Amber Guegan is a mom to son Axel (22 months) and daughter Pia (six months) partnered with her bestie Carole Moreau (a mother of two girls, one now six and the other 21 months) to launch the fun family clothing and accessories brand, MissTees. Here, Amber shares her business start, and tips and insights.
Q. Where were you born and what was family life like for you as a child?
I was born on the west coast of France. I have amazing memories of my family in the early days until my parents divorced. Fortunately, things have improved and we all support each other. My mum still lives on the west coast of France, my dad is in Paris, and my sister lives in New Zealand with her husband and with two lovely kids. I met my husband in France. He is a seaman and as his ship is based in Cape Town, I moved to South Africa so we could have a family together.
Q. Who was your biggest influencer or role model and how did they shape your vision for your life?
One of the biggest influencers in my life was my nanny. She worked for us when I was only three months old until I was six years. She integrated me into her farmer family and taught me to be positive and to work hard, but to keep it simple with the smile. I keep this in mind every day.
Q. Did you study? If so, what and how did it prepare you for your life today?
It was really important to my dad that I studied even though I didn’t like school, so I completed an MBA. I’m not sure that studying is more important than doing internships (I have done a lot of these), but my dad was right about one thing: studies give you a good foundation to pursue your dreams.
Q. Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I was new to South Africa and as my husband is seaman, he is away often. I decided to work for different clients for more flexibility and opportunities. After a few months, I met Carole and we decided to create the clothing range MissTees.
Q. Was MissTees your first entrepreneurial venture?
My best friend and business partner, Carole, has always been an entrepreneur, but this was my first time.
Q. Why did you decide to step into the clothing industry?
Carole and I had never worked in the clothing industry and had to learn everything. We struggled to find different, comfortable clothes to wear after our pregnancy so we thought we’d create a family brand with just a simple white T-shirt with a cool design to represent us. The mumpreneur T-shirt was first launched at the beginning of 2019, followed by the launch of our kiddies’ range nine months later – an embroidery collection designed for little humans to be as stylish as their mamas. We’ve also created a range of handmade jewellery accessories in collaboration with the ethical, local brand, Soul Design Jewellery.
Q. What has your journey been like as a business owner?
Like any new business, there were ups and downs. From the excitement of the creation to understanding the market and balancing this with our private lives, we could only draw on our personal motherhood experiences. For me, communicating ideas in a different language was also a challenge. Once the website and all the creative had been launched, we were so excited for the first sales – and, of course, we worry on those days with no sales.
Q. Are you financially savvy? Did you know how to manage the books or did you have to learn this?
We had to learn this from scratch too and, truth be told, it’s not our favourite task!
Q. Do you have a business mentor? If you were to mentor a new business owner, what advice would you give them based on your experiences?
Once a month we meet other mumpreneurs with brands on the baby market and we share what we’re all going through. We help and support each other. My advice is to trust your idea but to also listen to what others say. Go on a business platform and don’t hesitate to contact businesses in the same market for input.
Q. How would describe your approach to leadership in the workplace?
Think positively and proactively!
Q. What is next on your vision board?
Carole and I are launching a breastfeeding Tee soon! We are super excited about this project, which allows new breastfeeding moms to leave the hospital in a cool, simple outfit (jeans, a tee and sneakers).
Q. What are your thoughts about women empowerment and the opportunities out there?
Women always have to fight for opportunities in the business world. I believe that we work differently to men (not better, just different). We are much more supportive and I love the idea that we lift each other.
Q. What have been your biggest business learnings?
The production part is definitely the area where I’ve learnt the most. From the idea to the real product, you need to know exactly what you want to have a quality product. And sometimes you have even to fight to really have what you want and not what the easiest for the product supplier.
Q. What is the one thing you wished you knew sooner?
Carole would answer that she would prefer to have known that I was pregnant with my second baby only two months after beginning MissTees! For me, I think I would like to knew that every little step takes time and that I need to be more patient.
Q. Advice for other mompreneurs?
Trust yourself and your intuition. It always works, as a mom and as an entrepreneur! Don’t ask too many people for their opinions as this can just confuse you more. Trust yourself first. Also, plan a budget so you know how much money you are comfortable spending on your project.
Q. What are other plans for 2020?
We have BIG plans and will keep you posted. For now, I just can tell you that it also has to do with motherhood and is something simple, easy and stylish for new mums.
Q. What sets your products apart?
Definitely quality! We spent a lot of time sourcing a supplier and cotton that fits with our values. Our Tees are 100% local, handmade and ethical. Besides, we hope that we’ll be able to offer organic cotton very soon.
Being a mom
Q. Tell us a little bit about your family.
My son looks like his father but he’s got my personality. He’s sociable and smiles a lot. He adapts easily to new situations like going to kindergarten. Pia is more reserved. She observes her brother a lot. As young as they are, they have formed a strong bond.
Q. How does your husband support your career?
My husband works on ships away from home for weeks at a time, so I have become the captain of the family. He understands that I’m fighting to find balance as a working mother. He always supports me but is happy when I return from business trips.
Q. Can you share a few of your craziest moments as a mom and businesswoman and how you came out the other end?
Like every businesswoman and mom, I run around a lot in “supermom” mode. But I do have those days when I run late and keep my poor nanny waiting or I’m late to the airport because she has been delayed. And there are those days when my boobs are like orbs because I couldn’t get home to breastfeed on time.
Q. How do you resolve conflict at home?
I get really upset when I’m at my wits’ end and can lose my cool. When this happens, I put my babies in their bed and step out onto the balcony for a few minutes to regain my composure. I’m a firm believer in doing what you promise – if you’ve said you will do it, then do it. My husband knows that I won’t rest until things get done.
Q. What do you like most about being a mom?
The tribe. I love having my tribe! We share things and experiences, and having a family means a lot to me. If they read this interview one day, I want them to know how much I love them!
Images supplied. Shop online at MissTees.