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It Takes A Village: Louise Graham and Sophie Gilmour - Esse

It Takes A Village: Louise Graham and Sophie Gilmour

If co-working is the future of work, then The Village is definitely leading the way. Located in a charming, converted villa just on the fringe of Auckland’s CBD, The Village opened its doors in 2020, and has been steadily growing a strong community and creating a conducive space for learning, collaboration, connection and good vibes.

The Village: a co-working and event space located in Herne Bay, Auckland.

The Village’s by-line is to be a space that strikes a balance between work, life and well-being, and co-founders Sophie and Louise, who are also new mums do just that. Watching them navigate the ins-and-outs of child-rearing while managing a business and building a community is nothing short of impressive, as they do so effortlessly and with lots of grace.

Clockwise from left to right: Magnus, Louise, Sophie and Odette

During my time spent at the co-working space, I’ve witnessed many occasions when Louise or Sophie have stepped in to support and help each other out - when either of them needed to be relieved of mum or work duties. Indeed, these occasions extend beyond the friendship and work relationship that Sophie and Louise share; other members and friends have occasionally stepped in to lend a hand whenever help is needed. These instances essentially sum up what working from The Village is like - an environment that is welcoming and supportive, especially for women who wear many hats.

Working from the space has left us feeling inspired, and it was natural that we invited Sophie, Louise, Odette and Magnus to be a part of our very first Esse for Pēpi photoshoot. 

Below, we speak to Sophie and Louise about their journey through motherhood and relationship with their Pēpis.


Sophie and Odette

Tell us more about yourself and your background.
I'm a sister, wife, daughter, friend, boss, business partner, board member, podcast co-host and mother from Auckland, New Zealand. I'm passionate about all things food, cooking and hospitality. I'm super social and extroverted, have a bad habit of saying 'yes' to everything and overcommitting, and I think that I'm one of the luckiest people on Earth. 

How did you and Louise meet? 
Through our beautiful friend and co-founder Stacey O'Gorman. Stacey brought Louise along to a coffee meeting at Bestie on K Road and the rest is history!

Motherhood can be pretty full on – how do you juggle your role as a mum with that of a business owner running multiple businesses?
Juggle is the perfect word! It never quite feels like I'm doing anything as completely as before, and sometimes the balls get dropped, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I have flexibility with my work schedule which I'm really grateful for. 

Sophie wears the Modern Gypsy Dress and Odette wears the for Pēpi Modern Gypsy Top and Bloomers. 

What was the idea that sparked the creation of The Village?
I was inspired by female-led co-working spaces around the world after a year of travel and Stacey was inspired by wellness retreats she had visited on her recent travels and one night we drank lots of chardonnay and decided to smoosh the two ideas together and create something that encompassed 'work, life & wellbeing under one roof', which is The Village's byline.

What are some of the traits that your mum has instilled in you that you would like to pass on to Odette?
I have a strong sense of responsibility to deliver well on things that I say I will do. My sister and I were always encouraged to do things properly and to a high standard by our mother. She instilled a great sense of humour in us - I'd be thrilled if Odette picked up those things in her own way.

How has motherhood changed you?
I'm not sure it has. I was thinking about this the other day - I feel luckier than before, and I have an additional really deep love in my life that I didn't have before, so my life is better, but I don't feel that it's changed me fundamentally.

We enjoyed Odette’s energetic and bubbly nature at the photoshoot! What are some of her favourite playtime activities?
She is OBSESSED with books! From the minute she wakes up to the minute she goes to bed she is pointing at books and bringing them to us to read to her. And music, she can't help dancing anytime music comes on, it's super cute. 

What’s one advice that you’ve received about motherhood that you’ve held close to your heart?
Accept people's offers of help! People genuinely want to help, so nobody wins if you decline their offers.

From left to right: Odette wears the for Pēpi Balloon Dress and Dress with Curved Back Yoke.

Encapsulating this moment in time – what is a message you’d like to leave for Odette?
Baby girl - you have been a joy since the moment you arrived. You have made our transition to life as parents seamless, long may that last! Xx  

Louise and Magnus

Tell us more about yourself and your background.
Hi! I'm Louise! I call Hong Kong and New Zealand home, after growing up half my life in each place.  I've been in Auckland for about 2 years after living in London for 6 years. Before moving back to NZ from London, I worked in fashion and returned wanting a bit of a change! Within the last year, I have become a business owner and a mother - woohoo! 

How did you and Sophie meet?
We met through our mutual friend Stacey who is also a co-founder The Village. We were introduced while The Village was being ideated and all together developed it to what it is today. Sophie and I actually haven't known each other for very long so it's been wonderful building a friendship alongside a business together

Louise wears the Painter’s Jacket, Draped Top and Relaxed Drawstring Capri. Magnus wears the for Pēpi Boxy Shirt and Relaxed Drawstring Capri.

What are some of the activities that you enjoy doing with Magnus?
Now Magnus is one I feel like we can do a lot more together. He's been a bit of a champ spending his early life in lockdown up with us and then in and out of The Village. He's a very chill little guy who is happy being dragged around running errands and in and out of meetings with me. Now he's older we can play more together. He's mad about balls so I spend a lot of my time throwing, catching, throwing, catching... 

How do you juggle work and mum duties?
I'm still not sure I am doing it very well,  but somehow I manage to get work done here and there while Magnus naps. I am grateful to have a husband who's super supportive, business partners and colleagues who are understanding, and friends who are always available. Now he is at daycare for a couple of days a week I have more time to allocate to work. 

How has motherhood changed you?
In every way possible, but also in no ways at all. I think it's probably just exaggerated or woken parts of me that have always existed. Expanded my capacity for patience, love, happiness and softened me - a lot. 

How has running The Village helped you and others find work-life balance?
Starting a business alongside becoming a mother has been amazing and challenging. In the early days, I would bring Magnus in most days and strap him to me while I worked. I am lucky to have Sophie as a business partner who also became a mum for the first time a few months before me, so she was understanding of me not always being available. The business was exciting, taking off, and needed a lot of our time and love but we both understood that the babes came first, so we'd fill in for each other where and when we needed.

Magnus wears the for Pēpi Bucket Hat, Boxy Shirt and Relaxed Drawstring Capri.

Magnus turned one this year – have there been some significant milestones that you’ve shared together during this past year?
Every day feels like there is a new milestone or small changes and developments. As devastating as the pandemic has been, for us as a family it has been pretty special. We went into lockdown a week after Magnus was born and it meant we got to spend time together with a new baby and just figure it out ourselves with no outside help. It gave us the time and space to get to know each other and relax into parenthood. 

What’s one advice that you’ve received about motherhood that you’ve held close to your heart?
Sophie's mother-in-law said to me 'if someone offers to help you - take it because they won't offer again.' So now, if someone says they want to babysit Magnus, I throw him at them and run out the door! 

Encapsulating this moment in time – what is a message you’d like to leave for Magnus?
I LOVE YOU KID. Be kind, be yourself and we always have your back!

Special thanks to Cindy Leong for capturing these portraits and Louise, Magnus, Sophie and Odette for being a part of this photoshoot. Learn more about The Village here.


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