Article as featured in The Natural Parent Magazine
As a breastfeeding mum, throwing on an outfit that makes you look and feel good can really make a difference to your day. As a mum herself, With Milk founder Danielle Li knows only too well the importance of comfy day-to-day basics when you are in the thick of breastfeeding life. At With Milk, their thoughtfully curated organic range of breastfeeding-friendly clothing is stylish, functional and kind. Here, Danielle talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind her business and her passion for creating a cooler, kinder and more functional breastfeeding experience.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I started With Milk because I wanted go-to comfy (but cool) staples that could get me through the breastfeeding trenches (sleepless nights, sore boobs, milk everywhere, crying baby). I didn’t need one-off special occasion pieces – I needed my go-to faithfuls that I could wear to the park, appointments, out for breaky (or dinner if I really wanted to push the boat out before the witching hours) and anywhere else my wee milk monster needed a feed. BUT I still wanted to look effortlessly cool (even if my baby was screaming and I had milk leaking all over the show), and the usual ‘floral and stripe’ mumsy attire just wasn’t my style. So I set out to create With Milk.
I soon learnt how unkind producing a clothing range could be and I didn’t want a bar of it, plus chemicals, babies and breastfeeding is definitely not a good combo. GOTS certified organic was a total no brainer – not just kind to the planet but kinder to the people along the entire supply chain. And it feels amazing on the skin. So that’s how With Milk was born, trying to provide a cooler, kinder and more functional breastfeeding experience.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Although we’ve only recently launched, behind the scenes it’s taken me about two years to even get to this point. I designed the range here in New Zealand and spent countless trips going to Auckland (from Tauranga) to our pattern makers for fits and samples. I often had the two youngest in tow and then fell pregnant with my third, so fit samples may have become a wee bit looser than intended! I then had to source a GOTS certified manufacturer, choose our custom colours, and go through the sampling phase again to ensure everything was right. There was a lot of hard work and sleepless nights (business and kid related) and at times I would ask myself what was I even doing!? Yet we made it and it certainly is a labour of love. I pack and send all orders from home early in the morning before I have to get the three kids sorted for the day.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Just even launching was a huge breakthrough. Up until that point, it was more of a pipe dream that I worked on in the background, so to have those first orders come through on launch night (from people I didn’t know) was such an amazing feeling that I will never forget.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
Mmm, I’m still trying to figure that one out!? I started working behind the scenes on the business when my son was 1 and my eldest daughter was 3. I then got pregnant with number 3 which added a newborn to the mix and a whole other level of craziness, which is a reason why the launch date was a continually moving goal post. Thankfully, so far, work has always fitted in around the kids – orders are packed early in the morning before my husband heads off to work and I work on the admin, marketing etc. side of things at night when the kids are in bed. I’ve also recently returned back to my other part-time job following maternity leave, so it certainly is a juggle! One thing I have always kept constant is our weekly playcentre day and it’s something the kids and I always look forward to.
The drive: What challenges have you overcome?
Starting a business is a challenge in itself let alone with three small children. I’ve had to learn everything on the go: designing, manufacturing, website etc. The biggest challenge for me, however, would have to be the ‘social’ side of things and putting myself (and my face) out there. It’s just so far outside of my comfort zone but such a crucial part of having a business. I’m getting used to it slowly….
For better or worse: What are the pros and cons of running your own business?
The con is definitely the mum life juggle. I constantly feel like no matter what I do, something or someone is missing out, so it’s hard to get that balance. Pros are getting to bring a dream to reality, the feeling of achievement and doing something for me that I’ve put my heart and soul into. Hearing customers’ feedback is next level amazing and I’m truly blown away by all the kind words, messages and support I’ve received. It’s incredibly scary taking such a big risk going into business but it can be so rewarding at the same time.
Hopes and dreams: What next?
I’ve got high hopes and big dreams and I’d love to become the go-to home for all quality organic maternity basics. At the same time, I’m under no illusions that the realities of having three young children, a part-time job and a business means the dream may take just that wee bit longer. I am currently working on expanding the range in time for summer (finger crossed), which is very exciting.