Alana Bayley and Jaz Pulbrook had more in common than babies when they came together to form Banabae, creators of beautiful earth-friendly and baby-friendly swaddles, clothing, homewares and keepsakes. They also had a passion, and it turns out a few ‘personality opposites’, that balanced those business scales perfectly.
Here, Banabae founder Alana shares their story…
Alana, can you tell us about how you and Jaz came together to become ‘ Banabae ’?
Jaz and I worked together in the fashion industry in Sydney. Jaz was my very first customer when I launched the brand and she was also just about to take maternity leave. Jaz hassuch great values and is the most cheery and energetic person you will ever meet. I immediately thought,‘we should do this together!’
We are both creative and super hard workers, but our approach is yin and yang. I am overly cautious and a bit of a perfectionist, which is great for creating tight branding, but not so great for keeping things moving! Jaz is a real go-getter–happy to take risks and roll with the punches. She is also super-talented and experienced at managing production! We pretty much agree on everything, but feel comfortable enough to disagree and talk through issues we don’t see eye to eye on, which I think is key to our partnership
What was the inspiration behind launching Banabae ?
I fell into the trap that many mothers do when they first go on maternity leave-you have a lot of time to think when you are at home all day feeding a baby around the clock! My mind went straight to brainstorming business ideas. I had received so many swaddles as gifts at my baby shower-I used all of them but didn’t really love any of the prints.The fabrics on some of them felt a little too rough for my little ones sensitive skin. So I decided to put my textile design skills and passion for sustainable products to use and began to design some swaddles.
How are the swaddles designed for a baby’s sensitive skin?
A baby’s skin is much more delicate and permeable than an adults, allowing more substances to seep through. For this reason we use bamboo, hemp and GOTs certified organic cotton on all our nursery wares.
None of these fibres involve the use of pesticides in their farming.Both hemp and bamboo are hypoallergenic and thermo-regulating. Like cotton, they are breathable, durable and soft.
All of our designs are printed with toxic and metal-free dye.
You must have done an enormous amount of research into the supply chain - dyes, fabrics, workers... is that correct ?
Yes absolutely.It took a while to get the brand off the ground because we were so determined to make sure the product was up to our environmental and ethical standards. But we would rather grow slowly and get it right.It’s not acceptable to be ignorant anymore about the impacts of the fashion and textiles industry on our environment, farmers and factory workers. Every product we make needs to be necessary or a beautiful keepsake.
When considering your environmental foot print you really need to look at it from every aspect of the business, from supply through to logistics. So not only do we make sure our product is sustainable, we also try to analyse and challenge the norm in the way we package and ship. We have eliminated single use plastics wherever possible and use compostable postage satchels and cardboard in its place
Tell us about the ‘style’...
All things vintage! I want the designs to feel warm, and nostalgic.They have a positive and costal inspired vibe.We always try to include unisex pieces in the range as well. Kids have enough pressure on them to conform to gender roles as they grow. We just want the products to embrace the playfulness of childhood–colourful, comfortable and fun!
Is it this vintage vibe that appeals to parents?
Parents love the designs because they spark a bit of positivity and nostalgia for their own childhoods. They also love the handle of our beautiful sustainable fabrics as much as the little ones.
What makes Banabae products different?
he fact that we combine earth friendly fibres with bold and colourful designs!
On a practical level, why do parents love Banabae?
Both our swaddles and cot sheets will last forever! The hemp fibres we use on our cot sheets are soft, durable and perfect for the Australian climate.
The swaddles are not only insanely soft, they also end up with quite a long life span. Many kids continue to use them as their sookie blankets long after they have grown out of swaddling. Mums also use them as sarongs, scarves and beach throws.
What have you discovered about your customers on this journey?
We are blown away by how keen parents are to support small business in Australia–I think the fact that they are buying from real people that care, rather than a corporation, means they use their Banabae products with pride and always share their love of the products on social media.
For us it’s mostly FLEX over FLOW! Ha,ha!
The flexibility that comes with running your own business is great and so necessary when you have a family. It does mean you never switch off, but when you love what you do that’s not such a big issue. Jaz and I mostly work from home (texting and emailing each other all day and night).
We meet up once or twice a week to review our marketing plans, product samples and make sure everyone is on track for the weeks ahead.
What advice would you give other mums launching a business?
Be prepared to work hard! Make sure you have a unique selling point-a niche, or fill a gap in the market. If you have that, combined with passion and tenacity, you will get there!
A business coach is also a great idea if you can afford one–otherwise listen to as many business podcasts as you can