Mary Hampton, Mum of three adult children and two young grandsons (Jacob 10, Harry, six), founded Merino Mana in 2008. Mary, when asked about her role, says "I have many roles with no specific title, generally I do the ordering of fabrics, sewing and packing of customer orders, keeping up with new colour ranges, liaising with the pattern maker and photographer."
Why did you set up your business?
I did not wake up one morning and decide to have a merino baby blanket business. It came about when my husband of 38 years left the marriage. I didn't know how I was going to survive for the rest of my life. As I said earlier, it was Easter time and my daughter rang from Australia and said, "Mum, your passion is sewing, if you follow your passion then income should follow. Start selling your beautiful products. By the way, organic cotton is very vogue at the moment - why don't you make some organic cotton baby sheets as well as your merino range?"
From that moment on I became very busy sourcing organic cotton and meeting some very helpful people already in the merino wool business and importing the organic cotton.
OHbaby!: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mary: I would have liked to have been a farmer as my parents were farmers.
OHbaby!: Do you ever feel "mummy guilt" about spending time working instead of with your children?
Mary: The only 'mummy guilt' I get is from not working hard enough or fast enough as I feel I should be doing more to keep my adult children who are involved in the business happy. I deal with it by checking constantly with my daughters if I am on the right track - reassurance is very valuable.
OHbaby!: What is the smartest thing you have done with your business?
Mary: The smartest thing I have done in the business is to remain the sewing lady and let one daughter in particular manage the e-commerce side of the business. Her partner is an enormous help too, as he used the Merino Mana business plan as part of his MBA, and happened to achieve 100% for that particular subject (e-commerce).
OHbaby!: What do you do to get "me-time"?
Mary: I don't actually need any me time. I love sewing. When I have had enough of hats or blankets I spend some time making quilts. Then I think I should not be wasting time on quilts and get back to merino wool garments. I have two new puppies, poodle/bichon frize cross, who use up far too much of my sewing time and will sleep beside me in the sewing room.
OHbaby!: What is your favourite thing about the business now?
Mary: Looking at all the gorgeous colours available to make things with. It's very exciting when the orders come in and I love packing them and sending them off looking as pretty as I can make them.
OHbaby!: What is the most surprising thing you've found in running your own business?
Mary: The most surprising thing I have found is meeting all your suppliers who are doing a similar thing to yourself. I love hearing their stories about how they got started. It has also been encouraging how they send me in the right direction when I need a particular person to do a particular job. Probably the really most surprising thing is how patient and hard-working my daughter in Australia is. Without her not much would have happened on my own.
OHbaby!: What is your philosophy to child-rearing?
Mary: Have lots of fun with them.