Maggie Bolger @ b_together

Hi Maggie, we are huge fans of yours. You’re a mum of four and founder of the family club b_together, and you’re a dog mum! You’re our hero!!!!

First of all, congratulations on your new venture. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the concept behind b_together?

What has been exciting for me is having the time to design and create again, b_together really is the best of my talents. I have a small team and we have been busy creating a beautiful product which I am super proud of.

We have worked on a progressive early years curriculum, called Make + Do, that is not only creative, but has sustainability at the heart of it. It’s core is simplicity and creativity, we have re-written developmental goals to be more friendly and less industry jargon, so the childcare and classes is a truly unique offering and not just variations of old philosophies. The design of the nursery really puts play front and centre, and the programme of classes with gentle developmental insights make the whole offering really special, we hope that we have created a new methodology that we can share and inspire others with.

Our food for our restaurant AT Feast, has been lovingly created with local UK suppliers and we have been testing out methods to reuse food waste and be as close to zero waste as we can be. We have worked on family favourites and given them a healthy makeover for the health and well being of both our customers and the planet. This mantra is carried through into cookery school, where we have a diverse range of dishes and bakes to teach to all from 12months old to 100yrs if need be.

The teenage market has been long forgotten, as I have multiple teenagers in my house on a daily basis, I wanted to create an programme for them, something where they feel they have been listened to, where they can have access to workshops and inspiring events that they don’t find anywhere currently, and a after school study hub to be inspired and give them a break from the norm. With a work experience course in the pipelines to help them enter the job market, give them confidence and simple support like applying for a job. This is something that i’m really excited about.

There are too many things to mention, it’s an ambitious project, but one that I hope will be a gamechanger for the family market.

How is the club different from other family member clubs?

Exiting M&R gave me much needed headspace, and grounded me quite literally as I had spent the last two years of my time at the helm of M&R travelling between London and Asia.

It really gave me time to reflect on what I had created previously, what worked and what didn’t, what customers were asking for that we weren’t able to offer. I had to ponder what an evolution of the family offering I had pioneered would look like. I created M&R for my kids when they were of a certain age, now they are older and we as a family have different needs.

So with this in mind I poured all this learning and knowledge into a new version – the 2.0 as my son calls it. New and improved, refined and streamlined. What is coming next is a local high street community hub for family members of all ages.

The members club in only one element, so it’s a more inclusive offering to the local community, which in itself makes it different to other private clubs.

How will the membership work? Costs etc…

We have various options for the different services we offer, membership is £195 a month for a family of 6.

I’ve got a 4 year old and a newborn, will b_together be a good fit for the whole family?

You are literally the dream! We have spaces for both ages and classes and workshops to suit you all, for the newborn we kick off postnatal sessions for mum, baby and dad if he wishes, we also have a dedicated baby area for the pre-walkers. For the 4 year old the play area is perfect, and there are a load of classes as well as camps in the holiday’s. For grown ups there is a co-work, lounge area, great food and cocktails. Something for everyone.

Why did you settle on St John’s Wood for the location and can we expect to see more venues around London in the future?

I fell in love with SJW a few years ago, but the stars didn’t align with the spaces being big enough, fast forward to now and the right building came back to me – so it was fate.

We have been looking at local community building and reviving the high street as part of our vision for the future, given where we are heading post pandemic, it is more important than ever to be together,  since announcing my new venture we have been inundated with requests and we haven’t even opened – which has been amazing. So we are looking at other similar family areas to open more b_togethers.

 As a mum of four, what advice would you give your younger self?

That’s a tough one for sure, motherhood is such a journey of learning the hard way – but these lessons are what make you who you are and the kids who they will be.

I think the one thing I would say is to be more present with them, juggling four kids, it was often a matter of being so busy being busy that I was a bit almost vacant as i was processing so much information I missed moments.

Stopping and taking the time to really talk and focus on them is something I’d advise my younger self for sure.

 Do you think London is family friendly? How can we learn from Europe or other parts of the world to help raise our children?

I have loved raising my family in London, and i do think it really is one of the best cities in terms of being family friendly, maybe i am biased though!

What has been really interesting is how my teenage kids feel about London, when we travel and with a couple of them heading off to Uni, they really feel that London is buzzing and full of opportunities, and they love coming home –  which means maybe i am not that biased.

In my travels, one of the biggest things I have learnt is that pushing academics onto children too early is not the healthiest thing for not only the kids, but parents as well, certainly in the early years. A more relaxed approach to family life in this instance would benefit everyone, more time together eating, hanging out and experiencing things like the Italians & Spanish,  or not focusing on more academic elements of learning until 7yrs like the Scandi’s is far more beneficial to a happy life than stressing about grades and studying all the time.   

What different elements can we expect to see at b_together?

In b_together SJW, the concepts houses:

Ground Floor – Public access

  • Retail store with eco lifestyle products
  • All day brasserie
  • Grab & Go coffee bar
  • Cookery school

First Floor – Public bookable access

  • 50 place childcare for ages 1 – 4yrs
  • Co-work/ study desks for adults and teens
  • Meeting room
  • Workshop studio

Second Floor –  members access

  • Members lounge
  • Games & Library Area.
  • Baby play
  • Bespoke Toddler playground
  • Build your own play area
  • Arts studio

Third Floor – Public bookable access

  • Three bedroom family apartment
  • Holiday lets
  • Weekend breaks
  • Weekday rental for events

What can we expect to find on the menu at the brasserie?

AT feast is a new all-day brasserie that will cater for the whole family. The team aims to be almost zero-waste in approach to food and beverage and will use local suppliers who value sustainability as much as we do. From the Full M (our take on a full English) to light bites and healthy twists of classics, such as our Asian Fish & Chips and our quinoa & Buttermilk crusted organic chicken, we will be serving up nutritious and delicious food.

How did you come up with the idea?

From my experience as a mother and my family needs, as they grow the needs grow and ideas evolve to suit.

When you aren’t busy creating miniature villages, what do you do to unwind?

Drink tequila.

Watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Buy Plants ( slight lockdown addiction that may need some form of therapy )

Your hair and skin always look fabulous, please share your top beauty products?

My hair is a bit of a mess atm – Ive been using lockdown to test out a load of sustainable products, which I have to be honest is causing mad frizz!

I am loving coco and eve, for hair masks which tame the frizz and they also do an awesome fake tan – cause none of us are going on holiday anytime soon and a good fake tan hides a multitude of sins!

My go to beauty brand is bare minerals –  the tinted moisturiser is my essential and the anti ageing is a must in my forties! I also use all their makeup elements as they champion clean beauty and are cruelty free ( as are coco and eve )

Things you’ve learnt over lock-down?

Lockdown has been such a weird / scary and confusing time, but also has been enlightening in that we have had to stop – which is a luxury in life we will never get again. As a family we have become so much closer, it’s been great getting this time with my kids, as they are all heading off soon to uni and sixth form,

We have really bonded and learnt a lot about each other and appreciate how lucky we are.

Life lessons to teach your kids?

Kids are so influenced by us as parents, in lockdown i have noticed that more than ever before, i have always had an open and honest relationship with my kids, my parents uses to dumb things down for us as kids, but i find that never works, children of this generation have so much more to deal with than we did and keeping it real and inspiring them rather than forcing them into things are key.

My big fours things are –

  • Be brave – have a voice, be heard and give anything a go.
  • Be honest – in a world where SM gives a distorted view of life, being honest is such a raw quality that is being lost.
  • Be kind – so important in the world that we live in, the media has become toxic, and I make a big point to my kids to be compassionate and show kindness first.
  • Be conscious – look out for this planet, it’s dying and we need to be conscious with everything we do to try and reverse this.

Life lessons your kids have taught you?

God so so much, everyday I learn from them, the biggest thing I have learnt from them is Unconditional love, I just hadn’t really ever really understood it until I became a parent.

Thanks so much for your time and we can’t wait to visit the new venture!

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