Meet Melita Shirley, creator of Mammajo – a clever breastfeeding-friendly activewear label. The bad-luck-comes-in-threes phenomenon proved itself amazingly (and unfortunately) true for this biz-mum but she has definitely turned her fair share of lemons into a hefty jug of sweet lemonade…
What was your inspiration to start your own business?
The storyline behind Mammojo is about a angsty teen love triangle short of a Home and Away storyline! In a nutshell, we had a series of very lucky escapes in quick succession – my husband was hit by a car and suffered a broken neck, our house was struck by lightning and caught on fire and our second son was born with a rare skull disorder requiring surgery. Miraculously my husband suffered no neurological damage, some quick-thinking neighbours and a prompt fire brigade managed to save our house and our son was operated on the United States at five weeks of age and is now thriving. These events really gave us a lot of perspective and crystallised for us that we wanted to start our own business. At the time, I was really grappling with trying to get back into activity after the birth of my son and not being able to find suitably supportive, stylish and breastfeeding friendly clothing. I started asking my friends about it and realised that I wasn’t alone and so the Mammojo Lactivewear® range was born.
When did you know the timing was ‘right’?
To be honest, I don’t think the timing will ever be perfect to start a business. You just have to trust yourself and take that leap of faith. There are always reasons why it’s going to be difficult but just taking those first few difficult steps can generate the momentum you need.
How did you make your big break?
We’ve had some great traction since launching in May 2017. We’re getting great feedback from our customers that our products are making their life with bub much easier. We’ve also had some high profile people organically endorse our products too, which is really exciting. Zoe Foster Blake included our Signature breastfeeding hoodie in her Post Birth Blog that broke the internet so that was wonderful validation for us.
What was your training prior to starting your own business?
I started out in media before moving into communications and corporate affairs roles so I focus on a lot of the marketing side of things. My husband is an Engineer/Project Manager/ Jack of all trades so he’s pretty handy to have around.
What are the biggest challenges of being a mum and a businesswoman?
Gosh, where do I start?!! It is a constant juggle! Mums and small business owners are probably two of the most time-poor professions in the world so combining them makes for lots of challenges! I think as mums we all feel guilty at times that we’re not focusing on our children enough and then as small business owners there is always a never ending list of things to do. Just finding the time to blend or balance it all is my biggest challenge.
What is your top tip for maintaining a work/life balance?
This is something I’m still working out. I think trying to keep things in perspective really helps. I really try to prioritise family time, and remind myself how quickly the boys are growing up – I really don’t want to miss out on anything. I often get in a flap about things like the state of the house but I’m pretty sure on my death bed I won’t be saying, “Gee, I really wish I’d spent more time doing more loads of laundry.”
I think also having a good handle on what your work priorities are means that when you do get time to work, you are focused on the activities that are actually going to generate the best return for your business.
What is your biggest learning since starting your own business?
Holy smokes, there’s just so much to it! I’ve learned that you will work longer and harder than you ever realised! (But don’t let that put you off!)
What do you do in your spare time to keep yourself sane?
What spare time?! Ha! I try to do some exercise whenever I can – it really helps keep my head clear and makes me feel good. So that might be a walk with my baby or kids or a yoga or Pilates class if I can sneak away for an hour.
What’s one thing other mums should do who are looking to start their own business?
I think mums should trust that they have an extraordinary amount to offer. Don’t be afraid to start small and validate your concept. The quicker you can get paying customers providing feedback, the better.