Made by Mum: Vanessa Blake of dreamgenii

There are some products that just make motherhood easier – whether it’s during pregnancy or after. Often it’s a fellow mum who has been through the trenches and has that eureka moment of a gap in the market. We’re kicking off our Made By Mum series with Vanessa Blake, founder and director of dreamgenii—the makers of pregnancy pillows that literally take the load off.  The line has now branched out to include nursing pillows as well as children’s sleeping quilts and bedding.

What is dreamgenii?
At dreamgenii® we sell a range of products that serve to make pregnancies, births and children more comfortable all over the world. We focus on products that genuinely work to make parents’ and children’s lives easier, delivering products that are born out of genuine need – that genuinely work.

When did you establish your business?
2005

What inspired you to start your own business?
“I was six months pregnant with my son and after weeks of tossing and turning at night I’d had enough. I tried every pregnancy pillow on the market and none of them actually worked. All of them woke me up in the night when I wanted to move and they usually ended up strewn on the floor by morning!”

“I bought a sewing machine and made a pillow myself, but it was pretty basic. I showed it to my midwife at my antenatal class and everyone raved about it! They suggested I should look into selling it to other women so I took it to a manufacturer and asked them to make up some proper samples. I showed the samples to various midwives, healthcare organisations as well as many pregnant friends and volunteers. The pillow was universally welcomed as a huge help for pregnant women, and we went on to launch it. Five years later we now sell a range of award winning, unique products for parents and children that support their journey from pregnancy to parenthood.”

What challenges have you had to overcome?
So many challenges! We faced significant financial challenges as we have never received any support from any bank. Getting into retailers was tough to begin with – I had to demonstrate to them why pregnancy pillows were so important and that there was a real need for our product. I also faced huge personal challenges with trying to balance becoming and being a parent (I now have two children) as well as setting up and running the business. My husband and family’s support has been incredible.

What has been your biggest achievement?
There have been so many! I think winning Practical Parenting’s Award for Pregnancy Product of the Year in 2007 was a fantastic milestone for us. It gave us real validation that our product was of great quality, easy to use and valued by mums. It was such an accolade as a pregnancy pillow had never won that award before. We were so proud! Also every time we receive a positive review or testimonial from a mum is a fantastic achievement. You know we really are helping to make a difference to pregnant women around the world.

What do you love about working for yourself?
Being in control of my own destiny! As well as being able to put our children first. We never lose sight of why we set up the business in the first place and that everything we do is for our family. We try not to sacrifice family life for the business – but to make the business fit around our family. Even if it does mean some late nights working from home sometimes once the children are in bed! We also try and make sure we have fun. We are a small team and all enjoy working together.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently if you could?
Be more prepared for success! We had no idea how quickly sales for the pillow would take off. We had to learn new skills very quickly and scale up our operations to be able to supply customers like Mothercare.

Finally if there is one thing that you could tell other Mums who want to start their own business, what would it be?
I think to have the courage of your convictions, and to stick with it. Trying to get something off the ground can be stressful, and I could never have done it without the support of my husband Stephen and all of our family. I firmly believe if you can get through those first few months it’s well worth the effort!

For more information on dreamgenii, please visit:

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