Inspired by her mum Julie, a true creative and a lover of natural fibres, Alice Brooking had the idea for Wool Mother Maternity while visiting her with her infant son. Finding herself in need of breast pads when he got sick and refused to breastfeed, she made use of Julie’s vast quantity of merino wool fabric and created her own. The felted circles did an amazing job of absorbing the excess milk and keeping her breasts dry and odour-free. Fast-forward a few years and this amazing mother-daughter team are now creating luxurious merino wool felted nursing pads for breastfeeding mothers all over New Zealand. Their products are made from 100% New Zealand Merino wool sourced from a local farm and they are committed to zero waste with their reusable packaging.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
It started when my son Thomas and I went and stayed down in the Hawkes Bay at my mother Julie’s house for a week. During that time, Thomas, then 1, picked up hand, foot and mouth disease and was refusing to breastfeed. This caused me to be caught out big time with no breast pads as I started leaking due to him not feeding. Mum is passionate about wool, felt and fibre art so there was an abundance of felt lying around. We had the idea to cut some merino wool felt circles and test them out as breast pads. Surprisingly, they worked very well and from then on, it’s all I used!
Mum educated me on all the other benefits merino wool offered (other than just being absorbent) and I was blown away, knowing that others could benefit from it in the same way I was!
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
In the beginning it was hard financially as we had no backing and we were both just trying to get by in our daily lives. I happened to come across a lovely lady, Lauren Camille De Loach, on Facebook, offering her graphic design and web services for free to help out small start-ups with no budget. I reached out and she loved our idea. She designed our logo and branding plus set up our website. We brain-stormed packaging ideas and I wanted to make everything as reusable as possible.
Mum is a great sewer so we decided on our reusable muslin drawstring bags which mum makes herself. It started out that Mum would send the merino felt, that she makes also, and bags up to me in Auckland, and I would then cut out the pads and dispatch.
Then over time, my direction changed and I ended up going back to my “normal” job as an interior plasterer once Thomas started kindy, which left no time for Wool Mother. A couple of years passed and now I am currently pregnant with our second child. Unable to be on the plastering tools I felt drawn to revisit and restart Wool Mother. Now, Mum handles all of the production of our pads and bags and the dispatch from her place in sunny Hawkes Bay, and I handle all of the online orders and marketing, which is a great system that works well for us.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I feel like it was having some time off and away from the business, so when we came back to it, we had gained more knowledge and understanding plus had a fresh outlook.
In terms of product breakthrough, I very clearly remember using regular cotton or bamboo reusable breast pads and noticing a weird smell that I couldn’t put my finger on… I then figured out it was the smell of old milk in the pads! I was put off using them as they would get damp and smelly and need changing regularly, etc. When I used the very first merino pads that we made all the way back at the start of our journey, I noticed that there was no smell! They didn’t get damp, heavy or smelly and this was an absolute game changer for me as the smell was an issue for me and put me off using other reusable breast pads.