How I launched my childrenswear business

pepa gonzalez
How I launched my childrenswear businessCourtesy

Working as a nanny isn’t the most obvious source of inspiration for a new business, but for Pepa González, it was spending time looking after young children that alerted her to a gap in the market she felt she could fill. “It just goes to show, you should never underestimate anything you do in life,” says González with a smile. “I spoke two languages fluently, I had a degree in economics and a masters in marketing, and there I was changing nappies – but somehow everything connected to make me realise I could become an entrepreneur.”

González, who was brought up in Andalusia and had trained in business marketing, first came to the UK for a contract role promoting Spain as a tourist destination. Meeting and falling in love with her now-husband (and business partner), Mike Hoare, prompted her to extend her stay, and she took the nanny job to make ends meet while she was living away from home. Noticing that the beautifully traditional childrenswear commonplace in Spain was difficult to obtain in the UK, in 2013 she decided to begin acquiring pieces by some of her favourite Spanish brands and selling them online. “I was also taking them to markets, fairs and private clubs, and from that I got to know what my clients wanted,” she explains. Despite having no formal design training, she soon found herself conceiving her own collections, and before she knew it she was speaking to manufacturers to source fabrics to make her pieces (“My creative skills just came out”).

Starting a childrenswear brand with no entrepreneurial experience wasn’t easy. “I had no background in fashion – I was really just ‘playing business’,” she admits. “When you first go to the manufacturers, you’re a nobody, and they’re busy with bigger clients, so you need to fight very hard and believe in your project.” With Hoare’s support, she put her savings towards getting the company off the ground, launching pop-up stores in strategic locations such as Notting Hill and relying on word-of-mouth to gain recognition.

pepa and co with bertioli by thyme

The turning point for Pepa & Co came in 2017, when Prince George and Princess Charlotte wore the brand’s designs to Pippa Middleton’s wedding. The response was instantaneous – and daunting. “Now that was a PR exercise I didn’t expect,” says González, laughing. “At the time, it was only me and an intern, and we had to work so hard to meet demand. We weren’t prepared at all!”

Now staffed with a team of 15, Pepa & Co is renowned for its elegant and timeless collections for babies and children, and has collaborated with brands including Bertioli and the Cambridge Satchel Co. Here, González shares some of the secrets to her success…

pepa gonzalez

1/ Success is measured by loyalty

“It was when people started showing interest in a whole collection, rather than just the one piece they might have seen someone else wearing, that I knew we were onto a good thing. When clients come back season after season, that’s the key to steady growth.”

2/ Don’t lose sight of the detail

“I’m involved in every single piece that we design – I decide the fabrics, the patterns, the shapes, the threads, the buttons, absolutely everything. I may not have any technical design qualifications, but I think we all have diverse skills inside us that somehow, over the course of our lives, we have the opportunity to explore and apply.”

3/ Attitude trumps experience

“I started this company with no knowledge myself, so I always believe in young employees who bring the right attitude to the table, even if they don’t have much experience. What matters is believing in what you're doing – there are competitors out there, but the only thing the client is going to feel is whether you put a lot of passion and a high attention to detail into the quality of your product.”

4/ Share knowledge

“In a small company, what you really need is good communication between departments, and the flexibility to be quick and reactive, to make things very easy for everyone. It’s important to me that everybody in the team understands what’s going on across the whole company – what each person is doing in every team, from planning and product development to marketing, because everything is interconnected.”

5/ Never underestimate the power of bricks-and-mortar

“At the beginning, when I launched the website, I felt like having a physical shop would be just a vanity project – but actually, it's working really well for us. Culturally, we love touching things, and when you’re creating products like ours, people want to be able to come into a boutique and see the quality. We’re now looking at launching more stores [beyond Belgravia], and maybe in the US and abroad.”

6/ Take care of yourself

“The very most important thing is that you look after yourself – both physically, because running a company takes a lot of energy, and emotionally, because you need to enjoy what you do, and you you need to be there for others too.”

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