One of Maggie Bolger's favourite phrases is ‘red tape is a skipping rope,’ which goes a long way to explaining how this entrepreneur and mother of four came to open a private club for children with business partner Rose Astor. Maggie and Rose, the family members clubs in Chiswick and Kensington are synonymous with fun, relaxation and creativity or as they put it 'the place where childhood memories begin.' As the duo re-open their newly refurbished Kensington Club we dropped by to see the changes and ask a few questions about running a successful business, creating a family haven and finding out their style secrets.
DONNA IDA: Where are you from?
Maggie Bolger: I grew up in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Rose Astor: I grew up in The Cotswolds.
DONNA IDA: Maggie, when did you decide to move to the UK? What do you miss about New Zealand?
Maggie Bolger: My parents gave me the amazing gift of a ticket to go and see the world for my 21st, so I hopped on a plane, eventually landing in London. I love living here with the vibrant, fast-paced lifestyle, but I definitely miss all my friends and family at home.
DONNA IDA: Tell us about yourself – What is your career history?
Maggie Bolger: Being a mother and Maggie & Rose are my career history! I got bored with university so left to travel, then had my first child at 22! I have done my fair share of waitressing and office jobs while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do but it was having kids and trying to solve the problem of not having inspiring places to take kids to that defined what my career was to be.
Rose Astor: I lived in Paris for two years after university working as an assistant in a film production company, then as an actor’s agent back in London. I met Maggie filming mini movies in my spare time with out of work actors and director friends. We were looking for venues and stumbled upon Maggie’s mews studio, and more importantly Maggie!
DONNA IDA: How did you come to open Maggie & Rose?
Maggie Bolger: I had my children quite young, and especially after my first I really felt the divide between being a young, childless person who can hang out at funky restaurants and members clubs, to a mother who spends all her time changing nappies and running from one church hall class to the next, without a decent cup of coffee in between! It was impossible 14 years ago to find a restaurant or café that was even slightly child-friendly! So I started by conducting my own classes in a Kensington Studio, then I met Rose and we decided to go one step further and open our first club in Kensington. We wanted a place that both children and parents can enjoy – homely surroundings with plenty to keep the kids occupied, inspiring classes and great food for adults and kids alike.
Rose Astor: When I met Maggie it was sort of a meeting of two bonkers minds, but we got each other completely. We both had this vision of a place like Maggie describes that we couldn’t shake off, nor could we believe we were the first to do it. Anyway somehow we begged, borrowed and stalked our way into opening Pembroke Road after a crazy few months finding our feet in Maggie’s studio.
DONNA IDA: Why did you decide to refurbish Maggie & Rose? What does the new interior look like?
Maggie Bolger: We are thrilled with our new look Kensington Club! It is now much more in line with the design of our Chiswick Club. Kensington has been around for 7 years, and after hundreds and hundreds of kids tearing around the place it was in need of a bit of TLC! We’ve overhauled every corner – new art and cooking studios, rustic café and incredibly cool tree-house inspired soft play. We use as many vintage materials as we can, and we even created our own bespoke paint and wallpaper range (planning to be launched next year!)
DONNA IDA: Maggie, how did you come to be an author?
Maggie Bolger: It just kind of came about organically, working with kids and writing the class programmes – the activities and the lesson plans, we wanted to be able to create pieces from these that the parents could do at home. We have a whole range in the pipeline from story books to cook books coming out early next year.
DONNA IDA: You both have children, how do you balance a business with your family life?
Maggie Bolger: I don’t sleep! It definitely is manic, ALL of the time, but my family are incredible – we all work together to make it work. It helps having older children as well – they are great extra pairs of hands around the house and with helping out with the youngest who is four. I try to make sure I am there as much as I can be when my kids wake up and in the evening for bed time – it makes me feel less maternal guilt if I can at least achieve this!
Rose Astor: We live in the country which makes life easier with children I think, less plans, more “get into the garden get muddy build dens and get on with it” which is what both my husband and I grew up with. I live very near my mother who is a brilliantly hands on granny. When I’m with the children I try and put away laptops, iPhones etc and just go with the flow, listen, chat, be present. That’s all they want really. Weekends are very much family time, we may still be in our pyjamas at 10am but I love being low key having no plans, going for walks in the woods, eating lots and just winding down. Then we all go off to work/school on Monday - they seem to accept this and realise that we can do things like build our own house, go on holiday because mummy and papa work!
DONNA IDA: What is your best industry advice?
Maggie Bolger: Be innovative – don’t follow the crowd, and don’t settle for second best. If you can’t find something off the shelf that doesn’t suit your vision – create it yourself.
Rose Astor: Don’t try and do too much at once, if you have a great idea write it down, but tick off what you are working on first before moving on to the next thing. I mean that’s my advice but I’m not very good at following it...
DONNA IDA: Who are your style icons?
Maggie Bolger: I love Rachel Bilson and Olivia Palermo – they both epitomize cool in my mind. I like edgy, contrasting outfits too, and Olivia is the perfect example of getting such combinations right.
Rose Astor: The fashion blogger Feather and Frills, the spirit & boho style of Diane von Furstenberg, and my lovely fashiony friend and inspiration Amanda Brooks.
DONNA IDA: How do you wear your jeans?
Maggie Bolger: Every which way possible! I seriously live in jeans. During the day I tend to team them with a pair of sneakers, and in the evenings I’ll switch over to a pair of heels, big earrings and a statement top.
Rose Astor: I love IDA jeans with high top trainers
DONNA IDA: What are you reading at the moment? What is your favourite book?
Maggie Bolger: I am currently doing Harvard Business School management modules – so that is my reading material right now! I hardly ever make time to read, but a recent book I have been introduced to is Velocity, by Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander. It looks at how to cope with a world gone digital, and is written as a lively and inspiring conversation between the authors. Highly recommend.
Rose Astor: My favourite book of all time is the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Also loved the Goldfinch by Donna Tart - both those books require a holiday without children! Currently revisiting Roald Dahl through my eldest two children, we have just read The Twits and are now on James and the Giant Peach. I love his wicked sense of humour. I do have a pile of books by my bed but lucky if I hit more than one page a night at the moment.
DONNA IDA: What advice would you give to others who are just starting their own business?
Maggie Bolger: Follow your dreams, don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. As I like to say ‘red tape is a skipping rope’. Dream big.
DONNA IDA: What's next?
Maggie Bolger: We have loads of exciting plans in the pipeline for the Maggie & Rose brand. We are looking at how we can grow internationally, as there has been an influx of demand for our concept. We are constantly overwhelmed by how appreciative parents are of what we have created. One of our favourite member testimonials is ‘Everywhere in the world should have a Maggie & Rose’. We are going to do our best to make sure we can do that.