Queen Bee knows it, and founder Sharon Chim has all the answers....
- written by Lauren Mitchell (Little One Baby Magazine, Style Annual September 2010)
Mumnesia is a word we’ve heard brandied about among new mothers - that vague, barely-functioning state caused by being up at all hours with little ones. Some of us perhaps cope better than others, and Sharon Chim even credits sleep deprivation for leading her to an epiphany. While up all hours with a new born, she decided not to give in to the fact she couldn’t find good breast-feeding clothing, but rise to the challenge of starting her own business. And not lot after, in May 2005, the on-line maternity wear store Queen Bee was launched. “My first son Mitchell never slept much as a baby so I was constantly awake all hours of the night and perhaps you can say I ‘dreamt’ up the idea,” she smiles. Queen Bee began with a focus on breastfeeding clothes then soon branched out into maternity wear - a quick survey of savvy shoppers reveals it’s one of the most highlyregarded sites of its kind in the country. Even celebrity mums Jacinta Tynan, Toni Pearon and Catriona Rowntree have sung its praises. “Catriona was lovely and wrote a beautiful thank you note,” Sharon says, after the Getaway star was fitted in gorgeous clothing from the Queen Bee range.
That impressive range covers all bases when it comes to maternity wear; from swimwear to denim, business wear to after-five, and of course, clothing designed for comfort plus. “Versatility, quality, style and comfort are qualities synonymous across our brands,“ Sharon says. “We want mummies to both feel fabulous and look fabulous at such an important and special stage of their lives.” “The changes a pregnant woman goes through can make them feel frumpy, awkward and unattractive. Beautiful maternity clothes can help balance the figure and the emotions, equating to the ‘look good, feel good’ promise. Maternity wear has the total figure in mind and accommodates the ‘mummy to be’ right through to baby’s arrival and beyond. Gorgeous maternity wear, especially in the more sophisticated after-five wear, has made the difference in providing total confidence to the mum at those very special occasions and to celebrate their pregnancy and their beautiful silhouette, enhanced by beautiful maternity clothes.” And if women aren’t sure about what will look best, they need only consult the Queen Bee site. It also features size charts, a guide to choosing maternity jeans and a blog with personal advice like what to wear to a wedding and which are the best maternity leggings.
Queen Bee gathers all the best maternity brands and places them on offer 24-7. “We understand a lot of our customers are either still working whilst pregnant or are already fulltime mums with another on the way, so time is so important,” Sharon says. And it’s something she understands well. The main motivation for establishing Queen Bee was so Sharon could work from home and spend as much time as possible with her own children; five-year-old Mitchell and two-year-old Koby. “I mainly work at night after they go to sleep,” she says. “I’m very fortunate that I live across the road from Mitchell’s school and my parents live ten minute’s drive away, so they are around to help a lot with the boys. But no matter what my kids come first! I have probably outsourced and employed too many staff but at the end of the day, kids come before emails.”
A browse of the Queen Bee site reveals it offers much more than clothing to its customers; it’s also about empowering women in pregnancy, providing information and an inviting online community. “We want to create a special place where mums and mums-to-be can feel like they belong and they have ease of a great variety of choice,” Sharon says. “They have valuable input. For example, we invite our customers to post product reviews, which assists future customers in making the right choice. The reactions on both sides toward these reviews are monumental as they help us to continue to provide the latest fashion trends.” Through the website Sharon’s customers are empowered to share their thanks and support for the site. Linette, of Queensland, writes; “I purchased a blue nursing kimono just prior to the birth of my bub. It was fantastic in hospital when I was nervous about breastfeeding in front of people and I wear it whenever I need to feed in a public place that doesn’t provide a nursing room.” And Shelley, of Melbourne says; “I just wanted to write to thank you sincerely for the jeans I purchased. I’ve never bought any clothing online and was a little hesitant, but I’m absolutely wrapped with what I’ve received. The jeans look great and are so comfortable with plenty of room for belly to continue growing!” Sharon says this sense of community has flowed on into her own life, too.
She says Queen Bee has afforded her many connections in the industry and new friends from across the world, plus an opportunity to connect with her customers, despite the fact that in many cases, they’re shopping from their home computers. “One lady was so impressed with her wrap dress that she emailed photos of herself to us,” she says. “Another lady rang one day and her first words were, ‘please help me, nothing fits me anymore’, she was in a real dilemma. She received her phone order the next day and related to us that we were her saviours.” Sharon also tells the story of a woman who phoned looking for maternity clothes for her daughter. “Her daughter was so depressed that she had put on so much weight with the pregnancy and didn’t want to go out to shop. The mum then put an order through and asked us to remove the size labels so the daughter didn’t know what sizes they were. So no dramas And there’s been plenty of light-hearted moments too. “A lady rang once and enquired about bengaline pants and maternity tops,” Sharon says. “I explained the features and benefits of overbelly and underbelly wear and asked when her baby was due and she said, ‘Oh I’m not pregnant, I just want pants that are going to be comfortable and tops that are going to hide my unattractive bumps, I am 70 you know!’ She sounded very hip.”
The morale here is, if it’s advice you need, the Queen Bee team is just a phone call away, where you’ll find personal advice from those who’ve been there before. “During my first pregnancy I went from size 8 to size 14,” Sharon says. “The second pregnancy was a lot different. I had a whole collection of clothes readily available to me. It was much better feeling more confident in stylish clothes and I felt so proud of my bump! I also looked after myself better and didn’t put on so much weight second time round.” In five short years Sharon has created so much; two beautiful boys, one amazing business, employment for ten staff and solutions for a nation of mothers and beyond. It’s something she would never have dreamt of before becoming a mum herself… seems dreams can come true, even when they occur in the midst of sleep deprivation! “Now I have so many plans for the future but am very diligent in making them happen slowly but surely,”Sharon says.
Find your own gorgeous wardrobe at www.queenbee.com.au
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