Meet the Mumpreneurs: Little Larks Clothing Founders
Meet Caroline Dunne and Leigh Hamilton, founders of little larks clothing. Caroline, a former fashion buyer with a background in advertising and marketing, teamed up with her sister-in-law, Leigh Hamilton, a Barrister and former tech entrepreneur, to create this beautiful childrenswear brand this year.
We caught up with the dynamic duo:
We have five daughters between us... ranging from two to eight years-of-age. We both noticed while on holidays in Europe that all the French and Spanish children were dressed in classic, simple, high-quality clothes – no cartoon characters, tacky slogans or glitzy embellishments in sight – clothes for little girls that made them look like little girls. We started buying all our children’s clothes abroad because we struggled to buy clothes we liked, were affordable and weren't in seasonal sales. We noticed a gap in the market for beautiful, classic, well-made clothes at reasonable prices.
And little larks began… when Leigh brought home beautiful, hand-smocked liberty print-style dresses from France. We noticed the simplicity of the hand-smocking and the quality of the cotton, and it gave us that eureka moment, we knew we could create dresses just like this; the opportunity was there; we had to take it.
Starting our own business was... one of the most exciting things we have ever done. So many mums we have met over the past year have said they wished they had taken the plunge on a business idea. We started travelling to Paris, scouring the city for suppliers. We finally settled on the right product... printed appliqué tops, hand-sewn dresses, quality cotton PJs – the classic children’s clothes we had always loved.
We started with... 100 dresses in various prints and sizes and tested the market at a local level with a small sample-sale for friends and family. Another trip to Paris, saw another 100 dresses added to the reserve, and calls started flooding in from friends-of- friends – the buzz, and excitement for the product was palpable.
Customers are your most important asset... we make sure we buy for them while still staying true to our goal of buying quality that doesn't break the bank. Word of mouth is crucial to our success too; a friend was approached by Holly Willoughby on holidays asking her where she had purchased her little larks dresses. That kind of promotion is invaluable.
We learned that... a business plan is fundamental for the growth of a start-up. We developed a step-by -step strategy, we had great product but limited capital, so we did as much of the work as we could ourselves. In order to enter the middle market with middle market prices, we needed to keep overheads to a minimum.
One of the biggest challenges was... choosing our name! Part of our business plan is that we wanted a brand that's not too girlie or precious or snobby. We want mums to love our clothes, and their kids to love what they wear too. We want our clothes to be worn dressed up or down, with cardigans and Mary-Janes, or with Converse and a hoodie. We also feel passionate about the product having longevity and lasting seasons and siblings.
Branding and identity are fundamental for a start-up to grow... we were lucky enough that Boys and Girls Creative agency offered to assist with our branding (Caroline is married to Rory, Executive Creative Director of Boys and Girls). The identity was perfect for the website, branded posters, bags, and labels. Once we had our logo, little larks wasn’t just a range of clothing; it was a brand.
We found a pop-up shop was a brilliant opportunity... to meet and chat to customers, it also meant we could avoid bricks and mortar rents until we got to grips with the reaction. Feedback from customers firsthand was invaluable, we kept hearing the phrase, "You can’t buy this type of product anywhere in Ireland," and we knew we were on the right track.
Our motto is... we only sell product we love ourselves and would buy for our own daughters.
Next up.... expanding the range for Autumn/Winter 2016 and our new e-commerce website, we're also working on lots more pop-up store spaces. We hope to expand the range further into cashmere and knitwear, occasionwear, baby clothes, and a new range for boys.