VIP mum Diana Baker

Di Baker is something of a powerhouse.

Just 20 months after her four-year-old twins Phoenix and Madison were born, the 36-year-old created her own business, Bay Bee Cino.

Since then, five boutiques have sprouted up around Sydney, specialising in quality baby products and maternity wear.

And, with the help of her husband and business partner Fred van Urk, Di recently launched a national consultancy network that encourages mums everywhere from Cairns to Condoblin - to host party plans selling the Bay Bee Cino brand.

Bay Bee Cino was born not long after your twins. How did you switch on your business brain through the fog of sleep deprivation?

Fortunately, I've always been an early riser. And I also manage to survive with little sleep but I have to say I'm extremely lucky as when the twins were born, Fred got up and fed the children through the evening. They were premmie so they were bottle-fed. I was very spoilt as he would feed them at night. I started thinking about the business about six months after they were born.

It's clear you have an unquestionably sound entrepreneurial instinct. What inspired the business?

I started doing girls' lunches and I felt that there was more I'd like to do with my time. We'd all sit around (all the mums and kids) and I just felt there was something more I needed to do. I wanted to keep my mind busy. This might sound harsh, but I didn't want to sit around and gossip. I wanted to keep my mind active. My mind doesn't stop. I don't really sleep as there's always new ideas. Now that I've created this work environment I have somewhere to put the ideas in place.

There are baby stores galore but you seem to have cornered a niche market with Bay Bee Cino? What sets your boutiques apart?

It's just putting a collection together of beautiful items. I wanted to replicate the twins' nursery with lots of beautiful things. We offer incredible friendly service, a happy environment and really, It's like a little club for mums. Our customers become like family. There is no pressure. Our staff are very casual. Most of them are mums. So they can all relate to the customers. I think that's been one of the keys to our success. And we've always focused more on the beautiful items as well as the everyday practical items. Back when Bay Bee Cino began, it was all designer brands, but now It's dedicated to building the Bay Bee Cino brand.

It sounds like you work a lot. What drives you?

I work 24/7. I don't sleep much. It consumes me. I live and breathe it. Even when I'm making breakfast, my computer is a natural extension to my body. I'm always thinking about the business and looking to build the business I'm looking now toward the future vision of the company and that's what drives me. It started out as a hobby. I wanted to fill my time throughout the day and stay mentally challenged and stimulated. But It's gone beyond that now. I start my day at 3 or 4 am and I can get a whole day's work before everyone else gets up at 7.30am. I love the peace and tranquillity and when you are dealing with different time zones it makes it a lot easier.

Is it possible to have it all? How well do you juggle your work/life balance?

I've got it all. I'm very lucky that my husband has become my partner, which enables me to spend quality time with him. Even though It's often on a business level, we have breakfast, lunch and dinner together the reality is if I didn't work with him I wouldn't have much quality time with him.

Do you think the twins would prefer you spend more time with them?

Not at all. With them starting at school this year, I did get the guilts as Maddy said to me, "How come all the other mums are there at 2.30pm to get their kids?"  So I left work yesterday to get there at 2.30pm and she demanded to go to after-school care!  At times I do feel a bit guilty as I work a lot but working has enabled me to feel good about myself. Then, the time I have with my kids is therefore positive and healthy and cherished. The love and attention they get, and the time with them, It's all very precious. They grow so quickly so I'm happy that when I see them, I want to play with them, I want to push them on the swing, I want to dance and sing and read stories. Whereas, if you are at home all day and you are trying to juggle everything from having a shower to having some 'you' time, it just doesn't work. Can you tell me the last time you went to the bathroom alone? Work enables me to go to the bathroom by myself.

Apart from your family and work, what helps to define you as an individual?

Most people would say I'm incredibly positive and they find that uplifting. that's my passion. that's my life. My positive outlook.

How often do you take time out for yourself?

This morning was one of the first times � I pulled myself away from the computer and went for a swim and a steam � I'm back on track to give myself more �me' time because there are no excuses. There are now lots of staff and other people that can help manage the business. I go at 5.30am as I like to be back by 7.30am. I like being home when Fred and the twins wake up as for a year and a half I wasn't. My main thing is I get up and do it early. It gives you a good positive buzz. Sometimes, if I have an idea, I might get up at 1.30am and before I know it, four or five hours is gone and my opportunity to have some �me' time is gone, so that's something I'm working on.

What's your top (parenting) tip?

Ooh. I'm not a routine mum. Perhaps not to take things so seriously.

Can you tell us about the last time you had a really big belly laugh with the twins?

Daily. We have so many jokes - from the books we read to all the jokes about bodily functions - every day we have a giggle and lots of fun and laughs.

If there were something you could change if you had your time over, what would it be?

I would have met my husband five years earlier and begun this journey sooner. Because without that chance meeting, Bay Bee Cino wouldn't be here. I hadn't known him a year and I was married with twins. I met him on Mother's Day six years ago when he pulled up a chair with me and my parents and asked to join us. The following year, on Mother's Day, I was four weeks off being a mother.

If you had just one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st century parent, what would that be?

More flexibility from employers. More paid maternity leave. The system is terrible. Motherhood is the hardest job anyone can do so there should be more support for mums. I'm very lucky as I have my mother around, as I couldn't have done what I do in business without my mum. So I guess I'd push for a stronger network of support for parents.

How do you and Fred keep the romance alive?

We go out. Definitely a bottle or two of wine a night helps. And having Nan and Poppa close by with a room for Phoenix and Madison to sleep in is a bonus. We had fallen out of that routine of having a special date night out together but we are starting to get back into that now and we go out about once a week. It's easy when you work together to bring work home, which we do and sometimes work can overtake that time where you should be hanging out. Fred jokes when I'm in bed with my laptop that I should be married to it.

What chore do you simply despise?

I don't do chores. I have a wonderful lady called Yolanda who helps run our home and every evening upon entering all of us say, 'Thank you Yolanda'. The kids love cleaning as it's a novelty. Whenever they see me doing it they are into it as I never do it.

What is that you love most about being a mum?

Gosh, I love it all. The pure innocence of seeing the twins and their smiles and hearing them laugh. I love the family unit. I never thought I'd enjoy being married and having a family so much. They are my three best friends. I spend more time with them than anyone and we are constantly growing and learning new things.

Is Fred 'hands-on' around the house?

Yes. He is brilliant. He helps get the kids dressed and bathed and fed. With him being so hands-on, he also reaps the rewards of that as the twins are equally into both of us. A lot of the time they want Daddy and he feels a special bond with them.

How do you handle it when Phoenix and Madison behave in a way that is challenging or inappropriate?

Like the Super Nanny. We have a naughty room. Generally I send them to their bedroom. They are happy to close their own doors and have their space and they come out once they've calmed down. We treat them in a very grown-up manner. We also could bribe them with a chocolate frog at the corner shop or at the toy shop on a Saturday morning, which I'm sure every parent does.

Do you find it easy to ask for practical support from family and friends?

Absolutely. I have no hesitation at calling Mum at six o clock in the morning if I have a staff meeting or for an afternoon school pick-up. One thing my father said to me was, "If you don't ask, you don't get". I am comfortable in coming forward. The joy they have in being grandparents - I know they will all have a great time together. I don't feel guilty about it.

What has been your greatest personal sacrifice since becoming a mum?

I used to love my sport and running and swimming and the freedom of swimming across Bondi bay. I used to really enjoy getting out there early in morning and doing the Bondi-Bronte walk and I can honestly say that for five years it's something I haven't been able to do but with my new motto of making more 'me' time I'm hoping I can get back into it. Also, I guess you lose that freedom of walking out the door. Now I walk out with a laptop, a briefcase, two schoolbags, lunchboxes, hats and a handbag.

How has motherhood changed you?

I think it grounds you. I became less selfish. You put your needs aside for the needs of others.

Bay Bee Cino now has a national network of consultants. There are boutiques in Chatswood, Mosman and Double Bay selling everything from sleeping bags to booties and blankets, books, toys and linen. For more information about becoming a Direct Bay Bee Cino consultant, visit www.baybeecino.com.au
 
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