Jo Tutchener-Sharp, founder of Scamp & Dude, tells Victoria Evans how serious illness inspired her to help others
There’s a quite a story behind Scamp & Dude, can you tell us about it?
I had a brain haemorrhage in October 2015, then had surgery to remove a blood tumour in January 2016. While I was in hospital recovering from the surgery, and desperately missing my kids, I came up with this idea. It really struck me how difficult it must be for kids when their parents are seriously ill; the time away in hospital and the recovery time at home – it’s so hard for kids. Even though mine had their amazing dad, and my wonderful parents with them, I knew they would find it hard when I wasn’t around. I wished there was something I could have given them, something to watch over them, to keep them safe, and to make them think I was close. Hence the creation of the Superhero Sleep Buddy. It’s a Superhero comforter, in the form of a shaped dinosaur or bunny cushion, that can sit on the bed and watch over kids while they sleep. On the back is a pocket that holds a photograph of the person they want to keep close. For every Superhero Sleep Buddy sold, we donate one to a vulnerable child: whether they have a seriously ill parent, have lost a parent, or are in hospital themselves and need a Superhero to have their back. We are working with some amazing charities such as Don’t Forget the Kids and Grief Encounter, as well as with London’s leading children’s hospital.
How did the family cope while you were ill?
My family were absolutely brilliant. After the haemorrhage, I was really unwell. I used to go back to my parents’ house, while my husband was working, and spend time with my kids. It was very scary as there was a possibility I could have had another haemorrhage at any time. So, it was hard for everyone, but they all gathered round, stayed positive, kept smiling, and we all got through it. It felt like we were all going through this together. I actually spent most of my time worrying about how they were all feeling, my kids, my husband, my parents, my sisters, and my closest friends. I knew this wasn’t easy for anyone. I kept thinking about single parents, or parents who don’t have close family around. It’s such a horribly hard thing to go through, despite having an amazing network around me, supporting me. I am very aware that not everyone has this, and it was this thought that drove me to try and help in some way.
How did the link up with Liberty come about?
Through the power of Instagram! I have worked in the beauty industry for many years. The beauty buyer for Liberty and I followed each other on Instagram. I sent her a direct message asking if she could introduce me to their kids’ buyer. She replied, ‘well, as fate would have it, it’s me!’ She had taken over kids, as well as beauty, so it really was fate! She invited me in to present the collection to her. The rest is history. Liberty is my absolute favourite store in the world. I couldn’t be happier that Scamp & Dude will be there.
What’s a typical day like for you, or is there one?
I get the boys ready, then take Sonny to school while my husband drops Jude at nursery. I then head to the office, put my head down and try to get as much done before 3pm, when I have to go and collect Sonny from school. He’s only just started school, in September, so I am still getting used to these shorter working days, which can be a challenge when your to-do list is the size of Mars. I spend my days dealing with the factories, making decisions, checking samples and providing feedback (I am a nightmare client as I’m a huge perfectionist), working with web designers, designing my next collection, dealing with all of the safety tests and legalities that come with starting a brand; the list goes on and on.
What have you learned from previous business experiences, which has helped you this time?
Running your own business is not for the work-shy. I become completely obsessed with whatever business I am working on. I live and breathe it. My haemorrhage was caused by stress, so I am now more aware of not getting into horribly stressful situations. I’ve changed my life in order to make it less stressful, more fulfilling and meaningful. I went through some dark times when I was facing brain surgery, thinking about my kids growing up without me. It really affected me, but it gave me the strong desire to do good and help others. It was this desire that led to the creation of Scamp & Dude.