The Milk Collective: Toys for Design-Conscious Families

She founded The Milk Collective toy shop when her firstborn turned one, she was pregnant with her second and needed an outlet for her creativity. We speak to Jazmin Garner about being a working mum and keeping sparkling water on her bedside table…

Jazmin Garner, 30, lives in Liverpool with her husband Ben and their two children Jude, three, and Lola, 19 months. She was born in America and travelled around Europe before settling in England. She works full time on The Milk Collective.

Jazmin Garner, Founder of The Milk Collective

What time are you up in the morning?
Mornings in our house usually start around 6.30am. Well that’s when we open our eyes anyway. Nobody actually makes a move until about 7.30. Each morning my husband and I try and fail at getting everyone back to bed for one more hour. I remain confident that one day we will crack it, probably by the time they are teenagers.

What wakes you up?
The kids! Always the kids. Lola is usually already in our bed come the morning and Jude wanders in at about 6.30 so its always those two starting to giggle and play that wakes us up.

Jazmine and Jude - The Milk Collective -

How do you feel?
Utterly exhausted. You know the feeling where your eyes are burning and you’re not sure how you’re going to stay awake all day? Yes, just like that. That’s usually why we are trying to hit the snooze button on the kids in the morning!

What do you do first thing?
Reach for the water. We keep bottles of sparkling water by our bedside. Jude calls it bubble juice. Then check the time because I’m sure it still has to be the middle of the night.

What time of the day are you most productive?
That really depends on what I want to accomplish. If I need to get physical things done such as working on orders then definitely the beginning of the day with buckets of coffee. But when it comes to working on ideas, designing new products or admin duties then the night is best. I’m naturally a night owl and it’s when I do my best thinking and problem solving.

On The Milk Collective

When did you set up The Milk Collective, and why?
The Milk Collective was set up two years ago. Actually May is our 2nd birthday! I have always been a maker and it was really only a matter of time until I found my niche. With having a baby just over a year old and being pregnant with my second my world suddenly became 100% about babies. It was a natural fit and allows me to grow with my family.

Do both you and Ben work full time for the company?
I work full time for the company and Ben works part time. Ben has a full time job as director for a design and web development agency. I don’t know how he finds the time to work with me on projects for The Milk Collective.

Jazmin and family - the milk collective -

What experience did you each have previous to setting it up (work/training/education)?
Many moons ago I studied as a Fine Arts at The New England School of Art and Design in Boston, USA and at SACI in Florence, Italy. Having been taught to work with a variety of materials really helped me to figure out what I was interested in creatively.

After leaving university I moved to Italy for a short time then over to England where I continued to illustrate, design and attempt to sell my work. Once I had children, sewing baby accessories became another medium I wanted to explore and things just took off from there.

Ben studied graphic design at John Moores University in Liverpool and has been designing for over 10 years. Design is and always has been such a big part of his life.

How is it, running a business with your husband?
It’s great! Ask me tomorrow and I may have a different answer. Just kidding. It has its challenges. My husband and I are quite good at separating marital emotions and work. That’s why we really work. We can go out on the town as best friends, come home as husband and wife, and be colleagues when there is work to be done. We challenge each other to push an idea to its fullest potential and together we really make a great team.

Do you make a concerted effort to spend time apart socially, or are you happy spending all your time together? 
Ben and I have always been extremely close and have the same friends, we actually have the same best friend. We are so busy with the business and the kids that we rarely have time to ourselves never mind socially but, if we had a night off from the kids, there’s a 100% chance that we would spend it together.

Where do you work from, and what’s your workspace like?
I work from home in my studio. It’s a tiny little box absolutely full of bits and bobs. It’s the only space in the house where I allow myself to be a little bit of a hoarder and keep all of my ‘just-in-case’ finds. I am fast out growing the space and will be looking to move to larger studio in town later in the year.

Jazmine - the milk collective - office -

How might an average weekday pan out for you and your family?
An average weekday with the Garners usually starts with playtime for them, while we try to catch a few more zzzs. And by that I mean I’m face down in the pillow while Ben plays because I’m just not ready to deal with it yet.

One of us heads off to the gym depending on whose turn it is. Then down for breakfast, nappy changes and all that for whoever is at home. That’s when I drop my usual bombshell of  “oh by the way sweet husband of mine, I need you to drop all of these orders off at the post office.”

After that it’s just Jude, Lola and I until Ben gets home. The kids are not in childcare and Jude doesn’t start nursery for a few more months so I look after them full time. I try and take the kids out in the morning to basically run them down so I can work while they have a nice long nap in the afternoon. That sounds terrible, I know! We go to the park or have playdates. Jude loves when I take him for coffee (babyccino) and cake.

I’m usually trying to cram in email replies, social media posts and all of the day-to-day running of the business duties throughout the day. I steal seconds here and there to reply to emails. It’s far from glamourous.

Once Ben is home it’s dinner, bath and bed for the kids and back on work until about 12.30/1am before I finally drag myself up to bed convinced I’ll go to bed earlier the next day.

And what’s the ideal family weekend?
The ideal family weekend would start with a big breakfast. I love cooking a big breakfast for us all with music on, coffee, kids playing. It’s wonderful. That would be followed by an adventure of some sort. We love taking the kids to the park where they can run and be free. Then a pub lunch because what’s better on a Saturday afternoon than a pub lunch and a cheeky pint? Once the kids are in bed, Ben will pop open a bottle of Prosecco. Just because. And we love it.

You were born in America, and travelled around Europe before settling in England. Are you here to stay?
Ben and I have never thought that far in advance, really. We sort of take each day as it comes. I do think we are just about ready for our next adventure though. Somewhere open and quiet where Ben and I can build our own home.

In what ways is your work influenced by the various places you’ve lived?
I think it wasn’t until I moved to Italy that I really started to pick up on different design styles, particularly the graffiti in and around Florence. It’s some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve ever seen. I love the simple bold shapes present in graffiti.

After moving to England I became really influenced by Northern European decor and fashion. I was drawn to the minimal palette used in homes and clothing. When creating, I like to keep a balance between my two favourite styles, maintaining simplicity from my love of a Scandinavian feel and striking bold lines and fonts to pay homage to my time in Italy.

What is your dream for The Milk Collective?
I want so many things for The Milk Collective. At the moment I really want to develop the brand and to collaborate with other businesses and makers. I feel like it is only now that I am really starting to let myself go and show my personality more and have fun with products so everything is getting very exciting! Eventually I would like to have my own physical shop or showroom, too.

And for your personal life?
To spend more time with my family. I work every night and every weekend so I would love to just be with them laughing on the sofa watching Frozen for the millionth time. I’d also really like to finish off all of my DIY projects, I love working with my hands.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Florence, in a heartbeat. Florence is such a special place for Ben and I, it’s a part of us and I hope one day we will be back there to stay forever.

Lastly, you have 15k Instagram followers… what’s the secret to getting more followers?
Be honest and be true to yourself. I wholeheartedly believe it’s not about how perfectly stylised something is, it’s about connecting with your audience, listening to them and respecting them. I can only speak from my own experience but I think if you believe in something and you believe in yourself and are willing to work your bum off then you can achieve anything.

Any other comments?
Thank you for allowing me to contribute to an amazing magazine!