Welcome to The Motherhood Takeaway a place to shine a spotlight on inspirational women leading the way in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle sector… Women who just so happen to be mamas. This time mum and founder of Apotheke Perfume, Jessica Hannan, shares her advice on the big motherhood juggle. A regular slot designed to empower mums, each Motherhood Takeaway drills down on exactly how one woman makes family life and her career work in the real world. If there’s just one thing you take away with you that leaves a positive mark on your own journey juggling parenting and work, then my mission here is complete.

There’s a big conversation around not putting pressure on mums to do anything other than be mum, which is great, but for anyone who does want to be mum and have a career, then that’s great too and this is for you. Let’s face it, work isn’t a choice for most of us, it’s absolutely essential to keep our children’s tummies full and new shoes on their feet every five minutes!

The Motherhood Takeaway isn’t here to make anyone feel like they should be doing less mum and more work, or more mum and less work. It’s about inspiring that little vote of confidence for anyone with a business idea, side-hustle project, mums on maternity leave and mums returning to the workplace. It’s about never feeling guilty for saying “I’m the best mum I can be and it’s ok to want my career to flourish, as well as my kids.” Zero guilt attached.

Jessica Hannan, the women behind Apotheke Perfume, is here to lend her tips for navigating motherhood. Striking the right balance between business and family life is something we all strive for and ex-fashion editor Jess is well-versed in spinning all those plates, being across all aspects of a brand and generally having a lot of fun with her daughters along the way.

Just like fashion, Apotheke Perfume is all about building a scent wardrobe around your mood. You can even take a quiz and get your own perfume ‘tarot reading’ to find out which perfume personality you are – The Dreamer, Lover, Traveller or Thinker… or a blend of all. Designed in Berlin and made in Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, Apotheke uses the finest natural oils and cutting-edge molecules. It’s hand-poured, vegan and made in small-batch runs to avoid waste.   

The Motherhood Takeaway with Apotheke Perfume’s Jessica Hannan

Jess, with lockdowns, navigating school life and running a business, how do you structure your working week with small children?

I need strict spaces for both, obviously with lockdowns, that went out the window! But now they are back in school I am getting back into this. I mostly turn my phone off at 6pm, I read the book: Digital Minimalism and it really inspired me, when I turn my computer off for the day, I really make a ceremony of it and focus on the action of ending work. I even work at a desktop, so that it’s harder to flip up the screen and check mails!

I don’t have my work emails on my phone… If I do have my phone on in the evening, it’s just for messaging friends and scrolling Insta. I never reply to work stuff. Occasionally, I don’t take my phone on holiday, I am lucky that my boyfriend lets me use his for photos or to WhatsApp family and check my Insta now and again, but I love being away from it. It really helps me relax and I remember so much more from those trips, than the one with my phone, I engage more. I also like to get up early before the kids and do half an hour of day planning. My kids go to bed quite late, so get up late, I am a morning person, so love that time without them.  I also don’t take my phone out on a Saturday morning if I go into town with my daughter, and try to not even take it to the playground, I take the weekend newspaper supplements instead. Not always! But I really try. I bought an alarm clock and digital radio, so there are less reasons to need my phone on.

Before launching Apotheke, you were in journalism working as a fashion editor for British papers, magazines and Net-a-porter. What disciplines from that world have you carried through?

Seeing a story in everything! I literally think in trends and stories, and I definitely took the concept from working for fashion brands into perfume. In a fashion company, you think of the customers as ‘the boho girl, the sporty one, the city contemporary, the hot girl’… I do the same with perfume, I feel like most people know what they like when it comes to fashion, but have no clue with perfume. So that’s why I made the Apotheke perfume quiz, so you can discover whether you are The Lover, The Traveller, The Thinker or The Dreamer. It’s like horoscopes.

What’s your ultimate time-saving tips for juggling a business and family life?

I have an unintentional uniform each season. I shop mostly all in one go, twice a year and stick to that. This season I have picked three pairs of giant flairs from Free People, I am 6’1, I know that style suits me and they do a long leg. I have five white blouses, with interesting details like puffy sleeves, broderie anglaise or big collars, from Zara, Monsoon and Seraphina London. Plus, two pairs of high top Nike blazes and one pair of platform boots, which I’ll switch out for sandals when it’s warmer. I literally wear a version of the same thing every day. Then mix with vintage sheepskin gilets, gold jewellery and the odd hippy vintage dress. I like the ‘70s, I know it suits me, so I just stick to that!

I don’t do my nails, just cut them short. I don’t really do my hair, it’s messy buns and the odd alice band. The best ones are from WALD, I have one covered in shells which is like a crown, perfect for ZOOM.  I love basket bags, my favourite is from a Dutch girl called FONOTT, it just works with every summer look, boxy and not too beachy, it’s the perfect city basket. I wear minimal makeup, but always coral or red lipstick so I look ‘done’. I make face oils from mica powder, almond oil for shine. I think people think because I have a beauty brand I have a ton of stuff on my bathroom shelf, I really don’t. My skin is very dry so I can’t put anything on it really, so no beauty routine. The longest I spend getting ready is choosing which perfume to wear!

How do you split your time between mum and business-owner?

I work when the kids are in school and nursery. My partner and I take turns getting them and then the other works until 6pm that day. We have a babysitter once a week and then take turns the rest of the week. We have always done that, it was really important to me that they have equal time with us both, it’s really normal in Germany, and since moving back to the UK we just continued it. No one ever asks men how they juggle both, they assume a women is in the background with their kids, we need to start thinking the same for women. If I have lots of work, I just get up early and smash it before they wake up and my boyfriend takes them out on a Saturday morning so I can do it then, but I cannot work in the night, I never could. I think knowing your power time and planning around that is the way to go. I am a morning person so sometimes I go to bed at 8pm with my three-year-old and get up at 5am and do two hours before they get up! I can stop by 2.30pm then and do the school run and get it all done.

Any tricks for staying motivated on those days when mum-life takes over?

I am freelance, so unless I have a mad deadline, I can sort-of take a day off. I just give into it and go deep on the washing basket etc, with a GOOP podcast in the background and lots of coffee… and then the rest of the time live in a bit of a messy house! We are lucky enough to always afford a cleaner, so delegation is key, I think if you can afford takeaway coffees or Asos shops, you can afford a cleaner. It’s a godsend for working parents, or any couple who both work full-time and live together. It takes the pressure off who is going to do the big things like clean the bathroom, or the floors, then you can actually get to ironing all those victorian blouses you bought!

Tell us how you’ve found new ways to stay creative and inspired during lockdown? 

I was manic in the beginning, I think I thought if I kept busy it wouldn’t get to me, I did burn out a bit. I did a window sale out of my apartment for all my local customers, I sold them aromatherapy and perfumes, WFH focus sprays and anti-anxiety oils, essential oil-infused hand sanitizers, etc. People who lived alone came just for the chat! I have done loads of collabs, it was nice to talk to people on the phone and feel like I was connecting. I did one with Ancestrel Wines, Studio Linne Flower store in Berlin and Laura Vann Jewellery. It has actually made me a lot more creative, having to think of new ways to sell perfume.

What’s been your biggest business lesson so far?

People are the most important thing, you are nothing without collaborators. To let people really take control of their area and run with it. Don’t micromanage. Also, how expensive setting up a business is, if you really look into it, most small business owners have been backed by family or someone. If you are really doing it alone, as I am, it takes a long time without money, so you can’t rush, be patient. But not being able to throw money at something is sometimes a good thing, as you learn along the way. There’s things I would have spent money on a year ago, I can now see would have been a waste.

What advice can you give others looking to take the leap and start their own venture in beauty?

Do it, tonight! In a small way, start an Instagram, buy something small and bottle it up and start giving it to friends at birthdays. Just take the leap. You don’t need money, just passion, see where it goes from there and if it doesn’t work out, you have lost nothing and gained a bathroom cabinet of things you, at least, will love!

Has motherhood forced you to adapt and run things differently?

I can’t do evening events and I definitely missed some press trips when they were younger. I could have gone to Japan, but felt like flying that far from my babies felt a bit weird… just to write about jeans! I still did Paris fashion weeks, but out of Europe is a ‘no’. I think I’ve just become stronger on what is worth doing (taking me away from them) and what isn’t and that comes to everything in life. I love editorial for example, but it doesn’t pay as much as consulting for brands, so if I am doing something that isn’t pushing my perfume business onwards, then it needs to pay the bills. I can’t do it all and still have time to have long baths with my little one, so editorial is out the window, for now.

What would you go back and tell your pre-mum self about motherhood?

You are still you. You will still work too much, want time off, you can still be a boss, a creative and do something just for fun. And it’s not all on you. Most kids have two parents. I definitely get pissed off when people ask me how I do it all and don’t ask my partner that same question. My biggest annoyance is new parents talking about how the nursery fees are the mothers problem to solve. These mothers mostly have partners, surely only 50% of the cost is hers? Do these mums also think ‘I better start saving for their braces now?’ Or is that also the partner’s cost too? If more parents did 30 hour weeks, less women would have to ditch their careers. Men and women should change their jobs for kids, not just women. It also shocks me when people think they shouldn’t have to change their job at all, their life should continue just as before. If you want your life as it is before kids, don’t have them. It’s a compromise and it should be for everyone. Not just mums.

Ultimate self-care and wellness tips as a busy mama?

Phone-free time, just walking without it, reading the FT on the weekend, staring at the wall… Seeing the children as 50% yours, 50% their fathers, (if they have an active father). Being strong with getting the dad to take them out, and letting go if they are not dressed how they should be, or fed what they should be. So much of our self respect as women is tied up in how our house looks or our kids, who cares? Men don’t congratulate each other if the kids have neat hair, let them be messy, let them be little. Let the dad dress them for the weekend, (even if that means they go out of the house in their sisters pyjamas and dressing up clothes!) Realising that if someone on Instagram looks amazing, they probably have a messy house, or if they have a tidy house, they don’t get to do yoga like you do… Giving yourself a break. I am not the best at this, but trying every day, to just do less. I also love palo santo and essential oils, I really meditate with scents. Using sage oil for PMS, for example, is my current obsession!

The beauty community is brilliantly inclusive, what sparked the move from fashion to beauty?

I guess it’s just growing up! I don’t have clubs to dress for, or weekend brunch with the girls (sadly!) So beauty and perfume just have more longevity. Perfume is also steeped in emotion, psychology and culture. The history of civilisation is tied up in perfume, it’s so fascinating, I am a geek! I will always love fashion, this is just my current thing. And business-wise it makes more sense, you can release one collection and market it for 10 years in so many different ways, I have no idea how small fashion labels can afford to make a new line every six months.

What’s been your highlight so far on the Apotheke journey?

Getting into VOOSTORE in Berlin, it’s like Dover Street Market. Seeing my perfumes next to Jacquemus handbags was amazing! Also creating with people I admire. I loved working on the tarot cards with my designer Alex Sullivan, he designs for Chanel and Love Magazine. The shoots, making the crystals, and all the scents! Having an excuse to buy kilos of bergamot and palo santo oil. Heaven. I also love all the customers I have met, feeling like a little piece of my vision is on their shelves and making them feel good on a night out. It’s really the most fun industry.

You spent a lot of your career covering the international shows, which runway designers would you pair with which scent?

I love this question! Jacquemus for The Traveller, she’s a glam but boho babe. Happy in St Tropez drinking rose or dancing barefoot in Ibiza. The Dreamer is more classic and girly, maybe Ganni? She loves a satin bow and Paris, maybe even a bit of Chanel. Or Molly Goddard. The Thinker would be something Skandi and cool, like Acne, or Stine Goya, or old Celine. And the Lover? Either gothic like Simone Rocha, or a sexy club-kid in leather chaps and tailoring like Y/Project, you never know what to expect from The Lover.

What emerging trends are coming up from the Berlin scene you can share?

Berlin is all about utility, sporty minimalism with a club kid twist. Brands like Ottilinger or 032c do this look well. Less is more, a bit of Helmut Lang tailoring, but with sneakers so you can still ride your bike to the bar.

Apotheke is all about building a scent wardrobe, how do we know what’s right for us?

Nothing triggers our emotion more than scent. Think of Proust and the madeleines. Go for scents that inspire in the day, like a cologne, most colognes have woods and citrus as a base so are light and fresh. The Thinker has natural cedarwood and bergamot, so smells like freshly sharpened pencils and earl grey tea, what could be more invigorating?

For holiday choose something warm, with amber and vanilla. The Traveller has all of that and palo santo and coconut to smell like suntan lotion. Plus, almond for that hot-skin note. Be really strict and only wear your vacation perfume on holiday, then you build an olfactory recall with it, so in deep dark winter you can have a sniff and instantly get taken away to the beach!

For brunch dates with friends, daytimes in parks and Sunday lunches, I like florals. The Dreamer is packed with rose and iris, a creamy dry note that is really sophisticated. Like putting on your favourite heels with jeans and a tee, you instantly feel dressed up.

And for date night… The Lover is perfect, it’s packed with musks. It projects across the room, and gets you in the mood.

I also like to have a power perfume, like my own personal theme tune scent, that I save for pitches and special days when I need that extra boost. Tuberose is good for this, saving it just for these moments means whenever you smell it you feel powerful.

I suggest going for lots of smaller vials, like my 7ml ones, all brands do them and you can have a whole collection for the price of one 100ml bottle. Did you know Andy Warhol changed his perfume every six months, then categorised them away in a scent library so he could revisit a time in his life, whenever he wanted, by just sniffing the bottles? Iconic.

What’s your A.M. and P.M skin routine tips?

I am pretty low maintenance, I use a German drugstore moisturiser and an oil I mix and make myself in my perfume studio made up of rosehip oil, carrot seed oil, camomile and avocado oil. I add things all the time. I wash my skin with water, as any cleanser makes it sore. I always take my makeup off with sweet almond oil or coconut oil. I use cocoa butter as moisturiser for my body that I mix with drops of essential oils from my perfume studio, like rose or frankincense, or benzoin. I change it up all the time because I have all these things to play with.

I put argan oil with ylang ylang in mine and my daughter’s hair, it’s a really strong smell, the nursery teachers probably wonder what she smells of! I love sage oil as a PMS relief rub. My one guilty pleasure is fake tan, I don’t use it that much, but love how everyone says how well you look when you have had a go on the St Tropez. I am from Cardiff and you know what they say, you can take the girl out of Wales…

Apotheke Perfume starts at £34 for 7ml, apothekeperfume.com. Have your perfume ‘tarot cards’ read by taking the quiz now and you can also follow the brand over on Instagram @apothekeperfume and @jess_apotheke.

There’ll be more from The Motherhood Takeaway soon. Navigating motherhood and career is all about community, so please don’t forget to leave your own advice in the comments below. It could really help to bring positivity to another mamas day.

For heaps more parenting advice, head over to my Alex and Alexa column where you can find my take on life with Two Babies Under Two a Mum’s Guide To Nesting and a check list of What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag.