Moo Like A Monkey – Bespoke Boutique Shopping
Moo Like A Monkey is a beautiful children’s clothes and toy shop at the top of The Old High Street in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. It’s run by Kent Women in Business Awards Mumpreneur of the Year, Charlotte Khan. The shop’s been open for a year, and even though nothing in the shop actually fits me, it would be rude for Folkelife not to pop in and find out more about Charlotte and her exquisite products.
“I love my shop, I love everything about it, I love shopping for it, I love selling the products, I love meeting the customers, I love being here!” Charlotte is an incredibly positive, enthusiastic person. She and her husband used to live in London where she worked in the corporate side of the film industry, and he was (and still is) an actor. They discovered Folkestone a couple of years ago “because we could buy a cheaper house here than in London. Basically. That was the reason! But I realised we’d hit on an absolute gold mine! I could still commute into London, and I did love that commute. But after having my first child, the job – which I also loved! – wasn’t so much fun.
“People look at you differently once you’ve had kids. They think your brain has shrunk and they talk to you differently. Yes, your priorities have changed, and I couldn’t get so enthusiastic about my work as before. So, on my second maternity leave I dreamt up this business plan! I was going to open a shop, that catered for parents over 30 who had children under 5. They would have a certain amount of disposable income to spend on beautiful clothes and toys for their children. I worked it out perfectly, and then, we opened Moo Like A Monkey a year ago.”
A shopping experience for all the family
Charlotte sells hand-selected clothes and toys. Some are made in Folkestone, many are from the UK and some other pieces are from Scandinavia. “I’m offering a shopping experience. I love to go in to places and browse and touch things in order to decide what to buy. I want to offer that, but I also want to offer a place where you can bring young children. Normally, if you were to walk into a boutique shop you’d have to grab hold of your child for fear of them touching anything! Here, everything’s at their level for them to touch. They can play with toys, read books and there’s a DVD area too. Everything they can play with is for sale if they want it. It’s about children being welcome too.”
It’s true, she admits, that her customers are not all parents over 30 with children under 5, “No! My Instagram tells me my core audience is between 25 and 45 and I also have a really good group of grandparents who come in regularly!”
creative Business in folkestone
Charlotte convinced Creative Folkestone of her business idea. Thanks to their incredibly low business rates for tenants in their properties, it meant that Charlotte and her family were able to take the risk. They started the shop and waited to see what would happen.
“I wanted a job where I could see my children. Commuting up to London, working full-time, you end up with such a huge childcare bill! So I took the cut; I’ll never be a millionaire here, but all I need is a latte from Steep Street, and have enough to buy food for the week. This opportunity means I can be a full-time parent, and run a business and spend time on the beach – which is free! It’s a lifestyle shift, a lifestyle business.”
A business focused around parenthood
Charlotte’s husband Naveed is an actor, and her business enables him to tour around the country. When in Folkestone, he’s made all the shop fittings; the clothes rails – or small chairs – are fixed high on the walls, there’s a table sculpture in the window. “People always comment on the fittings! He’s also my emotional support, but if we didn’t have the shop, he wouldn’t be able to go away on tours, so we are supporting each other.”
As Mumpreneur of the Year (2019), I ask if this has changed her working life at all? “Yes! It’s been brilliant! I was so proud to win the award, but then people keep coming into the shop and congratulating me, so they’re taking on this award too! I got it because the business is designed around me being a working parent, and to support other working mums too. Claire – who works in the shop with me – was able to work here whilst her baby was only a few weeks old. Babies don’t do much then, just sleep and eat and that! Claire has always been welcome to bring her children to work to allow her to earn money. It’s simple really.
“A lot of the brands I stock are from working- parent centred business. This shop allows me to be a full-time mum, and I want to support other women doing the same thing, so that’s who I stock. I’ve been bowled over by the support of everyone who’s come in and said ‘congratulations!’ but then, this place is so supportive – so Folkestone!”
Don’t stereotype toys or colour
The shop reflects Charlotte’s vibrant personality, there are so many colours on show, and a beautiful range of very tactile toys. “I have an agenda! We limit kids at a very early age, we put them into boxes and say ‘you should like pink, and you should like blue. You should like building things and you should like nurturing things.’ We split them by gender and we don’t even realise we’re doing it. So with my shop, I’m trying not to do that, I don’t want to do what the mainstream shops are doing. I want to treat everyone as individuals. So there is pink in here, and blue, but that’s because they’re colours. There’s no boys section, and girls section. It’s all together, so you can browse through the collection and see what takes your fancy.
“I was watching a documentary on how the engineering field is dominated by men, and scientists have realised part of this is because we give boys toys that are good at puzzles, connectivity, building, hand-eye coordination. We give girls dolls, which are really important to learn nurturing skills, but they don’t develop certain brain skills as a result – and boys grow up and become fathers and some panic! They have no idea how to nurture!
“So with every single item I pick for the shop, I try to make a dent in that stereotyping! I’ve got little dads over there, with slings and holding babies! You’ll find, in children’s books, the protagonist is always a white, male little boy – you’d be surprised! So I really try to have heroic female protagonists! I think this is really important!”
The Moo Like A Monkey Brand
Not only is Charlotte tackling gender stereotyping, she’s also bent on building a little empire of production here in Folkestone – the Moo Like A Monkey brand! “The products I sell are beautiful, and some can be a little pricy! I’m learning what people are prepared to spend. But if I can make my own, design them here and make them in Folkestone, then I can start selling the beautiful items at a more affordable price.
“Miss Ginger’s – Verity – down the road, she’s going to teach me how to sew! And I’ll be able to buy fabric from her too. Janet at The Robing Room in The Glassworks is going to show me how to design patterns. So we can, just within a few square metres, create our own network of creatives and my own brand of products!”
If I could fit into these beautiful clothes, I’d buy the shop! Unfortunately, my children have grown out of this stage, but the infectious enthusiasm Charlotte exudes is irresistible! “It’s a lifestyle. I want my business to work, to be able to pay off my mortgage and to tick along nicely! My day off is once every two weeks and I never feel like a need it! And when I’m not here, I find myself walking past and waving at Claire and popping in to see if everything is ok! I just love it! I absolutely love it; I love the customers, I love the products, I love buying the products and I love selling them. I’m just lit up in my little happy place!”