes Rockin’ Baby stand out from other similar products on the market?
We are truly the only company in the world doing a one for one business model in children’s wear. If we sell ten thousand units of clothing we will manufacture and donate an identical quantity of clothing to charities who will distribute them to children in desperate circumstances. If they want blankets that is what we will give. If they need more tshirts than rompers then they tell us and we give it.
We’ve been doing it with our slings and pouches for five years and have literally saved lives in Haiti where we have donated tens of throusands of slings already. You’re looking at a country on its knees still from the earthquake in 2010 and a people who did not carry their babies. Thanks to my business partner Kathryn who visits there regularly to donate the slings but also teach them how to wear them safely, you have babies and children now being safely carried instead of crawling around in debris and worse.
We want to have the same impact with our clothing. Most people are very giving and charitable in this country and want to help but are never sure how or even if the money gets to those they wanted it to get to. The charity we are working with : ChildFund International, has been established 75yrs and is in 12 countries at any one time caring for children. They are currently working in West Africa looking after all the children who’s parents have died of Ebola.
I know personally that it feels great to be doing something – and what mother does not feel love and empathy with other mothers and children? Buying our clothing means they are really helping to put clothes on these children’s backs which is a wonderful thing.
What would you say to convince someone to convert to trying a sling or pouch rather than the traditional baby carriers?
I think many people might dismiss them as ‘another thing they don’t need’ but we are not trying to replace a stroller or a rucksack style carrier. Some people absolutely love wearing babies in our slings outside but even more people regard them as the perfect accessory to use indoors. Why put your baby down to sleep in a separate room when you can have them snuggled close to you whilst you go about your daily routine? Both hands free to do whatever you want whilst your loved one can hear and feel you and you them.
But our product is also unique. We are fully reversible so mum or dad can wear them. The prints are bold and unique plus they are handmade in the US which makes for superb quality. Our pouches come in three sizes and our slings have an extra length of fabric which is ideal for modesty when breast feeding but also has a deep zippered pocket which is perfect for holding extra nappies or bottles!
How would you like to see Rockin’ Baby expand?
Kidswear was the natural add on and we have so much still to do with that including more categories being added for Spring 2016 like waterproof rainwear and swimwear.
We are very much about the giving and we don’t want to add unnecessary items just for the sake of making money. Everything we do and add, we first think ‘is there a need out there for us to give one of these away’.
You have been with your partner for 21 years – how do you keep a solid relationship when having to travel so much with Rockin’ Baby?
I admit I am blessed. He is the best person to have around you. A real leveller and confidante as well as being fun and lighthearted. I think it helps that he’s always shown an interest in my career and despite being a Consultant Psychiatrist, he is a retailer at heart and loves what we are doing. Some of ‘my’ best ideas are his. Keeping each other included massively in what we are both doing is important.
We are also great travellers and enjoy exactly the same things so one upside of having no children is we are free to squeeze as much of the world in as possible when we get spare time. Having such great adventures and seeing amazing things makes you closer too I think.
The charity connection really seems to have hit a chord with customers. Will this continue to be the brands core belief?
We do indeed seem to have attracted a lot of press attention and a celebrity following. But it’s normal mums and dads that we want to love us too. They’re the ones that will hopefully buy us and help us make the biggest difference.
We will always gauge our success not by how many we have sold but by how much we have given.
We thank Mark for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Visit Rockin’ Baby to find out more.
Georgie and Katie