“Then all of a sudden, guilt arrived. Was I doing the right thing by Einar? Was I being a good enough mother, wife, human?” Libby Hobbs discusses the guilt she felt about launching And Hobbs – a beautiful homeware store – while looking after her baby…
Libby Hobbs, 27, lives in a village called Chilworth in Surrey near Guildford, with her husband Josh and their nine-month-old son Einar
What’s your home like?
My home is my sanctuary. I know that lots of people say that but it truly is. My mother is an amazing homemaker and I am so lucky that she has passed the importance of creating a home and a space that you feel safe, relaxed and inspired within on to me and my siblings.
My home is a little workers cottage at the bottom of St Martha’s Hill. With loads of stunning walks and history around us we get to go out and feel free every day. Being outdoors is a vital part to our everyday routine.
My interior is very simple: white walls, grey textiles and sea grass rugs. I add pops of character in my space with found items, interesting cabinets, rugs on the walls and pieces of artwork or details that I discover whilst out and about.
I tell myself: you have to get up, you have to achieve today, so just get on with it
In Einar’s room I have added colour with lovely mobiles that were given to him when he was born, one of felt animals that he chats to and the other a hand-painted wooden fish mobile from the Bahamas, from my aunt. We also have a lovely old cabinet, given to us to look after by one of my closest friends. I love this as I’m not only trusted with something that means a lot to her, but we get to enjoy a piece of furniture with history. White walls and simple textiles keep his room fresh and airy along side the pieces that make it his own.
What time are you up in the morning?
Well this depends. Most nights we are up a few times with the little beast. Never being a great sleeper it is often a broken morning up at 4am, 5.30am, 6am then if were lucky 7am. But really I should just get up at 4am and get stuff done!
What wakes you up?
My little boy and his chatty self.
How do you feel?
Tired. But I have to say, once I’ve given my self a good pep talk I’m ok. I tell myself: you have to get up, you have to achieve today, so just get on with it.
What do you do first thing?
The first thing I do is grab Einar and head downstairs for breakfast.
In three words, describe mornings in your home?
(My time in the mornings can be a little bit like a race: getting Einer ready, the house set, taking the dog for a walk and getting myself ready. I then hand Einer over to Grandma at 9am and head straight to the shop. I love mornings but it’s definitely a process and one I need to get faster at.)
What’s for breakfast?
Porridge and fruit (and milk) for Einar, yogurt and muesli for me (and a brew).
How might the rest of your day pan out?
Two days a week I have for just me and Einar, these days are jam-packed but so treasured. One day is spent with my family. Time with my mum and my nanny, then getting my home sorted. Wednesdays are baby days, a baby and toddler group in the mornings then afternoons spent with my girlfriends and their babies. We created our own mums crew and I couldn’t have lived without them.
But most days I’m working so it’s really just juggling my work, baby, and trying to get home at a decent hour so we can go for our evening walk.
What’s your workspace (/new shop) like?
The store is within an old forge so I am really lucky that we have high ceilings and lots of features. White walls (surprise surprise) and lots of greens amongst the stock that I carry. I only hold independent makers or small family business so we have a mix of styles all working together to create a peaceful yet inspirational home space.
I have a workshop/studio at the back of the shop which is where Einar and I are set up. Trying to keep this space inspiring and calm is my challenge with highchairs and entertainment for a 9-month-old but it is what it is.
Where is Einer when you’re working?
Every Monday he comes to work with me. Being my own boss has enabled me to bring him anywhere I need to be and spend time with him even when working. I also wanted my brand to reflect me and my values. Although it’s often hard to achieve tonnes of work, it means that Einar gets time to interact and socialise and I get to see his pudgy little face! Then the other four days are split between his grandma, nanny and my husband. We can’t afford childcare so we are so blessed to have the support of both of our mums to enable me to work and help to support our family financially.
Launching And Hobbs
Tell us about your business…
I first begun my business a little over a year and half ago after working as a display artist for almost three years. I wanted to turn what I was working hard for into a reality of my own. I began &hobbs, a brand that was created to house my artwork and furniture. The treasure collection was born. A collection of items sourced by me, pieces that have a story to tell and others that can take on new tales in the form of hand painted details.
I also wanted to be a creative collective, never a lone ranger. I then began to stock my first independent suppler which felt so good. Over time this has grown and I have a little list of all the people that I aim to stock in the store (this list is ever growing!).
I found my self pregnant after being told I’d not conceive naturally. I was only two months in to being freelance and it was the morning of my first big photoshoot. A little bit of a whirlwind to say the least! So whilst I was pregnant, I carried on working hard to build the brand that I dreamt of creating, going to fairs, working to build my online presence and planning for when the baby arrived.
He finally came into the world in November and this shifted things for me slightly. At first I was desperate to keep up with my brand, the project I’d sold my car to fund, that I’d dragged huge amounts of furniture (and my HUGE bump) around fields and market halls for, and had put so much of my time into. Then all of a sudden, guilt arrived. Was I doing the right thing by Einar? Was I being a good enough mother, wife, human? I backed off and questioned everything I’d created.
Then when he was coming up to four-months-old a local family contacted me after being shown my website. They asked if I’d like to take a look at a space and see if I’d be interested. I went along feeling that I’d have to say thank you but no thank you. I was wrong. My dream smacked me in the face as soon as I walked in. I was flooded with ideas and visions of what I could create.
Of course I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think: “how I am I to do this with Einar, how can I make this work?”. But there was just something that flicked in my brain, the stubborn side of me I guess that said I don’t care how but I’m going to do this! So I did.
I started contacting makers that I have followed, found and been inspired by, and began to create my stock list. I contacted local business such as my local flower and farm shop to see if the would supply me, then began designing the space.
In less than two months all stock was sourced, ordered, priced. The building was painted (a zillion tomes), fitted and styled. With help from some seriously amazing people, the space became the store I’d seen in my head and I couldn’t be more grateful for my stubbornness, the support that I have around me and for the space itself.
What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Balance. I find balance the hardest thing of all. My mind is always on, and in the mornings I find it hard to simply focus on Einar before I leave. This is something to work on for sure!
What makes it all worthwhile?
Hearing that it has inspired others to pick up what they have potentially put down for their family, a steady paying job or due to lack of confidence. I’m so nervy about my own work which is probably why I focus so much on the work of others. But hearing that the store has brought someone else’s ideas alive makes this super worth it!
Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
I’ve taken on all aspects of the business, which I’d probably advise not to do! You can’t possibly be good at it all. One woman I couldn’t survive without is Bex; a friend of ours who works in finance. She sat down with me, made plans, crunched figures, sourced till systems, she has advised me on many decisions in terms of the ‘business’ side of the business and without her I’d be tallying up things I’d sold on a scrap piece of paper.
Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I have always wanted &hobbs to be a creative hub. A space for people to come and chat over their ideas, a space to sell their work, exhibit, run workshops or to simply be inspired within. So I guess because of that I love the buzz of the creative industry. But I love being own boss. My dream is so big in my mind that I am forever busy chipping away at it, so the balance of both is what keeps me working hard.
What’s the secret to career success?
Ask me again in a year or two! I think success is a tricky one, I’m not sure I’m quite there yet but I guess share it with those that inspire you and are excited about your venture.
Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
YES!!!! I feel like I’m always in another world. At work I’m worried about Einar, and at home I’m worried work. I see others that seem to get it totally down but I think they probably feel the same…or at least I secretly hope they do…
Describe an ideal weekend?
The shop being taken care of, blue skies but crisp and a little chilly, Einar in his carrier, Josh off work and the pup running about (not rolling in poo) either up on the hills nearby or on the beach. I grew up by the sea so any chance to see endless ocean is taken.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Oh gosh, I guess somewhere with a view. A space to be gazed at where my mind can wonder.
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