Mum of two, Vanessa Blake, created the award winning dreamgenii pregnancy pillow when she was pregnant with her first child in 2005.
“I was six months pregnant with my son and after weeks of tossing and turning I’d had enough. I tried every pregnancy pillow on the market and none of them actually worked – the V Pillow was the wrong shape and didn’t fit comfortably under my bump, the bolster pillow was too big and took up the whole bed and the wedge pillow was uncomfortable and pushed my bump into a really unnatural position. All of them woke me up in the night when I wanted to move as I had to roll over with them to reposition myself and they usually ended up strewn on the floor by morning!”
“I was also conscious of lying in the best position for my baby, so I did a bit of research and spoke to my midwife. She advised me that lying on my left hand side encouraged maximum blood flow from me to my baby. But lying on my left wasn’t really as natural position for me, so I needed a pillow that would encourage me to stay on my left during the night. I wanted something that supported my back, bump and knees – all the parts that were aching! I also wanted to be able to use my pillow post birth as a feeding support (as many of my friends had shared their tales of back strain after using traditional pillows with no back support).”
“I bought a sewing machine and made a prototype pillow, but it was pretty basic. I showed it to my midwife at my antenatal class and everyone raved about it! They suggested I should look into selling it to other women so I took it to a manufacturer and asked them to make up some proper samples. It seemed unbelievable that no one had thought of doing something like this before.”
The samples were shown to various midwives, healthcare organisations as well as many pregnant friends and volunteers. The pillow was universally welcomed as a huge help for pregnant women.
Now five years on, Vanessa balances being a mum to her two children, working at dreamgenii®, as well as being a director at the Charity fundraising company she used to manage. Her husband Stephen works full time on the dreamgenii® business, and they have been able to take on further members of staff as the business has grown.
“It was hard work in the beginning, trying to get a business up and running with a new baby. Most women in the nursery industry are mothers too, so everyone is incredibly understanding and flexible. I even took Lucas along to most of my business meetings with me at the start, and nobody minded. Trying to get something off the ground can be stressful, and I could never have done it without the support of my husband Stephen and all of our family. I firmly believe if you can get through those first few months it’s well worth the effort! It’s amazing to think that it’s almost five years since I first sat down at my sewing machine to make my pregnancy pillow. Our pillow is now sold in over 18 countries worldwide and has helped thousands of women enjoy a magical night’s sleep during pregnancy.”
What did you do before you designed the dreamgenii® pregnancy pillow and came to work on the business?
I spent many years working as a senior manager in a number of corporate companies, including working as a Managing Director of a Marketing Agency. I’m sure this general business background helped when it came to starting my own business.
Can you tell us about your typical day? How does running a business fit around family life?
Every day is different! Some days I am at home being a full time mum to my children Lucas, 4 and Daisy, 2, when my husband Stephen goes in to the office. Other days I drop the children off at school & nursery and then head into the office myself. I spend quite a bit of time talking to our manufacturers and distributors – we now distribute the dreamgenii® pregnancy pillow all over the world. I work on product design including developing new products such as our new breastfeeding pillow, and new fabric designs. Some days you can even find me helping to pack up orders for customers! We are a small team and all help out with whatever needs to get done.
Where would you like to see the business in another 5 years time? What plans have you got for the future?
We will help to deliver a magical night’s sleep to millions of pregnant women around the world. Our range of products will serve to make women’s pregnancies, births & children more comfortable. In particular we are working on a new product for the children’s sleep market which I am really excited about. After many sleepless nights with my daughter I thought I must be able to create something that worked to get us all a better night’s sleep!
What makes your business unique?
I launched a product that was born out of genuine human need – not by people sat in an office – and that really works to tackle a massive issue for pregnant women. All of the products I have designed are born out of my own personal experience and are unique, patent protected, and really work. We have worked really hard and created a successful business – but still remain a small, independent company and true to our family life roots. We focus on products that genuinely work to make parents’ and children’s lives more comfortable.
What do you think makes a successful working mum?
The ability to prioritise! And to remember that family always comes first. We never lose sight of why we set up the business in the first place and that everything we do is for our family. We try not to sacrifice family life for the business – but to make the business fit around our family. Even if it does mean some late nights working from home sometimes once the children are in bed! We also try and make sure we have fun. We are a small team and all enjoy working together.
What do you think are the hardest things about being a mum?
I guess the uncertainty. Everyone tries to help you with advice, and there’s so much information available on the internet. How do you decide what’s fact and what’s fiction? There are so many products to choose from nowadays. It’s difficult to work out as a first time mum what you really need and what you don’t.
What do you think are the best things about being a mum?
Having fabulous children! They can test you sometimes but there is nothing more rewarding than watching your children growing up.
To view the full range of products available please visit http://www.dreamgenii.com/