Gemma Broekhuis gorgeous baby Milestones cards are a hit with mums and babies globally – sold in 40 countries in available in 23 languages! Here, the Dutch-born Mumpreneur of three young boys explains the inspiration behind the brand, what being a mum-led company’ means and the magical milestones she has experienced along the way.
What was that exact moment in time when you thought, ‘I’m going to create beautiful Milestone cards’?
Milestone started with me and my oldest son Mikkel when he was 3 months old. I can still remember the exact moment that he rolled over by himself. I was so amazed, so proud! Baby’s roll over all the time but when it’s your little one, and suddenly they can ‘do’ something that they couldn’t do before, it’s just amazing!
I wanted to remember the moment and realised I had approximately over 1000 pictures of him on my phone. How would I remember this exact moment when I had so many pictures? So I wrote a card, placed it next to him and took a picture. The card read: ‘Today I rolled over for the first time’, January 2011. It was In Dutch, my mother language.
Can you tell us about those early days conceptualising, creating and launching Milestones?
For the first set, I thought of many different ‘forms’. Calendars, gadgets that could turn and twist. And eventually decided on a set of cards. Keep it simple 😉
I made a list of the most important moments and ended up with 30 different cards. From 1-week-old to the first birthday and from first smile to the first steps.
I was working in advertising at the time and decided to start looking for an artist to do the illustrations. It took months to find the right artist – they had to be exactly right. I didn’t know precisely what I was looking for, but I knew I would know when I saw it! I found my artist in Australia! Beci Orpin is an amazing Australian artist and we communicated over Skype and email. She created the first set that has been sold in over 40 countries in 23 languages. It all started very small but the cards really gave parents something they had been craving: a way to turn a picture into a memory.
Why do you think parents globally love the Milestone cards?
Photos have changed in value. We all grew up with beautiful photo albums and there was a limited amount of pictures, which made them special and memorable. Now there is an overload. The cards help you connect the moment to the memory and make the image valuable again. Today, we have a broader range of cards, albums and we work with different designers and artists from all over the world. And all our products have one thing in common: they help you create better memories.
What was it like launching a new business with a newborn?
Mikkel is our oldest son, he is 9 now. Then we have Frey, 6 and Rover, 5. All boys. Big fun! It was extremely busy. The business was growing and so was our family. I remember coming home from the hospital with Frey, he was born that morning, so not even 1 day old. I was laying in bed with him next to me, opened my laptop and started processing a few orders that had come in during the hours I was giving birth to him.
Crazy if you think about it! But I have always enjoyed the combination of having a family and my business. Even though it has been challenging, I mostly focus on what it has brought me. Which is so much! The personal growth, the people I have met and worked with. For a long time I was constantly focussed on what I could be doing or should be doing for Milestone. Nowadays I also try to focus on what Milestone has done or could do for me. It brings a lot of positive energy to approach your business that way.
What did life look like before you launched Milestones?
Before launching Milestone, I worked in advertising for about 10 years – first at TBWA and Ogilvy. Then I had my own agency for around five years, working for clients such as Martini, ING Bank and MTV. Combining creativity and business is something I really enjoy.
What are some of the highs and challenges of running your own business?
Having my own brand and products is very fulfilling and also extremely challenging. I have had to find my way from extreme growth but also – because we started a whole new category – seeing other brands and creators come in and making ‘my’ product as well.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but at times it has been hard to see some companies just copying our product, illustrations and all. Which is why I always look and try to promote the ‘original’ brands that took a risk and created something that wasn’t out there yet.
You say you are a ‘Mum led company’. Can you explain?
All the products I make come from my own ‘need’ for having it myself as a mother. And we always focus collaborations that come from a creative drive to make nice, quality items for parents. Time just flies by, especially when you have young children. I love seeing mine grow, but also get a bit sad when I think how small they were and how those moments have flown by.
Creating our products helps me deal with that I guess, ha ha! Oh, and we’re based in one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, The Netherland, so come and say hi if you ever get to visit our city!