This week’s That Mama is Shirley Conlon, the deft hand behind Shirley Conlon Organics who has made it her mission to create pure organic products with the very best ingredients that nature has to offer. After working the high end cosmetics circuit in Europe, shirley left it all behind to come to Dubai and realised her true passion lay with organics and with spending time with her gorgeous family. Balancing both her cosmetics business with raising her beautiful daughters, she’s got a few tips and tricks for all you aspiring mamapreneurs… check out her interview below!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I’m mother to two beautiful daughters; Sophia, 9 and Stella, 4. We have lived in Dubai now for nine years with my wonderful husband Roberto from Venice. I grew up on an organic farm in Ireland, one of 15 siblings, where everything was home made and home grown. My mum often jokes that the only items ever bought were sugar, flour, material and a good sewing machine, and the rest was all home made.
As organic farming’s always being a huge part of my life, I unsurprisingly followed my passion in it. As a child, I’d make secret potions with things from my mum’s garden and learned invaluable lessons about the health benefits of herbs and plants, but it was the benefits to skin that interested me most. For example in springtime, we mixed stinging Nettles into our greens to keep our skin clear.
I studied cosmetology in London and worked as European cosmetics brand manager, specialising in luxury, high-end niche products. I represented some very beautiful, prestigious brands for many of the most exclusive stores throughout Europe. I developed a strong awareness of cosmetic ingredients and realised I needed to be nearer to my organic roots. I followed my passion and studied organic cosmetic science in UK and Australia.
On moving to Dubai, I realised the products I was using weren’t suited to the environment as they contained either synthetic ingredients, which blocked my pores and caused havoc on my skin, or phototoxic ingredients that sensitised my skin to sunlight. So my journey began to create clean, pure organic products to compliment hotter environments, with precious natural ingredients to enhance the skin’s natural in-built protection system.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
Pre-babies, I was busy flying all over Europe with work. I don’t really feel like I took time out post babies, as I was busy studying and researching Shirley Conlon Organics, however I can definitely say that post babies, I take a much more balanced approach. I know I’ll never get this time back with my children, so I do tend to give them all the attention they need. I try to include my children in my work so they feel involved.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
I try to get the majority of my work done during school hours and the rest when the children are sleeping. My youngest doesn’t go to nursery, so she literally comes everywhere with me; meetings, printers, Ripe market etc. Balance is key to happiness so I strive to get it right, but of course, we’re only human. Sometimes we lose the balance, but we soon put it right again.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
I still keep an old fashioned diary and I prioritise everything. Mornings are for errands without the kids, phone calls are for the car at school pick-up (hands free off course) and my children are proud to help me with other things, as it makes them feel helpful and they earn some pocket money.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Dubai?
Don’t think about it too much, follow your heart, trust your instincts and leave the rest to God. Enjoy every step and involve your children as much as possible – it makes it worth all the while.
Favourite activity with your kids in Dubai?
My children do a lot of activities so weekend pyjama mornings & chilling at home is just divine. As a family, we love the beach, pool, reading, baking or hanging out at a park.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai?
Café Italiano in Arenco Tower, Media City. It’s our restaurant that we opened at the beginning of this year and the food is just divine. The chefs are all Italian and the quality of the ingredients is superb. We use only organic tomatoes on our pizzas and it’s very child and family friendly during the evenings and at weekends.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot?
I am very fortunate to spend my holidays between two beautiful countries; Ireland and Italy, however we also love Austria and its cooler climate with lots to do outdoors. We usually stay at Schloss Hotel in Tirol, a paradise for kids with scenery and food that is out of this world.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
My husband works extremely long hours, so it’s very important to spend quality time together. I’m a bit goofy and still write love notes and we make sure to have date nights. When the children grow up it’s just the two of us, so I believe it’s important to stay connected and make time for each other.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
We love Zuma, it’s our favorite place ever but we like to try out new restaurants too. La petit maison is another favourite.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Trust your instincts. Enjoy the noise because it doesn’t last forever, one day you will give anything to have just one noisy day back.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Scrutinize labels on skincare and the less products you use for your baby, the safer and healthier his/her skin will be. There are baby products on the market with ingredients that should never be used on anyone’s skin, yet alone babies skin – it’s appalling!
As a mama I wish I were better at…
I think as a mum you are always wishing you were better at everything as we are our biggest critics. But patience is something I’ve had to learn a lot about.
My most humbling mama moment was…
At the moment, my daughter keeps saying “mammy why are you so beautiful” and it just makes me melt. Every cuddle and every hug is a blessing from God and I cherish each one.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Quality time with my children is so important. We do stuff together as a family but I also make individual time too. Each of my daughters gets there own special time alone – normally just for an ice-cream or a walk but they like that and it makes them feel important.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Organic formulations, packaging and new ingredients for products.
Even when my children have families of their own, I’ll still…
Want hugs from my daughters and want to be a part of their life.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Dinner time when we sit around the table and talk about our day – there is always a funny story involved.
I always feel saner after…
A night out with my husband or friends or a good facial.
I wish I had more time for…
I would like to learn French and guitar, but I’ve put both on hold until later.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
The children are calm and relaxed, so they will have a bath with some essential oils and some reading before bed so make them relax.
These beautiful images of Shirley, Sophia and Stella are courtesy of the very talented Stephanie Hamilton of Nektar.