People

Published: October 8, 2020 | Updated: October 8, 2020

Challenging stereotypes: Clare’s business is to make childhood more than just pink and blue

Clare Willetts, CEO and Founder, not only pink and blue.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Clare Willetts can pinpoint exactly where she got the “niggling idea” which was to become her business.

It was eight years ago.

She was buying clothes for a friend’s new babies.

And it was an eye-opener.

Clare said: “I walked into this pink and blue world.

“But I didn’t want pink, blue or grey, yellow and bunnies come to that.

“Where were all the other fun colours and what is the effect of stereotyping from such an early age?”

Clare, who was about to become Managing Partner of advertising agency M&C Saatchi, started to look more deeply into the subject.

The findings shocked her.

Clare said: “I discovered that the stereotypes children are exposed to from a young age can have a lasting effect – even limiting them from reaching their full potential.

“Where are the women in senior positions and why is the suicide rate so high among young males?

“And then you find out that a lot of girls lose their confidence at the age of seven while, for boys, anger becomes their most powerful emotion.

“Scientific research has shown that the brain is created as a blank canvas.

“There are no category-defining differences between the minds of baby girls and baby boys.

“However, as we grow, brains pick up on social rules and learn what is ‘expected’ of their gender.

“As babies and children grow, the world becomes more divided.

“More pink and blue with clothes, toys and books gender-targeted. Not only in terms of colour, but in style and content.

“This stereotyping can have a lasting effect on them, their future interests, and their understanding of who and what they can be.

“But the good news is that this can be reversed, and we can counteract the negative stereotypes.”

Clare’s business idea was beginning to take shape.

But it was only last year – and now in the role of Brand Director and Head of Customer Experience at Virgin – that she decided to turn it into reality.

Clare said: “I was turning 40 and my job was changing due to a restructure.

“The time felt right to leave and start my own business.

“If I didn’t do it now, then there was every likelihood I would never do it.”

And Clare’s business?

not only pink and blue.

An online platform sharing unisex clothes, toys and books for children – aged from one month to ten years – with the world.

Many are small independent businesses and brands who become partners after careful vetting to ensure they share the same values.

Clare, who lives in Wimborne, said: “I believe that children should have no limits.

“That all colours are for all children, all toys are for all children, and all children should see themselves in the books they read.

“That’s why not only pink and blue was created.

“To bring together all those unique and hard-to-find clothes, toys and books for babies, toddlers and children up to ten years old.

“That are colourful, fun and practical for all children, whatever they are getting up to.

“We challenge harmful stereotypes in these products too, so that they don’t limit children.

“So no more dolls ‘only’ for girls, or superhero books ‘just’ for boys.

“We want to make that choice as wide as possible.”

Clare is married to Paul and has two daughters, aged five and three.

Her business revenue comes from charging commission on products sold through the site.

So how has challenging stereotypes worked out in practice with her own children?

She said: “They question things and that’s good.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with pink and blue.

“In the same way there is nothing wrong with girls wanting to be a princess or a boy choosing an action hero.

“But let children be children.

“Let them decide what they want to be without the harmful stereotypes so that they can grow up with equality.

“Let’s grow a generation of individuals.”