Jackie Langdon Down is one of the busiest mums on the Coast, running her beautiful childrenswear label Sonny and Milla, while looking after her four children.
Image credit: Michelle Ridland Photography
Describe a typical week for your family. How do you balance everything?
A typical week is absolutely exhausting and ridiculous. My husband Kerry and I try our best to fit everything in but we are definitely run off our feet come Sunday night. Kerry is a firefighter and works four shifts on and has four days off so we have the luxury of having a lot of midweek family time (and I am lucky to have a lot of his help).
My diary is the only thing that keeps the household together. I write everything down and spend one day a week organising the next week ahead.
I am a primary school teacher two days a week as well so I juggle those days as well as my business on the days I have off. Sonny plays sport midweek, Milla does dancing and the two little ones do swimming lessons.
Weekends are usually filled up with kids parties or are my time to catch up on housework and my ginormous washing pile! Kerry is also a photographer and because it’s wedding season now, he spends his Saturdays shooting weddings.
Some of our weekday nights after the kids go to bed consist of me packing orders and creating social media content while Kerry edits photos on the computer next to me. We certainly juggle a lot but we live very content and fulfilled lives doing everything we’ve ever wanted to do. I definitely try to manage one on one time with each of the kids even if it’s just taking one child grocery shopping and having a milkshake on the way home together so we can chat.
You’ve recently launched your new Keanu range inspired by your third child. What is involved with creating new pieces from start to finish?
I begin gathering inspiration about a year out from actually designing the range. I decide on a theme and create my colour palette and start designing from there. I look at adult trends but also stick to my timeless style as well. I create a sample myself in each item and I have a manufacturer who hand makes every item. I hand make the accessories when my kids sleep during the day. I’m very fortunate that Kerry is a photographer and is able to shoot all my photos for me and helps create my look books and social media content. I couldn’t do half the work without him!
The childrenswear market is becoming quite saturated – how do you make sure your brand stands out?
It sure is saturated! I think parents love to dress their children in items that they can identify with themselves. Mums especially take a lot of pride in presenting their children as an expression of their love. I think the most important thing is to always try to be ahead by trying new things. I try to design my garments so they are one of a kind, creating unique items in my own exclusively designed prints that can’t be replicated by bigger brands. Quality social media posting is probably more important than quantity as there is a lot of competition out there.
You’re a regular at the Terrigal Markets. How important are markets for getting the label name known to new parents?
The markets have been a great for my brand. The girls at @theterrigalmarket have created a wonderful thing. I’ve met many stockists there and have so many lovely regular customers. I love speaking to mums one on one about garments for their children and find it is also priceless market research that influences my next collection. To have such wonderful feedback from customers definitely inspires me to keep going as well. I wish I had more time to do more markets at this stage but one a month is more than enough to keep up with stockists and my local customers as well.
How will you find time to run your business while on maternity leave?
Working for myself has its ups and downs. It’s very convenient as I can choose when I want to fit work in or not but it’s very hard to switch off. When my husband drives I usually answer emails, reply to social media enquiries and try to do three things at once.
I find when I first have a baby I get so much work done during the night when I get up for feeds for the baby. I need something to keep me awake so a lot of my market research happens then as well as organising social media posts and designing. I think most people who own their own business would agree that to get it up and running you put a lot more time into it than working for someone else but as it’s my passion it often doesn’t feel like work but fun for me and a creative outlet from the kids. I would rather stay up a little late to work and spend quality time with my kids whilst they are so little during the day as work will always be there, life won’t, it’s important to live.
Who’s in your village to help you as a working mother?
We are fortunate enough to have a lot of help. I’m one of ten siblings so there are a lot of aunties, uncles and grandparents that help us out when we need it. I’m also very fortunate to have a lot of friends with kids that help me out. You definitely need a village of people and I am so grateful for mine. My two littlest ones also go to preschool two days a week when I teach, which they love and it is a nice break for me.
Image credit: Michelle Ridland Photography
What do you like most about living on the Coast?
I grew up in the same family home on the Central Coast. I decided to stay as I feel at home with all the support of family and friends and people who have known me my whole life. It’s a nice feeling to grow up in a community and allow my children to have a similar upbringing to myself with our gorgeous beach lifestyle and big backyards. I love that you we are surrounded by families and likeminded relaxed people.
How does living on the Central Coast inspire you in your design choices for Sonny and Milla?
I’m very inspired by our relaxed attitudes to dressing and keep in mind our need for lightweight items for our Australian summers. I’m also inspired by our oceans and the need for clothing that can easily be thrown over a cozzie or be worn outdoors with our beautiful weather.
How do you spend time together as a family on weekends?
We love going to the beach. It is definitely our happy place as a family. As our new baby is due in January we are looking forward to keeping it simple this summer - relaxing at home and spending time at the beach.
Where are your favourite places to eat out on the Coast with your kids and for date nights?
We often take fish or chips to the beach as our kids are so little and they find it hard to sit still if we go out. We love going to places that have an outdoor area for the kids to play.
Date nights? Ha ha what are those? Our date nights are usually other people’s weddings. When we do occasionally go out it’s usually somewhere with amazing tapas like Rhondas in Terrigal or Bamvino at Erina Heights.
Where do you like to take the kids during the school holidays on the Coast?
We love camping anywhere without mobile phone reception.
Favourite Things on the Coast…
Beach: Forresters Beach, Spoon Bay or the Haven at Terrigal. We are so lucky to have so many beaches to choose from on the Coast.
Playground: We love Wamberal Park – it has activities for older kids and the little ones so everyone is happy to play there.
Place to get coffee: The coffee is great in Terrigal or Forresters Beach. I often get coffee from De-Matteos or Terrigal Surf Club when I’m at the beach with the kids.
Go-to family dinner meal: I dread 5pm and trying to cook dinner and juggle tired kids. My kids love the simplest food, which is lucky so mid week I often make plain fish with salad or vegetables. I usually try to do an oven cooked meal so I can help my son with homework or sign notes for school and let my littlest Keanu help put the veggies on the plates to give him something to do so he doesn’t have a meltdown.
Way to exercise: I like start stop running so I run up hills and walk down them. I have to go at 7pm when the kids are in bed so I can actually enjoy it and know they are all sorted and asleep.
Any other Central Coast businesses you love?
Michelle Ridland Photography is amazing for natural newborn photos and family shots.
Caitlin Miller Makeup is a great makeup artist for weddings and special occasions.
Meg from Luv le Lox is an amazing mobile hairdresser who comes to me and she’s very understanding with kids.
Katie from The Botanical Workshop does beautiful floristry.