With twin milestones of Mothering Sunday and International Women’s Day in March, we mark the occasions by chatting to local mother and daughter business duo Stone and Mason; and a woman in the business of motherhood, Anita Worlidge
By Debbie Ward and Cally Squires
STONE AND MASON
Susan and Holly Stille are the mother and daughter pair behind Chelsea’s home-grown lifestyle business Stone and Mason, which makes multi-way handbags containing compact kits full of handy items, from metals straws to hair ties and plasters.
Susan, a former wedding dress designer, wanted to return to entrepreneurship once her children were grown up, founding the company in 2018. Her daughter, who was already sharing Susan’s workspace in her former bedroom at their home in Chelsea, joined shortly after.
“I started doing it with a friend who had to sadly pull out when one of her children became very ill, and Holly was literally sitting there saying: ‘Please! I have all these ideas!’”
Of course, working with family can create its own tensions but the pair say this isn’t an issue. She prizes the flexibility of working with her daughter but admits: “Sometimes we might wander off and go out to lunch, but then we’ll be working late into the evening.”
Holly agrees: “You have to keep your eye on the prize and not get distracted,” but adds: “It’s such a fun thing for us to be able to do together.”
Susan says she has been pleasantly surprised by how motivated her daughter is, a trait that has become extra apparent during lockdown when Holly moved back in to the family home. And, although weekend cocktail hour might get interrupted by work chat, the rest of the family don’t mind. “My brothers are always asking if we need models,” laughs Holly. “They are mad Chelsea fans so we had to name one of our bags Stamford. That’s our nod to them.”
They believe customers also appreciate their familial relationship. “It’s cross-generational, so whatever age the client is, they can relate to one of us,” says Holly.
With people spending more time indoors, the company has recently expanded by launching comfy silk jumpsuits and a demi-fine jewellery range.
Susan is keen to encourage those who, like her, returned to work after a career break. “We want to show that women, even if you’ve had three children, can still get back in there at any age, in any industry.”
A working mother whose business is babies and new parenthood, Anita Worlidge is the local expert when it comes to helping expecting mums prepare for precious new arrivals.
She started her business over 25 years ago, and counts Robbie Williams, Tom Ford and Adele among the grateful clients to pass through the doors of her Chelsea Wharf showroom.
The inspiration for starting Anita’s House was to fill a gap in the market. “Shops often sell what they have in stock rather than what is right for you, and the internet – while great for providing information – can be more confusing than helpful because of the sheer volume of advice.”
With her youngest daughter having just turned 18, Anita is well versed in the juggling act that working mothers face. “Although my girls Mia and Poppy are now both at university, the challenge remains as I want to spend as much time with them as I can while they’re studying from home, but the business is busier than ever.
“They are remarkably understanding but every time I answer a phone call, they see me choosing the business over them, and that isn’t easy for any of us. No matter whether you are running a business or a household, you never quite feel you have enough time to fit everything in without staying up late or getting up early – or often both,” she explains.
Her advice for other mothers with a demanding career is to “give your children your attention and be truly present when you are with them, however long that may be for,” and crucially to do it “in the knowledge that it may not always be perfect”.
As a female entrepreneur, Anita has been lucky enough to have clients who she admires greatly as fellow women in business, including Flowerbx’s Whitney Bromberg-Hawkins, Net a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet and designer Alex Eagle.
They are all “right up there as visionaries who have identified and met an unfulfilled need, and deliver a great experience for their customers. Truly inspirational women, who I also admire for championing other women in business”.
While staying loyal to firm favourites with Chelsea mums – “we helped launch Bugaboo 17 years ago and love their new Fox pram” – keeping ahead of new trends is also key for her industry. “Our two current favourite pieces of tech are the SNOO smart cot created by Dr Harvey Karp and the Elvie silent breast pump – both come with their own mobile Apps and are game changers for new parents.”
Adapting to the pandemic, the company now hosts fortnightly webinars for members with cutting-edge brands they stock – like sustainable mattress company Little Green Sheep, swivel car seat firm Cybex and compact pram brand Babyzen – and will be hosting live events in the showroom again when restrictions allow. “Connectivity and community are so important for us, especially while we are all affected by Covid-19.”
She adores working in Chelsea because “it’s so central and yet feels villagey and personal at the same time”. Being close to the river and so many green spaces is also an attraction. “There’s even a cricket pitch just off the King’s Road. I am still discovering new places – and I’ve been here for years!”