We have been lucky enough to meet Beatrice de Montille on a number of occasions now, and what we are constantly struck by is her ability to juggle a successful business at the same time as having four children. So we are intrigued to find out more about how she deals with life as a busy mother at the same time as running the successful personalised jewellery business Merci Maman.
Merci Maman (which translates as “Thank you Mum” was created in 2007 and launched as a brand designing personalised jewellery to allow mothers to keep their loved ones close. Designing unique hand crafted, hand engraved jewellery at their London based studio, Merci Maman take inspiration from Beatrice’s French roots and create sentimental pieces using elegant French cursive handwriting.
Can you tell us how you came to create the Merci Maman brand?
After moving to London, I worked in sales and marketing at Danone and Del Monte. After having my second child in 2007, I was looking for flexible work arrangements to balance work & family life but the company I was working for would not offer it to me. The best solution was for me to start my own company for more flexibility and freedom. A year went by before I decided to launch Merci Maman.
I was looking for a personalised birthday gift for my daughter and the only place I found was a shop in France but the owner told me she wouldn’t ship it to the UK. That’s how I decided to create a UK-based platform that would ship stylish personalised jewellery and gifts worldwide. Two months after I had this idea and just a few weeks before Christmas, Merci Maman was born!
What would you say are some of the most important factors in starting your own business ?
Organise yourself well, surround yourself with talented people and build strong partnerships and relationships with the people in your industry. Be open to different ideas and points of view, while still retaining your own personal values.
Finally always listen to your customers or potential customers; they will give you the best guidelines for you to grow your business. As a concrete example, we launched our successful men’s range after a customer asked me if he could get the same bracelet as the one he gave to his wife!
You are originally from France. Can you tell us how you have come to live in London?
It’s very simple; my husband worked in the City. We moved in together in London after getting married.
Can you give us any tips on how you juggle a busy and successful business along-with running a household of 4 children? How do you manage to get everyone out of the house on time in the morning?!
I have managed to surround myself with talented people to maintain my role of “Mumpreneur” and have found a good balance between family and professional life, working part-time and keeping my leadership role in the company. My husband is also part of the Merci Maman team so we can rely on each other and cope with anything unexpected, whether at the office or at home. I also have an amazing nanny, who works part-time in the office and part-time at home, so she can take over from me when I need to attend meetings or events in the afternoons.
What are some of your favourite things to do in London as a family? Do you have any venues that you can recommend to other young families?
I would highly recommend the Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. The garden centre offers the possibility to visitors to enjoy their beautiful glass house for a meal inspired by the season and the nature that surrounds them. It is a unique place where I love to spend time with my family.
Having four children can be challenging when it comes to finding a restaurant adapted to our needs. Sometimes simply staying in our family home seems to be the best options if we want to spend time together. The kids and us enjoy a good home delivered pizza from Pappa Ciccia, the best Italian restaurant in South London according to us. The pizzas are authentic and have a nice thin and crispy crust.
Shopping wise, Amaia is my favourite brand in terms of children’s fashion. They have a great selection of clothes for girls, boys and babies and every piece is beautifully finished with cute designs available for the little ones. The Duchess of Cambridge also enjoys Amaia’s range and often visits the shop to dress her royal babies in stylish and comfortable outfits.
Weather permitting, we love going for bike rides through South Park and along the Thames where the scenery is simply stunning and very relaxing. We also like to go to Richmond Park, where free-range reindeer can be spotted all year long! It’s great to be able to step away from the busy roads and enjoy nature in family friendly environments.
Do you have a favourite family holiday destination?
Taulignan, a small village in South of France where we own a holiday house. Spending time with my family & friends in this area is simply the best luxury.
What do you do to find time for yourself?
Breaks are very important to me as they allow me to step out from the daily challenges so I make sure I don’t forget to indulge myself by going to local spas from time to time. I also exercise every Friday morning in South Park along with ten other mums and our amazing coach. It really helps me switch off before I go for lunch with entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs who I am happy to share my experience and advices with.
What is the inspiration behind your designs? Where do you get your ideas from?
Merci Maman is always somewhere in my mind, it lives inside me so inspiration for products and ideas for the company can be found anywhere. It might come from reading a bed time story to my children or something a friend would say but also magazines, blogs, design shows and fashion and cultural trends. As mentioned earlier, always be open to new and fresh ideas and always keep an eye open everywhere you go.
I also value a lot the ideas of my whole team. This is why I organise yearly brainstorming sessions so everyone can speak out and be involved in the evolution of the company whether we’re talking about product development or marketing opportunities.
What is the one piece from the brand that you would say you wear more than any other?
The Duchess necklace is my favourite product because of its lovely design and the story behind it. It was named after Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, as she was spotted wearing it whilst shopping in Chelsea (back in 2013). It remains our best selling product as she truly is a fashion inspiration for mums around the world. Like her, our customers usually have their children’s names and date of birth engraved on the disc and the initial of the husband on the mini heart charm. It’s a beautiful gift to give someone or yourself and enables you to keep your children close to you at all times.
And lastly, can you give us sneak peek of any new designs for 2016?
We are currently focusing on adding colours to some of our existing products. At the moment, the very popular leather wrap bracelet is available in orange, dark grey, silver, pink and tan and will be soon available in two extra colours.
Following a great success from our first collection featuring gemstones which we launched last November, we are also developing exciting new products in this range. They will be live on the website in a couple of months, right on time for those who are looking for beautiful and meaningful gifts to give at Christmas.
Many thanks to Beatrice for taking the time to let us know a little more about her, her family and Merci Maman.