CHARLIE CONDEAU © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYCharlie Condou is a successful British Actor, Columnist and LGBTQ+ Rights Activist - not forgetting his most important role – a doting dad of two, to Georgia, 12, and Hal, 9. For as long as Charlie can remember, he always had...
BROOKE VINCENT AND HER SON MEXX. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
“…you completely forget about yourself and anything else that might be important to you!”
Doting mum of two, Brooke Vincent is best known for her role in one of the UK’s most loved TV programmes, Coronation Street, but in 2018 Brooke boldly ventured into the world of business launching her company Oh So B. After starting the business in her bedroom, whilst juggling her acting career, Brooke’s fabulous stationery brand has gone from strength to strength, and Oh So B has now become one of the go-to brands for practical and stylish planners for busy professionals. We sat down with Brooke to chat about what inspired her to step into the daunting world of business and how different she finds running a business now that she is a mum of two gorgeous boys under two – Mexx and Monroe. It was both inspiring and refreshing to hear Brooke talk with honesty about the daily juggle, how she – like so many of us – sets unrealistic expectations for herself and how she deals with the dreaded mum guilt, when those hectic weeks creep in…
What inspired you to start Oh So B?
“Well, while I was doing Dancing on Ice, I was also doing radio – which I had to be up at five for, then I would finish that and go to do my ice-skating rehearsals, then I would go to Coronation Street, then I would go and do dance and then I would go home. And it was literally the craziest time of my life and when it stopped, I like what now? I remember being sat at home and I was like right, ‘we need to move house, we need to get a dog, I think we should have a baby.’ I felt like something was missing – I was missing the chaos. And it was during that time that I decided to start doing planners.”
BROOKE VINCENT AND HER SON MEXX. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Why planners? Was that something you were passionate about?
“Well, I’ve always loved planners, dairies and any kind of stationery really, and I remember this one year I had spent about £200 on this planner from America. But they would only ship to the US and my friend Sacha was over there filming at the time, and I said to her, ‘I’m going to get this planner delivered to your house and you bring it home when you come back. Please don’t open it, don’t write in in it, don’t write your birthday in it or anything – because I won’t find that funny!’ (We laugh – as a stationery geek myself I totally get this!) When I did get it, it was like a lightbulb, I knew that wanted to create a planner of my own. And that’s how it came about. I always like to push myself and better myself and Oh So B has allowed me to do just that.”
And you didn’t have kids at this point, so how has it changed running the business prior to having kids as opposed to after having children?
“No, gosh, I didn’t have the boys then!” she laughs. “I have a lady, who is also a family friend Amanda who helps me manage the business now, and I’m very lucky as she’s great, she’s so knowledgeable and I feel like she knows all the things that I might not. I decided to bring Amanda on because I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning as I had no experience in business – I’ve gained a huge respect for anyone running a business – and as it’s grown, I’ve managed to build a mini team. I also pulled in a lot of favours at the start, like you do. The major difference now is, well I don’t even think this is just when you’re running your own business; I think any working mum – or dad – feels this way, but when you’re trying to give your children attention, whilst also trying to give your attention to something else that needs your attention, is the hardest thing in the world! Especially when you’ve got more than one!”
How do you fit in running your business now that you have two babies so close together?
“Well, Mexx, didn’t go to nursery until he was 18 months old because of covid, whereas Monroe, started when he was six months old, and as much I found it hard because I felt like he was so young, they don’t go full time and they love it and there’s only so much you can do for them at home. And it’s nice for you to know that you are dropping them off and they are safe, happy, and occupied. So I try and be as productive as possible in the days that they are at nursery so the rest of the time I can just concentrate on them.”
I know a lot of mums, myself included, feel guilty when they are working that they aren’t with their children, and anxious when they are with the kids that they aren’t doing the work that they need to do. Is that something that you can relate to?
“Oh yes, absolutely! It’s a constant battle within yourself! I think one thing I’ve really struggled with since becoming a mum is that you never stop feeling guilty over something! So even if it’s not over your kids or work, it might be over the time you spend with your partner, or your friends; whatever the situation maybe. I know they call it ‘work life balance’ but to me it’s the ‘mum life balance’ as I think you just get so wrapped up in the babies and what they need, that you completely forget about yourself and anything else that might be important to you. I also feel that if you do something to make your life easier, i.e., send the children to nursery, get a cleaner, etc for some reason you feel guilty. Because you question your own capabilities like, ‘Why can’t I run a business, look after the kids, run the house, look the best, feel my best, give the kids everything – why can’t I do that? I’m really hard on myself like that.”
Do you think that is something we all do, that we set high expectations for ourselves and worry that others are judging us when really, it’s us that are judging ourselves?
Yes, I think it’s really hard for a woman to have a career and be a mum without feeling that. I think it’s one of those things that a lot of judgement comes from within us.
Do you think social media plays a part in putting too much pressure on ourselves?
“Yes, because you look at certain people and the homes are immaculate; they look immaculate and the kids look immaculate, and you just think why I can’t be like that. But at the same time, it baffles me because really, we all know that they won’t be like that all the time but scrolling through lots of pictures like that just makes you feel like you’re underachieving somehow. Like for me when I saw people in jeans not long after giving birth, I was like how they are back in their jeans – because I couldn’t fit in mine. And I don’t know whether I felt the pressure more because I’m a ‘younger’ mum or what it was, but I definitely felt a lot of pressure to ‘bounce back’.
I think a lot of new parents – I know I felt it myself – feel like they lose their identity a little bit. Have you felt like that at all?
“When I was pregnant, we’d had a normal summer, I had Mexx in the winter and then it was lockdown, so I think everyone struggle a bit then and he was nine months old, we said shall we have another baby – as we wanted them to be close together and luckily, I got pregnant again really quickly. Everything with the pregnancy went well and he was healthy – which is obviously something that plays on everyone’s minds when they are expecting a baby. And Monroe arrived and it’s only recently that I’ve been able to get back into my old clothes again, but essentially, they are three years old those clothes now and they’re not necessarily in fashion or I have already worn them lots already. Although I have quite a few key pieces in my wardrobe that I can mix, and match and wear again rather than you know wear it once and give it to charity. I feel like I have lost my identity in terms of how I look, at times, as I’d gotten so used to wearing baggy clothes. And now, that I want to look nice, I just don’t have the time to try lots of things on and put an outfit together. The amount of chaos it causes in our house if I try to put a full face of makeup on for example before I leave the house, well, it’s just not worth it, so I just don’t bother – then I’ll get to Nanna’s, and she’ll tell me how tired I look!” she laughs. “Obviously, you do feel different, and it is tiring, but being a mum is also one of the best things in the world!”
What do you have planned in your business over the next few years?
“Well, I feel like a lot of the ideas I had the start that I’ve still not managed to action with as yet, as I started the business in the June and by the January, I found out I was pregnant and then we’ve had all the various lockdowns and obviously I went on to get pregnant with Monroe, etc, so I still don’t feel like I’ve been able to run with it fully the way I wanted too. And as I much as I still have lots of ideas and goals for the business, I feel like it’s ok not to push it as fast as I would have done if I didn’t have the kids, because I can cope with the pressures as it stands now, but because the boys are so young, I don’t really want to push it even more just yet as it will just become too overwhelming, and I want to enjoy the boys being babies too.”
Do you have any advice or tips for fellow working parents?
“If there are any tips out there you need to tell me because my life is just like a circus!” We all laugh and chat about life within our own circus’. “I think even though it’s something I struggle with myself, I feel like I’m constantly learning, but you should expect too much from yourself and you need to remind yourself just what good job you’re doing. That’s why I’ve included reminders in my planners that ‘you are doing your best’, as I think it’s so important for us remember that.”
“…you completely forget about yourself and anything else that might be important to you.”
Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD
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