Interviews

Cecilia Crossley on mumpreneurs, impact culture and building a business made to last

7 min read

20 May 2019

Features Editor, Real Business

From Babies With Love donates all profits to its stakeholders, who are orphaned and abandoned children. Founder, Cecilia Crossley talks being 100% for profit and purpose.

The enterprise landscape is a level playing field. When it comes to striking for success, it’s up to the strength of an individual’s talent and vision, – or is it?

From Babies With Love’s Cecilia Crossley knows the entrepreneurial path is rockier than people care to admit, and especially if you’re a business owner with childcare obligations, (she’s attended major financial meetings with buggies and babies in tow).

The infant clothing entrepreneur and mother talks taking her profit-with-purpose business to new heights by making the very people she’s helping, (impoverished and orphaned children), the stakeholders of her business. A moral move? Yes. But is it commercially viable?

Can you really balance profit and purpose?

from-babies-with-love

Cecilia Crossley has found the sweet spot between charity and commerce with her brand. Source: From Babies with Love

Real Business (RB): How do you implement your pro-impact culture across the supply chain and manufacturing stages?

Cecilia Crossley (CC): We want to make high-quality products that last, are handed down, and minimise waste. We think about these factors when designing products, packaging and selecting our suppliers. It creates more work but we sleep at night knowing that sourcing responsibly is the right thing to do.

RB: If 100% of your profits go to abandoned and orphaned children, how do you make your business commercially sustainable?

CC: The profits do go to our shareholders, it’s just that our shareholders are orphaned and abandoned children, and they don’t know that they’re shareholders. In our legal structure, the children are not technically shareholders, of course, our parent company is limited by guarantee, so we only have members.

But in how we make decisions, and who we’re accountable to, the children are the owners of From Babies with Love.

Our owners are not our investors; they don’t have any capital. Plus we don’t use retained profits to grow – because we give all the profit to the children – a 100% dividend if you like.

RB: Are you exploring other financing options?

CC: We’re currently exploring a revenue participation investment model, where our investor gets a financial return straight from top-line revenue, plus a social return measured by the number of children their investment supports.

RB: Social purpose is a key part of your company mission. How far does your impact go?

cecilia-crossley-founder-from-babies-with-love

Crossley’s solid social mission earned her a social impact award nomination at the 2019 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards. Source: Business Matters

CC: So far, we’ve donated over £100,000 to support over 4,000 children. When we launched our first collection in 2016 our profit was £10,000. Today, it’s now 5 times that and is continuing to grow. Profit is our output measure that drives our most important growth metric, the number of children we support.

Engaging consumer emotion through products and a social purpose

RB: What came first, the idea for making infant products, or wanting the profits to go to social causes?

CC: When I first had the idea for From Babies with Love, I had become a parent. I was in a children’s shop, and I picked up a baby garment and thought, what if I could buy this and at the same time help a vulnerable child? That idea spoke to the powerful emotions of parenthood and make me feel that I’d done something really positive. Just in buying the product I was going to buy anyway. I assumed this was already possible, went home to find it online, discovered it didn’t exist, and so From Babies with Love was born.

Do gender labels still follow female entrepreneurs?from-babies-with-love

Cecilia Crossley says motherhood helped her identify the space for selling quality products that helped society too. Source: From Babies with Love

RB: How do you feel about the term ‘mumpreneur’, is it an empowering or a patronising term?

CC: Patronising; male parent entrepreneurs aren’t by and larger dadpreneurs, are they? I prefer the term Social Entrepreneur, meaning someone who establishes a business with the aim of solving a social problem or effecting social change.

RB: Have you ever felt pigeonholed by your status as a mother in business?

CC: I once took a pushchair into a meeting with a huge financial services company. It was the only way I could make the logistics work and actually, it was an ice-breaker and no-one cared.

It showed my determination and desire to be at the meeting – which are good things to convey when winning new business.

Sometimes you just have to do what needs to be done, and laugh! I didn’t have proper maternity leave when my second son was born, that was tough. We were working on our strategy, developing our brand and our first collection, there was so much to do but I just had to slow it down.

I try to be strict knowing that when I say yes to one thing I’m saying no to another. I find it hard because there are lots of wonderful opportunities and ways we could grow, but being sharply focussed is the only way to hit a balance between work and family that’s right for me.