I met Jo at Chrizzup. My first thought was ‘who is this stunning blondie?’ my second; ‘wow she’s so lovely!’ I was terrified, having pitched up on my own, but instantly felt at ease talking to Jo. We’d soon exchanged insta handles and I was wowed by Smith Webb’s feed featuring famous faces adorning their awesome designs, and this was before I learned about the amazing story behind the brand!
I caught up with Jo and Chloe to find out a bit more about where it all began.
SB: How did you meet and where did the idea behind Smith Webb originate?
Chloe: I was at a rubbish point in my life, I was a 30 something model, I’d recently become single, I had two children to look after and I needed a new focus in my life. I was in a position I hadn’t been in before and it was scary. Then I met Jo who taught Pilates and she agreed to help me to learn which was so kind of her. We became really good friends and decided we wanted to do something that really brought people together; somewhere, if you were feeling rubbish, you could go. So our whole idea was to do a sporting event or a coffee morning but it was so difficult to get people’s attention without a product so we decided to create something visual.
We started by asking ourselves ‘what’s the best thing somebody could say about our kids?’ and we thought, if they’re kind, that’s the best thing anyone could say. And the slogan ‘be kind’ was born. It’s something we truly believe. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, where you’re from, what age/size, whatever, as long as you’re kind that’s something you can carry through from being a child to adulthood and it helps so many people. But also, children are like sponges so we wanted to show it’s cool to be kind!
We didn’t want to just do a generic charity t-shirt that you wear once and it becomes a crop-top. We wanted to produce a product that represented what we stand for; honest, good quality, organic.
SB: When did it all kick off?
Chloe: We launched in April 2017, we were completely unprepared, we had one jumper and we just thought let’s see how it goes. And then Holly Willoughby wore it and it exploded; people were contacting us and we were trying to sell through Instagram, it was a nightmare.
Jo: We just didn’t anticipate the growth to be what it has been. But it’s all good! We hadn’t even been out for dinner with each other in the first 6 months it’s been that busy! We constantly message each other, we put the kids to bed and then decide on the next slogan! But some of our best ideas come at the strangest times.
SB: And how do you work as a team?
Jo: We say it all the time, we just don’t know what we’d do without the other one. I talk to Chloe all the time, we bounce off each other really well. We have different areas of expertise and we’re not scared of saying how we feel to each other.
Chloe: We’re both doing Smith Webb fulltime now, it’s been a huge learning curve, but it’s been one that we’ve been more than happy to go on together. I’ve been on shoots since I was really young, so I can quickly put a shoot together and I know how I want the brand to look. Jo used to be a financial analyst so she’s so great with the numbers.
SB: What about the charities you support?
Jo: We have a combination of charities, including MIND and Anna Freud (whose focus is on mental health for children and families, they are very specifically aimed at supporting family units with their mental health). We also support Calm which is a men’s mental health charity, and anti-bullying pro, Cancer Research, and Vetlife.
The great thing about running our own business is we can be in full control of where the money goes. For instance, the Lovely lady that runs Cumbria mind (Lyndsey Eland) got in touch about the ‘Mates in Mind’ programme which encourages children to talk to each other about their feelings, promoting kindness. She’s amazing! We also work closely with the Anna Fraud Trust and specifically support their school’s programme. We’re able to have regular meetings them about where they feel funding is missing. We want to hear where the funding is needed and why. It gives us a great idea of just how huge the mental health problem is in children and reminds us why we need to work even harder.
SB: What’s your advice for people facing some of the issues these charities support such as bullying and mental health?
Jo: We aren’t doctors or psychiatrists, however, we are mum’s who have children who’ve been through some things; we’ve had issues with mental health ourselves, and we’re speaking to people from that perspective. From our own experience, we would urge everyone to seek help sooner rather than later because there’s no point sitting on things for a long time. Talk to somebody!
Chloe: There is so much support out there. As soon as I spoke to someone about how I felt it turned out half the mums I knew felt exactly the same and have been through similar issues.
Jo: When it comes to your child, don’t worry if you feel like you’re going to be a difficult mum. If you have concerns you need to seek help from the school, or the GP, or charities; there are amazing charities out there doing such great things. It’s helped us link up with some really great people. For instance, Sarah ‘the mind medic’ who’s written a book about children’s mental health.
SB: How do you market yourselves, do you have a big PR team behind you?
Jo: No! It’s just me and Chloe. We don’t have a PR team and actually, we don’t want to lose that connection with people. When you message us, the message back comes directly from us. Yes, we’ve had a few celebrities wear our clothes but that’s off their own backs, it’s come from being kind. We put it out to the universe and that came back! If you’re kind then good things happen. We’ve been really lucky and we’re really grateful that they’ve supported us in that way. Integrity is at the core of everything we do, we’ve been approached by some celebrities for free sweatshirts but they just wouldn’t fit with our key messages.
Quickfire question round
Tea or Coffee?
Cats or Dogs?
Chloe: Jo’s got a french bulldog Bailey and I’ve got a British bulldog Bertie. Jo’s is only one and is a bit hyper whereas mine just sleeps and snores all day.
Vacation or staycation?
Staying in or going out?
Jo: Staying in for me
Chloe: I’ve recently started to go out again!
To buy one of the amazing sweaters check out the Smith Webb website