When I first discovered Molly Gunn and her website Selfish Mother I could easily relate to all elements of her brand and her gorgeous personality. On a trip to the UK, I managed to squeeze in a trip to Bruton to meet Molly and attend one of her amazing Facebook Live workshops, I could tell we would get on well, so when I spotted she was on a mini-break to Ibiza I asked her for an interview to which she kindly agreed to over a yoga class and breakfast at Amante.
Hi Molly. Welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum or dad should have to do everything themselves, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that! We love that you launched Selfish Mother, made loads of money for charity, and inspired mothers across the world to set up their own businesses too.
Can you tell me what your reason was the starting Selfish Mother?
The idea came about when I had Rafferty about 2011. I was a freelance journalist and I didn’t have any maternity pay, so I was on maternity leave but I didn’t have any maternity pay. So basically I was still working while also raising my baby and I went to all these baby groups in Balham. Like you’re meant to do, you know, it felt like you were meant to do and I didn’t feel a kinship with any of them. I just felt like I was totally a fish out of water. I was basically working and looking after my tiny newborn, but all the women I met just seemed to want to talk about how they were feeding their babies and the stuff that I just couldn’t relate to because I was still working on a different level.
I found it really discombobulating and suddenly these words keep popping into my head. What about me? Why are we not talking about how each other are or about the other stuff, as well as baby stuff, like physically looking after ourselves. So that’s when the idea for Selfish Mother came into my head, literally, the words popped in there, but I didn’t launch it until I was having my second son Fox.
It took me a couple of years to really work out the format of what I wanted to do. I wanted to have a Blog where women could share what they’re really feeling about motherhood and life. It took me a couple of years to get the site developed and I put it into action basically when Fox was about three months old.
So I did it with him in the papoose and Rafferty in front of the iPads or in front of Cars Two which he just watched on repeat. So it’s very much like juggling, setting up the site creating the Selfish Mother blog that was just a platform for like-minded women.
Selfish Mother is an amazing platform for mum’s to share their challenges and the stories of their parenting failures. What do you think makes mums want to share so deeply?
It just makes you feel not alone when you know someone else is understanding what you’ve experienced or they’ve experienced the same thing as well because it can feel really lonely. If you’re at home thinking that you’re the only person who’s anxious and you can’t get your baby to sleep at night and you don’t know what the fuck you doing.
If you’re just internalizing that or just talking to whoever is closely around it can still be isolating, but once you put it out on the world wide web then, it’s amazing because so many people say “oh my goodness, I’m in exactly the same boat” and then you just feel like you’re okay, because you’re just kind of all in it together. I think there’s a massive power in sharing what’s going on in your life.
Using your background in fashion journalism. You created your own brand of t-shirt. They are a huge success. Can you share what it takes to go from having an idea to make it a reality?
I definitely believe in using your gut instinct so I don’t believe in overthinking but I do think that you’ve got to make sure that you’re clear about your idea. Believe in yourself as well because I think it’s very easy to doubt yourself, but I’d actually say don’t ask too many people about your idea because sometimes if you’ve got an idea and you tell someone, the worst thing is when you see the look on their face that they don’t believe in it and then you can doubt yourself and you just give up.
So many ideas I thought ‘oh, no, that’s rubbish because so-and-so thought that was a bit you know”. It’s like telling someone the Baby name that you have for your child, you know, you don’t ever do that!
I’d say if you really believe in the idea then don’t tell too many people about it because just you’ve got to just go for it just do it. And once it’s out there they’ll understand it.
So you went for it with your concept for a t-shirt how did that come about?
Well, basically my husband had a brand called Million Hands and he sold t-shirts that were collaborations with record labels. So he had that going on a while. I was a fashion journalist and I helped him out on that business. And so when I kept thinking I could create a t-shirt that said the word ‘Mother’ on, it for all the people that were reading and writing for my blog Selfish Mother and I didn’t know how I wanted to do it.
I wanted there to be some sort of charitable element and I was listening to the radio one day and it was about the hospital in Syria. Basically, the news was saying the hospital been bombed and all these women were sheltering there with their children and it just made me really sad thinking that all these women were just doing the same job that I was doing, but they were doing In a war zone and they would have just been thinking about how to feed their kids and where the next nappy was coming from and trying to amuse their kids and actually just made me feel really awful.
So basically I Googled and found Women International. I decided to make the Mother tee for them. So then I put that out on my blog. I had a hundred t-shirts made and they sold out straight away in 24 hours. So that is how it started.
Can you share a bit about how you select which charities you have worked with and how the money supports those families?
Initially, I started working with women for women International and that really took off. And it was really nice collaboration, we were supporting sisters in war-torn regions. Basically, what they do is they have a sponsorship program. So they support different women for a whole year and they teach them skills, like learning to write their name, learning to open a bank account, learning skills like farming or how to make baskets. The charity teaches them how to be more self-sufficient in very, very male-dominated societies, in about ten war-torn regions including Rwanda and Nigeria and Afghanistan.
So that was really successful and then another charity called Mothers to Mother’s got in touch and they said that through watching that collaboration come about they would really love us to support them as well. They help women they basically trying to eradicate pediatric AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa to help each other to spread the word actually if they have HIV and AIDS, they don’t necessarily have to pass it to their children. So if they are pregnant or have a baby, it doesn’t mean the baby’s actually going to get HIV, if they use the right drugs, they can even breastfeed their child and their child will be HIV negative. It’s amazing.
They have got all these mentor mothers, who mentor mothers in very very rural villages who are basically going and spreading the word to other women and just educating everyone. They’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives, through their program, the other thing they’re doing is they’re trying to educate the teenagers because then the cycle starts again and obviously it’s educating the men because the men are very dominating and they see young girls just to have sex with.
I wanted to support the refugees. So I approached the Refugee Council and it was about saying that we’re all HUMAN and every life matters and then we also supported help refugees UK through our LOVE design and then Save The Children got in touch and then for three years in a row, we’ve worked with Save The Children on their Christmas jumper campaign. We had Mo Farah, Kate Moss, David Gandy whose done it every year, Erin O’Connor, Karen Elson and Lauren Laverne. Yes, it’s been awesome.
Why do you think simple words on your slogan T-shirts, like Mother or Winging It. have had such an impact and have almost become cult statements?
With the Mother tee, I think it was that we were reclaiming motherhood and we’re saying we’re not like we don’t have to be perfect but not at home baking cupcakes. We can look quite cool and just be ourselves. And actually that’s a strong thing.
Lauren Laverne wrote a great piece saying that people have used Mum as a diss, you know like that you kind of expression used in negative ways sometimes in society as if it’s kind of like a namby-pamby thing and actually it’s an amazingly strong thing to raise in the future. So it’s something to be proud of so, I think that’s why Mother and then Winging it worked.
What advice can you give to small businesses wanting to do collaborations with bigger brands?
Mum business are no longer homemade jam sold on local schools. It’s becoming a bigger thing. There’s a revolution and big brands are seeing the opportunities of partnering with mums, like yourself.
I’d say just stay true to yourself and be authentic because brands will have their own raison d’etre, they will have their own mission and it sometimes won’t relate with yours, so you’ve got to be completely authentic and honest if you take your brand in a different direction through working with someone who jars with you, then it will show and that will be very negative.
On a very small scale, I’d say be careful getting into really big contracts with people and also conference calls just suck up your time. So it is a really big company and they are asking for conference calls all the time, say no. Like I had to say to John Lewis or Save The Children. Because you’re small and you’re looking after kids and they’ve got all the time and money and teams in the world, but you don’t necessarily.
I definitely say stay true and say honest because those are things that are most important to you as a brand.
Can you give advice on working on smaller partnerships too? Do you find it easy to make these relationships work for Selfish Mother? What’s your secret to having a smooth working relationship when you co-create the smaller company?
There are also opportunities to collaborate with other Independents as we did with those gorgeous Caroline Maxwell Prince and the floral prints.
Again I’d say be really honest, be upfront how it’s going to work. I don’t ever do contracts with people. I’ve never done a contract with a small brand, we’ve collaborated with a lot of people now, but I do make sure that from the beginning I’m very upfront about how the relationship is going to work in a monetary sense. But also what I need from them in with the terms of assets or anything else and also I just make it really fair. I always do stuff that makes sure the other person’s getting a good deal too, so it doesn’t feel like I’m skimping in any way and that everybody’s happy.
Natalie Massenet who started Net-a-Porter, who I do love, I think she’s awesome inspiration. She said you’ve always got to go into a meeting thinking about how it’s a win for both. So it’s always got to be a win-win situation because if you feel it’s not a win-win situation, then you’re kind of trying to pitch and trying to shoehorn people in something that doesn’t feel natural, so always make it a win-win basically.