Friends who launched a gifting marketplace for children and parents just weeks into the first lockdown are now turning over £41,000 a month thanks to support from fans including Ferne McCann and Stacey Solomon.
Laura McBride, 30, and Laura Boswell, 30, from Essex, launched BabyChum, an online marketplace for mother and baby gifts, on 12 April 2020, three weeks into the government lockdown.
They’ve seen their business go from strength to strength, gaining a host of celebrity fans including Stacey Solomon, Danielle Armstrong and Charley Webb.
The entrepreneurs who are celebrating turning over £41,000 in a ‘milestone’ month, have helped more than 450 sellers throughout the pandemic – including mothers who have been furloughed – and have secured a deal with Harrods.
Laura McBride, 30, and Laura Boswell, 30, (pictured) from Essex, launched BabyChum as a marketplace for parents and children
Laura and Laura saw their Instagram following grow after collaborating with Ferne McCann on a kids’ clothing collection that also led to items from the TOWIE star’s range selling out.
As their business continues to thrive, the business owners have announced BabyChum will now be supplying Harrods with the London store’s first luxury gold leaf toy box, costing £2,199.
‘It’s been such a roller coaster year for us and we’ve been working every hour under the sun,’ Laura Boswell said.
‘There have been huge emotional highs and lows! 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.’
Laura McBride spotted a gap in the baby products market after setting up a Facebook support page following the birth of her daughter Rosie. Pictured: The entrepreneurs with Ferne McCann and Sunday
Laura McBride added: ‘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, Laura McBride set up a Facebook support page called ParentChum for other mothers to share 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 pair (pictured) who’ve been friends for 10 years, were both working as virtual PAs when they decided to invest £2,000 each into the launch of BabyChum
Laura and Laura, 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.
The money was spent on web design and social media posts, while they both worked hard to find quality independent sellers who would make BabyChum stand out against giants such as Etsy and Not On The High Street.
Laura Boswell said: ‘Every seller we found was through social media. We already had some small businesses owners following us on ParentChum, and others we found on Facebook and Instagram.
Laura Boswell said they gave up their well-paid jobs and social lives to commit themselves to launching BabyChum in April 2020. Pictured: Laura Boswell, parenting blogger Connie Simmonds and Laura McBride
‘It felt great to be finding these incredible businesses, and to be giving them a platform to showcase and sell their goods, before they were well known. They really are part of our brand now.
‘The best part about BabyChum is that we don’t charge any signing-on fees, or listing fees, we simply take a flat-rate commission on each order (product cost only) – which means our sellers have clarity of costs up front.
‘We also don’t charge for social media marketing, PR or any other types of promotion which means our sellers can get a substantial amount of exposure at a competitive commission rate.’
Just weeks before BabyChum was due to launch in April 2020, the country was thrown into lockdown. Laura and Laura decided to go ahead with their idea after consulting with their advertising agency.
Laura Boswell said: ‘We’d given up everything really to get BabyChum off the ground, well-paid jobs, our social lives, literally everything.
The entrepreneurs (pictured) who turnover over £20,000 in their first two weeks of launching, said they were ‘over the moon’ when they began making sales
‘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.’
The pair realised their risks had paid off when just two weeks after launching, the site had already turned over £20,000.
‘When we started making sales we were over the moon, 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,’ Laura McBride said.
‘Obviously as the public weren’t able to get out to the stores, more and more people were buying online, even just for things like birthday gifts, but for us we had popularity around our nursery items, as again, parents-to-be were unable to go out to the shops to buy all of the necessary products that come with having a newborn.’
Laura McBride said their Instagram following went from 2,000 to 26,000 after collaborating with Ferne McCann (pictured) on a kids’ clothing collection
In June 2020, the pair approached TOWIE star Ferne McCann about collaborating on a kids’ clothing collection.
When it launched in November, their orders and social media accounts spiraled into a frenzy.
Laura McBride said: ‘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.’
Charley Webb is also a big fan of the brand, and they have well-known followers including Stacey Solomon, Amy Neville, Emma McVey and Danielle Armstrong.
BabyChum will be exclusively supplying Harrods with a gold leaf luxury toy box for £2,199, handcrafted from timber (pictured)
Laura and Laura are set to launch an exclusive collection with another high-profile influencer this April.
Since appearing on ITV’s This Morning and Ferne McCann’s TV show First Time Mum, their social media following for Baby Chum has soared to 29,400 on Instagram and 6,600 on TikTok.
The pair 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 timber and engraved with words in authentic gold or silver leaf.
Laura said: ‘There was no easy route in, no contacts to help us, just us pushing, pushing, pushing all the time. Harrods is such a luxury department store and getting in-front of the right person is no easy task, then trying to win them over to buy your product is even harder.
Laura Boswell said they’re helping hundreds of small businesses and providing a range of unique products that aren’t available from huge retail giants like Amazon
‘This is an example of how high our standards are, we don’t fall at the first hurdle and never take no for an answer! We believed so much in the product and knew there was a gap for a luxury oversized toy box in their collection, so we just kept on and on until we got a yes!’
Laura and Laura are striving for high-quality products and customer service to build consumer loyalty to their marketplace.
They guide every seller on how best to market their products, from the descriptions to the photos, so they are showcased in the best possible way.
Laura Boswell said: ‘BabyChum is helping hundreds of small business owners, whilst also offering a more dedicated service and a wider selection of unique products that aren’t available from huge retail giants like Amazon.
‘Products include handmade, embroidered, personalised and unique items, many of the products on BabyChum are also exclusive to us, so people won’t find them elsewhere.’
Laura McBride explained that their website isn’t just for parents as their range of products also includes artificial flowers, chocolates and skincare
Laura McBride added: ‘We also make sure that anyone that signs up who sells anything to do with food, safety, hygiene, toys sends us a copy of their certificates, this ensures that they have the necessary certification to be able to sell the products that they do.
‘With other marketplaces it’s not always necessarily a requirement to send over any of this information and you can simply set up an account and upload products straightaway, however we verify each of our sellers and manually go through every product listing and check through all the details before its approved and goes live on the site.
‘This is to ensure we keep up high standards and to keep in mind the welfare of our customers.’
Throughout the past year, the businesswomen have often been surprised at what people are buying during lockdown.
And it’s on the strength of the past year, that Laura and Laura are pushing forward to take BabyChum to the next level.
Laura McBride said: ‘As a parent when you’re tired you want convenience.
Laura Boswell said they still have years of hard work ahead and their website is place for those finding their feet in business
‘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.’
Laura Boswell added: ‘We are nowhere near where we want to be yet, and know this is going to be years of hard hard work, that said we know with the support of our friends, family and loyal customers we will get there.
‘So the next time you think about going to Amazon for your next gift, come and shop with us.
‘No, admittedly, you won’t get your order on your doorstep within 24 hours but you will have supported a working mum or dad, a start up finding their feet in business, or you’ll just be fulfilling someone’s dream of becoming a successful online store owner.’