Meet the lovely Charlie Hughes of Sophia's Choice UK who is happily married and is a devoted mum of two gorgeous, spirited girls aged six and two.
Since the launch of Sotto e Sopra, Charlie has been working alongside us, helping promote our ladies Tencel® collection of wardrobe staple tops, through her established blog and social media. Her Eco Parenting Blog, Sophia's Choice UK provides information about organic, natural, eco-friendly and creative products, ideas and classes, for all the family, which have been personally tried and tested.
We thought our Sotto e Sopra followers would love to find out more about her and what inspired her to set up her blog.
What inspired you to create your Blog? I used to live in Brittany, France for just short of 3 years. My husband and I moved out there to run 2 holiday cottages and inspirational courses. After just 3 months of moving I fell pregnant with my first daughter. Once she arrived I struggled to find products that were free from chemical nasties like parabens, SLS, phlathlates etc. I therefore began searching the internet looking for purer, more natural products I could use on her young, delicate skin. Luckily for us she didn’t suffer from ezcema or have any allergies but when you know that 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream, as a new Mum you start to really think twice about what you are using.
This led me to companies like Green People could deliver to me in France, (they offer an extensive range of natural products including shampoos, face creams, sun lotions and body washes and they are also one of the biggest names in organic beauty in the UK) and so my journey began to find more products from nappies, sleep sacks and mattresses to books, clothes and skincare that followed my organic, natural and Eco-friendly ethos. As my girls are also very creative souls, I now cover craft ideas too.
I love the idea of giving something back and really believe that if we can educate ourselves and make better, more conscious choices about what we are buying for both ourselves, and our children then this is a good thing. It all begins from the moment we decide to bring a life into this world right through until they fly the nest. If we can make better choices for them, educate them about the choices available to them then maybe we can go some way towards changing people’s thinking and attitudes for the better
How did you go about setting up Sophia's Choice UK? Whilst being a Stay at Home Mum to my eldest daughter, I completed a web design diploma course. It helped give me another focus and skill set whilst at home being Mum and has helped me greatly in understanding how to set up a blog. I have used ‘Blogger’ to set up Sophia’s Choice but the long term aim will be to change to “self hosted” as this gives you greater flexibility in what you can and can’t do. Blogger is pretty straightforward and easy to use. You can also blog on other platforms like Wordpress, Typepad, amongst others.
I then set up a Sophia's Choice UK Twitter account and a Sophia's Choice UK Facebook Page where I share all my posts with my followers and likers. It takes time to build a following but if you are a people person, it’s amazing how many lovely people you an end up connecting with, from companies through to individuals that you may never have come across. Twitter in particular is a great social media platform. I’m also a member of Britmums and TOTS100 which support and promote the parent blogging community. Other bloggers are extremely supportive of each other too.
What advise would you give before venturing into setting up a blog? Think through what it is you want to share with people, and have a vision of how you see that developing. I knew I wanted to share all the great products, classes and ideas I’d come across on my 6 year journey so far as a Mum. Then I branched out and started to make further connections with other great companies who mirrored my passion for natural, organic and Eco-friendly products. Six months later, this has opened up further opportunity to try out and review more products which I can then share with my readers. It’s been a very exciting time and as I love writing, it brings several of my passions together in one place.
When did you go LIVE and what has the reaction been? I went live with the blog on 18th October 2012. It was the day after what would have been my Mum’s 70th birthday. We had lost her to lung cancer the September before. 2012 had always been the year that Mum and I had agreed to celebrate together - my 40th and her 70th.
That never came to be, and I think I reached her birthday and thought life is so short, if I don’t start this blog now when will I ever begin. So I jumped straight in feet first and hoped for the best. Having previously worked in supporting roles within the Marketing and PR industry gave me an idea of how things tend to work, but it was all a matter of testing out the waters and seeing what happened and whether there was indeed an interest in what I was doing.
The reaction so far has been really positive. You can get very hung up on how many visitors or “hits” you get on your site and how many followers or likers you have but to be honest I’m doing this because it’s something I’m passionate about. I’m a great believer that people will read the blog and become part of my Facebook or Twitter community because they genuinely want to and have an interest in being there. That means more to me than numbers. I want to share with others what I’ve found to be of value along my parenting journey and I’m also interested in what my readers have to share with me too.
Have you been nominated for any awards yet? No, not yet, but the blog is still very young so the opportunities to enter or be nominated for a blogging award have been minimal. I’d love to think that in time I may be up for a blogging award or similar. My writing is my passion, so to be recognised for this would mean a lot too.
Was your blog set up for fun or fun and work? Sophia’s Choice was always first and foremost about the blog and then about building things to a point where I could have an online shop selling some of the products I have tried, tested and shared with my readers. I don’t want to just sell something because everyone else does. For me it’s important to feel passionate about what I’m selling. I need to believe in something to be able to sell and share it with others.
My youngest is just about to start nursery so this is the next phase for Sophia’s Choice. It’s very exciting and if all goes to plan the aim is to launch the online shop in September this year, if not before. This will then allow me to have a small business I feel passionate about that I can also work around the girls. Perfect !
Do you generate an income? No, I decided early on that I wouldn’t accept sponsored posts on Sophia’s Choice. I want the writing that’s on there to be mine and not what someone else dictates to me. I have had ‘Guest’ posts on Sophia’s Choice from other bloggers or people I love and admire who I approached to write for the blog. We have had some great posts included so far and a few more in the pipeline.
In addition to what we as a family have bought ourselves over the years, I do connect with companies and often have the opportunity to try, test out and review products for the girls, myself and/or my hubby. So far with the exception of one these have all been companies that I have approached first. I want to share with my readers products which I have an interest in and really believe in. Although I get to keep the product(s) the views expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings, no one else’s. It’s not about getting a “freebie”. What I do and share is really important to me. And the posts I write take time, research and love to prepare. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
As a busy wife and mum do you have time do follow Fashion? I’m not an avid follower of fashion in that I don’t scour women’s magazines to see what’s ‘en vogue’ this season, but I’ve always loved clothes and fashion in general. I’m quite a classic dresser and always have been. However, since having the two girls I’d say that my fashion prowess currently leaves a lot to be desired! Scrabbling around on the floor after a toddler doesn’t really work unless you’re in jeans and flatties so for the past 7 years dressing up has somewhat eluded me. Also, as I no longer work in an office environment, I think the need to look a certain way is not a necessity anymore. However, now my youngest is 2 the want to dress up and look nice has returned so I’ve been trying to revamp my wardrobe. It’s amazing how your body shape changes too after two children !
When purchasing your clothes, do you choose quality over quantity? I’m definitely a quality over quantity girl. My Mum would always say; buy a couple of good quality items like trousers, skirts, and jackets, and then you can throw a cheaper top into the mix without it affecting the overall look and feel of an outfit and no one would ever know. I think she’s right.
What are your thoughts on Green/Sustainable Fashion? I love the idea of Green/Sustainable Fashion. I think we all need to be thinking about where the items we buy and use on a daily basis come from and how they are sourced. It’s all too easy to bury your head in the sand and think that you do not need to look at the issue. We have become far too used to having access to cheap food and clothing but this in turn affects real people with real lives and also our environment. I’m all for buying green, sustainable and fair-trade products where possible. They’re now far more accessible than ever before, so we really have no excuse to not look into our options. I also think it’s an ever growing area of interest so being a market leader in this area now can only be a good thing for the future of Ethical Fashion & Green fashion.
How do you feel about the Tencel® wardrobe staple tops, you tried and tested from Sotto e Sopra? I was genuinely impressed with the design and quality of the Tencel® tops I tried and tested. They were great quality and really comfortable to wear. As a busy Mum that’s really important. I love Bamboo clothing and have bought several items for the girls and myself in this material. Tencel® is very similar but actually softer still. I was also surprised at how beautifully warm Tencel® is in the cooler months and how the creases literally drop out once hung up to dry. A non-iron top always gets a thumbs up in our house ! I would definitely like to extend my wardrobe with more of your fabulous Sotto e Sopra Tencel® collection as they make great staples for anyone’s wardrobe.
What would you say to ladies who have never worn Tencel® garments? I would say buy one or two items that catch your eye from the current Sotto e Sopra collection, which are a mainstay in your wardrobe. For me that would probably be the Sotto e Sopra Tencel® Tank Vest now that the warmer weather is starting to show and the Tencel® Round Neck with Long Sleeves for the cooler days. Once you have tried the Tencel® collection by Sotto e Sopra Online, you will definitely come back for more. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. My cousin recently bought one of your tops and she loves it. Tencel® is one of those fabrics that you just have to experience to understand how soft and comfortable it is. And as it is also an environmentally sustainable fabric, in my view that makes it “the business!”
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