About Time You Met: Maggie Bolger, Founder of b_togetherBy Alicia Grimshaw
Maggie Bolger is a mother of four and a highly successful entrepreneur. Over the last decade she has acted as an innovator in the childhood industry and challenged issues of parenting and adolescent development in modern society. Maggie has built a reputation as a progressive thought leader in early childhood education and family-focused interior design. Following her huge success as Co-Founder of members’ club, Maggie and Rose, and drawing on her experience as a mother of four children, Maggie is now setting a new benchmark and opening an exciting venture of her own, b_together, opening next month.
We chatted to Maggie about what people can expect from b-together, the company’s sustainability values and her exciting expansion plans:
What is b_together, and how will it be different to other family-focused community hubs?
b_together is my brand spanking new concept – a high street hub and hang out for families of all age groups, opening in St John’s Wood in May. We’ve packed a lot over the four floors of our flagship space; it will include an on-site nursery, bookable work, study and meeting spaces, studios for workshops and classes, children’s soft play zones, a family club space, our own family brasserie, eco-led retail area and even an apartment for holiday stays.
We wanted to have something that offered more to a wider age range, something a bit more grown-up, so as to appeal to the teens but still deliver exceptional early years support, as this is so critical to parenting.
You had huge success with Maggie & Rose, how has it been developing a brand new concept in a sector you have already pioneered?
My experience from Maggie & Rose has definitely made the process easier. It is definitely odd competing with myself, so much of me went into creating M&R – even my name! But in stepping away I had time, which I never had before to really look at what evolving the model looked like. You often don’t get this luxury when in the full throws of a business. Then COVID happened and businesses as a whole have fundamentally changed so it’s been quite an experience starting from scratch!
Developing b_together has been an exciting challenge and I have put everything I have learned over the past 12 years into practice, as well as really thinking about the needs of my family, who are now much older, and what we could do for them. We have made the concept more accessible, by offering services to the general public, whilst still retaining the intimacy of community within the club offering.
You are a mother of four, how have your experiences in motherhood shaped b_together?
My kids have always driven my career, as before them I had no idea what I wanted to do, having Azia at 22, and looking at the family offering offered me a full insight into what was missing, so I created what we all needed. And as they grow I learn more and more about family needs, so b_together is an evolution of my original concept, in this day and age innovation is key, so my kids help us stay relevant. Although my lot are growing, I created the nursery at Chiswick M&R for Ollie who is now ten – so I may need to have another baby for our new nursery to keep up to date with the younger age range!
What was your overall goal with b_together?
I wanted to create a place that everyone can come and hang out, have fun and be inspired, meet new people, connect, study, work, eat great food and be part of a welcoming community, because parenting is hard work and we all may as well do it together in a beautiful place.
What can people expect to find at b_together?
I think the question is what can’t you find! We have pretty much covered everyone’s needs; from pre and postnatal services, childcare, creative classes to a teen approved programme of events and access. Flexible desks for ad hoc work or study time – we even have beds if so required!
What are you most looking forward to guests experiencing within the family destination?
There are so many aspects on offer that I am excited for families to experience. Most of all, I am looking forward to guests trying everything they possibly can! One of the programmes we have spent a lot of time working on is the progressive early years curriculum, Make + Do. We have re-written developmental goals to be more friendly and less jargon-heavy, offering a truly unique and new unique approach to childcare.
I also have multiple teenagers in my house on a daily basis, so I wanted to create a programme for them, something where they feel welcome and listened to. They have had input into the programme and feedback on what they think is missing in their lives – so we have created a package for them, as no one really thinks about them.
Can you tell us about the sustainability values of b_together?
With b_together, I wanted to show my family as well as our guests that the smallest of things can have an impact, and building something from scratch means we can start as we mean to go on.
We experimented the hell out of getting as close to zero waste as we feasibly can, and we are only working with suppliers that have sustainability at the forefront of their businesses. We have made some ballsy business choices, for example, we are not having single-use takeaway cups, as even the most eco friendly still end up in landfill and still take years to break down. We have found reasonably priced reusable coffee cups – made from old coffee cups!
Our curriculum has been created around materials we can make or reuse, we have done away with single-use plastic supplies like paints and glues. It is important to also pass on the message and learnings to the youngest of our customers, so they can learn how small changes can make an impact.
It’s definitely not been the easiest of tasks that’s for sure, we are actually writing up a handy guide about the things we have found as the information is not always the easiest to find.
We understand that a restaurant, AT feast, will also be in the venue – could you tell us more about that?
AT feast is our all-day dining brasserie open to both the public and to members, which offers delicious and nutritious food using sustainably sourced ingredients. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner where we will serve wholesome, seasonal dishes packed with feel-good sharing plates, light-bites and deli offerings. The restaurant will also offer cookery workshops for all ages, a retail space and a ‘grab and go’ bar for coffee and snacks.
We are also doing awesome cocktails on offer, from only sustainable brands, so a few old favourites will be missing from our bar, but we have sourced some awesome new brands, we’ve been concocting recipes for cocktails that have elements of goodness for you – like a metabolism booster, the mood booster and the immunity booster!
Our cookery classes will include brunch, baking and supper clubs for babies to teens, to mums and dads that need to polish their skills! So there’s lots for everyone to enjoy!
Is this the first of many b_together sites, and if yes, why did you choose St John’s Wood as the first location?
Yes this is the first of many b_togethers to come. I fell in love with SJW a few years ago and actually looked at this site we are in, but it was complex as it was quite a few units and didn’t work out then, fast forward and the universe aligned and here we are, I love the high street here, it is one of the most beautiful in London, and is so full of community and character.
What advice would you give to other people who are looking to start their own venture?
In the words of Nike – just do it!