Team Babyccino is a lucky one indeed. We get to look at lovely things day in, day out, and we’re never short of inspiration with the beautiful stories (and hard, hard work) behind so many of our shops. Amsterdam-based House of Jamie is a perfect example. The talented and determined Barbara Gouka has built a brand from scratch – from product development in her back garden to selling worldwide – all whilst sticking to her eco principles and being a mum. Just how did she manage that, we wonder? We thought you might like to know too, so we asked Barbara our 5 Questions to find out more.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and about your family.
I am a 35 year old proud mummy of two little rebel girls Jamie (5) & Teddie (2). I ’ve been together with my husband Wouter for 11 years now, we got married when I was pregnant with Jamie. We live in my all-time favourite city, Amsterdam, but I grew up in a small village nearby in a family of five. I have an older sister and younger brother who I see and talk to almost daily.
I moved to Amsterdam when I was 19 to study Fashion & Branding at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. During my studies I completed two different internships, both at fashion labels, in men and women’s apparel. After that experience I wasn’t too keen to start a career in fashion and ended up in a totally different business! I worked at National Geographic Channel for 5 years, where I was responsible for B2B marketing and communications. I loved it very much and got to travel to many beautiful places in the world.
2. Tell us a little bit about your brand and how you came to create your label.
When I was pregnant with Jamie I started the search for the perfect nursery, but at that time I wasn’t able to find the style/price range I was looking for. I noticed this little gap in the market and the idea to start my own baby label was born! We welcomed little Jamie to the world in May 2011 and when she was about 4 months old I started working on my business plan – right around the time I had to return to work from maternity leave! Six months later I was ready to order my first run of production samples, which obviously required some investment. I took the plunge and decided to quit my job so I could focus completely on House of Jamie – it turned out working two jobs and raising a baby at the same time was a bit tough 😉 And then – finally! – the big moment arrived; on 2nd October 2012, we launched House of Jamie with the first Baby Essentials & Home Collection. From that day on it has been one big amazing rollercoaster!
We started as a webstore label only, but we kept receiving lots wholesale requests so decided to become a retail label as well. Just one year later (2013), we expanded the collection to include a clothing line, available ‘year round’. We started by offering items for boys and girls aged 0-4, but recently extended to 8 years. Now, almost 5 years later, our label is sold worldwide and from being a ‘one woman show’ I now get to work with the most amazing team from our Amsterdam-based office.
3. What is important to you when designing and producing your products?
My kids are always a part of the designs I create. I see them moving around, being happy when they play, moody when they are tired and so peaceful when they are sleeping. All of this brings a constant flow of ideas that I try to gather in my mind and on a piece of paper, and I try to apply this during the design process. Keywords like minimalistic, sophisticated, classic and playful more or less typify our style. One thing that is always top of mind is making sure every design has the perfect fit – and is stylish, yet comfy and practical. For example, most items from the baby essential & home range are ‘double faced’ (reversible), giving you the opportunity to maximise the use of your baby’s products.
We try to work with the finest and most natural fabrics and materials for our collections. Most fabrics are Oeko-Tex certified, like the Italian cotton fleece (with a special brushed backside) and the single cotton jersey we use for summer items. Additionally we use Terry Cotton and 100% organic linen for a part our Baby Essentials & Home Collection. It’s all very soft for our little customers and also, importantly for mum and dad, sustainable. We produce our collections with the utmost care and attention for the environment in Istanbul, at a small-scale production facility, run by a father and his son.
4. How do you juggle motherhood and your career?
I must say this is definitely one the biggest challenges. I’ve always been very dedicated to my job and am used to working long hours. During my time at National Geographic Channel it was very easy to flip that switch when coming home. But since I started House of Jamie it’s much more difficult. I have a lot of energy; it’s always running through me at a very high level. I try to get as much as possible done in a day, especially now that I only work 3 days a week at the office. The other days I work from home when Teddie is asleep and during the evenings. This way I’m able to pick up Jamie from school, have her friends over to play and most importantly I can spend more time with the girls. Especially now they are getting older! Teddie just celebrated her 2nd birthday – I just can’t believe how fast it’s going.
5. A hard question! You’ve grown a business from scratch, employ a team and sell your brand worldwide. What are you most proud of in your House of Jamie journey?
My husband reminded me of something just the other day. He asked: can you still remember the day you started from our home office, working 24/7, packing the first very orders in our garden shed (where we created a small storage) and bicycling packages to the nearest postal office?! Looking back at the years that passed and all the hard work I am still very happy I made the decision to take this joyride! I don’t say so often, but I am a little bit proud of what I achieved so far with my label. And of all the help I got from my family, my endlessly patient husband, and above all the lovely and dedicated House of Jamie team!
I can’t wait to celebrate our 5th anniversary in October! We are planning something really special, so stay tuned! 😉