no+mi London: Noemie Achache and Millen Wolde-Selassie
The curated gift sets for expecting and new mothers that has "women at the focus"
Tell us what your business does:
no+mi London offers beautiful gift sets for expecting and new mothers.
We believe that while most people are well-meaning, they may not necessarily know what gifts are ‘pregnancy friendly’.
Our curated, pre-made gift sets take out all of the work and simply make you look like the considered, design-savvy friend you are. For those that have a clearer idea of what they are looking for, we offer bespoke gift boxes to treat yourself or someone else.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We both worked in corporate environments for a long time before launching the business and of course had our fair share of ‘maternity leavers’, baby showers as well as nieces and godchildren.
Each time we were implicitly gifting the child when really the mothers were our friends and colleagues.
We really wanted to create a solution that would have the women at its focus.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We found it puzzling how we accept suboptimal solutions, such as dashing into the only available open department store for soulless vouchers, nondescript trays of cupcakes or sad bouquet of flowers, for such a key life event – when as a society we have evolved to becoming discerning about which hand soap to use and how to decorate our homes.
Seeing design and conscious consumption seep into all aspects of our lives, it was only a matter of time until our antenatal classes and maternity wards would feel the effect too.
What were you doing before starting up?
Noemie: I spent eight years in the fashion industry, from material purchasing and womenswear buying to e-commerce trading manager, and most recently I was marketplace manager for a London based start-up.
Millen: I spent the last nine years in capital markets, creating and selling fixed income derivative solutions to European corporates.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Noemie: It's always been in a corner of my mind to have my own business, but I didn't feel ready to start this journey until recently.
Millen: Funnily enough I come from a semi-entrepreneurial family and I initially ran as far away from it as possible. I think large organisations are fantastic especially in the beginning of a career. You gain technical knowledge and also just need to learn how to be professional. Is anyone born knowing how to write a good email?
Eventually, however, I definitely felt I would regret it if I never tested my true capacities and found out whether I could create a great company from scratch. I was actively thinking of creating a company for the last few years, and to my luck, Noemie was in a similar headspace.
How did you raise the money?
We are funding the business through our personal savings and by being scrappy. We bootstrap as much as possible and consider any spend carefully.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We operate on a fairly classic retail model and curate free of charge.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
We have found it surprising how much starting a company ultimately teaches you about yourself. A start-up gives you very little institutional cover, so any setback, criticism or struggle, feels very personal.
We are still learning but are much better at separating the business from our private selves. There is no room for ego in a start-up, you just need to do what’s best for the business.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Pre-launch we heard a lot of concern about our price point. We were told that consumers don’t value quality all that much but wanted low prices.
When our first customers then bought some of our largest boxes either as a gift to themselves or as a group gift to expecting mothers, we were relieved to see that our early consumers love our products and don't seem to be put off by our price point.
Ultimately you can debate opinions forever but getting actual data is fantastic.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Work on your network. Your network really cheers you on and has your best interest at heart. Also, everything takes much longer than expected. Even supposedly small tasks take a lot of effort, so be persistent and build resilience. You will need it!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
We want no+mi London to be an integral part of the maternity experience, synonymous with pregnancy for the woman we want to speak to and the go-to solution for anyone looking to treat expecting and new mothers with a considered gift.
Internally, we hope to have built a strong and diverse team out of our fantastic partnership and of course ensure business continuity.