We can’t get enough of lovely Bon + Bear and their sustainable and style-led essentials for mums and their newborns. Owner MJ is a mother based in Cheshire designing gorgeous family essentials that are environmentally conscious with a premium feel.
She also provides amazing support for parents via her brilliant blog, full of stories from motherhood and honest advice. However, as I’m not a mother myself, I particularly enjoyed her blog post about her designs getting ripped off by a massive highstreet brand – you’ll never guess who…
Not only is this family run small business super sustainable from the fabric to the packaging used, it’s also award winning, having won both a highly commended Junior Magazine award in the Best Maternity Brand category, and a Loved By Parents gold award for Best Product for Breast Feeding.
Let’s dive in and find out more from MJ herself.
1. Why did you start your small business?
The reason came from my own experience as a new mum – in particular the challenges I had and a loss of confidence in this new person I was. I couldn’t find products I needed that were still “me,” and didn’t feel like I was giving in to the mumsy things out there.
This was particularly true of breastfeeding covers that were outdated with the aim of the product to cover mum and baby completely – which to me felt like you were hiding yourself – and baby wraps which were all super plain in grey or black, way too long and uninspiring.
My aim was always to help “just one Mama,” who might have also encountered similar issues regarding breastfeeding, reflux/colic and confidence, and to ensure Mamas feel empowered, happy and confident during the fourth trimester (the 3 months after baby is born).
2. Tell us about your background before Bon + Bear
I studied Philosophy & Ethics, which couldn’t be further from what I did end up working in, but I always loved that part of thinking outside the box and questioning the norms – I love a good debate, as I think that’s where change happens.
Alongside that, I always had a huge interest in fashion, but I was never creative enough to draw or sew. I interned with various companies in London after graduating, before landing my first buying job.
I worked in fashion buying and wholesale for almost 10 years with companies like Boden, J.Crew and John Lewis Childrenswear. I’ve been a Mama since 2018 – my son is 3 and my daughter 1 – arguably that has been my most challenging job to date.
3. How did you come up with the name of your small business?
It was on our first family holiday when my son was 8 months old – I had already begun dreaming up the business idea, and after a margarita or two I settled on Bon + Bear.
Bon coming from my niece, as my sister the year prior to me had also had a baby and struggled with breastfeeding in public, and then Bear as my son was affectionately called Little Bear throughout pregnancy.
4. What is your personal favourite product and why?
It has to be the Chicago Loop Breastfeeding Cover. I love that it has the ability to give mums the confidence to feed anywhere they want and to feel supported. In some cases I have had mums say they’ve then gone on to feed without a cover, which is amazing.
It was never about covering up, but giving the privacy so that you felt more at ease breastfeeding in public, and in turn confident as a new mum. If I could rename breastfeeding covers to something else I would, as I don’t think the aim is to be ashamed or cover anything, but to feed on your terms. We give mums that choice.
5. What’s the loveliest thing a customer or fan has said about Bon + Bear that still makes you smile now?
There have been so many – any feedback I get really makes me smile because I’ve always wanted to help “just one Mama”, so if I keep doing that, then it’s amazing. One of the nicest reviews I got really hit home, as it was exactly why I started the business:
“Being a new mum and breastfeeding in public was something that I was finding daunting – looking for somewhere with a little bit of privacy, or planning before leaving the house. Now with my loop, I have found the confidence to nurse anywhere. I feel more relaxed and in turn so does my little one.”
6. What’s the loveliest part of running your small business?
Being able to spend more time with my kids. It’s such a privilege to have quality time with them. I realise I am fortunate to do this part-time, but equally, it was such a huge decision to not have that financial security after having my second baby.
Childcare costs are huge – I did the sums and realised my whole salary would only just cover my daughter’s fees, in fact, childcare for part time hours for 2 kids costs more than my mortgage. It just didn’t make sense to be spending 4 days a week cramming a full week of work in and not seeing them.
7. Tell us about a significant turning point that positively impacted Bon + Bear
Getting professional photography done about a year after we launched. I might be biased, but they are the most beautiful photos which tell a story and feel very emotive. We had such a big impact on socials with the photos, as well as sales, because the products really came to life.
They are of my daughter and me when she was only 7 weeks old, with my niece, my son, husband, sister, brother-in-law, and my friend with her daughter – it was pretty special to have them all involved.
8. What’s a terribly unlovely thing that you’ve experienced that might have had unintended positive consequences?
In our earlier days we received a comment from one mum who said that our wraps weren’t safe, because her baby kept slipping down when wearing, no matter how many times she retied. This was a surprise, as we had wearer-trialled these so much with others and never had issues.
At this point, we had already been approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute for safe babywearing and certified as hip healthy, so we were confident that this was down to human error tying, as it does take some practice.
Many aren’t aware, but there isn’t any requirement for baby slings/wraps to be safety tested in the UK, which blows my mind considering you have to for prams, and a carrier is probably more risky.
After this, we decided to have it safety tested in the UK with one of the top testing facilities, who test to the same standards for other well known soft carriers, as well as flammability. They passed, so now we can advertise this to give mums peace of mind.
9. Sing the praises about an organisation or professional that helped you on your small business journey (and let us know how)
Bourne & Bred Design who did all of our branding and marketing – without that, we wouldn’t be anywhere. Ian is an incredible designer who can bring your ramblings and thoughts to life so effortlessly, plus he is the coolest person to work with and super calm, which, as a busy mum, is needed.
Also, our photographer Stories By Chloe, who is so lovely, so talented, and her photos really have transformed my small business for the better. If I could shoot regularly with her, I would, as I get so excited looking through the photos every time.
10. Tell us about a step you’ve taken to make Bon + Bear more lovely
Since launching my business 2 years ago, my ambitions have grown to try and improve all-around support for mothers with our blog featuring real stories, honest advice, Mama-approved support, and an accessible community.
Focusing on themes such as parenting tips, self-care and style, we try to address a range of postpartum struggles such as breastfeeding, burnout, or losing your sense of identity post-baby, and I plan to grow this area even more to become the go-to place for help as a new mother.
I would love to be able to change the support and care for new mums, so that it is brought into the modern day and adapts to how we as a society are changing our perspectives on pregnancy/birth/motherhood as a whole, and looking at it much more positively.
11. As recommended by you
We asked MJ to recommend 3 podcasts, blogs, or Instagram accounts that she’d recommend to other small business owners…
As a mother, this account taps into every thought you have, every worry, and somehow helps lift a weight. It’s pretty awesome how much great content they create daily and so well – something to aspire to. For any business owners who are mums, this is one for you to keep going and a daily reminder you’ve got this.
Obviously! I really love reading the blogs, and also the Thursday Q&A on the Studio Cotton Instagram from Aime – they are full of helpful nuggets and give me hope to keep going with improving my business.
It isn’t really a business suggestion, but a self care one. It’s so important to switch off, and I love that this podcast is totally unfiltered, discusses things you are thinking but might not say, and ultimately makes you laugh. A very good way to pick yourself up from a down day on the business.