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14th May 2017

Meet the Mumpreneur: Róisín Scott of Chaos + Harmony

It is safe to say that when it comes to ideas, the very greatest of them are often born out of a passion for doing something new, to make a difference, perhaps, no matter how small that initial step may seem.

This was certainly the case for Róisín Scott, who last year launched online children’s concept store, CHAOS + HARMONY, after having toyed with the idea since being pregnant with her first daughter, Saoirse, four years ago.

We recently caught up with the busy mum-of-two to chat shopping, social media and ‘slow fashion.’

How did CHAOS + HARMONY come about?

When I was pregnant four years ago with my daughter, Saoirse, I found it really difficult to find baby and children’s clothes that I actually liked. Everything on the high street seemed so generic and bland, and I suppose I wanted something with a bit more style and personality. As well as this, I was also really conscious of the fabric I was going to be putting on my baby girls skin.

I discovered some amazing independent children’s brands online and bought a few pieces to ‘road test’ them on Saoirse. Did they wash well, did they retain their colour and shape, would they last, etc. And now, and almost three years later, I’m passing some of them on to friends and family.

Preparing to move back to Ireland with her husband after six years spent living in Australia and New Zealand, Róisín explains that it was this combination of her newly sparked interest in children’s wear and products, as well as the change of moving back home that catapulted her to start thinking seriously about starting something new.

I put my thinking cap on. Before starting CHAOS + HARMONY I had worked in advertising, events and sales, as well as having been a full-time mum to Saoirse. I knew I didn’t want to return to work full-time, and we were in many ways at this huge crossroads in our lives moving our whole lives back to Ireland – the timing just seemed right to set something up by myself and basically just give it a crack.

• For the first time in 7 months my baby boy slept 4 and a half hours… Of course I was faffin around on Insta (but found this lovely pic featuring ‘Purple Rain’ by @paxandhart) so didn’t take full advantage of that ‘stretch’!! Typical ? Pic @madebylon ? Check out our full collection of #paxandhart prints @chaosnharmony ?• . . . . . #onlinekidsstore #kidsconceptstore #contemporaryart #contemporarykidsart #nurseryinspo #nurserydecor #nurseryinspiration #kids #kidsgifts #kidsdecor #kidsinterior #homedecor #homeinterior #barnrum #barnerom #barnruminspo #barnerominspo #irishbusiness #irishkids #instaireland #igersireland #workingmama #livesimply #babyshower #purplerain #paxandhartstockist #chaosnharmony

A post shared by CHAOS+HARMONY® @roisin_scott (@chaosnharmony) on

From idea to reality

Even before they moved, Róisín started scoping out whether or not the brands she liked and admired were available back home in Ireland.

I quickly realised that not only were these brands as of yet unavailable in Ireland, but there were also very few online kids concept stores offering design-led, contemporary apparel and decor for kids that would also stand the test of (play)time.

During this time of planning and research, I also heard the term ‘Fast Fashion’ floating about and it really resonated with me. There is an outrageous amount of clothing being sent to landfills each year – 10.5 million tonnes in the US and $140 million worth in Australia. In fact, they say now that there aren’t two fashion seasons anymore (Spring/Summer & Autumn/Winter)
but 52, with new stock arriving every week to high street stores.

I wanted to be able to offer products that would last more than a few wears or washes. Children’s clothes don’t follow trends in the same way that adults fashion does so they can be worn until they don’t fit anymore and then passed on to the next generation.

How did you get started?

I was up in middle of the night feeding my newborn daughter when I started browsing Pinterest and Instagram. They soon became great company during those night feeds and prevented me from falling asleep mid-feed! I set up an Instagram account for CHAOS + HARMONY and started to discover so many wonderful and interesting independent kids brands.

I loved the positive interaction and engagement with other Instagrammers and was extremely encouraged when I was often asked if I sold any of the things on my feed. From there I started to monitor what was happening in the world of kids fashion and home interiors and hatched a little plan to take C+H further than just an Instagram account. A couple of months after moving back home to Dublin I went to a few seminars on setting up small businesses and did a Start Your Own Business course through the Dublin City Local Enterprise Office.

Were there any challenges along the way?

There were plenty of ‘businessy’ tricky bits to getting started like preparing financial projections and cash flows but for me personally, it came in the form of finding out I was pregnant with my second child one week after reaching out to the brands I was interested in stocking. I had emailed all my top tier brands introducing myself and C+H to them and explaining that I was planning to launch in the Spring of 2016.

But then I started to get really really ill and was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I spent 7 weeks in bed unable to hold anything down, never mind looking at my phone or computer. Even my toddler coming in to see me would set me off in a huge vomiting fit (the joys of pregnancy!) So I had to put C+H on the back burner and just focus on looking after myself and the little baby in my belly as best I could.

After a couple of stints in Holles St and some medication to curb the constant nausea, I was able to pick up where I left off. I was really nervous that the brands I had been in touch with would think I was flaky and unprofessional, but when I explained to them what had happened they were all really understanding. That’s one of the nice things about working with small independent brands – a lot of them are mums too and are extremely approachable.

By mid-August last year, I was a month away from my son’s due date and there I was, bouncing away on my swiss ball in the kitchen, filling out all the necessary application forms to get C+H up and running and placing my first stock orders. It was both exciting and daunting at the same time.

On September 15th 2016 my son Cuán was born at 3:03am. I was discharged from Holles St at 12pm and we were at the bank at 3pm the same day to pay for C+H’s first stock invoice. I must have been mad!

Another tricky aspect of setting up a business like this was choosing the stock. It is like looking into a crystal ball – ‘Will this sell?’ ‘Will people like this?’ ‘Is this a bit too ‘out there’ for the Irish market?’ I know what I like but I had to make sure that what was stocked at C+H would appeal to others too. I had to trust myself and go with my gut feeling and now I am really happy with the selection available. The clothing is beautifully made and the homeware is so thoughtfully designed that it is not strictly limited to the kids’ rooms but will look great anywhere in the home.

How is business going?

Luckily, C+H is going really well – I’m busy all the time and love everything from choosing the products to wrapping and packing up the orders. The feedback I’ve received so far from customers has been really positive and I’m looking forward to meeting some of them at our pop-up shop later this month

How is running a business alongside being a mum?

At the very beginning, it was tough. Cuán was 7 weeks old when CHAOS + HARMONY launched and he wasn’t a great sleeper. He was waking every two hours to feed for the first six months and then Saoirse started waking with night terrors too so that was exhausting. My husband and I knew that it was going to be tough launching a business with two young children, but I love that I can bring them to the park if the weather is nice or do some painting or baking.

But, I’m still trying to find the balance between ‘mommy mode’ and ‘work mode.’ There are days when nap time isn’t when it should be because I’ve to nip to the post office or I can’t sing another rendition of ‘Let It Go’ to my daughter because I’m busy uploading products to the site. I’m trying to be more conscious of this because a few times Saoirse has turned to me asking for something, and I have had to say ‘Give me 2 minutes, I’m just working.’ Naturally, this breaks my heart a little but ultimately, I’m hoping the business will grow and I can contribute towards the house and that my kids will be proud of their mummy.

What are the best parts?

I get such really nice emails from customers and it’s such a lovely feeling knowing that something from my wee shop is part of something special, be it clothing for someone so loved or something for a nursery. There was a funny post floating around on Instagram recently that said ‘When you buy from a small business a real person does a little happy dance’ and that’s 100% true – every time I see a ‘new customer order’ notification in my inbox I feel instant happiness.

What are the hardest parts?

Being an online retailer, I’m pretty much ‘on’ 24/7 so knowing when to switch off is definitely one of the hardest parts. I’m sometimes replying to customer queries at 4am when I’m up with the baby and I was working a little while we were on our first family holiday together.

I guess one of the hardest parts to setting up a business is the financial risks. Realistically I won’t be drawing down a salary from C+H for some time as everything will be reinvested in the company to help it grow.

What is next for CHAOS + HARMONY?

I have a few exciting projects in the pipelines including some new apparel and homeware brands I’m planning to introduce in the next few months, one of which is Huxbaby, a beautifully minimalist Australian kids apparel brands. I’d also like to offer more for mums and dads too, so exploring that avenue a little more.

Where do you hope to be in a year? 5 years?

C+H is still so new and relatively unknown. I hope by this time next year
to be better known in Ireland and overseas too. In five years, the aim is for C+H to be a household name in the children’s retail space. Perhaps a little bricks-and-mortar shop too, but we’ll see. I’ve a few product ideas I’d like to explore too, so maybe in five years time, they’ll be available at C+H.

If you would love the chance to see some of CHAOS + HARMONY’s items up close and do some shopping, come along to the Union Café in Mount Merrion on Sunday, 21st May (10am-4pm), where Róisín is doing a CHAOS + HARMONY Pop-Up Shop.