It was the birth of Ashley Artusa-Barrell’s son that kickstarted her family’s sustainability journey. She wanted to do everything possible for him and the generations that follow, to leave them a sustainable, healthy and beautiful environment in which to thrive. On our journey to motherhood, we are bombarded with messages encouraging us to buy throwaway products and things that we don’t really need. My Child’s Planet has created wonderful ‘Mama on a Mission boxes’ that are packed with only tried-and-tested essentials that will make the early days of motherhood more comfortable for you and your little one, while helping you to be kinder to the planet. Their boxes are carefully curated and filled with the perfect, essential items for your hospital bag and beyond. Here Ashley talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind her business, how she balances work and family time, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
From a young age I was passionate about the planet. Aged 10, I wrote to the then Prime Minister John Major about the Shetland oil spill with my ‘recommendations’. The reply is on our website and reading it as an adult, it does make you chuckle.
It wasn’t however, until I had my son that I truly started my sustainability journey. As a family, we reduced our use of single-use plastic, we bought everything we could preloved, we became a ‘clothbum family’ and I completed the CISL’s Sustainability for Business Leadership course.
Soon we were preparing for our daughter’s birth and as I packed my hospital bag, it struck me that it was right here where my sustainability journey had begun – my hospital bag! First time around, I had made it as planet-friendly as possible, but there had been lots of sustainable swaps that I had missed. It’s pretty overwhelming entering into motherhood, and trying to do it whilst being kinder to the planet is quite the challenge. It is difficult to understand what products you actually need, and which will live up to their performance and eco-credentials. In fact, what I really needed back then was a ready-made box of trusted and quality sustainable products. So, I decided, it was time for my third ‘baby’ and my ‘Mama on a Mission box’, the sustainable birth box was born. My mission: to help make it easier for other families to get started on their sustainability journey.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Having worked in the corporate world for almost 20 years (yikes!), I have been fortunate to have a wonderful network of super smart and very talented women who showed amazing camaraderie by letting me bend their ears on more than a few things! From our designer through to our incredible business and financial advisers through to Instagram influencers, it was fantastic to experience the female entrepreneur community at work. In fact, when we launched our ‘Mama on a Mission boxes’, I was over the moon to have people and fellow ‘Mamas on a Mission’ – Kate from MyPlasticFree home, Laura Bingham and Sally Gibin from BetheFuturePlanet -share our story and help get the message out there.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
The biggest breakthrough has to be when I started testing the idea to see if people might be interested in our ‘Mama on a Mission boxes’. I ran various questionnaires, hosted numerous focus groups with mums-to-be and mums with toddlers, and I also spoke to practising midwives. I put our very first ‘Mama on a Mission boxes’ in front of them to explore. The response was the same – “We love it!”, “What a great idea!”, “Why on earth hasn’t someone done this before?!”. It was such an exhilarating time, realising that what I had spent months creating and something that I was so passionate about was now energising others in the same way.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
I am not going to lie, striking a balance is tough. In fact, I don’t think it’s realistic or healthy to forever be trying to get our lives in perfect equilibrium. I think it’s about doing the best we can in the time that we have. Working smarter some might say? I have to-do lists for everything but some days (especially those sleep-deprived days), things can easily get out of sync. This is when I ‘bunker down’. I ask myself 1) What absolutely needs to be done today? What can wait? 2) What does everyone in my family need right now? What do I need? If we’re all a bit frazzled and grumpy, then it’s time to keep things simple.
As parents, we have a huge amount of stress and pressure on us whatever the age our children might be. We need to remember to be kind to ourselves and not run ourselves into the ground.