From footwear designer at Lacoste, to founder of Bell and Rigg – a trendy coffee subscription service, for people who want artisan coffee at home – meet Gemma Mursal. We talk work life balance, raising two-year-old Gus and coffee…
Gemma Mursal, 34, lives in Windsor with her husband Adam and their son Gus, who is two years old.
What’s your home like?
It’s a pretty standard Victorian semi close to the town centre. We moved here in June, it’s bigger than our last place so we have lots of space to fill, pictures are still propped up against the wall and there a few boxes lurking in corners. Our furniture is pretty classic but I try to make it interesting with a mix of patterns (I’m not into matching… makes me feel like I’m in a hotel). I find a bit of House of Hackney and Nelly Duff go along way.
What time are you up in the morning?
I’m usually up at 6am, Gus generally wakes up at 7. I like to get ahead of the game if I can.
What wakes you up?
Adam gets up at 5.45 to go to the gym so I normally wake up then but keep my eyes closed until the alarm goes off.
How do you feel?
I’m definitely a morning person although I do like at least 15 minutes to myself before hurricane Gus wakes up (man he has a lot of energy in the morning).
What do you do first thing?
EAT. I love breakfast.
In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Busy, Messy, Fun.
I find myself working on my laptop in the kitchen most of the time, normally surrounded by remnants of porridge, coffee cups and postman pat
Tea or coffee?
Coffee and lots of it.
How might the rest of your day pan out?
We walk to nursery and then I go for a quick 30 min run. I’m a much better human after some exercise and I find the rest of the day to be far more productive. After a shower and a coffee I will either head into London to meet some coffee roasters or work at home.
I pick Gus up at 4pm and from here on in I try not to do any work, so we go and find something fun to do, like scooting, or a bike ride or if it’s rubbish weather we might go for hot chocolate.
When I first started Bell and Rigg I felt like I needed to work on it all of the time but I was getting really frustrated because Gus obviously wanted my attention too. I realised I wasn’t actually achieving anything by doing this. I had a little chat to myself and remembered the whole point of starting my own business was to spend time with Gus. I now really look forward to that little bit of quality time in the afternoon, and feel really lucky to have it.
At 6pm the dinner, bath and bed mission commences… and at around 7.30pm the hurricane is fast asleep. I then tidy up the carnage and throw some food together in the hope it will resemble a meal. If Adam isn’t home that evening I might crack open the laptop and do some work/life admin. I’m not much use after 9pm… the batteries are running flat by then.
What’s your workspace like?
When we moved house I was so excited to have my own office, I had grand aspirations of it being a little haven of Scandinavian minimalism, you know a bit like that of Fiona Burgess at Nor-Folk. Ha Ha. It’s fair to say that hasn’t quite materialised, it’s now a space where I quickly throw things so they don’t get covered in little jammy fingerprints.
So I find myself working on my laptop in the kitchen most of the time, normally surrounded by remnants of porridge, coffee cups and postman pat. Wouldn’t change it for the world… well, maybe occasionally.
Where is Gus when you’re working?
He goes to nursery three days a week.
Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
Before Gus, I was director of footwear at Lacoste. The hours were long and the travel was even longer. Once Gus was born the thought of jumping on a flight to Asia or the USA, something that was once so exciting, now filled me with dread. After a lot of soul-searching I decided I needed to do something that would somehow fit with our new family and lifestyle. So we launched Bell and Rigg in April this year when Gus was 18 months old.
During my maternity leave in Windsor I was missing my fern laden flat whites from my favourite London barista, so I started working on my home barista skills, experimenting with different coffees and brew methods, often asking Adam to bring a bag of coffee beans in mexico home with him.
I knew that third wave coffee was booming and more and more craft coffee roasters and coffee shops were popping up across the country. So I decided to step into the world of speciality coffee. I didn’t have the hours or the money to set up a coffee shop so we decided to specialise in brewing great coffee at home. I began my diploma in coffee (who knew there was such a thing?) and started building my brand and website.
The core of the business is our coffee club, which is essentially a coffee subscription… although hate the word subscription because it makes you feel tied into something. But it allows people to explore the world of specialty coffee.
Every two weeks we deliver a different coffee from a different UK coffee roaster and you can pause or cancel your subscription at any time.
The coffee we deliver is specific to our customers, based on how they make their coffee, how they drink their coffee and if they have a grinder or not. And our suppliers are some of the best roasters in the UK, such as Caravan, Ozone, Artisan Roast, Dark arts, Small Batch, Horsham, Roasting Shed and North Star.
What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
For me it’s self doubt… What if people don’t like what I do? There are no big brands to hide behind when you have your own business, you can feel quite exposed.
At first it was difficult balancing everything and it’s taken me until very recently to realise that it’s all about acceptance
What makes it all worthwhile?
Seeing and hearing all of the funny little things that Gus says and does, sometimes I could just burst with pride. (And then he has a crazy tantrum in the supermarket and I want to go and get on that plane).
Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
To keep costs down I try and do as much myself as I can, there are so many great tools out there now. I try and keep a handle on my accounts through Xero accountancy software just because I think it’s good way to understand the business.
I love the creative side but I’m definitely more of a creative director than a designer as my skills don’t quite match my vision, so a lot of the design work and photography is outsourced. My sister in law works in SEO and she is trying to teach me but it’s like a completely different language.
Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
80% of the time I am super happy working on my own but I do miss occasional office vibes and mentoring younger colleagues.
What’s the secret to career success?
I will let you know when I get there.
Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
The juggle is real for us for sure, Adam works long hours in London so he doesn’t see much of Gus through the week, which he finds this really tough and misses him a lot. So weekdays the childcare and general life stuff is in my hands.
At first it was difficult balancing everything and it’s taken me until very recently to realise that it’s all about acceptance. Accepting your life with a little person is completely different to how it used to be, accepting less me-time, less quality time with Adam and less quality time (child-free time) with friends.
I just feel that unless you accept it, life will be full of frustration and you won’t enjoy any of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times of bitterness as I look back on my past life and wonder what the hell has happened, but then I try to remember that this time is precious and he won’t be little forever.
Describe an ideal weekend?
A long run, a big breakfast and some outdoor adventures just the three of us. Although at the moment one thing is missing. In September we had to say goodbye to our Schnauzer pooch as she was really sick. We miss her terribly but we’re now looking forward to a puppy in the New Year… that will be a perfect weekend.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Copenhagen. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that city. I always feel so at home when I’m there, it just works. Also, I have just been reading about hygge… I’ve always been into enjoying the simple things in life, I thought I was just a simple creature but now I can put a trendy name to it!