Nicola James, Owner of Iris Dares

Fierce and feminine dresses for girls, made ethically in the UK

I wasn’t maternal until I had children; then I turned into a tiger mam! My first daughter, Isabelle, was born in 2014. I’d been working as an addiction therapist for a decade in various settings – including prisons. You can’t take a phone behind bars with you, which isn’t great when you’ve got kids, plus moving to a family home on the outskirts of London had made the commute so much longer.

When Isabelle was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition before her first birthday, I knew she couldn’t go to nursery. It made sense to quit work and focus on caring for her and expanding our family.

I was three months pregnant with our second child, Harriet, when Isabelle went into remission, but by then I’d already started making plans to run my own business. I’ve never met a more amazing set of people than mothers who try to work. With my husband away in London all week and me looking after two kids, it was challenging getting things off the ground.

My first venture was selling ethical children’s gifts, but with everything being so low-value, it was difficult to make any money. I’m hoping everything I have learned will make my latest business, Iris Dares, more profitable…

My girls are very girlie, but I’ve taught them that you can rule the world in a tiara and heels! If they want to climb trees in a party dress, then they can! Most designs on the High Street are very restrictive, so with the support and encouragement of my family and other mums, I’ve designed my own collection.

Each dress has no buttons, bows or zips. The top half is made from soft and stretchy cotton and the front hem is raised for active play. Embracing the power of the twirl, they come in various patterns suited to different children’s personalities.

I can’t sew to save my life, so I teamed up with Bobbin and Buckle – a social enterprise that trains up seamstresses to give them an extra income.

Two months on since our website went live, interest and sales are growing. I’m building something for me that my little warriors can also be very proud of.

Iris Dares