We meet the Essex entrepreneurs who launched BabyChum, a baby gift business, just weeks into the first lockdown – and are now flying (By Carol Driver)
“There have been huge emotional highs and lows.” So says Laura Boswell, who along with best friend, Laura McBride, launched a business at the start of the first lockdown. BabyChum is a curated marketplace selling gifts for parents and children – go from strength to strength. The Essex locals have helped more than 450 sellers throughout the pandemic, including mums who have been furloughed, by giving them a platform to sell their unique products, ranging from £1.20 to £6,500.
As well as making a six-figure turnover, BabyChum already has a host of celebrity fans, including Stacey Solomon, Danielle Armstrong and Charley Webb. And now they have organised a collaboration with Ferne McCann, which not only saw their Instagram following skyrocket, but also led to items from the Towie star’s collection selling out.
“It’s been such a rollercoaster year for us and we’ve been working every hour under the sun,” says Boswell. “We decided to go ahead with launching BabyChum in April 2020, just weeks after lockdown had been announced – and it was definitely the right decision. We launched with just 300 products and just a handful of sellers. Now, just one year on, we’re up to more than 2,400 products and more than 463 sellers. Not only does BabyChum sell personalised gifts, nursery furniture and decor, but we also provide baby essentials like eco-friendly cloth nappies and weaning plates.”
McBride adds: “Every time a person orders from us, they are not only supporting BabyChum, but lots of independent sellers who started their business during a pandemic; who juggle parenthood on top of processing and packaging orders; who wanted to start a little side business to find their sense of fulfilment in this crazy world. They are supporting people’s livelihood and dreams and there is so much to be said for that.”
After having her daughter Rosie in 2017, McBride set up a Facebook support page called ParentChum for other mums on Instagram offering practical parenting advice as well as a “shoulder to cry on”. She noticed a gap in the baby products market, especially with the closure of “outdated physical stores” such as Mothercare and Mamas & Papas.
The two, who have been friends for 10 years, then put together a business plan for an online marketplace that would be a one-stop shop for must-haves for parents, families and kids. They were both working as virtual PAs when they started working towards the launch of BabyChum in early 2020, with just £2,000 investment each from their personal savings.
But then, just weeks before BabyChum was due to launch in April 2020, the country was thrown into lockdown. After consulting their advertising agency, they decided to press ahead with their idea. “We’d given up everything really to get BabyChum off the ground, well-paid jobs, our social lives, literally everything,” Boswell recollects. “So we were worried as there was a lot at risk, but we were also so passionate about the brand and knew if we put in the work we’d see the rewards at some point – knowing that great things take time and patience, we were willing to do what we needed to, to get our businesses where we needed it to be.”
“When we started making sales we were over the moon,” McBride says, “it’s a feeling you can’t describe, everything is so new at the beginning and people are buying from a platform you have created – one that isn’t well-known at this point so it is definitely an exciting time.”
In June 2020, the women approached Towie star Ferne McCann about collaborating on a kids’ clothing collection, which was launched in November, sending their orders and social media accounts into a frenzy. McBride says: “The Ferne collection was a huge success for our first ever celebrity collection, we had about 2,000 followers on Instagram which then flew up to 26,000, as well as selling thousands of units across the whole range. Sam Faiers took a photo of her little girl Rosie wearing one of our pink ‘HAPPY’ tracksuits from the Ferne collection and posted it on her Instagram grid and we pretty much sold out. Working with Ferne was a huge step forward for the business and one that got us seen on a large scale.”
They also worked hard for six months to secure an exclusive arrangement with Harrods, which has just launched. BabyChum will now be exclusively supplying the department store’s first over-sized gold leaf luxury toy box – a £2,199 design that has been handcrafted using the finest timber and engraved with words in authentic gold or silver leaf.
It’s on the strength of the past year that the duo are pushing forward to take BabyChum to the next level. “As a parent when you’re tired you want convenience,” McBride says. “We wanted to create a place where an auntie, uncle, godmother or godfather could go to, to find a lovely baby gift – you don’t have to be a parent to shop with us, especially with our selection of diverse products like artificial flowers, chocolates, skincare. They are all items that can be purchased by anyone. We also have a lot of men customers too, which we’re very happy about. The aim for BabyChum is for it to eventually become a complete one stop shop for gifts as well as practical items like prams, bottles, nappies.”