Marmalade Lion Founder Alicia Jackson On Business and Finding Strength in Sadness
“It was a very sensitive time for me. There are no words to express how much my mother meant to me. When Amber was born, my emotions could have gone either way. However, becoming a mother to Amber saved me at that particular time,” reflects the inspiring founder of Marmalade Lion Alicia Jackson on the heartache of losing her mother a week before her baby girl was born..
Her mother continues to inspire everything she does in life – from raising two girls to running a thriving business. “Looking back, I think her work ethic and her ability to take on everything as a single mother inspires me. Hindsight is a beautiful thing because I never got the chance to be a mother in front of her, I never had the chance to say ‘I get it now, I get that it is hard, I get that you did all of that for us, I get that you worked so hard to buy us those new Esprit jackets that my school friends had’… now that she is not here, we will survive and thrive, and this is because of her, and what she demonstrated and taught us.”
Jackson noticed a gap in the market for beautiful baby mats and pram liners, which could endure copious amounts of wear, tear and spills and armed with her mother’s drive and determination, she set about launching Marmalade Lion (you can see her products in action here). “Our babies spend the majority of their time on these items in their first few years,” says Jackson. “Hygienically, play mats and pram liners should be washed very regularly. This is when I thought of removable, washable covers to make our lives easier.” We caught up with the inspiring entrepreneur to talk about why it’s important to invest in products that are not disposable, motherhood, the juggle and more.
In association with Marmalade Lion | Go to www.marmaladelion.com.au
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Motivated, resilient, dreamer.
What has motherhood taught you?
So much! How to be selfless stands out to me. Nothing is about me anymore and that’s okay because for 32 years it was about me! Everything I do is for them if not to provide to set a good example and that is that you need to work for what you want in life nothing is handed to you on a silver platter. My heart is full of love and admiration for the people we have created and also for my husband and I for creating them. They are so great even at two and eight months they are wonderful, happy, smart, self-sufficient babes, I could not be prouder. How to nurture imagination is another important lesson motherhood has taught me – I’m of the opinion to let them be little for as long as possible so I won’t be encouraging my girls to grow too quickly.
What’s your approach to raising girls?
As we all do, they need to learn from their own experiences. I am here to protect them, but my main purpose is to raise them to become resilient, self-loving human beings who can fend for themselves but have the courage to chase their dreams.
Talk us through your career path and how you came to launch Marmalade Lion?
I got my first job at 13 (sweeping floors in a hairdressing salon!) and worked three jobs through year 11 and 12, the highlight being managing bands. I was selected for a cadetship programme at age 21, working for an international textiles company. My mum was beyond thrilled, as I would be following her line of work! From there, I worked my way up and across pretty quickly. My boss there was the best mentor and friend I could ever have asked for (outside of mum). Whilst we always planned to have babies, I also wanted to do my own thing. It just worked out that it all happened at the same time. I resigned from my job, and then found out I was pregnant a week later. Then the hard work began and Marmalade Lion was born!
Why is Marmalade Lion so unique in the market? What gap were you looking to fill?
My mum was developing for and supplying a major player in the industry prior to her passing. Whilst I took this over in the interim, things did not work out. However, during this short period, I learnt a lot about the industry, and coupled with being a mother (and textiles background), identified a gap in the market. You change a fitted sheet, quilt cover but why not these products as our babies spend the majority of their time on these items in their first few years. Babies throw up milk, drool (and everything else!) daily… this is when I thought of removable, washable covers to make our lives easier.
I want people to be able to invest in products that were not ‘disposable’ products. People should be able to invest in products that can be washed, are reusable and also beautiful. I notice mothers spend a lot of money on children’s clothes that they may only wear a couple of times, so why wouldn’t mothers/carers want to invest in products that are used every day and can be used for all your children whilst still being able to update the product from a fashion perspective.
Talk us through the new range...
I like to spot a trend before it gathers pace texturally or design based and I also like to translate trends to different industries! Design wise I wanted to enter this market with a nostalgic impact, as this is what spoke to me personally when becoming a mother. I often reminisced about the things that I had when I was a young girl so it made so much sense to keep the theme homegrown, to begin with.
We love kids in colour we love monochromatic, we love pastels, expect to see a variation in colour pallets from us. I wouldn’t want to create a brand on a ‘me too’ product in this competitive environment. You need to take calculated risks and to develop something around an original concept. All our fabrics, and componentry have been chosen purposely. Every detail has its own story for why it is part of the product mostly for their highly durable and functional features right down to the packaging, as each item comes in their own reusable fabric bag.
What are your top three time management tips?
Making lists, being as flexible as possible and multi-tasking.
What makes you feel stressed?
Whilst being a mother to two young girls and running a business, sometimes I spread myself too thin. I do not have the support/sounding board that my mum had always provided, and have therefore had to seek out other support networks to help alleviate the pressure. I would have tried to not be over-reliant on her as this was supposed to be her time to do as she pleases.
What advice would you give other mothers looking to launch their own business?
You must back yourself and take calculated risks. Do your best to have all your ducks in a row. Have the confidence to execute your vision in conjunction with continual learning and growing as you go. Being as flexible as possible, especially with young children, is essential. Trust your instincts.
What’s your strategy for using social media to grow your business?
Having a social media presence is imperative in this day. I am a bit old school – I manually do my costings on the back of an envelope, literally! I am not a spreadsheet person, much to my financial planning husband’s great frustration! But I have had to adapt pretty quickly and am still adapting each day. With that being said, our overarching social strategy is to deliver beautiful content to our audience so they remain engaged with our brand.
Can you tell us about how you dealt with the grief of losing your mother?
I didn’t really have time to grieve, I threw myself back into work and motherhood, as I lost her very unexpectedly a week before my first daughter was born and had to manage my business and mum’s right through. I didn’t have a choice. I am still dealing with the grief, and have good and bad days. I am lucky that my girls and husband are amazing and I love spending every day with them.
What are some of your most vivid memories of your mother? How does she inspire you?
She took her job seriously in terms of raising us to be strong, independent woman who could look after ourselves. As reliant as we were on her for the motherly questions (we would call her up to 20 times a day!), now that she is not here, we will survive and thrive, and this is because of her, and what she demonstrated and taught us. The beauty of this is we can also learn from her mistakes because everyone makes mistakes, even mum.
She had a fashion label when my sister and I were quite young and she would work in her workroom till 1am every morning. She would work around her children, quite like I am working around mine. It was just the norm to me then, like it is the norm to me now.
How important is sustainable design to you?
It is the most important feature of our product. Sustainability is about the future, and the future is our children. I just want to play my part, and to encourage others to do so, even if it is just pouring a leftover glass of water into a pot plant, or carrying around reusable, heavy duty carry bags. I think some of the youngsters at the supermarket checkouts think I am a crazy bag lady! I read that by 2050, there is going to be more plastic in the ocean than fish, and that scares me so much!