Diana Bardega, founder of The Mamahood

A mother of two children, Bardega founded The Mamahood after a career in charity and social enterprise. A platform for creative businesses founded and run by mothers, The Mamahood provides support, community, networking and a portal (both with pop-ups and online) for their wares to be bought.  Here Bardega, who lives in South East London, shares her thoughts on starting a business as a mother, wild swimming and how to keep motivated.

What inspired you to set up The Mamahood?

The Mamahood was an idea inspired by my own experience. When I returned to work after maternity leave, I – like so many other women – found that ‘work’ just didn’t work anymore. It was a juggle of logistics, astronomical childcare, and inflexible employers which meant becoming a stay at home mum became my only option.

Desperate to contribute I found myself building a business in nap times and late into the night. I became as passionate about building it as I was about building my family! And as I started on my own entrepreneurial journey, I uncovered so many gorgeous break through businesses run by fellow mothers – like Cotton Twist (below) and The Happy Self Journal. Incredible side projects, and brilliant entrepreneurial women spotting and filling gaps in the market!

 I felt so inspired by their creative journeys and wanted to support them. And I thought more people should know about them too. And so The Mamahood was born!

How do you find the businesses run by mothers that feature on The Mamahood?

That’s such a good question! In all honesty its only very recently we have started to be proactive. The first 100 brands we signed up were all word of mouth, we did no advertising or promotion. And because the curation was really important to me we also said no to so many brands that applied-  which was very hard, both financially and professionally. 

Discovering new brands that are a good fit with The Mamahood is a mix of art and science and a lot of gut instinct. I spend a lot of time searching for brands that fit now. I rely a lot on my amazing team to make recommendations, they are all brilliant at spotting and discovering great brands. We want anyone who visits The Mamahood online or in one of our shops, to know they will always find a great edit, with the hard work done for them. 

What has been the aspect of setting up the business and running it, that has surprised you the most?

Setting up a business in the early days is great fun. It’s exciting and energy-giving to build and create something from nothing – developing a site, coming up with a brand name, designing or choosing products is fun.  The challenges really come when you are established and that new excitement fades. It can feel like you are plateauing and I know lots of business owners find that tricky. Keeping your motivation all comes down to remembering why you started! Everything comes back to that. 

If you were talking to a new mother about setting up a business now, what advice would you give?

Go For It! If you have the seed of an idea…perhaps a long held creative dream…you must follow it. Having children is not always a career curse. It’s an opportunity for redefinition, and a space to change direction, rediscover yourself and create a new future. 

Which top 3 Instagram accounts do you follow?

@_foodstories_ for food and recipe wonder.  

@presentandcorrect for creative inspiration and joy. Always.

@littlespree for fashion (below) – Sarah is brilliant. 

Where do you live and why?

I live in SE London. I moved here in my 20’s and never left! It’s a creative, green pocket of London. Its gritty in places but to me its inspiring and full of diversity and possibility. 

Which local restaurants/bars/cafes do you like?

We haven’t been visiting many cafes or restaurants of late! But SE London is filled with the best independent stores. I have a taste of holiday from the Sardinian café Pintadera right on my doorstep (the best custard filled croissants and homemade tiramisu), local family run pizza chain Four Hundred Rabbits is another. And for coffee always Volcano café – and I buy their compostable pods which make me feel much less guilty about my coffee obsession. Oh and not a café – but you can’t visit SE London and not go to Forest. My favourite destination for house plants. 

Do you have a female mentor or businesswoman that you admire?

I don’t have a mentor but of course I am inspired by the many incredible women who have led the way building incredible businesses around their children.  But day to day inspiration comes from The Mamahood community itself. All around me are incredible entrepreneurial women. They work whilst home-schooing, through naptimes and late into the night. Pushing on to build something creative and unique, and doing this often alongside a ‘real’ job and the biggest job of them all – motherhood. I see nothing but passion, drive and gutsy spirit. Honestly if that is not inspiring I don’t know what is! 

Running a business from home can be hard, particularly with home schooling too.  Any tips? 

Ha! Sorry. No definitely no tips here. I’m afraid I’d like to tell you we are baking bread and I’m teaching my children Mandarin but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are muddling through and doing our best. What more can we ask of ourselves during a global pandemic? 

How do you relax and have down time?

Cycling with my daughter Gracie, Nature – I’m becoming mildly obsessed with plants and flowers.  And I love nothing more than a bit of freezing cold – make you feel truly alive – wild swimming. I’ll l take a lido (Tooting Bec below), river or sea. Whatever I can get!

Why is The Mamahood so important, particularly in this Covid-19 era? 

Now more than ever independent mum-run businesses are important! Did you know the contribution to the UK economy from businesses owned by women with children under 18 is set to hit £9.25billion by 2025? And as all around us the economy falters, and jobs are lost, I believe that these agile small businesses, set up at kitchen tables, are the very businesses that will help to rebuild the economy, drive creativity and help us to a better future. 

Diana Bardega of The Mamahood
— Francesca
17th June 2020