Pretty Brave is an appropriate name for Natalie Meldrum’s company considering the idea for the children’s lifestyle brand came to her while she was adjusting to a new life in Spain with her young family.
Some women might be terrified at the prospect of shifting their life and young family to the other side of the world to a country where they didn’t speak the language, but not Natalie Meldrum.
Inspirational is the word she uses to describe the five years she spent in Valencia in Spain with her husband Tim, a designer with Team New Zealand, and their two kids, Skye (9) and Blake (7).
A self-described adventurer and creative with a career in graphic design and advertising, Meldrum embraced the opportunity to reinvent herself in Spain.
“Escaping the day to day reality of life in New Zealand gave me the freedom to think about what I really wanted,” says Meldrum.
“I always liked the idea of having my own business and I thought it would be interesting to find something that Spain was renowned for and figure out a way to bring that back to New Zealand.
“Footwear and leather goods jumped out at me. Spanish people love leather. I used to joke that even the nuns in Spain have matching shoes, bags and belts.
“That kickstarted my whole journey.”
Meldrum identified a gap in the market for stylish leather footwear and accessories for kids and mums and Pretty Brave was born. The name was a phrase Natalie and Tim used to describe their kids.
“We threw them into a Spanish speaking school when they didn’t know the language, but every day they used to amaze us. We’d say to them, ‘you kids are pretty brave’.”
It took guts and a fair degree of gumption for Meldrum to educate herself about the footwear industry in Spain.
“Back then not many Spanish companies had websites and nobody replied to email so I had to go knocking on doors. I’ve never had a problem meeting new people and asking lots of questions, so I would pile the kids into the back of the car and drive a few hours south to Elche which was the heart of the leather and footwear industry.”
“It was a bit nutty,” she admits. “My Spanish improved as I went along, but I was rocking up to these places trying to figure out how the footwear industry worked.”
In the end, Meldrum decided the cost of manufacturing in Spain and shipping to New Zealand wasn't financially viable if she wanted the product to be affordable. The plan was always to come home to New Zealand so it made sense to manufacture closer to home. Asia was the obvious choice.
That was in 2014 and three years later Pretty Brave is well established as one of the leading kids’ brands in New Zealand and Australia. So much so that Meldrum was able to take off on another overseas experience this year, this time to Bermuda where her husband was working on Team New Zealand’s bid to win back the America’s Cup.
“Having really good staff at home is the key to making it work,” she says. “A lot of my business is run via email so I’m lucky but all the technology in the world can't beat amazing staff on the ground. I’ve got a handful of ladies working with me now who are just amazing.”
Meldrum’s advice to aspiring Mumtrepreneurs is to make sure your idea is original.
“There are a lot of creative Mums out there, but if you want to be more than a crafty stay-at-home mum who’s just dabbling in business, then don’t underestimate the amount of hard work involved.
“You have to learn how to juggle it with your family but it’s totally worth it.”