My name is Mandy and I grew up in the beautiful Cheshire countryside with my mother father, sister and yes believe it or not a pet rabbit. It was my father that spent hours teaching me about perspective, drawing techniques & most importantly to not fear a blank piece of paper.
I studied illustration in Leeds and during my time there I took part in an exchange to Paris where my love of drawing children was founded. The Parisian children had such an old-fashioned sense of chic about them that was so reminiscent of the drawings of children that I loved growing up.
Inspired by classic story books, I began sending my artwork to publishers. In 1998, I illustrated my first children’s book ‘Night Ride to Nanna’s’ by Jenny Koralek and a further two books followed before I embarked on Belle & Boo.
I now live in Bristol with my partner Russ and our two boys Sam and Ellis age 5 and along with a small team of incredibly talented people building the world of Belle & Boo, where we make timeless stories.
The Belle & Boo website is a fabulous place to shop for Christmas, you will find delightful wrapping papers and cards, stocking fillers such as colouring pencils and paper craft toys, whilst for grown-ups there is a beautifully illustrated craft book with easy to follow projects.
Name: Mandy Sutcliffe / Belle & Boo
What inspired you to start Belle and Boo?
I had been working as an illustrator for children’s books, magazines and greeting cards for a while when a friend of mine introduced me to Etsy. I started selling prints of children and very quickly it grew and got a little bit out of control, I was up all hours trying to full fill orders and deal with enquires. It was around that time that my good friend Kate approached me and said we could build it together which is what we have done with lots of help from others along the way.
How do you balance work and home life?
I am lucky enough to split my work/mum roles 50/50. I pick up my boys from school every day and then have the rest of the day just for them. I get the best of both worlds!
Describe your typical day from AM to PM.
A typical working day usually starts with 6.30-7am snuggle on the sofa with my twin boys, hot chocolates & coffee. My partner takes the boys to school which allows me to get to work nice and early check emails and have another much needed coffee! Once all the admin side of my work is up to date, I open photoshop and listen to podcasts of LBC and radio 4 and get stuck into whatever creative project I am working on. We usually have a meeting or two within the day, I naughtily eat lunch at my desk and usually browse Pinterest or eBay trying to find inspiration for my house.
There is always a naughty treat in the afternoon, however good we try to be someone always buckles and brings in some biscuit or homemade cake. I leave around 2.45pm and walk to the school to pick my boys up. Then it’s mummy time! – an afternoon in the park, a play date or home to just chill out. Three evenings a week I attend hot yoga which is ‘my time’ and I love it.
How has this business helped you to grow and achieve your professional goal?
It has given me the opportunity to work with many different types of products which is always exciting seeing my illustrations on duvets, mugs, lunch boxes. I have been asked to talk at events such as book festivals and craft events which is something I would never have had the confidence to do before.
In the next 2 years where do you see yourself and Belle and Boo?
We are working towards establishing Belle & Boo as a stronger, more widely renowned brand within the children and gifting market. I am also super excited about the new sub brand I am working on ‘The little Dancers’, we have learnt so much, good and bad during the past 9 years of running Belle and Boo we can now put that knowledge to good use growing this new brand.
What advice/tips would you give to someone wanting to start their own business within your area of expertise?
That is takes 10 years to fully establish a business, we are about 9 years in, so here’s hoping!
Interview and Copy by Mama
Images by Mandy Sutcliffe and Kate Shafe