The Tale of Jacquie, Sam & Harry McLean

“"Life changes so completely after becoming a mother. At first I kind of gave my whole self over to my children, but as they grow up, I’'m slowly regaining some balance. I had no idea sleep deprivation would be so brutal. I am loving the current stage as I am still the centre of my boys world, yet they are a bit more independent. I love the simplicity of young boys. They are honest and open and don'’t hold grudges. Their energy is exhausting sometimes but they also still love a hug. – I don’t want that to change,”" says Melbourne-based entrepreneur Jacquie McLean, mother of boys Sam, eight, and Harry, six...

McLean is behind Project Ten and creates super stylish lightweight polypropylene plastic tote bags. Born out of a desire to make practical things cooler, she launched the brand in 2012. The oversize tote came first, and following its success two more sizes have been added to the range. Her products are now stocked all over the world.

McLean studied business at university and worked in retail, banking, the wine industry and advertising. She said Project Ten had been in the pipeline for years, ““I always wanted to own my own business and had heaps of ideas that I never followed through with. Project Ten was idea number ten. The one I finally got off the ground. I started small, with one product and have let the business grow organically. As my young family becomes more independent, I am finding I am able to devote a little more time to the business each year.””

Being a stay at home mother for six years gave McLean time to plan everything from home renovations, to hatching Project Ten and realising that returning to the corporate world wouldn’t work for the family dynamic. ““The most rewarding thing is being my own boss. I am able to work around the needs of my family and all of the business’ successes and failures are my own to either profit or learn from. My advice for mothers who are aspiring entrepreneurs is to start small, but just start. There is never going to be the perfect time,”” she says.

McLean, who clearly has a creative and stylish eye, also has a keen interest in interior design and is in the middle of renovating their beautiful family home. “”We have lived in our current home for two years. We bought it because it had a lot of character and had a large backyard. We wanted something that needed a total renovation, which we are doing in two stages. The first stage is complete; the second is our project for 2015. I would describe our interior as timeless with a hint of glamour. We love geometric pattern, so we’’ve used this a lot throughout the house.””

So how does McLean keep her home in order with two young boys? “”Everything has to have a place – if it doesn’’t, that’’s when mess takes over! I keep all my boys sports gear in separate Project Ten bags all packed and ready to go for each activity during the week. That way nothing gets lost or forgotten in the rush of the day.””

Photography: Nikole Ramsay Words: Georgia Macmillan

Motherhood has taught me...

To live in the moment, you never know what is around the corner and to appreciate each phase of my children’s life as they do really fly by.

I wake up and do group training (tabata interval classes) with some girlfriends...

Come home and have a healthy breakfast with my boys and organise school lunches before taking them to school. Then it’s COFFEE time while I put a load of washing on (the joys of working from home) and then I go to my home office and work until school pick up time.

My favourite part of the day is...

When I arrive home from the gym and my boys are just waking up all fresh and happy. They always wake up happy – I love that about them!

My advice would be...

Don’t read parenting books! Take your cues from your family and friends you trust, and who know you and how you live. My mum also had some wise words ‘Don’t try and achieve anything in those first few months, just having a happy and healthy baby is enough.’ Coming from the corporate world, this was a big lesson to learn.

My style hasn’t changed much since becoming a mum...

I’ve always been pretty classic, I’m inspired by trends but mainly stick to simple quality pieces.

I had relatively smooth pregnancies...

Although I didn’t like being pregnant at a friends’ weddings (and totally missing out on one of my best friend’s weddings as Sam arrived two weeks early.)

We try and connect each day by having at least one shared meal...

Usually dinner. Everyone gets a chance to talk and be heard.

My decorating philosophy is...

To start with high quality, neutral floors and walls then layer with a mixture of investment pieces and other items that can be updated as your taste evolves.

As the boys have grown older...

We’ve been able to invest in better quality furniture and this house allows us to have separate child-friendly zones.

I think you always have to remember to carve out some one on one time with your partner...

Your kids will grow up and get on with their own lives and you will hopefully grow old with that person, so you want to keep connected. My husband and I download our days to each other as soon as he gets home, that way we can synchronise the family, and know if anyone needs special attention or a break.

Time management tips...

I’m a big list writer. But don’t ask my husband about my mid-week meal planning; I’m hopeless with that!

I work while the boys are at school...

If I get really busy with Project Ten, I work after they go to bed or on weekends when they are at sport with my husband.

My favourite room in our home is our library/living Room...

There is no TV, there are heaps of great books (my husband has a book obsession) and we have these gorgeous chairs that I can sit in and read in the afternoon sun.

Jacquie'’s little list of loves:

Books by Jo Jo Moyes.
Meredith Dairy Goats Cheese.
Fit Bit Activity Tracker.
Exercising with my friends (it makes the time fly).
Planning my renovations with my husband.
Reading Roald Dahl books to my boys.
The new Maroon 5 album – V.
Dyptique Philosykos perfume.
Tory Burch’’s book In Colour –- she’’s a style and business inspiration.