My Early Hour: Charlotte Purdie, The Milk Lounge

Charlotte Purdie is director of The Milk Lounge, the UK’s first specially designed infant feeding café in Nottingham. We ask her what it’s like to run her own business, alongside working nights and raising a 17-month-old…

Charlotte Purdie, 22, lives near Nottingham with her husband Steve and son Bobby who is 17 months. Steve’s daughter Evie-Rose stays with them at the weekend.

What’s your home like?
My home is pretty amazing; it’s an old coach house in the grounds of a country house dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. It stands in an ancient deer park, surrounded by woods, and set in 100 acres of land and home to llamas and highland cattle. It is the perfect escape when I finally get time off work. Home life on a whole is pretty chaotic, we have moved house a couple of times whilst setting up The Milk Lounge and so feeling settled has been a long time coming.

What time are you up in the morning?
With regards to my daily routine and what time I get up in the morning, it varies depending on if I’ve been on nights or not (I do a few nightshifts in a secure hospital with people whose diagnosis comes under the umbrella of psychopathic personality disorder).

If I’m at home, my day starts with Steve gently whispering that it’s 6am, which then turns into a louder “Charlotte it’s half six you need to get up now”. I usually manage to get up between then and 6.45 but often I’m being dragged from the bed at 7am. This is all, of course, dependant on whether Bobby stays asleep past 5am, he’s usually a good little sleeper but he does occasionally sneak in with us from 6.30, which I love.

How do you feel?
My first thoughts in the morning are always the same:

  • There’s no way Bobby has slept all the way through. (He probably hasn’t – Steve sees to him in the night 9/10 times).
  • How has it been a full night? I feel like I’ve had about two hours when really I’ve usually had around 6-7 hours.
  • OH SHIT I’ve got to be leaving at 7.20am.
  • A shower can wait… until tonight… or tomorrow… whatever.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
First thing in the morning is chaos. I get myself ready in about 15 minutes and then Steve passes Bobby to me whilst he gets himself ready. I love giving Bobby a bath in the morning but there isn’t usually time, so he goes in before bed instead. He will have his breakfast and a little play (by play I mean he will run around the house playing with door handles, slamming doors and generally just being really loud). Then we set out to the car, which is always interrupted by a visit to the cattle or a quick chase of the cat or peacock. Bobby loves animals.

Steve drives the 35-minute journey to Arnold, whilst I do my make-up in the passenger’s seat and then spend the remainder of the journey dancing and singing nursery rhymes.

I usually arrive at The Milk Lounge at around 8am. I check what stock we need and go out to collect that. On my return, I have a member of staff join me who is usually my breastfeeding peer supporter Amy.

My day finishes at The Milk Lounge at 5.30 and then I shoot off to collect Bobby from his childminder, and we sing and dance all the way home in the car. He doesn’t talk much yet but I am looking forward to being able to ask him about his day. We get home around 6.30pm and I usually spend an hour with Bobby, give him a snack, bath then bottle and bed. That leaves me time to get a few jobs done around the house and prepare for the following day.

Steve returns home between 6.30 and 8.30 depending on what he’s been up to. We sit and chat over a cup of tea and then eat dinner. Bedtime varies depending on what we are up to in the evening and what jobs need doing but it’s usually around 10.30/11.

Tell us about your business…
We launched The Milk Lounge in April/May 2016. It’s a café that is designed exclusively for families and our children-centred approach has been what has made us successful so far. It’s ironic really that after giving birth to Bobby, I decided there needed to be this great space for kids, but I don’t get to use it with him because he’s always at his minders through the week.

What we offer:

  • ‘Create your own’ FRESH purees in five easy steps: 1. Choose your flavours 2. Choose your liquid 3. Choose your amount 4. Choose your consistency 5. Choose your temperature
  • A feeding room with sockets for expressing mums, a fan, CD player with headphones, small toy corner to keep siblings entertained and its own en suite bathroom.
  • A group room where we will provide a variety of groups to the public, twice daily
  • Toddler activities throughout the cafe area to keep little ones busy whilst waiting for food
  • Lactation cookies and ‘hand foods’ so mums can have a bite to eat whilst feeding their child
  • A bottle warming station
  • A spaced themed sensory room
  • Breastfeeding peer supporters on hand, lactation expert drop-ins and tongue tie specialist sessions
  • Activities for older children during school holidays so parents can continue with their weekly group schedule

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Time management. I’m still not great at this one. The saying ‘there’s not enough hours in the day’ springs to mind. I genuinely don’t think there is.

What makes it all worthwhile?
I moan about the time I spend at work, but the dish washing, hours sat at the laptop, sleepless nights, meetings and over indulgence of leftover cake, coffee and teacakes (inside joke) are so worth it. I’ve often cried at reviews online. It’s hard work, and I presume that’s why it hasn’t been done before. If you have staff that are willing to support you throughout what could be the hardest few years of your life, and the determination to jump over every hurdle which is placed in front of you, then it’s perfectly possible.

I’ve learnt to delegate to others now, at the start I took it all on and it was hard work, which even landed me in hospital at one point

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 learnt to delegate to others now, at the start I took it all on and it was hard work, which even landed me in hospital at one point. I’m lucky that I have great staff who are capable of taking tasks from me and completing them to a high standard. They also come up with brilliant ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of, so I’m glad I’ve learnt to delegate. Jobs I don’t like? Washing the pots! That said, I’m always there to get stuck in when I need to (I hope my staff agree).

What’s the secret to career success?
I don’t really know how to define ‘career success’. I presume it means when you’re satisfied that you’ve reached your full potential. I’m not there yet. I still have loads of ideas buzzing around in my head and at 22; I have plenty of time to make those ideas a reality. The Milk Lounge only took me one year after all.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
I consume coffee in the morning, Redbull through the night shifts and Prosecco in the evening. We’re doing OK. I find it very hard to balance motherhood, being a business owner, being a wife, housework and time for friends. Time for myself went out the window a long time ago, time for friends is few and far between, but they understand that I’m busy and any time I have not wrapped up at The Milk Lounge, I want to spend with my family. I have Steve’s unconditional support and he’s as busy as I am juggling university, his daughter, Bobby and I, and also working shifts here and at his other job.

Describe an ideal weekend?
An ideal weekend would be me at home with both kids and Steve, playing in the fields, feeding the animals, exploring the woods and with me cooking for them all. This is rare, but that makes us all appreciate it even more.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
It would be at home. I’d have both kids there with Steve by my side and no plans all day.

Any future ventures?
Future ventures are in the pipeline; I’d like to open another café and possibly a soft play too. At present, The Milk Lounge is my baby and I just want to ensure this place is running smoothly before I run off to open more. Franchising is an option but that takes a lot of organisation and it’s something that I’m being advised on currently.

The Milk Lounge; 45 Front St, Arnold, Nottingham NG5 7EA