EAT SLEEP LOVE
When preparing for the birth of her first child, Laura Slater owner of Eat Sleep Love, found there were no baby boutiques that offered what she needed – impartial and practical advice and beautiful, unique products from people who really cared about expectant mums and involved the dads too! So along with her husband, she created a new ‘baby concierge’ service to help parents-to-be get the right advice from experienced parents, with products from a range of smaller, boutique suppliers in beautiful, peaceful environment – a ‘baby concierge’ if you will.
Based in baby-friendly Blackheath, Eat Sleep Love is a beautiful space for parents come together and enjoy the experience of choosing everything from nursery furniture and pushchairs to their very first outfit.
I visited a couple of weeks ago with photographer Claire Graham to have a chat with Laura, and meet her gorgeous family at the boutique…
We opened our doors in November 2015 to an appointment-only baby boutique in Blackheath. Working by appointment it allows parents-to-be the time and space to make informed decisions about their purchases. We demonstrate and talk through all the items that they will need for the new baby and help them to compile a nursery list, with the option of having a wish list for friends and family to buy from. We deliver everything on one day at a convenient time for the customer. With all this in mind we have tried to create a business model that gives parents-to-be an enjoyable, stress free and convenient shopping experience.
What did you do before launching Eat Sleep Love and how does that experience help you now? I have always been visually minded and, when studying for a History of Art degree, I was drawn to curating and the considerations of exhibiting. I really feel that we have handpicked everything for the showroom and, although there is more to consider when choosing pushchair colours and brands of linen than what looks good in the store, it is certainly important to us to curate the space creating a sense of what it will look like in people’s homes. Having children and the full time job that it is gave both my husband and I the knowledge of what to consider when picking each product – which brands people would be drawn to, what design features were important or just a gimic. We wouldn’t have this business if we had not have had the boys.
What motivated you to set up Eat Sleep Love? My husband I had not been married long before we fell pregnant with our first child. I had absolutely loved wedding dress shopping and having a special time choosing the most important dress I have ever bought. I took a lot of time in stores with my bridesmaids and an appointment only service was so appealing. Making purchases for a baby is much the same – it is a unique experience and one where you really have very little idea of what you need. I wanted to replicate that wedding dress shopping experience for Mums-to-be so that expectant Dads feel included and a part of the process without being overwhelmed and left unsure what they should and shouldn’t buy.
What kind of brands do you work with? The showroom has a mix of well known big brands, particularly for furniture, pushchairs, car seats and mummy and baby essentials. Both Joolz and Cybex pushchairs stand out for me as they focus on the aesthetics of design and the choice of fabrics showing that style does not have to be lost when choosing a hard wearing fabric. We stock smaller, lesser known independent labels for bed linens and nursery décor and work with a lot of UK brands such as Isla & Wilbur, Little Cloud and Lulu & Nat. The store has quite a contemporary feel but the variety of brands that we offers means that we can help parents create a nursery setting to suit the style of the homes and their own tastes. A lot of what we offer has a modern feel to it, with fresh colours and new designs.
What do you think makes Eat Sleep Love successful? I would hope our service. Being an independent store we can offer flexible opening and appointment times to fit around customers. Maintaining a focus on our offering has also been key.
Where do you work & how do you keep your space inspiring? I love the calmness of the showroom space and sit on an Olli Ella Mo-Ma Glider chair to answer emails, book appointments and make orders. It is so comfortable and the gentle rocking motion almost de-stresses me!
What start-up mistakes did you make -– and what advice would you give others? We wrote a water-tight business plan and have succeeded in creating the space that we envisioned. Like many others we played on our strengths. The marketing side was not something that we knew how to approach and, although now we have a great marketing plan, it took us some time to realise that we needed to reach out to others to help us with this. It is vital to see the areas that you lack knowledge and experience in and get some guidance or even put some budget into out sourcing that part of the business. There were many things that I had never done before but I have started to master. We also went on some free courses to give us some basic knowledge of programmes, social media and marketing tools that have been invaluable. You may feel like you are alone as a start-up but there is a lot of support out there from mentors, networks and enterprises that make the journey easier; there is absolutely no need to let pride get in the way of involving yourself in those things.
Who do you respect and admire in the design world? Stig Leander designs the most beautiful curved nursery furniture made from beechwood, the combination of form and functionality is amazing and steps outside of the classic box-looking cot.
What do you think of trends? Do you follow them or prefer to follow your own style? I only buy clothing for myself when I fall in love with it, whether that is something from this season or from a second hand shop. It means that I don’t shop to fill my wardrobe each season to keep in fashion. I like to think that I am a forward thinker so whilst I love looking at the trends and getting inspiration for what to wear or how to put an outfit together I certainly have my own style and pick colours, patterns or silhouettes from the current trends rather than replicating it in a whole outfit. I think that the same is true of my home, the look and palette of the house stays the same but I bring in new trends to give it a fresh look.
What challenges have you set yourself for the next 12 months? To drive the business forward, get our name out there and let people know the benefits of shopping in an appointment setting. I am always striving to make everyone in our family unit as happy as possible and looking to see what activities the kids will enjoy and finding time to visit places together, exploring more of what is around us in London and the surrounding counties. Most importantly I am really seeing the benefit of investing in myself, by this I mean giving myself some time out and a bit of love. Having two little people and starting a business has been tough and I put myself aside. I recently went to a restorative yoga session and not only was it truly magical it was also a reality check that I hadn’t given myself that time and absolute focus for a long time. The next day I was a calmer, more patient and productive person, investing in myself benefited all of those around me as well as my body and soul.