Talking business with Olli Ella founders Chloe and Olivia Brookman

The co-founders of lifestyle brand Olli Ella talk family life and the secrets behind their growing business

What first inspired you to set up Olli Ella?
Olivia: We were running an art gallery in Islington and wanted a creative project of our own. Also around that time, Chloe was pregnant with her first child and was looking for a simple, comfortable but good-looking nursing chair, so we designed one ourselves and found a local craftsman to build it. We enjoyed the process so much that we took a prototype to a local trade show a few months later and were picked up by Harrods, which really catapulted the concept into a brand.

Have you always wanted to work together?
Olivia: As young girls we would hold a weekly shopping event in our bedrooms, merchandising and pricing our toys and enticing our other siblings with special offers! We knew it wasn’t a question of if we would work together, it was a matter of when.

With Chloe now in Australia, how does the business work?
Chloe: We speak multiple times a day – there is no such thing as ‘business hours’ really. We each oversee our respective markets, but both have a great deal of involvement in every aspect.

Are your children an inspiration for the brand?
Chloe: Between us Olivia and I have five children; I have three little ones [Tennyson, eight, Arlo, five, and Nell, two], and Olivia has two [Nika, four, and Jules, 18 months]. They inform everything we do. For example, our ‘Luggy’ basket was designed because Nika – who was two at the time – insisted on taking her possessions everywhere, so we created a lightweight, hard-wearing and aesthetically pleasing basket that she could carry around herself. We’re big believers in empowering children, so we always consider how they will interact with our products. We want them to be as kid-friendly as possible, while still looking great.

Olli Ella

Describe a typical day for you.
Chloe: To be honest, it changes a lot depending on the week, the kids, and what’s going on with Olli Ella on that particular day; because we work between three offices – LA, London and Byron Bay – hours tend to vary so we can speak throughout the day. A typical day might start at around 5.30am, with coffee and emails before the kids wake up and before the UK office closes. Then, once the kids are awake at 7am, we have breakfast before the school drop-off. I go to the office in the morning, spend early afternoon with Nell before her nap, returning to work until the kids finish school. A couple of days a week I have meetings with Olivia and our GM, otherwise we pack up the kids and go to the beach until dinner time.

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to start a business?
Olivia: Be passionate about the business you want to start – you need that passion to carry you through the difficult times!

What are your plans for 2018?
Olivia: We have a number of new products launching, which our kids have been testing out and, if their response is anything to go by, we think they’ll be a hit! As a company, we are focusing on managing our growth organically, making sure to fit as much sister time as possible in between.

Want more? We meet the founder of BabyBjörn, Björn Jakobson