This month we have the lovely Cliona O'Brien,  luxury sleepwear entrepreneur, wife and mother of three, contribute to our newly launched My World series.
We launched this series to honour and introduce an inspiring group of mothers, entrepreneurs and friends of Mamas Hospital Bag. Each person featured is someone who motivates us with their shared values and determination to do what they love!  I first came across Moon + Mellow as part of CREATE, the annual showcase hosted by Brown Thomas Dublin, which celebrates the very best emerging talent in Irish design. Reaching out to Cliona about supplying her wonderful range of pyjamas to MHB, it was immediately clear that she is a big supporter of other Irish and female founders. Since then we have proudly featured her extremely popular range and on numerous occasions benefitted from her advice, shared learnings and contacts. Read on to hear how about Moon + Mellows new summer products, the gifts she hopes to pass on to her sons and her love of a long lunch. 
Our conversation with Cliona

Cliona, not only are you an inspiring entrepreneur but you are also a mum to 3 boys. It must be a busy household! Can you tell us something that has surprised you about motherhood or yourself as a mother? Becoming a mother was a massive life changer that I really wasn’t prepared for. I always knew I wanted to be a mum and naively I just presumed I’d be great at it from the get go. I wasn’t at all nervous about how I would cope. When my first boy, Ethan finally arrived I just couldn’t get over how much time was involved in taking care of a little baby and how little sleep I was expected to function on. That was the initial shock. I did put a lot of pressure on myself at the beginning to keep all the other aspects of my life going as usual. But I did learn, as time went on, to relax and enjoy my baby and our new life as a family. It took me a while to realise how important it is to be selective about taking on other people’s well-meaning advice. I started figuring out what my own needs were and what worked best for us. By the time Mark and Alex arrived, things were a lot easier because I had kind of figured out the important stuff and felt confident in what I was doing.

If you could tell your pregnant-self one thing, what would it be? I was the first of my friends and family to have children. When I was pregnant with my eldest boy Ethan, I tried to keep up with everyone and carry on as normal. I think that was a mistake. If I could go back I would give myself permission to slow down and take time to myself and not feel the pressure to keep up with everything.

Any advice on items you see as essentials for your hospital bag? Two things that I will always remember are how good that first cup of tea and custard cream tasted (who knew custard creams could be so amazing!!!) and how nice it felt to have the first shower, put some body oil on and get into fresh pyjamas. The baby bits like clothes, nappies and Sudocrem are the obvious things. You definitely don’t want to forget them!!! But also remember to pop in a few ‘pick me up’ bits for yourself like nice shampoo and lotions. A good nipple cream, big knickers and pads with lots of cushioning are important too.

The greatest gifts I hope to give my children are...

- The knowledge that I love them and will always be in their corner.

- That they know that I will support them in whatever path they follow.

- That they believe that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.

- That they realise that their happiness is the ultimate goal.

- That I raise them to be kind, caring, well rounded men.

Since launching Moon + Mellow in 2019 the brand has gone from strength to strength and is now featured in many exclusive retailers across Ireland. Can you tell us a little about your path to starting the brand? What made you decide to take the leap and did you always want to be an entrepreneur? I have always wanted to set up my own business. In my teenage years I was forever hatching plans to make money though organising events or making things to sell. So that dream was always there. But for lots of different reasons it took me a little longer to finally take the plunge and start my own business. Before Moon + Mellow I worked for ten years developing products for large global brands and finding ethical factories to produce them. I worked on a wide range of products and on a very large scale. So when I eventually decided to build my own brand I wanted to focus on the things that I love ….. bed, sleep and great pyjamas!
What is the part of building a business you love best? It is such a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The best part is when the plan finally comes together. I spent about a year developing our products. When the time came to launch, my mind would switch from certainty to doubt. I know now that this is completely natural. There were definitely times when I had to push the doubts to the back of my head. Then the joy came when stores and hotels wanted to stock Moon + Mellow and orders started coming in online. When I could see it all coming together - that’s the best part.

These days there is a lot of pressure on brands to stay active on social media. What’s your relationship with social media? This is such a good question. I hate to give out about social media because it has given a platform to young brands to get their name out there. It is the cheapest and most effective way of reaching new audiences and is a really important part of what we do and our plans for Moon + Mellow. In saying that, there can be a lot of pressure to keep content consistent and fresh. I find that my relationship with social media is really dependent on what’s going on in my life at any given time. Sometimes you just don’t feel up for it. But it is part of modern business, particularly fashion retail so I do try to plough through. 

Can you give advice to anyone who wants to start their own business? Tips on how you got started, anything you think was essential to getting off the ground? Or things you wish you had done differently the first time around – likewise things you felt you nailed? I think that fear is the biggest blocker when it comes to taking the first steps. This is the factor that separates those that eventually go for it and follow their dreams and those that don’t. Everyone feels this. I definitely do! It's important to acknowledge that the fear is there but carry on pushing forward regardless. You have to be ambitious and believe in your potential. Do not be afraid to speak about what you want to achieve. Saying it out loud makes it real and gives you the push to take the steps to achieve it. Try to find good mentors and ask people for help and advice. I reached out to other designers, brands, buyers, stylist, editors, journalists and women in business from the start. I found it intimidating initially but I soon found that for the most part people are good and they want to help. Anyone in business has had to start somewhere and they can all relate to someone who is at that stage. There is a huge movement of women helping women in business. Start talking about your ideas and taking the first steps you will find that the pieces will all start falling into place.

So tell us, what’s next for Moon + Mellow? We are just about to launch two new products for summer. Our Bow Nightie and Bow Cami Set. These pieces have been in my plans from the start but I wanted to take things slowly and introduce products as we grew. So I am delighted to be finally talking about them. Each piece from the collection has been designed to be worn interchangeably from sleepwear to beachwear and anything in-between. They are great worn as pyjamas but are perfect for daywear, worn as separates with denims or a crisp tee or thrown over a bikini on the beach.

Time for yourself is difficult to carve out as a mum; what do you do for you? I love heading out with the girls for a long lunch and catch up. It is so nice to be handed tasty food and a glass of wine and having the chats with friends. That is my favourite kind of treat. My husband Adrian is a really hands on dad so getting some time to myself has never been a problem. 

Do you enjoy traveling and where are some of your favourite places to escape to? We go somewhere different each year. Usually, Portugal, Italy or France. Take me anywhere! I just love the feeling of being away, switching off and feeling the suns heat on my skin.

Finally, we all define success differently. Can you define what success means to you. To me success is….Happiness


June 03, 2021