Mount Maunganui based maternity & nursing lingerie company, Hotmilk, has just celebrated their milestone 15th birthday.
Since 2005, a team of mothers (and a dad or two) have been designing internationally award-winning maternity and nursing lingerie that has empowered mothers around the world to feel sexy and proud of their body and what it has achieved. Starting small in New Zealand, Hotmilk is now successfully exporting into Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and the States. Hotmilk founder, Lisa Ebbing, is incredibly proud of their achievement to date, and has plans to develop and grow the business further internationally over the coming years.
To celebrate Hotmilk’s 15th birthday, a light has been shone on Hotmilk’s founder, wife, mother of three and leader of Hotmilk – Lisa Ebbing.
What was your background before you started Hotmilk?
I was one of those kids that left school at 17, uncertain about what I wanted to do. I worked in various jobs in a tourist town and eventually landed one as a photographer snapping pics of tourists. At 21, I travelled the world and using that previous experience, I set up a small business in Europe for three years. After, what I like to call, my mid ’20’s’ crisis, I went to work in the TV industry, mainly working in production for TV commercials. After meeting my husband Roly, we decided to move to Tauranga, New Zealand and start a family, with the hopes of, one day, starting our own business.
When did you start Hotmilk and why?
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was shocked to be faced with only an array of basic, old fashioned maternity lingerie. I was pregnant, but I wasn’t ancient! After a lifetime of wearing beautiful lingerie, I wasn’t prepared to give it up and it did nothing for my self confidence as my body shape changed. So, we decided to launch our own fashion conscious maternity lingerie company. It’s such a critical time in a woman’s life, we are so hard on ourselves, I’m so proud that we have been able to add joy to mother’s lives through the colours and styles of our lingerie.
What do you love about your job?
Every day is different in this industry and that’s so exciting! I work with the most wonderful team of people around me, coming to the office is a pleasure. I love the flexibility owning your own business gives you to ensure you don’t miss all the milestones with your kids too. The fact that our product benefits women from all walks of life is something I am so proud of. Motherhood can be tough, and we receive so much feedback telling us how we’ve changed people’s lives for the better, made them feel glamorous and sexy during a time they really didn’t expect to – it’s really rewarding.
Tell us about an average day, what would you do?
I wake at 6am and do a sneaky check of emails so that I can plan my day ahead. I race around cleaning up after the kids, making lunchboxes, walking the dogs and waking kids for school. Once they’re off, I’ll head into the office, sometimes feeling like I’ve already run a marathon! In the office, it’s pretty varied. Some days are super busy and we all help to pack orders out to customers, other days are busy with meetings. Essentially my role is to make sure everyone else has the information they need to do their roles. I check in with everyone, plan towards the future, spend time with our design team and balance whatever challenge is thrown at us that day! I try to work school hours so I’m home for the kids after school. More house tidying, a few more emails to check. I make dinner, always with a glass of wine. If I’m lucky, we’ll end the day in the spa! Sometimes the days are hectic and bed calls very early. I have made a determined effort to add back in exercise (although slightly sporadic), and lots of time with close friends as they get you through all the tough times.
How do you juggle motherhood and a successful career?
It isn’t always easy and I think acknowledging that really helps. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing both jobs pretty averagely, but actually, I think that’s how all mothers feel because we’re way too hard on ourselves. I work a lot which comes with guilt, but I balance that with ensuring I’m home after school to spend times with them and we don’t plan many trips away without our kids, we are always looking for the next mission for us all to go on together. So I think acknowledging that my kids don’t get a mum that stays at home more, but they get one that does some pretty cool adventures with them. Both types of mums rock!
What is your biggest challenge to date?
There have been so many… I had no training or advisors initially, so I really was learning on the job, and I advocate for all women going in to business to seek advisors out early on, but the most stressful was going into lockdown with Covid. I carried such a burden of worry for my team. The burden of worrying if we’d be able to get through it with all their jobs intact, they all have families and mortgages, so I lost a of sleep in those first weeks worrying about them and what we could do to get through. Thankfully, we were very fortunate and 100% of our team kept their jobs and all their hours which is something I’m so proud of.
What is your advice to women in a similar position?
Having a successful career in fashion means you have to be business savvy and the ability to multitask. Combine your interest with a business degree or up-skill in some way, or seek out to employ people that know more than you in the areas you are weaker. You have to keep current with fashion trends, understand what your competitors are doing, research continually and always look at making improvements in every aspect of your business. The one thing I wish I’d figured out earlier is to ask for help. Finding a mentor or advisor early. Yes, we’ve done well, but we had to learn by making mistakes, we could’ve cut through some of those issues earlier if we’d had an advisor, so go and find someone awesome to help bounce ideas off. They’re a paid role, if you don’t like them, find someone else.
What inspires you?
Knowing that we are helping so many new mothers regain their femininity and sensuality. Watching the team at work do their best to ensure mothers feel heard. We believe intensely in our product and the fact that we are empowering women across the world, reminding them that they are beautiful, confident and sexy! Mothers making it work in whatever way they can are super inspirational, it really can be a really challenging time and every mother deserves a pat on the back for all that we do, whether you work or not, it’s a lot to juggle.
Where do you see Hotmilk in ten years?
I want to reach out to even more mothers and spread our message further. I also want to see Hotmilk offering more and more to our mothers, both in the product but also in our expertise, being able to help and guide mothers through this moment in their lives is what I strive for.