Who says mothers’ groups are just about coffee, swapping baby teething tips and finding a sympathetic ear for your sleepless nights? Francesca Rathbone and Emily Taberner met at a baby group when their second children were tiny, and that chance encounter was destined to become a successful business partnership.
The pair recounts the story, a little shyly at first; how, after numerous musings, one family Sunday afternoon they got together and hatched a business idea while their children played. “We subsequently met every Tuesday and Thursday for about six months to brainstorm and develop our ideas,” says Francesca.
Fast-forward almost two years, and the business idea, born from a gap in the market for children’s rooms, has become Cuckoo Little Lifestyle Store, and a new career for these two women. From a personal perspective, both were at a point where they could start thinking about work again; and with home help available for their children, they had the freedom to contemplate such a venture, unlike in their native UK.
Emily arrived in Singapore with her husband and two small children four-and-a-half years ago. Although her background was in oil and gas insurance, she confesses to a latent passion for design. “The catalyst for me came as I was looking for a bunk bed for my son Max and found limited choice, in comparison with Europe,” she says. “I’m happy about the change of direction – this has been an opportunity to do something creative that I’m genuinely interested in.”
Francesca has been in Singapore for 11 years. “I moved with my now-husband and worked for L’Oréal in marketing before getting married. Then I started an art consultancy, as Singapore’s art market was growing to fever pitch.” She adds that the time for Cuckoo was right, too. “Families are increasingly considering children’s rooms as an integral part of the design of a home, rather than an afterthought.”
Just a year after opening, the enthusiastic pair is quietly thrilled at what they have achieved; they’re also brimming with plans – for new brands, for example, and for making more use of both their indoor and outdoor space. The green and leafy outlook, grassy area, swing and car park make the place easy to visit with children and perfect for their concept.
“We have a focus and style that you can’t find everywhere. You come here for something a little bit difference and special, and it’s a kid-friendly browsing space. We stock brands that both of us really like, and that we feel will make kids’ bedrooms that bit more magical and special,” says Emily.
Expansion in the wings
As well as stocking a range of beautiful global brands, they have gradually started their own Cuckoo Collection with a select few pieces, which they look forward to developing. An online e-boutique portal will launch before Christmas, opening up Cuckoo to the world.
And they’re excited about new brands on the way, many sourced from their first major buying trip, to the recent Maison et Objet trade fair for interior design in Paris, which they confess was work and a whole lot of fun, too. To this list of ideas for the future you can add longer opening hours and the launch of a styling advice service. “We plan to work on smaller styling projects, or partner with an interior designer for bigger assignments,” says Francesca.
Setting up shop
Was it easy to set up the business? “Definitely,” say Emily and Francesca in unison. “I’m a Permanent Resident, which helped,” adds Francesca. “Because of the government support, it was fast to set things up; it’s easy to employ people, and much less daunting than you would imagine.
“These projects can become a reality for women: having domestic help means we have the time and, importantly, we are able to set our own working hours.” They agree, though, that they’ve been through a huge learning curve. Emily concludes: “We would not have been able to do it without each other, and that’s made it a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile experience.”
What’s in store: Christmas gift ideas
• Children’s pushchairs by Minikane (France)
• Illuminated sculptures by Zoe Rumeau (Paris)
• Star lanterns from Numero 74 (France)
• Feather hairbands by Atsuyo and Akiko (New York)
• Star dominos by Kiko (Japan)
• Colouring books and stickers by Mon Petit Art (France)
• Indian headdress by Iwishiwasa (UK)
• Sparkly tutus by Mouche (Paris)
Things Francesca and Emily love (and we do, too!)
• Animal heads by Fiona Walker (UK)
• Teepees and canopies from Numero 74 (France)
• Mini-table and chairs by Sand (Hong Kong)
• Skateboard shelving units by Leçons de Choses (France)
• Sebra Kili convertible cot bed (Denmark)
• Bunk bed by Oliver Furniture Collection (Denmark)
• Floor rugs by Armadillo (Australia)
• Rattan love-chair, cotton nightwear and ponchos by Cuckoo Collection
Cuckoo Little Lifestyle Store is at Block 6B Dempsey Road.
9111 3598 | cuckoo.com.sg
This article first featured in the November 2015 issue of the magazine.
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