The founder of nursery brand Mamas & Papas tells Marie Claire about her journey from a Huddersfield boutique to a global phenomenon
‘Who says mums can’t be stylish?’ says Luisa Scacchetti, who founded baby and nursery brand Mamas & Papas 30 years ago.
The 61-year-old mother of two struggled to find fashionable baby and nursery products when she was pregnant with her daughter Amanda and had to return to her native Italy to find what she wanted.
‘The colours were so drab over here,’ she says. ‘There was nothing in the way of choice. Needless to say, my pink, corduroy pushchair from Italy caused quite a stir. I couldn’t believe how many people stopped me to ask where it was from.
‘That’s when I realised other women were struggling to find fashionable and affordable baby products, too.’
After some gentle persuasion, Luisa and her husband and business partner David, launched Mamas & Papas in 1981, supplying pushchairs from Italy to independent stores all over England.
The pair, who met when they were 17, slowly built up their brand providing mothers and babies with the comfort, quality and style missing from the UK High Street. But Luisa says: ‘I never expected it to mushroom quite like it has. We changed the face of the nursery industry.
‘Since then, the pushchair became a fashion accessory – it’s an extension of who you are, just like a pair of shoes or a car.’
Moving into retail in 1998, Mama’s & Papa’s opened their flagship store on Regents Street in 2006, but Luisa’s proudest moment was when her daughters, Amanda and Olivia, joined the family brand.
‘Amanda was the reason I started the business,’ she says. ‘It’s in their blood.’ Mamas & Papas now has an annual turnover of £135.2million and 87 stores worldwide. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved, and even more excited about where we are going.’
Luisa’s top business tips
Spot an opportunity: It’s important to talk to the customer and provide them with what they want. I never thought I would be selling bedding and soft toys, but customers kept asking me: ‘Why not?’
Take your time: It’s easy to get creatively carried away. Make sure you have the financial means and adaptability to provide a high quality service before you think about growth. It took us almost 30 years to reach an international level.
Build great relationships: When we merged into a retail brand it was important to maintain our wholesale relationships, too. You’re only as good as your team so a strong support network is essential.