A chat with Sarah, one of the founders of Buddy + Bear Tableware August 24 2015

Behind the Brand – Buddy + Bear

At Desmond Elephant we love supporting and sharing the story of emerging brands and mums that want to make a difference. We have just started to stock Buddy + Bear products at Desmond Elephant and can see immediately why they are so popular with kids and parents alike.  Today we get to share our catch-up with one of its' inspiring founders Sarah Weston

How and why did you start Buddy + Bear?

Jon and I are both designers; we met at university in beautiful Bath almost thirteen years ago (eek, where does the time go!). Aside from the odd freelance project, we’ve never really had the chance to work together and always dreamed of building an outlet for creating things we love. We just weren’t quite sure what.

When our little boy Sammy came along last year, the maternity leave turned out to be the perfect time and reason for us to give it a go. As new parents, we were fast discovering that there’s a real lack of beautifully designed, yet fun kid’s home products here in the UK. It seemed like the perfect fit for us to have fun with. 

What did you both do before and how does this experience help you now? 

As a kid, I always had my heart set on being a nursery teacher. My first Saturday job was in a children’s bookshop and I’ve also spent the odd summer nannying. I guess you can say our love of little ones is essential to what we do and we hope that shines through.

We also both have different skill-sets that compliment each other well. Over the years, we’ve worked in different sectors of graphic design; Jon in print, web and branding and I mostly in food packaging. Most recently, I was in house at M&S but over the years I’ve designed for all sorts of companies big and small, working with photographers, illustrators and food stylists. My time at Paul Smith was a valuable insight into how someone’s passion and honest hard work can turn into something so iconic, whilst retaining a genuine down to earth wit at its core. Such an inspiration.

Can you briefly describe the design and manufacture process?

Our ideas come from all kinds of places. We’ll brainstorm around the kitchen table whilst Sam naps, or in the car on the way to the supermarket. It can be hard to switch of as there are always a hundred things to be done. But the ideas usually come when we least expect them and I’m slowly realising you can’t force these things! I guess that’s what’s nice about working for ourselves – we don’t have to be tied to the desk when the ideas aren’t flowing. On the flipside, being a full time mum at the same time very much dictates when the work has to happen!

Once we’ve come up with our design we’ll send it to our printers (sourced via lots of internet research) for a proof. It’s always a heady mix of nerves and excitement opening up a new delivery. There have been times where is hasn’t quite gone to plan but most of the time it’s great. We’ll then set a day aside for a photoshoot when our little home gets transformed into a photography studio. Jon will then be in charge of images and I’ll write the copy. It’s a real team effort and we’re definitely learning a lot as we go.

Who would you most like to buy something from Buddy + Bear?

Our dream is for someone to be reminiscing over their favourite childhood Buddy and Bear plate in thirty years from now. We’re suckers for nostalgia and love remembering the simple things that made us smile as kids - so we’d like our products to be part of those warm family moments around the kitchen table. Hopefully, they’ll be treasured and loved without being too precious to use on a daily basis.

What do you hope for the future of Buddy + Bear?

We’d love to branch into different areas of homewares; we’ve got so many ideas up our sleeves that we have to be patient and concentrate on doing each thing well and building upon that slowly but surely.

How to you balance being a mother and creating a successful brand?

It’s not easy. I think, especially on Instagram, you can be fooled into thinking that a lot of people find it a breeze when the reality is that anybody working hard and taking care of a family and a home will be juggling an awful lot.

The balance and structure is definitely something I am still striving to achieve; there are many nights working into the small hours and our house has had to give in to stock being all over the place. Having a toddler that likes to get into everything can be a bit of a nightmare so we tend to get it all out once he’s tucked up in bed. That way, I’m lucky enough to be able to hang out with him and do things he likes during the day and get back to work as soon as he’s asleep. Jon works full time and whilst we’ve sacrificed most of our down time, it’s all worth it. We really love what we do and there’s still plenty of time to catch up whilst packing parcels.

Based on your knowledge is there anything you recommend to other parents looking to start their own business?

The Internet is such an amazing tool for finding everything you need and you can start a business with very little investment. We started with a couple of ideas to see what would work and went from there. That way there was nothing to lose. Social media is also an incredible way of getting instant feedback  - even before you’ve had anything produced you can present some mock-ups and get a feel for whether it’s going to be a success or not. Just don’t be afraid, it’s a brilliant adventure!

Thanks Sarah for a great insight to Buddy + Bear, to see the fabulous range of Buddy + Bear click here