[Gifted for review – all opinions are my own.] Some time ago I was fortunate enough to team up with The Milky Tee Co for a review of their fab breastfeeding t-shirts. Founder Lauren kindly sent me a couple of their newest items – top quality 3/4 length-sleeved tops – to try out, and I have to say, I love them. These tops surpass my expectations – they’re made from a thick, durable material which is both flattering and cosy. It’s firm enough to lay smoothly over any lumps and bumps, whilst stretchy enough to remain comfortable.
My favourite is the cherry red, a colour which is perfect through the seasons being at once autumnal, festive, and bright for spring (probably too warm for summer, although to be fair, who knows in England?). I’m very impressed. Plus, I note that the one constructive criticism I gave in my previous review has been addressed as was promised: the sharp zip ends are now covered.
It’s a massive thumbs up from me, and from the industry too as Lauren has been recognised as a finalist for the Innovation Award in the Kent Women of Business Awards!
But, rather than a whole post dedicated to a review when that’s been done before, I thought this time I’d bring you something a little different: an interview with the lady behind The Milky Tee Co. Lauren has kindly answered my nosy questions; here’s what she had to say…
Interview With Lauren Hampshire, The Milky Tee Co Founder
1. Tell me a little about Lauren and your blog?
Firstly hello and thanks for asking me to do this! I’m Lauren and I’m a mum of two (I have two daughters, Sophia who’s 5 and Sienna who’s 3). I’m originally from Northern Ireland but I went to uni in Bristol and then studied my postgrad in London. I now live in Kent with my husband, who’s from Maidstone.
As well as being a wife and mum I run The Milky Tee Company, which sells unique breastfeeding tops with hidden zips at the sides. I also used to vlog for Channel Mum and still have my Youtube channel although I haven’t had time to upload anything in quite a while! And when I’m not working, vlogging, doing housework or running after two little ones I love doing dancercise and zumba!
2. What made you decide to create Milky Tee?
I breastfed both my daughters and really struggled to find anything to wear whilst breast-feeding. With my first daughter I had used a breastfeeding apron but my second daughter Sienna hated being covered and to be honest i didn’t want to always have to wear a big bit of material, which made me feel like I was wearing a tent.
I wanted to be able to dress in the same way I had before having kids and I’m a fan of t-shirts and jeans so I wanted to find a t-shirt I could breastfeed in. When I couldn’t find one I decided to create my own.
I didn’t want it to have layers or a noticeable flap so I decided to add hidden zips at each side which means that the top looks like a normal top and can be worn even after you finish breastfeeding. Initially the idea was just to create a top for myself which I could wear while breastfeeding but then I thought it could be useful for lots of other mums so decided to try and turn it into a business.
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3. Do you have a background in fashion or textiles?
Although I studied at the University of the Arts I studied Broadcast journalism rather than anything artistic! And before starting up The Milky Tee Company I worked as a broadcast journalist and showbiz reporter at ITN! So my background isn’t in textiles but I have always loved and had an interest in fashion.
I also now work with an amazing Production Manager called Ciara who used to work for Ted Baker. She’s also a mum and works for me part time and she is a very important part of the business as she has all the knowledge of textiles/fashion/manufacturing that I don’t. Over the last three years though, since I decided to create this product, I have learnt lots about many different aspects of the fashion industry from different materials, weights of fabrics, textile standards and working with manufacturers.
4. How did you take Milky Tee from concept to lucrative business?
My daughter was two weeks old when I ordered my first T-shirt pattern off the internet and bought some cotton fabric to start creating the first Milky Tee (although at that stage it didn’t have a name, it was just a concept). With the help of my mum-in-law, who’s both a midwife and an amateur seamstress, we created the initial prototype.
We tried a few variations and put the zip in different locations before deciding on the final design. I then set about protecting the design and met with a patent lawyer and applied for the registered design right which we now have.
I decided on the name Milky Tee, which just came to me one day and seemed the perfect name for the product.
After that I set about finding a manufacturer. Once all those things were in place and we were happy with the design, material, manufacturer etc, I found a web designer to design our website and we finally launched in February 2018.
I took everything step by step and it certainly wasn’t a quick process as I was a sleep deprived mess and trying to juggle a non-sleeping newborn and a toddler while trying to build a business. So it took two years to go from an idea to an actual business and then over the last year we have still be learning and adapting.
The last year has been a crazy, overwhelming but also amazing one and we have been very lucky to have won a number of awards including the Paypal International award at the VOOM awards and we were also voted the best breastfeeding product at the Project Baby awards.
It has cost a lot to set up the business and I’m constantly juggling finances and having to pay for new stock, new trademarks etc so I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a lucrative business but we’ve sold over 3000 tops and sell all over the world so things are definitely on the right track and I’m excited to grow and develop the business further!
5. You must be incredibly proud of Milky Tee, but it must have felt like a huge gamble setting up a business. Are you a naturally confident risk-taker?
I am extremely proud of The Milky Tee Company and I’m so glad I decided to set it up as it is honestly one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done but it was a huge gamble and it has been hard work.
There have been times I’ve found it all too much and felt like giving up – but I completely believe in the product and that’s what keeps driving me.
I definitely wouldn’t say I’m a natural risk taker but I do think that if you have an idea that you believe in then you should go for it and follow it through. I always say to people that instead of thinking “I can’t do that” tell yourself “why can’t I do that?”. Lots of people have ideas but most don’t follow those through, so I think if you have dreams of running a business and being your own boss then you need to take the leap of faith! But I do think you also have to do your research and work out if an idea really could work as a business.
Before I launched The Milky Tee Company I spent a lot of time doing market research to find out what other products were on the market, if there was a big enough customer base, if people would actually buy the product etc, etc. So although I believe in following your dreams and turning ideas into a reality, I’d never advise someone to give up a steady career and try to start a business without doing research and preparation and knowing that the business is actually viable.
6. Did you / do you have a mentor or any female entrepreneurs who inspire you?
I’m actually in the process of looking for a mentor as I think as a business owner it is extremely helpful to have a mentor to help keep you motivated and focused. I’d love to work with a female mentor but I feel there’s a lack of them out there and most of the mentoring schemes which have been mentioned to me have predominantly male mentors. So it would be great to see more women mentors (and if anyone knows any good ones or a female entrepreneur who would like to be a mentor please send them my way!!).
In terms of who inspires me, I know it’s a cliche but the person who inspires me the most is my mum.
Although she’s not an entrepreneur, she followed her dream and worked hard to get there. She was a single mum (my parents divorced when I was 11) and she once worked two jobs while also studying a degree and looking after two children. So she showed me that a woman – or, in fact, anyone – can work hard and achieve things.
In terms of entrepreneurs who inspire me, I’m a fan of Karen Brady as it’s great to see a woman doing so well in a generally very male-dominated environment (football).
She also shows that you can be a mother and a respected businesswoman.
I also admire Jo Tutchener-Sharp, the founder of Scamp and Dude and I love how her business was born out of an idea she had while she was recovering from a brain operation and that it was set up to help children who were going through a tough time and possibly separated from their parents due to illness. I love her brand and what it stands for so she is definitely someone who inspires me.
7. I love the name! How did you come up with it?
Thank you! I wanted a name that was connected to breastfeeding but not in an obvious way, so I thought of things like cookies and cream, and milk and cookies and one day ‘Milky Tee’ just came to me and it seemed perfect. We’ve now trademarked Milky Tee in Europe, the US, and Australia.
8. Might we be seeing dresses from Milky Tee in the future? (My personal wish!)
We’re always thinking about and working on new ideas and designs, and we’re definitely planning to expand our range. We’re currently working on sweatshirts and vest tops, but next year I’d love to start designing a few dresses too. So it’s definitely something we’re planning, although we may not get them in stock for this year.
But we do have other things in the pipeline so watch this space!
9. What’s next for Milky Tee?
The last month has been crazy as we’re working on lots of new things, so expanding our range of products is definitely our main focus at the moment.
We want to be able to offer stylish breastfeeding products for all year round so we’re working on new summer and winter ranges.
We’ve also created a few new slogans which we’re looking forward to launching. Plus we’re hoping to start expanding further into international markets including the US and Australia. So it’s a very busy time – a bit scary too as all these things cost money! But I’m very excited about the future.
10. Can I delight my readers with another giveaway please?!
Yes, I’d love to offer one our Milky Tees as a give-away prize to one of your readers.
With many thanks to Lauren for her fascinating insight into a brilliant new business, and best of luck for the awards! I’m sure I can speak for all breastfeeding women when I say we look forward to seeing the new designs being launched!
For more breastfeeding posts, head over to Breastfeeding – Help, Advice, Support.