ML’s Inspirational Women: Anna Clements of Mon Pote
Interview by Louise Wilmot. Photographs by Kirsty Forsberg
Have you ever thought about making a change in your life and dreamt of a new career? Well, this months blog features a woman who has done just that – without any procrastination. Anna Clements is the most self-deprecating woman that you’re likely to meet, yet, she has an aura of calm, self assuredness that quietly empowers her. This is one female in control of her own destiny. Founder of Mon Pote, an online homeware brand with a shop in Bristol, Anna has built her business from the ground up.
LW: I know that you have previously worked in a totally different industry, what inspired the change?
AC: I worked as a Solicitor, full-time, until I had my first baby in 2009. Going back to work after maternity I found myself working a 4 day week. It became obvious there was no career progression there after having kids so I moved to a different firm. I was duly provided with all the technology to work at home and therefore, always contactable. The juggling was hard enough during the working day but it began to spill over in to evenings and weekends. I persevered but the corporate hours were so inflexible. Other people were always more available than I could be. I would spend my time off checking my Blackberry, freaking out that I wasn’t looking after my daughter properly. Having Rafferty, my second baby, pushed the work/life balance too far and I was spread way to thin. I resigned and gave myself a 2 year sabbatical to rethink everything.
LW: Lots of women find themselves in this predicament once they have children. Many people don’t make the leap. How did it happen?
AC: I had no particular plan but have always wanted my own business. I had an interest in interior design and started thinking about running an online shop. I could imagine being able to manage it around the kids. So, I costed it and once I had the stock, I boosted sales by doing some local markets, the Tobacco Factory in Southville and another in Frome. I really enjoyed the interaction with customers and the idea of owning a shop evolved from that. Financially it stacked up and I was confident that there was a market for the products I was sourcing – from trading at the local markets I felt that I represented the demographic and there was nothing like Mon Pote in the area. A perfect opportunity came up on North Street. It was impossible to not go for it!
LW: So your store was 1 year old in April. How’s the work/life balance now?
AC: Unrecognisable! I work 2 days a week and 2 Saturdays a month in the shop. I can do all the school pick ups as I have great staff on board now. The business can grow as the kids get older.
I manage to cook from scratch and we eat as a family every night. It’s just amazing!
LW: What inspires your brand? Does Mon Pote reflect your personal style?
AC: I don’t have any formal ‘buying’ training. I choose the products instinctively. I feel quite in-tune with the customer. The brands’ aim is to bring accessible and affordable style to an aspirational demographic. Hopefully, complimenting and guiding their aesthetic.
LW: I think this is where there is some symbiosis between Mon Pote and M Life. This season, especially, there is a shared aesthetic in terms of the trends that both companies have picked up on. More than that, both companies are female-centric. Run by women and with a mainly female customer base. I wonder if we are trying to appeal to a similar demographic?
AC: Recently a yoga studio has opened opposite the shop and I have noticed an increase in footfall through our doors before and after classes!
LW: You seem very chilled-out! You are coping admirably with being asked these questions and having your photo taken whilst signing for deliveries, taking phone calls, serving customers and briefing an electrician for some extra light fittings. There is no hint of irritation. Do you get stressed?
AC: Biggest challenge is maintaining customer service. Customer disappointment really upsets me. Mainly though, as I can prioritise my own time I can choose what I take on. It helps that the type of work is more fun too. My old career was so dry and serious.
LW: What do you do to relax?
AC: I do try and get as much sleep as I can. I run twice a week. I like how you can be out of the city and amongst cows within 10 mins! It ticks the exercise box and fits in around everything else.
LW: This is the first time Bristol has featured in an M Life blog. The area you live and work in, south of the river, is right on the edge of the countryside but still walking distance to the city centre. A mix of people who have lived there for years, lots of students, young couples and families buzz about. There’s a theatre, football stadium, micro brewery, deli, artisan bakery, lots of new bars and coffee shops, even an annual graffiti festival. Mon Pote is part of the burgeoning retail community. The Mayor opened your store in 2016. What’s it like being part of that?
AC: Southville has been ‘gentrifying’ for a while but there is a second wave happening and I do feel part of that transformation. The florist provides us with their flowers and plants and they have our pots in their shop. We have done Instagram shares with Trika yoga – our new neighbours. Earth Cake is a vegan patisserie just down the road, they made our first birthday cake. Interesting bars. One even has a crab kitchen!
LW: I didn’t expect to talk about crab kitchens or, indeed, cows in this interview! Good luck and thanks for inspiring the
rest of us.
We have featured some of Mon Pote’s products in our website shoot this season, and next, so look out for those… Anna chose the Peace Nirvana Sweatshirt as her top pick from the AW17 Collection.
If you want to follow Mon Pote’s progress or indeed, shop for some of their gorgeous products, all the links are below: