My Early Hour: Founders of Bimble shoes

They grew up in Somerset, running around in the handmade leather moccasins their parents made for a living. Now, sisters Bethany and Osyth have launched their own business – Bimble – making beautiful kids’ shoes. Only, Osyth recently moved to Australia. Here’s how they make it work…

Sisters Bethany, 37, and Osyth, 29, launched Bimble – selling beautiful handmade leather moccasins for kids – in June this year. Making full use of this technological age, they are based in Somerset (England) and Brisbane (Australia) respectively.

Bethany lives with her husband Julien, 19-month-old daughter Camille and they are expecting another baby in December. Osyth lives with her husband Mark and their two daughters – three-year-old Saskia and two-year-old Romy.

What’s your home like?
Bethany: My home is the archetypical Somerset cottage, it’s 17th Century and beautiful, with flagstone floors, aga, pear trees and even a brook in the garden. It’s a wonderful place for Camille to grow up, with so much to explore.

Osyth: I live in a new build in a suburb of Brisbane, surrounded by wonderful wooden traditional homes. It’s our first house in suburbia, as we’ve always lived in city centres. The kids love finding interesting bugs and spiders in the garden, as well as running up and down our three flights of stairs, which are floating and spiral, so whilst lovely to look at, somewhat hair-raising for me!

What time are you up in the morning?
Bethany: I’m usually up anywhere between 5 and 7am, when Camille decides it’s time to start jumping on our heads! As I’m eight months pregnant and Camille is not a very good sleeper, my husband will sometimes give me a little lie-in.

Osyth: I’m up between 4 and 5am, as we only came to Australia around a month ago and my little ones aren’t yet fully adjusted to the time zone. And on the days when they do sleep in til 6am I’m wide-awake like a meerkat, getting impatient that nobody is awake yet!

My Early Hour: founders of Bimble shoes -

What wakes you up?
Bethany: Indigestion! The pregnancy reflux is terrible this time around so I sleep with a bottle of Gaviscon by the bed and I am not ashamed to say I glug it like water when I wake up.

Osyth: Imagine having a wild raccoon strapped to your head – that’s the torture that we endure every morning from our youngest Romy.

How do you feel?
Bethany: Tired. Being a working mum in the third trimester is so physically demanding. It’s also lovely, though, knowing that I don’t have to leave the house to go to an office, and that my daughter and husband will be close by throughout the day.

Osyth: I usually wake up feeling pretty energised. Over the last four years of mumhood I’ve slowly transformed into a morning person, the trade-off of which is that I am dying for my bed by 8pm.

What do you do first thing?
Bethany: I have breakfast with Cami, it’s important for us that we eat together – especially as she’s just started nursery a couple of mornings a week, so it’s nice to have that quiet time together every morning before I’m off to my desk and she’s off with Julien or to nursery.

Osyth: My husband and I always have a debrief of the night. These can be quite dramatic, as he’s a bad sleeper and our youngest still shares our bed. They often follow the storyline of the children’s book ‘Peace at Last’ by Jill Murphy. (Mr Bear tries to sleep in every room of the house before giving up, coming back to bed and being woken by the alarm clock, a less-than sympathetic Mrs Bear and an over-enthusiastic Baby Bear.)

We strive to be honest, fair and hard-working in all that we do, and we hope it will one day pay off.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Bethany: Noisy (Cami has got a big pair of lungs), sleepy (obviously) and busy.

Osyth: Sunny (love waking up to blue skies every day), cuddly and hungry.

Tea or coffee?
Bethany: Coffee. My husband is French so tea is not really on the menu.

Osyth: Coffee, as big and strong as possible.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
Bethany: I try to work a pretty standard 9-5 day at the moment; for the last six months my husband has been a stay-at-home dad, allowing me to focus on launching the business. I have been very lucky, I’m working from home most of the time so I can eat meals with the family and be there for my daughter if she is sick or needs me.

Osyth: Over the last four months I’ve moved my family over three continents – from Malaysia back to the UK and then out to Australia, so things are chaotic at home. Normally I’m trying to snatch whatever time I can to answer emails and work from my phone throughout the day, and then when the kids are asleep I get a solid few hours of work in too.

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What’s your workspace like?
Bethany: My home is Bimble HQ, so I have a desk in my living room – strategically placed next to the toy corner. I am, however, also surrounded by boxes of stock, leather, lookbooks and paperwork.

Osyth: The kitchen table is my desk. In our old house I made myself an office, but because it was tucked away I rarely used it. In our new house we’ve decided to use the ‘office’ as a playroom for the kids. The trade-off of working at the kitchen table is so worth it for me, as we have a convenient place to chuck the toys and pretend we’re unaware of all the mess.

Where are the kid(s) when you’re working?
Bethany: Cami is at nursery two mornings a week and the rest of the time she’s at home with us (as my husband also works from home part-time). It’s so lovely knowing they’re close by and having the flexibility to be there for my daughter if she needs me.

Osyth: They are under my feet, on my lap, swinging from my hair, the chandeliers, the oven door, etc. They are both starting daycare this week so soon I should have at least a few hours in daylight to get some work done.

Tell us about your business…
Bimble was only founded in June this year, but our roots in shoe-making stretch much further back to the 80s when we were small children playing on the floor of our parent’s workshop while they handmade bespoke leather shoes.

As we grew up, we learnt the basics of traditional leatherworking, often helping our parents in the workshop at weekends and during school holidays. As adults, and after careers in digital marketing, we came to start our own families and realised that there was very little on offer in terms of the soft, foot-shaped, healthy shoes that we’d grown up with.

We were surprised to see that people are being told that structured shoes are the best thing for growing feet, and so we started talking to leading podiatrists in the UK who confirmed that soft shoes that allow for the most flex and wiggle are best for the feet of early walkers, allowing for healthy growth in those imperative first years.

My Early Hour: founders of Bimble shoes -

So we went back to our parents’ workshop and set about developing the much-loved design of a classic soft-soled moccasin that we and our seven siblings had all worn as children. The shoes gained so much attention from other parents that we decided it could be a brilliant way to do work together (as best friends as well as sisters), make a continuation of the family business and keep that work-life balance in check – being around more for our little ones’ early years.

Making it a truly family affair, Bimbles are handmade in a small workshop in Somerset using traditional leather-working techniques by Toby, our eldest sibling and head of production, and his two sons. At every stage of the process – from selecting the best leather, to cutting the pieces and hand stitching every shoe – the expertise gained from our background is used to ensure that every single pair is top quality and completely unique.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
There are so many challenges that we’ve faced: starting a new retail business when neither of us have a background in retail or the baby/kids market. Day-to-day though one of our challenges has to be switching off – we are so heavily invested in this venture and we have so much riding on this. We hope to one day soon be able to support our families so it’s hard to draw a line and say ‘this is family time’.

What makes it all worthwhile?
We grew up with our parent’s philosophy that making something real and tangible that helps people on a basic level (our parent’s shoes have helped wheelchair-bound people walk again), is what makes it worthwhile. We share their sense of vocation, and our mission is to set little feet free, making shoes that give kids the freedom to move and grow as nature intended.

Our new Sunday tradition is exploring the many beaches close-by, we are so lucky to be near such a beautiful coastline and I often have to pinch myself

We’re also strongly motivated by our daughters, and we love to think that as well as creating a living now and a business for them to inherit if they choose, that we are showing them that motherhood is not the end – you can continue to pursue your dreams and create your own work/life balance.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
Although we have quite clearly defined roles with Bethany being the managing partner and handling the business side of the company and Osyth being the creative partner and handling all things design, creative and brand, because Osyth’s in Australia – a lot of the day-to day falls to Bethany. We hope to be in a position soon to hire somebody to deal with orders and general admin, to free up more of her time for planning and development.

What’s the secret to career success?
I’m not sure we’ve found it yet! But we strive to be honest, fair and hard-working in all that we do, and we hope it will one day pay off.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Me time?! Yes, it’s tough. For both of us, our lives are in a constant state of flux with pregnancies, babies, moves around the world. It feels like as soon as we start to find a balance something changes and we’re back at square one. We never stop trying though!

Describe an ideal weekend?
Bethany: Living in Somerset means that I’m close to a lot of our siblings so we often see them and their families at weekends for walks, bike rides and pub lunches. My husband is a restaurateur and we share a passion for eating out so we love to discover new spots to eat nearby as we’ve only recently moved back here from London.

Osyth: Because we’re up so early our weekends feel years long, which is lovely. Our number one weekend ritual is a long leisurely cooked breakfast all together before heading out and seeing something new. Brisbane has so much going on, it’s great to be spoilt for choice. Our new Sunday tradition is exploring the many beaches close-by, we are so lucky to be near such a beautiful coastline and I often have to pinch myself.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
In a beautiful beach villa in Bali on a family holiday all together. It’s our dream and one day Bimble will be a huge success and we’ll make it happen.