Until I Discovered The Memo, I Thought Shopping for a Baby Would Be Torture

I found out I was pregnant earlier this year when we were in the middle of COVID lockdown in Sydney. Stuck at home, I more or less forgot I was pregnant. I was faced with an even bigger distraction — managing a team of writers through “these unprecedented times”, navigating the course of our coverage, and getting used to a life inside the four walls of my home. I also forgot because really, nothing changed. I didn’t have to come up with reasons why I wasn’t drinking at the pub, I didn’t have to hide my bloated belly, and I didn’t have to search for excuses as to why I was so tired at 6pm. My own little COVID silver lining.

But now as the countdown approaches, and there’s no way to hide my expanding waistline, I’m facing the reality of having to shop around for a few baby essentials.

I live around the corner from a major ‘baby supercentre’ — you know the one, they’re everywhere. I’ve wandered in a few times trying to find myself within the store. But each time, I walked out feeling sad, overwhelmed, and like I’d stepped back in time. Why do these big baby stores all have dirty old grey carpet, flourescent lighting and unattentive store assistants?

If I visit an actual store, I’m looking for an experience. I want curation — an edit. Especially when shopping for the unknown — aka a baby. The baby stores I visited across Sydney (because I thought I should give a few a chance) felt more like mass supermarkets, with overflowing stock shelves, literally hundreds of ‘essentials’ and ‘must-haves’, and plastic everywhere. Why does shopping for a baby have to be an experience so wildly different to what I’m used to when shopping for homewares, fashion, or beauty?

So I turned to google, determined to find a store that felt in line with the way I shop and what I value — a store that feels more considered and less like I’m contributing to mass overconsumption and landfill. I found the memo — an Australian-based online store with an edit of the best-of-the-best. Not the stuff you might need ‘just in case’ (like a wiper warmer, WTF?!), or the stuff that’s ‘just because it’s cute’. This is a place where you can find a highly considered edit of helpful products that exist to make your life as effortless as possible. For example — looking for a steraliser? the memo has just one, with a breakdown of why it’s the best. No need to walk down an aisle with 18 options of the same item that do the same thing. I know there are other families-to-be out there like me. I don’t want to spend my weekends researching, reading, shopping. I just want to hop on, buy the one and get it done.

So impressed with the memo (and also a little devastated I didn’t think of it first because I truly believe it’s a game-changer), I tracked down its founders to learn more about its ethos.

AB: How did the idea for the memo come to be?

Phoebe: It was Kate’s idea. She’d been a beauty buyer for retailers like Mecca, Myer and David Jones and we had met through the beauty game, first when I was the Marketing Director for Benefit Cosmetics for three years before starting my first business The BLOW. Kate had a list of baby essentials that she and her friends would circulate that had everything an expectant parent actually needs. There was no one place where she could get it all, and feel good doing so. So she went about reaching out to the brands on this super considered list, while I got to work on the brand and the marketing, approaching it in the same way that I would a beauty or lifestyle brand, considering the customer, creating feelings and connection, and using education to empower not overwhelm.

AB: Were you frustrated by the baby market? Was it born out of a desire to solve a problem?

Kate: Unbelievably so! When I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with the amount of choice, the number of opinions and the amount of times I had to go to Baby Bunting. It never made me feel good, it wasn’t in line with the retail experience I was used to getting in beauty, fitness and fashion, and I knew there were more parents like me who expected better. We saw a gap in the market and the opportunity to deliver something that would really mean something to Australian parents. A feel good, fast online shopping experience that sold everything you need, and nothing you don’t, to prepare you for a happy homelife with your newborn.

AB: I believe the baby market has struggled to adapt — when I’ve gone into a mass baby store I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. Do you agree? Why do you think this is?

Phoebe: Preach. Not being a parent myself I couldn’t believe how this industry was being marketed. Bumps, cooing babies, heavy discounting and unattainable ‘boho-chic’ crowds the space and I noticed a lack of focus on the needs or concerns of the actual parent. The style is often unsophisticated and the tone can be patronising. Pair that with way too much choice (and opinions) leads to many expectant parents feeling jaded and confused by the whole process. I think this is an example of brands marketing to brands/ the industry rather than thinking about who the customer actually is, and not adapting to her style and discerning taste. Our customer gets weekly blow drys, goes to Pilates and shops on Net-A-Porter. Yet before the memo, when she became pregnant, all of a sudden she’s marketed to in a completely infantile and off putting way — the options are endless but unclear. Life is already changing so much, we wanted to deliver an experience that was feel good and left her feeling the same person- in control, just more invincible.

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AB: YES!! You’ve captured exactly how I feel. Why does shopping for a baby need to feel like such a cheesy process? Which is why I’m so happy you’ve created this elevated, curated shopping experience. What are the non-negotiable newborn essentials every new mum/mum-to-be should invest in?

Kate: Firstly, borrow what you can. We know it’s fun to find new stuff but if a carrier, stroller or cot is being offered to you in a beautiful condition, grab it! You don’t need to buy all the stuff, just what you actually need.

Essential items include

AB: How have you thought about the curation of brands you stock?

Kate: It’s a really considered process. The original assortment came from my own experience as a mum and the list that friends and I would refine and circulate to expectant parents in our circle. We are committed to stocking only the stuff you need, will use and love. Some products are eco aware, some just work best, all look beautiful. It’s all the essentials that are the best of the best, but we also give options to parents on style and price point, as everyone’s taste and lifestyle is different. For example, we stock a $7 Sudocreme Nappy Rash Cream as well as a $1500 cot from Leander.  At the moment, it’s everything you need for maternity and newborns, up to twelve months old, but this will grow over time to new age brackets.

AB: How do you do your research and find the absolute best products to stock on The Memo?

Kate: There’s a lot of searching, talking and asking questions of parents and reading reviews, then we go through a pretty specific guideline check where we ask, is it actually essential? Would we use it every day? Is it super functional and easy to use? Is it eco aware? Will it last forever and get really great bang for your buck? For example, we all love a baby in a cute little linen jumpsuit, but it’s more a cute photo opp than a get-through-the-day kind of purchase, so we tend to select items that deliver high use, high return.

AB: What has been some of the standout feedback you’ve received from new/expecting mums?

Kate: It’s all been so beautiful. We love all our feedback but our favourite kind is when we hear from parents saying we’ve made this time in their life so much clearer and easier. It’s such an important time for parents to feel in control and prepared, and we’re here to help them do it, cutting through all the fluff and fuss.

AB: You have a lot of different ‘lists’ on your site — I absolutely love a list. What has been the most popular ‘list’ that people shop from?

Phoebe: We LOVE a list. Seriously, we’re all too busy, just stick to these and tick off all your essentials, nothing more, nothing less. Really big categories for us are Feeding, Changing and Bathing. Think those caring items like breast pumps, bottles, changing mats, beautiful nappy bags, baby baths, toys and towels. All the beautiful feel good ways to bond with your baby can be found with us.

AB: What is the #1 item you always recommend to expectant mothers?

Kate: Body Ice Heat and Cooling Packs. Post birth, your body can feel incredibly tender and these gel packs are designed to fit your breasts and around the nipples as well as your perineum to soothe discomfort, pain and swelling that you may experience from pregnancy, childbirth and/or breastfeeding. You’ve got to look after number one (that’s you!) and it’s one of the things you don’t know you need, until you do.

Shop newborn essentials at thememo.com.au