Inspirational Woman: Cecilia Crossley | Founder of ‘from babies with love’

crossley 009Cecilia Crossley is married with two sons, aged 3 and 5 months. She studied economics at university and became a Chartered Accountant at KPMG. Whilst doing lots of pro-bono charity work at KPMG; she found it so enjoyable that she moved to the charity sector, to Voluntary Services Overseas. Whilst at VSO she obtained a diploma in Charity Finance and an MSc in International NGO Management. She moved from VSO and until May 2013 worked at the Gaia Foundation, an international development charity, as Head of Finance & Operations. However, throughout her career she has been interested in corporate social responsibility and social enterprise; so when she became a parent it inspired her to set up from babies with love.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

Life has changed a lot since my days as a Chartered Accountant in the City and then the charity sector, I’ve set up and am now running from babies with love – a business with a difference – a Social Enterprise.

My inspiration for setting up from babies with love came from becoming a mum.  My eldest son was born just before Christmas 2010; when the charity appeal adverts came on, with him in my arms, I felt a new level of emotion, and more determined than ever to do something.

Becoming a parent fuelled my belief that every baby should have a fair start in life, no matter where they are born.

I was out shopping for my son’s clothes when I thought to myself: if I could buy beautiful baby clothes and know the profit helps children in need, why would I buy anywhere else? The answer is I wouldn’t! So I set up from babies with love, selling beautiful organic baby clothes for 0-2 year olds, including stylish baby grows, dresses, t-shirts and accessories. But instead of profits going to shareholders, 100% of our profit goes to orphaned and abandoned children.

What has been your biggest challenge?

When I was researching my business plan I read a few books about online marketing – I look back and find it ironic that I read books rather than online blogs! Online marketing was completely new to me, so I recruited an e-commerce expert on to my board and took some basic steps to take in to account best practice. Although this has been my biggest challenge, it’s been great to learn – and feel part of the 21st century – I hadn’t even used Facebook before from babies with love began!

What’s been your greatest achievement personally?

Establishing a business whose mission is to support vulnerable children has been incredibly rewarding. We’re already donating our profits to support ten babies and two nursery schools, across Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Our profit supports them to live, be loved and cared for, in dedicated children’s villages run by our partner charity SOS Children.

One of the babies we support is little Fabio, who lives in north-east Brazil. Despite all we know and love about Brazil there is great inequality and for many, life is extremely insecure and unsafe. Both Fabio’s parents died, but now that he’s with his SOS family he has a wonderful new start in life. He’ll grow up safely, loved by his SOS mother, brothers and sisters, and will go to school.

Even though Fabio and the other children are miles away and I’m unlikely to ever meet them, I think it’s so important to help. Of course its not actually us helping, its our customers!  A win-win situation: customers enjoy their gorgeous baby clothes and enjoy knowing they’re helping other babies.

We call it style with substance!

If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?

I’d be working in the charity sector – I spent 6 years in International Development and love the work. I was lucky enough to visit many projects and meet incredible people – who inspired me every day. In a finance role in the charity sector Social Enterprise would undoubtedly cross my path, there’s a lot of innovation happening and charities working with or starting up Social Enterprises.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I really admire Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop.  Her creation of a successful business that works to address human rights and environmental issues is an inspiration.  The Body Shop was one of the first companies to bring ethical shopping to the mainstream, having a huge impact on corporate social responsibility and social enterprise as we know it today. My favourite of her sayings is: “if you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito”. I hope from babies with love will one day have as much impact as The Body Shop!

What would be your advice to others looking to start-up a social enterprise?

It’s a wonderful time to set up a Social Enterprise, there’s a huge amount of support available and the sector is growing rapidly, creating a fantastic buzz. We’ve had access to incredible support to date, and I would recommend to anyone considering setting up a Social Enterprise to get involved with the following organisations early on to help you and your business to take a step forward:

  • Social Enterprise UK, the national umbrella body representing the sector –  Membership is great value, for information, events, communications support and connections; and
  • The ‘arc’ programme run by Business in the Community, of which HRH the Prince of Wales is President – we’ve received significant marketing support through arc; for example an advertising campaign on the London Underground. We also received PR support during Global Entrepreneurship Week, run by Youth Business International, which helps entrepreneurs from all walks of life to share and receive practical support and advice. Such initiatives truly help to increase our visibility and brand awareness, which as a new business is our biggest challenge.

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What does the future hold for you?

We’ve had a brilliant first year and I’ve learned a lot. The next phase is to grow the business, to sell more baby clothes and to help more orphaned and abandoned babies.  To achieve this we’re getting our message out to an even wider audience. Our aim is for from babies with love to help hundreds of babies have a new start life and for many thousands of people to enjoy giving and receiving beautiful organic baby clothes.

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