Interview with Vee Skinner of Snugups

TheBabyWearer.com shares a virtual cup of tea with Vee Skinner. She tells us about selling Hug-a-Bubs in the UK through her website, www.snugups.com, and about her life with four kids and a husband.

Business Questions

Q. Please tell us a little about your business.
A. I make and sell cloth nappies, and also hire and sell Hug-a-Bub slings. I think that a happy baby = happy parents = happy baby, and I hope everything I sell helps towards creating a relaxed and happy family. I am a work at home mum, so everything is run from my home and around my family. The business is small at the moment and I have a small number of tried and trusted products. As my family grows up, I hope the business will also grow.

Q. How long have you been in business?
A. My online store has only been open since October 2003. Before that, I sold through local baby and toddler groups, and it was more of a hobby than a business!

Q. What inspired you to get started?
A. It was something that snowballed, really. I had organised a group buy for Hug-a-Bub slings prior to my youngest daughter's birth, and I was getting so many emails asking if I could organise some more that I thought it would be great to sell them.

Q. Why have you chosen to sell Hug-a-Bubs in particular?
A. I tried them out of curiosity. I never thought I'd get to grips with that great long length of fabric! When my daughter arrived, I literally could not put her down without her crying, and the Hug-a-Bub saved my sanity. It was the only sling I had that would allow me to carry a baby around all day without my back suffering, and because it is a true "hands-free" sling I was able to look after my other three children and get on with my life! I thought, "Everyone should have one of these!" I still use it now that she is two, and while I have other slings, it has always been the most comfortable for us both.

Q. What's your favorite Hug-a-Bub color combination?
A. Ooooh, that's a tough one! I have a denim one because it goes with everything, but I love the navy and raspberry one best!

Background Questions

Q. Where do you live?
A. I live in a town in Hertfordshire just outside London, UK.

Q. How common is babywearing in your part of the world? Do you find that your business is making any difference in the trend?
A. I see a lot of people with the Baby Bjorn type carriers, but not many people with other types of sling. It does seem to have become a lot more popular recently. I've certainly had quite a few local converts to the Hug-a-Bub, but I encourage people to try different slings - I know different people have different needs.

Q. Do you find that your customers need any help after purchasing one of your slings? If so, how do you help them?
A. Actually most people tell me they find it much easier to use than they thought they would, just like I did. All the slings come with a video, which pretty much answers all questions. The most common question I get asked is about sizes. Of course if anyone is having a problem, I am happy to help, and find that it is quite easy to sort things out over the telephone or via e-mail.

Q. With whom do you live and how are they related to you? Please describe them a little bit.
A. I live with my husband, Mark, to whom I've been married for seven years. He is wonderfully supportive - I think I don't deserve him sometimes! My oldest daughter, Genevieve, is nine years old and loves reading and horseriding. Megan is five and is into all things pink; Daniel is four and starts school in September; and Carrie is two in July, and she is the boss! She really is the most independent and confident child. Anyone who says baby wearing means your baby will be clingy or slower to do anything just needs to have Carrie for a day!

Q. Tell us a little about your own sling use.
A. My oldest two children were carried around in a Baby Bjorn, which was easy to use, but not that comfortable. I wouldn't recommend one now as there are too many better alternatives out there. When my son was born I used a ring sling, which I didn't get on that well with until he was able to sit - but it was great to carry my second daughter sitting on my hip while I cuddled him in my arms. I used the Hug-a-Bub and the ring sling with my youngest daughter. When she was little it was great going out for the day and being able to carry her around and feed her whenever she was hungry, and it meant that we didn't have to constantly stop to sit down all the time. It makes going out with three older children so much easier. I really want to get something to carry her on my back, but I haven't decided which one yet!

Q. Do you have any hobbies? If so, what?
A. I really enjoy sewing. I find it theraputic and really satisfying to finish a project. I also love horseriding. We have a pony. I used to be riding instructor and it's great spending time ouutdoors in the fresh air doing something physical!

Q. What did you do before you went into the baby business?
A. I was a horseriding instructor! It takes a lot of love, and the hours are long - perfect preparation for kids!

Q. How do you manage balancing personal and professional life?
A. It's a juggling act, and I seem to drop at least one ball from time to time. I try to do most of the "work" stuff in the evenings when the children have gone to bed. I am a mum first, but with the eldest three at nursery or school, I find most days it's just keeping a routine that helps.

Q. Choose any day of the week and describe it in as little or as much detail as you want.
A. I will describe today - Monday!
  • 7:00AM - Alarm goes off and Mark gets up. I roll over and groan!
  • 7:10 - Mark brings a cup of tea up to bed and brings Carrie up as well - she wakes me up! Then he goes back down and gives the other kids breakfast.
  • 7:15 - I get up and dressed, change Carrie, and bring her downstairs for breakfast. Between us all, the children get washed, dressed, and ready for school.
  • 7:45 - A last minute panic about sports kits, homework, and letters that need signing. The kids and I bundle into the car. Mark is left to have a shower and get to work in peace!
  • 8:00 - Arrive at a friend's house to pick up her two children.
  • 8:10 - Arrive at second friend's house, unload first friend's little boy and pick up another little girl and off to school.
  • 8:25 - Drop off the three older girls.
  • 8:30 - Drop off Megan.
  • 9.00 - We went to the park today. Sometimes we just sit in the car and read until nursery opens at 9:15, at which time I drop Daniel off.
  • 9:20 - If I have anything to post, this is a good time to do it.
  • 9:30 - Home! I have breakfast. Carrie helps! The rest of the morning is taken up with housework, going though emails, and playing with Carrie.
  • 12NOON - 1:00PM - Lunch. After lunch Carrie might go down for a sleep, in which case I will do some sewing, update the store, or sort through orders. Today I have a friend coming over, and while I am waiting for her I am doing this!
  • 3:00 - Pick up Dan from nursery.
  • 3:15 - Pick up Megan. We have a snack in the car and do colouring or reading until Genevieve and her friends come out of school at 4:00. Drop the other girls off and get home about 4:30 - 4:45.
  • 5:00 - Tea time
  • 6:00 - Bath time. Genny might have a shower or do her homework. We share stories and the three youngest are in bed at 7:00. I'm lucky - they have always been very good sleepers. I help Gennny with her homework, and then she plays on the PC, writes stories, or plays until 8:00 when she goes to bed.
    I get on with whatever I haven't done during the day. Normally there are some orders to sort out, or something to make.
  • 8:00 to 9:00 - Mark gets home between , we have a cup of tea, and eat around 10:00.
  • 11:00 - I catch up on e-mails, finish up what I can, or cut out stuff to make the next day.
  • 12MIDNIGHT - BED - phew!

Fun Questions

Q. What is the last good book you read, and why?
A. I've rattled through a few books lately, but I really enjoyed "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver. It is a deeply moving story, the characterization was fantastic. I really felt as though I was in the Congo. It's a great read.

Q. What is your favorite baby carrier, and why?
A. The Hug-a-Bub of course! I do like my HappyBaby ring sling though.

Q. The last good movie?
A. "The Return of the King". In fact I loved the whole "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - I was a fan of the books before the films were made.

Q. What's the most useless talent that you possess?
A. I can play a recorder though my nose! Not sure if it's a talent though!

Q. What are your three favorite websites?
A. Amazon. I have a book thing - particularly childrens books. We have mountains of them. The cbbc and cbeebies sites by the BBC are fun and educational. I suppose they are more for the children, but they keep me sane, too. TheBabyWearer.com, of course! All the help and info is great. It has a real community feel.

Q. If you could visit any place on the planet, where would it be?
A. Baghdad - not at the moment for obvious reasons, but I think there is so much history there. There are many places that I would love to visit, but I think this is the most unlikely that I will ever get to.

Q. What is one important thing you think we could all do to make the world a better place?
A. Have a true respect for other people's thoughts and beliefs. I think there is often so little respect, right from children respecting teachers (and vice versa) all the way up to world leaders, and everything in between.

Q. Is there anything else the babywearing world should know about you?
A. I can't think of anything. I'm always looking at more ways of improving, and feedback is really important to me - so if there is something you would like to see, let me know!


© Beth Manning, June 2004. All rights reserved.