At the age of 43, James Hart – former director of ASOS and founder of online family lifestyle store KIDLY – has found the right work-life balance. Here are his thoughts on making it work with a partner, three kids and your own business…
James Hart, 43, left his role as a director at ASOS to set up his own company – KIDLY – an online company, selling beautifully designed but useful products for kids… he lives in Radlett, Hertfordshire, with his wife Stacey and three sons: Max, 11, Zane, eight and Ethan, four.
What’s your home like?
New. We moved in 18 months ago and are still snagging!
What time are you up in the morning?
There’s no constant as my little one, Ethan, is still up most nights, but up usually between 6.30 and 7am.
What wakes you up?
Ethan, quite often an inch from my face. I’ve been known to accidentally swear at him in shock, on occasion.
How do you feel?
I should feel awful but because I’m so used to broken sleep now – and before kids was a morning person – I usually feel OK.
What do you do first thing?
Make sure all three kids are up, dressed and downstairs for breakfast.
In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Frantic, Noisy, Frantic
Tea or coffee?
How might the rest of your day pan out?
Most days are different. As this is my second career I started with a clean slate, meaning I’ve made sure I mix work with family life and exercise. To facilitate that I’ve based KIDLY in St Albans, close to home. So I’ll do a few school runs during the week, I have a personal trainer or play tennis three times a week. I’ll usually be in the office anytime between 8.30 and 10.30am, depending on the day. I tend to leave at 5.30pm most days to get home and eat with Stacey and the boys.
What’s your workspace like?
Open plan. I’ve always worked that way. It’s also always full of new products. We photograph every item ourselves before we send them out to our KIDLY Parents to review. This all happens before we decide to sell anything on the site. Oh, and there’s always a Spotify playlist on the go, to drown out the constant pinging of Slack messages between us all. Open plan doesn’t mean we actually talk to each other. It’s 2016, we talk in emojis.
Where are the kids when you’re working?
As of this year, all three are at school.
Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
We launched KIDLY in May last year but I originally had the idea in 2011, when I was working at ASOS. I had two young kids at the time and struggled to find things for them across all the product categories that reflected my own sense of style. It was all garish colours and Disney products in my house and I thought an ‘ASOS’ style store with an affordable, yet aspirational own-label range, alongside the best brands (established and newly discovered) would be really helpful to young parents.
Parents who, at the time, would have had to go to their local high street where the choice wasn’t there, or to a big box retailer – where the unique (more design-led products) weren’t stocked. KIDLY looks to bring both together in one place.
What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Having to understand every single facet of running a retail business – there’s nowhere to hide as a sole founder.
What makes it all worthwhile?
I love internet retail. It’s all I’ve ever done – so I’m doing my hobby, which makes me very lucky. I also like it when other people are happy; a happy team and hearing from our KIDLY Parents and customers always makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
I’m a bit of a control freak to be honest and I’m a bit of a jack of all trades (definitely master of none!). I do stay across everything, but I do leave a lot of the technical work to my CTO and the own-label manufacturing to my Head of Retail, both of whom are extremely competent.
Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I hate my own company! I love the office and the team are fab, so definitely the latter.
What’s the secret to career success?
Listening and embracing change.
Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
No, I think I’ve got the balance about right; but remember I’m 43, I’ve been working for 21 years and have only just got there.
Describe an ideal weekend?
Anything that involves family, wine/bourbon, good food, a bit of downtime following the footy and reading the papers – with my phone handy to check sales and talk to customers, of course… is fine by me.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
I’m writing this from the Florida coast during half term….there aren’t many better places to wake up.
For ‘genuinely useful products, packed with personality’, check out KIDLY.