My Early Hour: Adeline Vining, founder of Edith Joan

Adeline Vining

She runs Edith Joan – an online shop selling funky textiles – alongside owning a cafe and a roastery. And being a mum to two young children. Adeline Vining talks home life, work life, mornings and the danger of taking on too much…

Adeline Vining, 32, lives in Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire with her husband, Scott and their two children: Edith, four, and Orson, two. “We’ve also got two killer cats, Arthur-Cat and Lily-Belle who are seven and enjoy the countryside a little too much,” she says.

What’s your home like?
Six days a week, it’s a bomb site. On Wednesdays, our saviour (Lorna, our cleaner) arrives and makes it look like a respectable home. We’re really into art, so the walls are covered with paintings, prints and artwork that we’ve collected over the years. Although my fashion sense is mostly a dedication to the 80s, our home has a pretty 70s vibe – we have a mustard yellow woollen sofa that I adore, and our dining table was designed and hand painted by Scott with a pretty awesome geometric design (although this has succumbed to copious amounts of glitter and glue, so is more of a sparkly table these days)

What time are you up in the morning?
7am. The kids are like clockwork. I have dreams of waking up at 6am every day to meditate and do yoga while the rest of the house is asleep, but I’m still up at least three times a night putting the kids to back to bed, so I need the sleep too much!

What wakes you up?
The children. If it’s Orson, it’s usually with a little stroke and a kiss, if it’s Edith, it’s her asking (at the top of her voice) “What are we doing today?”.

How do you feel?
Right now – fucking awesome. First thing in the morning – desperate for a shower and a coffee.

What do you do first thing?
Stretch, knock back several glasses of water and brush my teeth. I cannot do anything until I’ve done those things.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Busy and glorious.

Tea or coffee?
Coffee (disclaimer – I run a specialty coffee roastery and a cafe as well as Edith Joan.)

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How might the rest of your day pan out?
On a non work day, I’ll take Edith to pre-school, Orson also goes for three hours twice a week, so if he’s there, then I use the time to catch up with the team in the cafe, do some paperwork and call Jess – my operations manager in the roastery – to find out what’s going on that week.

If Orson’s at home, I’ll get him to help me do the laundry. That takes most the morning as he tends to unfold things faster than I can put them away. Then I’ll make us some lunch, and we’ll go out in the afternoon. We pick Edith up from pre-school at 3.30, spend an hour in the playground and head home to get dinner ready for when Scott is back. (He’s currently our chef in the cafe while we recruit a replacement).

On a work day, I’ll either be at the roastery, or sewing. That mostly involves being stationery for six-eight hours!

Bed time is consistently the same – to be honest, we really messed up when the children were younger, and night-time is a complete disaster in our house. Despite our best efforts, our bed time routine takes around two hours on a good day, but Orson has been known to still be up at 10pm sitting on my lap while I sew. I don’t know what we did, but we have not created good sleepers. (I welcome all and any advice from anyone who has nailed bedtime.)

What’s your workspace like?
Colourful, sometimes messy… Most of my products are handmade to order, so at any one time, I might be working on 10-20 different projects, each one different to the other, so it can be a bit hard to keep things tidy. But I’ve pretty much nailed organising the mess, so I know where everything is, and what my priorities are. I like everything to be to hand, so I use pegboards to keep things close by.

Where are the kids when you’re working?
Asleep mostly. I do most of my sewing at night, once they’ve (eventually) gone to sleep. If it’s a work day, Scott will take them out for a day trip, to make the most of his time with them. They’ll go to local national parks or today they’ve gone on a rainy day beach trip to Southend. Anything goes.

I visit my 99-year-old grandmother every week, and sometimes I’m there for hours, other times I can only run in and give her a kiss and hand her her shopping. I feel bad about that

Tell us about Edith Joan…
Edith Joan started in early 2016 – I was making presents for my children for Christmas, and at the time, I was running a coffee stall at a film studio. While people were on set it was really quiet, so I would bring in my sewing machine and make things. People noticed, asked to see what I’d done, and then asked me to make something for them. I realised there was an opportunity to create a business, so I created an Etsy shop and started selling right away. The last 18 months have been overwhelming as it’s taken off so much more than I could have anticipated.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
I’ve been self employed for 12 years now, and the hardest thing has always been to motivate myself when things get difficult. My coffee roastery, Weanie Beans, supplies coffee to so many cafes and restaurants but inevitably, some relationships end; a customer will switch supplier, and that can be hard to take and it’s obviously upsetting, but I’ve learned not to take it personally. It’s hardly ever a reflection on you, the business, or the product – they might just want to change things up, or have had a cheaper coffee offered to them. You just have to pick yourself up and get on with it with a positive attitude and look forward to meeting your new clients.

With Edith Joan, I’ve been really lucky to work with some incredible clients, and I’ve made some great friendships through it all. The hardest thing with that is keeping customers happy – I have one client who commissioned a leather bag back in January, and because I’ve been so busy, I’ve only just managed to get it made. I’d rather take a long time making something and make sure it’s right, than rush a job and not be happy with it. THAT’S something I’ve learnt doing this – someone asked for a bumbag, they were in a rush, and I had to turn it around quickly. Although I followed their spec exactly, and it was a very well made item, in hindsight, I should have taken more time to talk to them about it and make suggestions. It wasn’t a great colour choice or design  – it still haunts me today.

I could easily say that I’d love to wake up in a beach hut on an island in Vietnam, but as long as I have Scott and the children with me, I’m happy. They rock my world

What makes it all worthwhile?
The positive feedback! I love seeing photos of people with my products. That’s the joy of Instagram – it’s so immediate, and it’s such a great way to share positivity. I love it.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
I have an accountant who does my tax returns – with three businesses to run, the maths would break my brain… My righthand woman, Jess, essentially runs Weanie Beans for me now, she’s bloody awesome. We have a wonderful team at the cafe. And now that I’m starting to get a bit overwhelmed with orders at Edith Joan, I’m looking to get some help with the manufacturing – I’m looking for London based manufacturers, with the aim of me still doing all the bespoke orders and designing – we’ll see……

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
Both. If I’m sewing, I prefer to listen to a podcast and get on with it. If I’m designing, I much prefer being surrounded by others – people, music, films, anything – it helps me to not be stuck inside my own brain. There’s no opportunity to be alone at the cafe or the roastery – and I like that. We’re all part of a greater team.

What’s the secret to career success?
After Orson was born, I became very ill, and ended up in hospital for a long spell. At that point, I realised that I was doing too much (I’d gone back to full time work when he was just two weeks old – was pumping breast milk whilst driving and working – I was asking for trouble really) and decided that if I was going to make anything work, I needed to delegate. It’s hard, because I was just running one business then, and Weanie Beans had been my baby for 10 years – the hardest thing was letting go, but it’s been the best decision I could have made. The business is thriving more than ever now, and it’s allowed me to open Heirloom (our cafe) and start Edith Joan, all with less workload than I had before. Delegation. And awesome colleagues.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
YES. Every day I think I’m being a shit parent/friend/colleague/daughter. But the best thing about my circle of friends, colleagues and family is that they are brilliant, and they all know that have a lot going on. So despite me taking a while to catch up with someone, when we do finally meet up, there’s never any judging, no one gets upset. I visit my 99-year-old grandmother every week, and sometimes I’m there for hours, other times I can only run in and give her a kiss and hand her her shopping. I feel bad about that. I wish I could see her more.

Describe an ideal weekend?
Saturday. Wake up at 8am. Do yoga with Edith. Meditate. Have breakfast together, (French toast with strawberries, bananas and crème fraiche). Do a few things around the house that have been on the to-do list for ever (hanging pictures, usually), have a lovely lunch, then go out for the afternoon to Ashridge Park. By some miracle, the children would be asleep by 7.30pm and Scott and I can watch a movie and drink a bottle of wine.

Sunday, I’d buy The Guardian, and ACTUALLY READ IT. That, in itself, would be an achievement. Anything else that happened on Sunday would be a bonus.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
It’s my friend’s 40th this year, and she moved to Austria a couple of Christmas’ ago. Right now, I’d like to wake up there, because it looks like I’m going to miss her party, and I just want to see her and have a proper catch up. Really though, I’m happy with my lot. I could easily say that I’d love to wake up in a beach hut on an island in Vietnam, but as long as I have Scott and the children with me, I’m happy. They rock my world.