We recently interviewed Kate Casey – the founder of Simply Preloved Children’s Boutique, a UK-based sustainable solution to fast fashion and unnecessary waste when it comes to children’s clothing.
Since the business is in its infancy, we spoke with Kate about how she got started, choosing a website builder, and what it’s like to juggle many hats as the company grows.
“No day goes 100% to plan, and that’s OK.”
I’m the owner and founder of Simply Preloved Children’s Boutique. I source, quality check, and sell affordable, preloved baby and toddler clothing online to busy parents. My store is ideal for parents concerned about the impact of fashion on the environment and the cost of clothing small bodies.
I’m a mum of three – I gave birth to my youngest child early on in the pandemic. He had to be delivered early, was underweight, and initially had some feeding issues. I was on maternity leave from my full-time job and it quickly became clear that each child needed me to be around for different reasons. Coupled with difficulty finding affordable childcare places for the youngest two, I needed to reconsider my career.
I spent two years at home with them, adjusting to a new way of life, but I felt I could start something independently from home. Buying preloved items has always been important to me – born initially out of need when I was surviving as a single parent and now very much a passion.
“I knew I had an eye for sourcing inexpensive quality clothing, a wealth of knowledge about buying and caring for clothes, and the drive to help struggling families.”
I had the opportunity to participate in free online coaching to help identify my values and build a me-shaped business. I decided to take the plunge, built my website, and studied technical and content SEO.
A Passion Project
I’ve been concerned about the environment since I was a teenager. For me, sustainability is a very broad topic – it seeps into all aspects of our lives, not just recycling an empty plastic bottle and saving the planet. Being sustainable to me is as much being intentional and purposeful with items we consume in our everyday lives as committing to recycle, save energy/water, and think about our carbon footprint.
As a society, we should be mindful of not depleting resources for future generations and maintaining a balance. But it is also about what we as consumers buy and from where, the quantity of what we buy, reusing and repairing items, and repurposing. We must all work together to limit environmental damage; for me, something that everyone can do quickly and very easily is to reuse products that have already been produced and are in our homes. It’s better for the environment and it’s far cheaper for you!
Finding Brand Values
Alongside the environmental issues, I have a genuine heart for families struggling financially. It’s been a lived experience for me for many years, particularly since starting a family. I’ve been sharing many ideas for helping families on my website in my blog.
In the current economic climate, families are hit from all angles; especially those middle-income families with one income who aren’t eligible for financial support – this is an area where my experience and expertise can help and make a difference.
My main focus is on providing excellent customer service. From sourcing clothes, through the quality checking process, to storing them and then packaging each bundle carefully. I’m taking time to ensure that all items are cared for. I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t dress my children in.
The Preloved Process
I buy items locally from other mums or on online marketplaces. When I send out an order, I include a flyer offering to buy items back once finished. When purchasing online, I scrutinise photographs and check the description for flaws.
Once I receive items, I check them in direct sunlight, particularly around the neck for baby clothes under six months (for milk stains) and the cuffs of long-sleeved tops for babies and children over six months (for food stains). I also check seams for holes, the back and front for any excessive wear stains or holes – excess bobbling is also a no-go.
Anything that doesn’t pass my checks is bundled up and sold online elsewhere as playwear (suitable for nursery/preschool) or sent to charity; nothing ends up in landfill.
I’m toying with digging out my sewing machine and customising garments that may need repairing with patches. Still, I must wait for my youngest to be in school next year and off my hands!
As an older mum, I have been genuinely interested in discovering how older generations have overcome my parenting struggles. I have talked with my mother about what she and my maternal grandmother did differently and implemented changes to how I parent. I had huge anxiety about the volume of baby essentials I felt I “needed” as a first-time mum, until my own mum pointed out that my grandmother had three babies under three during the Second World War – and didn’t “need” any of it!
That helped to shift my perspective and when I went on to have baby number two and three, I always asked myself, “Did Grandma Fred need it?” The answer 95% of the time, of course, was no! Of course, it’s a personal choice and many things that are invaluable for new parents have been invented – I purposefully didn’t buy too many gadgets that I would dispose of again in a few short months. My new mindset helped reduce the overwhelm as a new mum by having a clutter-free house.
Juggling the Workload
My main challenge has been one of time. I’m the default parent at home – I’ve had to juggle looking after the children and running the home with setting up a business which has been difficult at times. My youngest two aren’t of school age yet, so I’ve had to channel time working on my website and social media during the few hours they’re at preschool each week.
Between updating and maintaining a website, sourcing stock, creating social media content, blogging and fulfilling orders, many things need my attention each week. It is vital to prioritise tasks and complete the most time-specific tasks first – it can be easy to waste time on the fun stuff that doesn’t win me any clients. I’m realistic and allow myself margin during the day; two of my three children are of preschool age. No day goes 100% to plan, and that’s OK.
Since becoming a mum, I have had to change my view of what success looks like and lower my expectations of myself. I try to not spend too long thinking about the text and design for social media posts; it is better to post regularly, concentrating on connecting with people and building a following rather than wondering if something could look better.
Do some market research first and identify your ideal client, not just who you think they are. I’ve also joined a local networking group for women in business, which has been a great source of ideas and encouragement. It is also important to connect with people who understand what you do – running a small business can be tough, and it gets lonely.
Don’t be concerned about making mistakes or what others think about you. I would also suggest not thinking too much about something before doing it, as you can talk yourself out of it! Not everything needs to be perfect when starting – sometimes completed is good enough.
I hope to do some local pop-up stalls at various events this year. I am also in the process of building a lucky dip web page – where customers can pay £10 and receive a customised box of four or five items personalised for them based on colour/style preference.
I often have people comment that my youngest two are wearing cute items and they’re often wearing preloved items that I’ve put together from different brands. Several parents have told me that this is something they “can’t” do, whereas I love it – so I’m excited to offer this soon!
I am also working on a “build yourself a bundle” page where customers can access a discount for buying multiple items.
I built my website because I want to be online and not have a physical store. Wix was recommended to me by a friend and also had good reviews – I briefly looked at other platforms but didn’t feel that they offered the same functionality and support that Wix does.
The best thing about Wix has to be its overall ease of use. I’m no IT expert at all, but whenever I struggled to do something, there has been an online help article that has helped and the chat feature is good too.
With features, the best thing for me has to be calculating postage costs automatically. As I upload stock, I weigh each item – Wix then calculates the correct postage payable for the customer during checkout.
There have been minor things I’ve had to tweak, particularly between the desktop and mobile site but Wix makes that quite easy. From looking at the website, there are plenty of things available to me that I have not implemented yet but could do as and when I grow.