WHO WE ARE
My name is Rebecca, I am 27 years old and I live in Norwich, Norfolk. I live with my boyfriend Luke and our daughter Lilah Dottie, who has just turned three. It is incredible watching her grow - isn't it funny how suddenly they just seem so grown up. I was watching her in the garden this morning chasing our cat Stanley, climbing over piles of mud. Yes, we live in an ongoing building site. And suddenly it hit me, she reminded me of myself so much, it was really emotional and she just seemed so grown up! A lovely moment, slightly nostalgic - reminding me of my childhood, yet wonderful seeing my qualities in her for the very first time.
HOME LIFE As I mentioned a huge factor in our lives currently *like we don't already have enough going on, both running businesses & a crazy toddler on our hands!! Is that our home is a huge ongoing project for us, we only really get to work on it at the weekends. And apart from our friends helping out when they can, we are doing the majority of the work ourselves. I'm very lucky, as Luke is very hands on and great with this kind of thing. He absolutely LOVES a project to get stuck in to and using his skills to build things. Some may say we were a little ambitious for our second renovation- but with a baby/toddler we just couldn't imagine doing lots of smaller houses up and selling and moving often. This way we are living in chaos but it will all be worth it (we hope)!! We both love working towards goals, building, creating and I love interiors. I studied art all the way through school, college and then Textiles and Surface Design Uni. I once dreamed of being an Interior Designer after my chance to be an Architect didn't work out (due to my Crohn's disease, I was sick a lot through college and didn't get the grades). I studied Textiles and Surface Design at Norwich University of the Arts. It's funny as back then Interiors were always my context for my work, I never had any passion for Fashion really. And here I am making clothing!! After graduating with a first, my career path took me in a different direction into retail. Therefore renovating feels like the balance for us both - Luke enjoys working on the house and I can use my design and styling experience too. (For anyone interested my home account is @renovatingnumberten & don't get your hopes up- it's no insta home...)
THE PERFECT WEEKEND If I am honest it is very rare for us as a family to spend the whole weekend together. Life is a little crazy at the moment, it always has been. When we do manage to grab the opportunity to spend time as a family - it's normally a picnic outside, walk on the coast on a cosy Sunday afternoon at home taking it slow followed by a home cooked roast dinner. We try to allow ourselves the odd hour here and there, as and when we can. Even a walk down the local river all together early evening is so special. It works for us at the moment, but I am looking forward to the days we can spend more time together. We both love to travel and visit new places, so one thing on my list would be to pack up our bags more often for weekends away. There's something about it which makes me feel alive and present.
HOW DID LITTLE DOTTIE DESIGNS START? Back in 2017 when Lilah Dottie was born, I knew that I had to make a choice (a choice I'm sure a lot of you who are reading this has probably had to debate). Motherhood was a whole new venture for me, and I couldn't understand how I would have the time to work full-time and also be a Mother too. I'm the type of person who loves to give my all, no matter what I'm doing. I just couldn't see how I could give my all in both work and being a Mother, especially when I was running on empty from sleepless nights?! After looking into certain factors, Luke and I decided for me to stay home with our daughter (for the time being anyway, until it made sense to be back at work full time). A few months in, I was absolutely loving spending the time with Lilah Dottie and making many memories as her personality developed and learned new skills like walking and babbling. Despite all the positives, I also soon realised that there was something missing for me - I felt passionate about doing something else and loved the idea of having my own business, a project to focus on whilst to support our family lifestyle too. I had already been hand making clothes for Lilah Dottie, throughout her first months and year. This seemed like the natural step to take. Back then it didn't seem like a business venture, more so like an extended hobby for a little income. I started an Instagram page with a brand named after my daughter - and began sharing pieces of clothing I had been making in a variety of fabrics which were easily found. Soon my makes were proving quite popular and Little Dottie Designs began to grow.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU? Little Dottie Designs, was wholly inspired by my daughter, my creative background and my love to dress her in beautiful timeless pieces (something different to the usual hughstreet offering). As many of you know- I love nothing better than being surrounded by the beautiful outdoors, on adventures with Lilah Dottie. Whether it be National Trust houses and gardens, our local river or the North Norfolk coastline. I cannot get enough of Norfolk and always find inspiration from our surroundings, through colours and seasons. I love being creative through designing styles and working with textures and colours. Our journey- motherhood & childhood really inspires me, as we grow so does Little Dottie Designs. I hope the brand reflects us and the things we adore. WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND MOST CHALLENGING? For me the biggest challenge is the balance between working and motherhood. To begin with the orders were increasing and so were my dreams to develop and evolve the brand. Working from home with children around is tough for both children and adults. I soon found that I did not have a great balance, I was working during the daytime and evenings, this is whilst Lilah was home too. My small business began to take over life and it was giving me a lot of stress. I found myself feeling really overwhelmed and also like I was failing because we were quite stressed as a family. Our lives are always really busy, I'm probably always trying to do too many things at once (like trying to write this newsletter, aha). Once Lilah went to nursery a couple of days a week, the balance definitely improved as did my mood. She absolutely loved being at nursery and making little friends. We were then also able to spend quality time together when we were both home - this was exactly the balance I had been looking for. Since slowing down a little too, and realising life's capacity it has definitely helped. Don't get me wrong, it is still to this day very challenging for us to fit everything in which we have to & would love to do each week!! But we are slowly getting there.. Being currently at home again, has also made me reflect a lot on our lives - but I'll save that for another day.
THE UNEXPECTED Along with this, I have to touch on something that I never really expected to happen- anxiety. You think being at home with children will be incredible and it most definitely IS. But it did have its consequences too... I slowly lost myself and didn't really know who I was anymore. Due to putting all my time into being a Mother and launching my business (along with the strains of working part-time too, to fund our renovations), I became quite lonely and this somehow developed into anxiety. A really strange sense which I couldn't control, which then did turn into depression too. I'd probably say this is the biggest struggle I have had with being self-employed. It is so odd to explain or even talk about now - I just found being home really tough at times. I won't go into too much details, but for those of you who are home alone, whether it is with children or just working from home (or BOTH), and have the days where you struggle - I am always here to talk as can completely relate. I'll share with you some of the things that I found helpful for being at home and self care tips soon. All I say is try make the time for yourself, no matter how guilty you feel and do things you love! Surround yourself with people you love too! Looking after you, will then look after everyone else around you.
HOW DID THE BUSINESS GROW?
Back to business!! As my creative hobby became more of a job, I realised that I wanted to develop and expand my small business. It evolved from just bloomers, to more carefully sought fabrics and offering a collection of clothing for little ones. Although just offering bloomers was most definitely popular and financially helpful to my family - I knew I wanted to create more of a brand. A brand that represented us, my love for styling and choosing beautiful fabrics. I guess this was also because I really loved doing this and working with different fabrics creating mood boards and collections. I loved the idea of growing the business into a more of a recognised brand, rather than just a small side job. Soon the Ettie Blouse, Pixie Romper and Ophelia Dress were born.
WHAT TAKES THE MOST TIME WHEN LAUNCHING COLLECTIONS? To begin with the sampling and testing took the longest. It took a while to try samples on friends children along with the help from my followers children's measurements. From this making adjustments, figuring out how to create the garments I envisioned, along with lots of trial and error to make them fit comfortably. I have to admit- my background is not in dressmaking and I am pretty much self taught... therefore it has been a bit tricky in parts. All trial and error, learning what works and what does not. Now, I probably put most of my time into designing and launching collections. This is through different aspects of preparation and organisation, more time is spent on sourcing high quality fabrics. You can probably see how the brandhas evolved so far through fabric choices. I really do take time in choosing fabrics that are of a high quality, fit the brands ethos and collections story. I am also conscious to source new fabrics that I've not seen on other small children's clothing businesses. Along with sourcing fabric, Photoshoots take so much more time and energy. It is probably when I'm the most stressed- finding venues, after the endless late nights making all the samples, then organising models, worrying about models cancelling, and finally bringing it all together for the shoot. It is just exhausting and I normally always question why do I invest so much time into one aspect! But then when I see the images I'm always reassured it is right for my business. I am so lucky to of built an incredible relationship with our Photographer, Salsabil Morrison, and fully trust her for our collection shoots. Photoshoot days are stressful but I have so much fun working with other creatives to bring our vision to life. It is the best to see the clothing for the first time on the models. And even better when I see the images for the first time!! I really hope this pays off and you all love seeing the images when I launch new collections.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY? I am very excited to announce that I've been working on a very special collection!! Motherhood has been a huge part of my journey, and I am so grateful for the story behind the brand Little Dottie Designs. The next step for my small business, is an exciting launch of a new Womenswear capsule collection. I am just so excited to show you all more very soon! Some of you have probably seen a few sneak peaks through my Instagram feed already. It has been a dream to finally design and make - and even more so seeing it come to life in a very magical shoot at Settle in Norfolk with some beautiful families. Keep a look out for more information coming soon. I really hope you all love the pieces, without saying too much they are designed for womanhood and to match with your little loves. Eeekkkk! I have lots of other exciting plans for 2020 and despite COVID-19 surrounding us, I still very much plan to carry on working on these wonderful plans. This year excites me very much, and I cannot wait to bring my vision for Little Dottie Designs to life. When coming into 2020 I spent a lot of time reflecting on the highs and lows on 2019. This made me realise just how much I love working with / supporting others through collaborations and workshops. Along with this, it became present how hectic our lives are and that all I really wanted from 2020 was to slow down a little and enjoy the simple things such as being present with family. I'm trying to be more conscious when planning and making decisions this year - really doing things that I love by focusing on the ethos of the brand, bringing more meaning and stories to Little Dottie Designs too.
Thank you all for taking the time to get to know us a little bit better and my small business Little Dottie Designs. Sorry for rambling on so much! I hope that gives you a little insight to who we and what goes on behind the scenes. I am so passionate for my small business and absolutely love supporting you all. As things are a little difficult at the moment, a lot of plans have been postponed, I am trying to think positively and work differently with other ways to connect with my lovely customers. Soon I will be sharing a series of stories, from women and businesses who I have connected with, over on the website. I cannot wait to bring these to you all, I'm hoping that even one of you will be able to relate to a story and feel connected or inspired. Times like these when majority are at home and not seeing friends and family - I think it is important to still support one another and feel connected. Do keep a look out on my stories on Instagram too - I've been sharing makes and bakes we have been doing to keep ourselves busy and present whist staying at home. You may find these helpful to inspire you if you're wondering what to do. Have a wonderful week, Love Rebecca and Lilah Dottie x
For those of you wondering who captured the gorgeous images of Lilah and I, at Winterton in Norfolk. We managed to get out, the day before lockdown in the UK, with Mim Howell. We have been in conversation for forever about capturing some motherhood images to cherish. It has been so long since I've had any images of Lilah taken (other than myself taking them on my iPhone). So it was really special, and when Mmi suggested I get involved too- I couldn't resist wearing one gf my new dresses from the Womenswear range. If you are looking for a family photographer in Norfolk, then Mim is your lady! You can find all her details and beautiful portfolio at https://www.mimhowellphotography.com