In honour of International Women’s Day this week, we’re showcasing just some of our favourite mummies. 35-year-old self-made entrepreneur, founder, and director of an online fashion boutique, Kara Bensley-Austin, muses about how she’s adapting to life with a 14-month-old son in tow.
INTERVIEW LOW LAI CHOW
Running a business and taking care of the family is, as Kara describes it, “insane”. Especially when a baby is involved, and a typical day involves trying to cram in as many work email replies and household chores even before he wakes up.
“Trying to run a business and having a baby is no walk in the park,” says the savvy fashion entrepreneur and new mum. “Now, I have to take into account whether I can find help to babysit Jack when I am away for meetings.”
“My life has changed dramatically... Life as you knew it is definitely over, but it’s all part and parcel with becoming a parent as you are now responsible for another human life, so basically everything you now do in your life, you have to apply a completely different set of decision-making mechanisms.”
While the struggle is real, Kara stays on top of life with
her organisational skills while prioritising what’s important.
Still, she admits, “it’s hard”.
Not that she has any trouble taking along her child with her to work, though. Such are the benefits of calling your own shots: “Sometimes, I conduct the meetings in my showroom so that I can have Jack with me. Also, my dog Tiga gets to join in for the meetings. It’s all about flexibility and I’ve been very thankful that I have very understanding partners.”
Luckily, babies do sleep after all — and when baby Jack is fed and tired out from swimming about in an inflatable pool at home, the snooze that usually follows allow her to catch up with friends on social media and unwind with a little bit of magazine-reading.
“Having a child can put an enormous strain on a relationship and marriage,” she observes and adds that good old communication between couples is what counts at the end of the day. “My hubby and I attempt more frequent communication. I truly believe communication is key.”
Her parenting approach is “respect, discipline,
nurture, fun, and above all, LOVE.”
“The love is immeasurable. You can’t understand it until it happens to you. It has exceeded all expectations. Motherhood challenges you from angles you never knew existed which gives you an inner strength and power, which you never thought you had.”
The Birth of WYLD
Circa six years ago, life could not have been more different. The Australian had relocated to Singapore with her then-boyfriend (and now husband) Jon for a change, and soon carved out a niche for herself in the fledging local fashion e-commerce scene when she discovered a gap in the local market for unique high street fashion.
The result was WYLD Shop, an online fashion boutique that brings over 11 Australia high street labels such as Le Spec, Vamastyle, and Mink Pink, to the Singapore market.
“Back in Australia, I was working in fashion retail and brand distribution, so merchandising and the understanding of body shapes along with what style of clothing would best accentuate different figures comes naturally to me… The key challenge I encountered when I started The WYLD Shop was learning how to do marketing on the job. One thing I’ve learnt as an entrepreneur is to not be afraid to ask questions. People are more willing to help than you realise.”
“The e-commerce scene six years ago was probably a lot less sophisticated than what it is now,” she said. “Most of the online e-commerce businesses are international retailers like Shopbop, Revolve Clothing, and ASOS. The local market was pretty much in its infancy stage, where people were starting to sell through blog shops.”
Facing the Competition
Today, the e-retail landscape is much more competitive that requires Kara to stay agile and ahead of the times. She notes that some blog shops have even taken to producing their own labels, while a number of brick and mortar fashion businesses are also looking towards e-commerce to buoy their sales. “Customers have a lot more options available; businesses have to strike harder to create distinctions through value, branding, or content engagement.”
From focusing on brand distribution in the past, Kara says her fashion-forward customers are now central to her work. Her mission? Empower women to live life freely and celebrate their uniqueness (“Singaporeans can tend to play it more safe”). This manifests in cosy, personalised community events such as private trunk shows — think potlucks with champagne — that allow her to better understand and cater to their needs and demands.
Asked if she might just take Singapore fashion labels back to Australia, Kara’s response is: why not?
“Australians are strong supporters of local brands and I’d love to channel that spirit in Singapore as well, where we also support local brands,” she observes. “I’d love to replicate the idea in Australia — introducing innovative, interesting and creative fashion ideas to different markets is imperative to the fashion industry.”