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Citizen Enfants

How They Do It: Lydia Barron and Anna Tizard, Founders Of Tiba +Marl

Each month we speak to inspirational mothers about work-life balance, their favourite travel destinations, travelling with children, and how they really do it all in our How She Does It column. In this edition, we sit down with Lydia Barron and Anna Tizard, Founders of Tiba + Marl.

At Citizen Enfants we love nothing more than seeing women working together to achieve great things, so it was a pleasure to chat to Lydia and Anna. The pair founded Tiba + Marl 10 years ago and have been offering stylish, sustainable accessories to parents ever since. Here, the friends tell us how they built their successful business, create a positive working environment for other mothers, and balance it all while raising four kids between them. 

Tell us more about you?

Lydia: I live in London with my husband, 13 year-old daughter and nine year-old son. Prior to setting up Tiba + Marl I was a footwear and accessories designer for various high street and high-end, UK and international brands.

Anna: I have two boys aged nine and 11 years-old. I live with my husband James (who is also the creative lead at Tiba + Marl) in Ealing, West London. Prior to Tiba + Marl I was a senior bag buyer at Topshop, and before that I worked as an accessories buyer at Urban Outfitters. Lydia and I started T+M almost 10 years ago – both with babies, having met years ago at our first jobs in Miss Selfridges’ head office.

What’s your working life like?

Lydia: Running a small business is a 24/7 job and pretty all-consuming. We will be 10 years old this year and are still trying to get better at not working late into the evenings and weekends. We’re both involved in all aspects of our business, but our main passion and drive is the creative and design.

Anna: We have a studio in White City, West London that we tend to work in three or four days a week, alongside various members of our team. Lydia and I send each other messages day and night, and are always working – but we try to compartmentalise our days in the office with different team members. So, one day it could be strategy planning with our manager, another day it could be us with James working on the website content, and then another day could be more the logistical or customer service side of the business. Most days are different, and we never ever manage to get to the bottom of our to-do lists, so we end up working a lot in the evenings and weekends – but are trying really hard to limit that and rein it in a bit.

What inspires you in your career?

Lydia: Art and culture is a big inspiration to me. I like to draw creative influence from paintings, sculpture, film etc, and love going to all kinds of exhibitions with my family. I also love walking around London and absorbing the street scenes, fashion and culture – there is always something to see and do.

Anna: I loved the early days of my career: in my early twenties working in buying, and going on travel and inspiration trips around the world. I had some really amazing, inspirational female bosses (hello Hen and Vikki) who I really admired. They taught me so much about retail, fashion and lifestyle. Female role models have definitely inspired my career, and given me the drive and determination to create our brand. I still love fashion and trend: once you work at Topshop you can never stop sniffing out a new trend. I love when we launch a new product and our customers love it – that buzz of a best-seller, that’s what keeps me loving Tiba + Marl.

Which three items help you juggle everything?

Lydia: Sleep: but I am terrible at getting enough as I am a complete night owl. Cooking and pottering in the kitchen: I find this a massively helpful way to decompress, for me it is my mindfulness. My husband: he was made redundant post-pandemic and has retrained so that he can work more flexible hours. It’s been a massive help having him around more as we’re able to share childcare more evenly.

Anna: Exercise: I don’t always feel like doing it, but always feel better afterwards, and it gives me a little bit of headspace. Otherwise I find that I think about Tiba + Marl 24/7. Weekends: wine, exercise, a lie-in (hopefully), Sunday lunch, and then ideally a bit of time to chill with the Sunday Times before the madness of the working week/school/after school clubs starts again. Friends: I’m lucky that my kids’ friends have such nice parents and that we help each other out.

If you could give your past self one piece of advice about being a working mother what would it be?

Lydia: To not give myself such a hard time about not being ‘present’ enough or about working too hard. Recently, we were talking at a Mothers Meeting event and someone said something that really stuck with me: that it is important to remember that you are also giving your kids a great example (especially my daughter) of how to create a brand, run a business for yourself, and be your own boss.

Anna: I remember a time at Topshop – when I was so stressed and worried that they would think I’d lost it as a new mum – that I was really tough on myself, and worked so hard despite my baby being under a year old. I let it really get to me mentally. Looking back I wish I had been more relaxed. I wish I’d had more confidence in myself as a new mum, and cared slightly less about work at that point of my life. And I wish I’d taken the whole year off and returned with a slightly different headspace, one where I valued myself and my career experience, rather than worrying what people thought.

Have your career goals and aspirations altered since becoming a working mum?

Lydia: Absolutely. Pre-children I was set on working my way up the designer career ladder for a brand in the conventional way, I couldn’t imagine a time when my world wouldn’t revolve around fashion, trends, shows, travel etc. I’ve found having kids a great reality check, and a way to slow down and take stock of life.

Anna: One hundred per cent. That’s why both Lydia and I wanted to launch the brand – so we could balance work around our families. Little did we know that we’d probably end up working more than if we had stayed in our careers – but at least we are doing it for ourselves, and can take time off when we need it. As the kids have got older, it’s nice to feel like we’re positive role models for them. They see us work hard, and we explain why we are working so hard so they understand. Lydia’s daughter sometimes helps us at our sample sales. It’s nice that we have a family business vibe – and that the kids can be exposed a bit more to the realities of owning your own business.

If you had the power to change one thing for working mothers, what would it be?

Lydia: Flexible working for all parents, and also acknowledgement from bigger and/or corporate businesses about the amazing ability working mothers have to get stuff done, multitask, prioritise and be a valued and compassionate member of any team.

Anna: The same thing. We have an amazing team here at Tiba, mainly made of mums (we have about 15 kids between us) – and everyone works flexible hours. They only have to come into the office once a week. I have no idea how full-time parents in offices manage. I went back to Topshop when Raf was only nine-months old – this was in the pre-Covid and zero flexibility days – it was horrible as a new mum. We knew from the start we wanted to offer super-flexible roles to mums, as we didn’t want our staff to feel like we have in our past careers.

If you have a day to yourself, what do you do?

Lydia: Potter about the house in silence, for a start, and then maybe see friends for lunch and a walk around Portobello, I’d catch an early film at The Electric or The Lexi and then grab some dinner locally with my husband.

Anna: I’d want to hang out with my favourite girlfriends – and probably do something like a spa day (we love Aire Spa) or go and get our nails done, followed by some shopping and lunch. I like to meet friends and go to a gallery, I’ve just got V+A membership and it’s great to check out an exhibition and then have lunch in the members’ restaurant.

Heading ‘out out’ – where is your favourite spot?

Lydia: My favourite dinner spot for something low-key is Gold on Portobello Road, or for larger groups I like Carlotta in Marylebone: if you go in a group of six or more, I recommend trying to reserve the big velvet booth at the back. 

Anna: I am not sure I go ‘out out’ much, unless I’m away travelling with girlfriends. I always enjoy dinner and drinks in Soho. Recently we had a great dinner at Nessa, and great cocktails at Flute on the top floor of the new Broadwick Soho. One of my friends hosted his birthday party at The River Cafe last week, and I had some banging Cosmopolitans and food, but I was home by midnight. I’m a dinner and cocktail girl now, rather than dancing all night.

Tell us about the best holiday you’ve taken with your children?

Lydia: Last year we went on our first ever all-inclusive break to a Mark Warner resort, before that we’ve always been more into a DIY approach to travelling and holidays. It was so amazing and I have never relaxed like I did during those seven days. Everyone loved it, and the kids had the best time doing all the activities.

Anna: My sister’s wedding in Greece last summer; they got married at Kingfisher Point, in Avlaki, Corfu. We stayed at a hotel next door and it was probably the first holiday with the kids that I have properly relaxed. We spent most days leading up to the wedding going out on boats and stopping at tavernas on the coast. Bliss.

Favourite hotel ever – with or without children?

Lydia: The Thompson in New York will always be a favourite for me, mostly for some funny work memories back in my twenties!

You live in London, can you share tips on what to do in the capital with children? 

Lydia: Southbank is great in all weather. There are always great activities for kids at The Royal Festival Hall and The Hayward Gallery often has good exhibitions that are interesting for kids too. The Tate Modern is nearby, with lots of cafes and restaurants along the whole stretch. In summer, visit the man-made beach – and all year round you can go mud larking or walking along the river bank at low tide. You can also take a river boat to other parts of London from here. I also love all the parks in London: Kensington Gardens has an amazing playground for younger kids, plus the duck pond, boating on the river, the Serpentine gallery, the Diana Memorial fountain, the Peter Pan statue etc – it’s so easy to spend a whole day here.

Travel essentials with kids?

Anna: I never go anywhere without a bottle of water. If I make the mistake of going out without water the kids suddenly act like they are in the Sahara desert and have been thirsty for days. Ditto snacks – my kids are always hungry! And finally biodegradable wipes. I always need wipes for the kids (and me).

Travel essentials without kids?

Anna: An eye mask. I could never sleep without one. I’ve even started taking pillow spray with me on trips (and a silk pillow case). It makes the bed feel a bit like home.

How do you think travel benefits your children?

Anna: We love travelling as a family. We did a break in Paris in the summer and spent three nights in Copenhagen after Christmas. The boys can walk for miles, which is brilliant as we can explore cities together, eat amazing food, and they can (almost) handle me going into a few shops.

The best advice you would give to other mothers?

Anna: Mothers are superheroes – it’s amazing what your body and mind can achieve after having children. I think the hyper-focus that motherhood brings – how much one manages to get done whilst multi-tasking – is amazing. We just don’t have time to mess around. It makes us great employees; people who can focus on getting work done as efficiently as possible despite any kind of background noise and distractions.

Are there any women who inspire you?

Anna: Loads. The team we work with, my mum and my sister, my best girlfriends – I love spending time with family and friends and not talking about work. Lydia and I also always make time to hang out together and have fun that is separate to T+M: it would be quite intense otherwise, only seeing each other at work and it being all about business. We still inspire each other even after 10 years of working together on T+M. And we also have a really nice network of women on social media, mostly female founders, influencers, or brands whom we have worked or collaborated with: for example, Jenny from @mothersmeetings, Anna Cascarina @annacascarina, Emma from @binibamba and Alison from @zigandstar.

How do you do it? 

Anna: Family and business can be hard to balance. It’s a lot easier now the kids aren’t babies or toddlers. When we launched Tiba + Marl, I had genuinely never been so tired. I’m lucky that my husband works with us, so he understands the pressure of running the business, but he works flexibly too – so he can do school runs, and pick up the domestic slack. Our teams help us out a lot too. But ultimately I think myself and Lydia have so much love and ambition for our business; we have always been in it for the long-term, so we find it easy to switch on ‘work mode’, if anything we find it harder to stop working. When my kids pinch my phone to scroll YouTube and TikTok it enforces a break and gives me some balance.

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