Home World Business Meet the boss: Mirabai Winford of Purebaby

Meet the boss: Mirabai Winford of Purebaby

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Mirabai Winford was only 15 when she realised that in other countries her Australian upbringing, which focused on all things organic and sustainable, could actually have large-scale appeal.

“I did a school exchange to Europe and recognised on that trip that the organic food, natural fibre clothing and beautiful hand-knits I’d been brought up on were all commercially available overseas,” says the founder, owner and creative director of Purebaby.

Mirabai Winford initially started Purebaby in order to work and study flexibly while her first child was young. Mirabai Winford initially started Purebaby in order to work and study flexibly while her first child was young. Photo: Supplied

Winford’s entry into the business of providing organic, natural fibres clothing for babies and young children came through a well-worn path: the desire to solve her own problem.

“I was studying law and had a baby. [I wanted to] dress my child in natural fibre clothing and something organic. Back then, there was nothing available that was high quality, beautifully designed and affordable,” she says.

Winford started Purebaby, imagining she’d provide herself some flexibility around studying and parenting.

“Of course, the opposite happened. You end up doing really long hours in between parenting and study,” she says.

The business took off, so Winford deferred her studies.

“There was no going back. I was incredibly busy. It took me another seven years to have another child, because really the business took up a lot of my energy and my time managing people, creating ranges, travelling overseas, managing quality control, selling the range into boutiques and even managing my own store for three and a half years,” she says.

The upside was that she’s now done almost every role in the business herself: actions which inadvertently became a solid business asset.

“It’s really valuable as an owner and a manager to have done all of those roles and understand how they work,” she says.

It may have been hard slog, but Winford’s commitment has paid off. Purebaby now has 100 employees in Australia, plus 500 more at the Purebaby factories in India (Winford takes care to ensure a living wage is paid and workers receive lunch each day). There are also 22 Australian stores, including concessions at David Jones, and the company recently opened its first store in the Middle East: the next target is the United States.

But while she’s passionate about the business and its goals, Winford is open about the realities of running a business during the early stages of parenting.

“You’re still doing all of the hours, just at different times of night. It’s wonderful to run a business and have children, but it’s not easy balancing the competing demands,” she says.

What doesn’t worry Winford, however, is Amazon’s imminent arrival on the Australian market. Purebaby’s online business is growing at least 20 per cent year on year and she believes the company’s “very clear brand essence” will help that growth continue.

Then, there’s the bricks and mortar experience. “Having a point of difference in the market is really important, but it’s also important to elevate the in store experience,” she says.

“We like to think we’re not just a place you can go and buy a singlet, but somewhere you can learn to swaddle through our nesting workshops. We have incredibly experienced staff who understand the developmental stages of a child [and] we bring the hospital list to life for customers and explain why you need certain functions in garments.”

Winford believes the increased competition from Amazon will deliver a couple of clear upsides for consumers.

“It will really force Australian businesses to lift their game; that can only be a good thing for the customer,” she says.

CURRICULUM VITAE

Name: Mirabai Winford

Current position: Founder, owner and creative director of Purebaby.

Responsibilities: Responsible for overall direction of the creative vision from store design to product ranges, marketing and sales. Also guides and evolves the look and feel of the brand from season to season, and works with the general manager to oversee most commercial aspects of the business and set its direction.

Education: Started a law degree but left to start Purebaby.

Professional associations: Works with Global Sisters, an organisation that provides an alternative for women who aren’t able to participate in mainstream employment.

Honourable mentions: Numerous retail awards through Chadstone and other centres for visual merchandising and customer service.

Strength: I hold the vision and I like to take my staff on that journey: no amount of money can really motivate people, it’s about making them feel part of the grand vision.

Weakness: I don’t tolerate mediocrity, and I don’t understand when people don’t have the passion I do: we have a lot of really passionate staff here who take a lot of ownership over their roles, so if people don’t share that I don’t necessarily tolerate it very well.

Management style and tips: I think managers should role model the behaviours they’d like to see from staff. Just like in parenting, if you want a certain behaviour or work ethic to be exhibited by your staff, you have to be able to role model that.

Work motto: Positivity. I always wake up and think about three things I’d like to achieve that day, and I always remember what it is I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

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