Our "March of Inspiring Mums" interview series celebrates women who are doing some amazing things, whether through business, a campaign or just being fabulous!
Today's interview is with Karolina Lewis, a mum of two children who are 10 and 6 years old.
Karolina shares with us how her experience as a pregnant mum-to-be sparked off an idea and led to a very different career path from her many years of working in investment banks to luxury maternity wear and loungewear.
After living in central London she relocated to Hersham, Surrey and is the Founder and Managing Director of Bumpkyn London but says her title "sounds very lofty, but it’s a lot less glamorous than that. I wear many more hats in my job!"
1. Tell me a little about yourself and how you got into the job you’re now doing?
I spent the first 15 years of my career working in the City. I was a senior Operations Manager in a number of investment banks. I worked mainly in client-facing roles in a very male-dominated environment. When I had my second child (my son) almost seven years ago I decided to ask for a redundancy and enjoyed bringing up the kids for a few years. I always remembered how pregnancy made me feel though. I didn’t sleep well when I was pregnant and found maternity fashion really frumpy. It did nothing for my body confidence and self-esteem. More importantly though, I couldn’t find anything nice and supportive to sleep in and didn’t like how tight and uncomfortable nightwear became as I outgrew it every few weeks. That’s how Bumpkyn came to be.
I had to learn how to design and make clothes first, so it took a while to get the ideas made into the softest Italian fabrics. I wanted something stylish, luxurious yet practical; a summer nightie which hid the bra straps, an all-season nightie which was long enough to cover me up when I sat with my legs akimbo in the last trimester, a pair of pyjamas with a soft, elasticated band to ‘hug’ my bump enough to make turning over in bed easy. I could go on. Now you can buy them all, beautifully wrapped as gifts, at Bumpkyn.
I’ve really enjoyed the transition into working with more females - it’s been wonderful. I find working alone quite lonely and alienating, so I’ve become a member of many networking groups and it’s so much nicer to give and receive support and have people to run ideas by without being judged. I’ve met many inspirational ladies along the way and I have learned something valuable from each of them.
Tell me one interesting fact about you?
I absolutely love singing! Both at school and university I was always a member of a choir and then when I worked in London I joined a choir of fellow professionals. It was lots of fun but very time-consuming. I don’t sing now (only to my hairbrush when I’m alone) but I’d love to join a choir again when time allows.
Please can you share 3 tips for managing the juggle of motherhood, life and business?
Firstly, prioritise the family - the business can wait. Customers come and go and there is always something new around the corner, but your kids won’t wait for any of that.
Secondly, spend a few minutes each day looking in the mirror - if you look and feel tired, you won’t achieve much and your efforts will be wasted, so ensure you get enough rest without constantly checking your phone or iPad (or both at the same time in many cases!). I’ve learned I’m never productive when I’m tired, so undisturbed and device-free sleep is key. I now actively look for activities which keep me away from the digital world.
Thirdly, treat yourself! Us ladies don’t do this very well - there is always someone else who needs more attention, but you need to recognise your own needs. Pay yourself even the smallest salary each month and spend it on YOU. It’s very rewarding to have a manicure paid for by your own business!
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a new mum?
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Your birth was different to everyone else’s, your baby is likely to settle differently to everyone else’s, other Mums manage their time in their own way and achieve different results. Women are great at protecting their own patch by giving an impression things are tickety-boo, when in fact they are afraid to say they are actually finding things tough, so be honest with yourself and others. Set yourself your own goals each day (for me changing the bedsheets was a huge achievement!) and have your own routine which is best for your family.
Colour can make a real difference to our mood - what’s your favourite colour? And how does it make you feel when you wear it?
Not so long ago I used to wear lots of black but I found it drained me as I got older (I’m 45) so I’m now obsessed with navy. When I open my wardrobe that’s all I can see!!
I think it is such a contemporary and versatile colour and suits most people. Most importantly though it hides a multitude of sins and pairs up nicely with most colours as well. I absolutely love it in combination with pink - so playful!
What’s your favourite activity to do with your children?
In the last few years we have grown to love tennis and play it as a family every week. We even played on New Year’s Day and in inch-deep snow last March. We are truly dedicated! It’s one of very few sports which allows mums to play with their sons and dads with their daughters. We often play mixed doubles as a family but the kids are getting better than my husband and I, so we need to watch out!
What do you like to do for some me-time?
There isn’t a lot of me-time when you have a family and run your own business, but I absolutely love reading and my Kindle is always full of new downloads. I’m also a plane spotter and love watching documentaries about aviation and how planes are flown (a bit geeky, I know!). When I’m in between chores, I love to hum a little tune... Anything by Dua Lipa!
Thanks Karolina for sharing you story with us! It's always so inspiring to hear of other mums leaving the corporate world to set up on their own doing something they love and to fill a need that helps other women too - something close to my heart at Halia Rose!
If you've enjoyed this interview, make sure you check out our other blogs and "March of Inspiring Mums" series here