WHAT WOULD SUZIE DO?
Yah my Friday Features are finally back after a longer break than expected with such a huge influx of work that I've needed to complete. I met Suzie from @Stuffelbags at @beyondtheschoolrun Book Launch and her calm, friendly warming exterior shone through when I turned up on my own and I had the realisation that many knew each other already.
When I find myself in that type of situation I go two ways, a sinking feeling of those dreadful networking meetings or Bridget Jones scene 'Introduce people with thoughtful details' But through these Instagram squares a few friendly faces shone through and Suzie and I got talking.
Boy I thought I was busy but Suzie is SUPER BLOODY HUMAN, and no she hasn't been hit by some Marvel Infinity stone giving her super powers, she hasn't been to Hogwarts and possess some Harry Potter wizardry but through sheer guts, determination and a relentless work ethic Suzie manages four children and everything that goes with family life, she had an idea and passion and set up @stuffelbags with her sister and she juggles marketing consultancy contracts. WTF if you could bottle it we'd all be millionaires.
Stuffel bags are truly amazing. With two children, lots of Lego and my daughters plastic tat I now have a solution for keeping my house as tidy as can. I don't go into mini meltdown every time I step on a piece of Lego lying around or threaten to throw the breeding shopkins et al in the bin. I just spread the bag wide, chuck everything in, drawstring them and they hang on the back of their bedroom door. My little one even builds Lego constructions sitting in the larger version. It's a revelation and Bloody Bliss!! Check out Suzie's story.
Tell me, a little bit about yourself…
I live with my husband and four kids in Buckinghamshire. We moved out of London when our eldest was little, but we like being close enough to commute or dip in for the day.
My background is marketing and since having kids I’ve worked on a consultancy basis. But my fifth baby is Stuffel, which I set up a few years ago with my little sister, Nicci. Starting and running a business alongside the family and my work has been quite relentless – there are always too many balls in the air - but now that it’s off the ground I can’t remember life before Stuffel.
Life has been crazily busy for years, so I am constantly on the lookout for time-saving ideas. Stuffel bags spread wide, like a play mat, so that toys can be rummaged through, then pull up swiftly into a drawstring bag. Finding a solution to the thousands of tiny Lego blocks that littered our floors every night was life-changing. To stop my rabble tipping boxes straight out onto the carpet has genuinely saved me hours!
We never would have started Stuffel if we hadn’t loved our product so much. Between us we have eight kids, and the lure of less tidying-up just seemed to good to not take it to market. We spent weeks playing around with designs, fabrics and colours – a great creative outlet and chance for us to make sure the bags were of the highest quality; we must have dismissed a hundred different cords before we found the one we were happy with (it is nautical-grade and made to order). Once we had found a factory (up in Leek, in Staffordshire) that could help us make some proper samples, the whole thing ran away with us. Within a couple of months my spare room had turned into a warehouse and distribution centre, and we now post Stuffel's out across the world every day.
What's your usual week / day look like?
The mornings are a blur of finding book bags and bike helmets and trying to get everyone out of the door on time, but once I’ve dropped the kids off I try to do some form of exercise (a quick run or cycle) before knuckling down to a couple of hours of work – checking in with suppliers, settling invoices, posting orders, updating the website or accounts. I love the flexibility of Stuffel – if I want to be at an assembly, or someone’s off school with a cold, then Stuffel can wait.
I spend at least a day a week at the office of my marketing clients – and then the other hours in the day (too few! too short!) I am either racing around with the kids or just managing household stuff – the piles of shopping, laundry & admin seem to be growing as fast as the children!
What inspires you?
Where to start? Great writing, beautiful art, a clever TV series, bold and brave people speaking out for others.
What did you want to be growing up?
Erm.. (blushes) actually, a marine biologist (I still do…)
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Schmultzy as it sounds, it is of course raising my kids. It’s been the toughest, happiest, most exhausting and rewarding adventure, and anything else I have done seems to pale into insignificance in comparison.
What’s next on your to do list?
I’m working on a new website for one of my clients. In the longer term I hope to gradually free up more time to extend the Stuffel product range.
When are you happiest?
I just love getting my kids and Dougie into the car, closing the doors and driving somewhere, just the 6 of us. It can be anywhere really – usually just a walk in the fresh air.
When was the last time you laughed out loud?
Whilst the mayhem and chores never cease, one of my favourite things about spending time with the kids is that I am forever belly laughing with them. Standing on the touchline of Rory’s under 6’s football team, for example, is absolutely hilarious. They fall over each other, accidentally head the ball and score own goals – it’s the best kind of slapstick and I always end up snorting my flask of coffee out of my nose. One way to warm up on a chilly pitch!
How as women, can we help to empower others?
I have been amazed by the wonderful, collaborative women I have met through Stuffel. At every event, pop-up, factory visit or trade show I find women discussing ideas, sharing contacts, suggesting fresh perspectives or new avenues to explore. To promote this collaborative spirit seems pretty key to me.
What’s your style?
Style? What style?!
Honestly, I’m a clothing chameleon: it’s grab-&-go jeans and gilets for the school run, smart trousers and heels for work, and little dresses for an evening out. And I just love lounging in some cotton pjs when the mornings are lazy …
I try to keep a vague edge, although not sure how successful my teenage daughter would say I am … ahem.
Watching ‘Modern Family’ with Dougie and the kids. Once everyone is ready for bed we’ll snuggle down and watch an episode or two. It’s great to find something that we can all enjoy, whether we’re six, 13 or 42!
‘What Would Dolly Do?’
I find Dolly Parton pretty inspiring, both as a feminist icon and a musician
Can’t live without…
Air. Food. Sleep.
…Oh, and a Stuffel!