Beauty, business and breakfast come together in style this June at Ballantynes Breakfast Club, with CEO Maria O’Halloran chatting to the always-inspiring women in business – sisters Sophie Gilmour and Mimi Gilmour Buckley – over house-made granola and hot smoked salmon. Interview Josie Steenhart
Sophie: We are taking part in the Ballantynes Breakfast Club, where Ballantynes' brilliant CEO Maria is going to interview us about business and life over breakfast, and then Mimi and I are probably going to inject some cash into the Christchurch economy with some winter wardrobe (and bar) purchases from that beautiful store!
Sophie: This is a very quick trip which we’re sad about – but it will be wonderful to breathe in some crisp Canterbury air (hoping for some fog too) and catch up with a few great friends over breakfast. I went to Otago University and grew up visiting the South Island every year so it's a really important place to me.
Mimi: Even though we’re just flying in and out, we’re very excited to have a whizz around Ballantynes. It’s one of my favourite department stores ever and I’m considering strategically not packing enough warm clothes, so I’m forced to buy more. I also just love walking around Christchurch – it's such a beautiful city and it's been incredible to watch it reimagine itself into a hub of innovation and creativity. I have had some truly exceptional hospitality experiences here over the past few years and met some special, generous and fun people that I have wonderful friendships with.
Sophie: Some very close friends farm a stunning property near Oamaru. My family and I try to get down to see them at least once a year and Riverstone Kitchen is always a must-visit when we do. I feel so lucky to have friends dotted around the South Island and it means spending time in Wānaka, Peel Forest and Christchurch – I love the Christchurch Farmers Market when I'm here.
Mimi: I love Christchurch, which is a big reason why we opened a Burger Burger down here. I had such delicious meals and fabulous service at The Lane and at 5th Street when I was last in town. Elsewhere in the South, I’m a sucker for Arrowtown… And if we’re being specific, the kina pappardelle at Aosta.
Sophie: Business-wise, I split my time between Middle Eastern-inspired restaurants Fatima’s, co-working space The Village, hospitality consultancy, Delicious Business, several food charities that I am passionate about, and the board of Company of Women, which I chair. At home is where I hang out with my daughter Odette and husband David, and all our wonderful family and friends who we love having over for dinner.
Mimi: My husband Stephen and I have two gorgeous girls, Olympia and Octavia, as well as our business Burger Burger. I also started a content and digital marketing agency called MATES, but thanks to the clever team that runs that, it has allowed me the absolute privilege to focus some good time on our soon-to-launch skincare and app business, IAMMI. IAMMI was born from my experience with my daughter Olympia, who has special needs, and it exists to help women feel more confident and capable through a simple five-minute daily practice.
Sophie: I'd love to say I've clocked this, but in my observation every working woman has their own balance that feels 'right' to them – and I think that's your best guide. I can personally feel when it's out of kilter because my priority is to make sure I spend enough quality time with Odette (for both of us!). When everything is in balance, I'm happy to drop her off at day-care and come home late if needed, and when it's not – I miss her at work, so I tweak my schedule accordingly. I also like to be busy, there’s always something going on which is hectic but fun.
Mimi: The very clever Kathryn Wilson once told me that whatever you do, be 100% present for it… So, if you’re at home with your children, be totally focused on being a parent and if you’re at work, put your attention to that. I’m still practicing, but it’s great advice! I also have an incredible knack for surrounding myself with talent and loving humans that constantly make me look like my life is way more under control than it is! Sophie always jokes that I'm the Queen of outsourcing, because I am!
A woman that I deeply admire for her personal and professional accomplishments once told me when I asked her how she did it all that she said to her husband that if she was going to work full time alongside him then she too would need a wife! I understand that it's a privilege to be able to do this. The most humbling times for me have been the times when I have been offered unconditional love and support. It truly does take a village when you have children and I always say to anyone who's younger than me and willing to listen to my old lady rants that you should always ask for help when you need it – especially women!
A lot of my life experiences have inspired IAMMI. I feel like it's a gift that's been given to me by Olympia.
When Olympia was born with severe special needs, my skincare routine became my moment of peace. It was when I would remind myself to let go of what I could not control and to focus my attention solely on what I could. Through this process, I became more resilient. As I studied the brain to learn about Olympia’s condition I learnt about the science of repetition and why this action was having such a powerful effect. That’s when the seed of the idea was planted.
Soon we will launch seven New Zealand-made skincare products that took years to develop. They blend scientific innovation with the latest in green tech and are filled with amazing ingredients including lots of New Zealand natives. We use blends that are sourced from all over New Zealand and include ingredients like kawakawa, red seaweed and mamaku.
Alongside the products, we’re launching an app designed to help you repurpose your skincare routine into a five-minute practice that will leave you feeling more confident and capable. We are in the middle of our second discovery and testing round with our tech team and I am so excited to see the results. We are also just finishing a pitch deck so that we can raise a seed fund to get us really moving!
Ballantynes Breakfast Club, Thursday June 16. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.