Sheffield mum goes from intelligence analyst to setting up baby clothes firm

Swimsuits in the SnapMe range for babies, supplied by Sheffield firm Sportbaby
Swimsuits in the SnapMe range for babies, supplied by Sheffield firm Sportbaby
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Motherhood prompted quite a career change for Julie Johnson, who went from being a top intelligence analyst to setting up a baby sportswear business.

Julie and her sister Joanne Raynes, who both grew up in Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, launched online-based company Sportbaby about a year ago.

Julie Johnson and her sister Joanne Raynes on theday Julie got her MBE

Julie Johnson and her sister Joanne Raynes on theday Julie got her MBE

Previously Julie had a career in the army intelligence corps, where she worked as an intelligence analyst and later moved on to work in a similar role for Special Branch in the Metropolitan Police. After she had finished active service, she was recalled to the army after 9/11 to do counter-terrorism work. That led to her being awarded an MBE. She also worked on counter terrorism for the Met Police.

Then she found out she was pregnant with Ben, who turns three next month, which changed everything. Julie said: “I’m an older mum. It was a great surprise. I’m very lucky to have him -- it altered my perspective.”

Julie and Joanne were already planning the business when Julie found she was facing redundancy, so they got on with launching Sportbaby.

Julie said: “I’ve had an interesting career but I wouldn’t change anything. There’s bits of it I miss but I’m very happy to be running my own business.

“I had quite a high-pressure job but in a way there’s more pressure in making your own decisions and responsibility. It’s equally as good, if not better.”

The sisters came up with the idea after Julie struggled to find one place to buy sports and swimwear for Ben.

At that time she was living in London and Joanne had temporarily moved in to help out with Ben.

Joanne made good use of the contacts she had built up when she worked for JJB Sports and in merchandising for several Premier League clubs, including as head of retail for Birmingham City.

When they set up the business they moved up to Dore to be near their family again as Sportbaby gave them the flexibility to do so.

Julie’s husband Kevin, who works for a bank in London, comes up to Sheffield at weekends.

Sportbaby sell a range of swimwear, sportswear and outdoor clothing for babies and children.

They were pleased to be chosen as the only European outlet for SnapMe swimwear.

SnapMe was set up by a US mum fed up at how hard it was to change a baby’s nappy or take a child to the toilet when they were wearing a swimming costume. The costumes have a double row of poppers.

Julie and Joanne are also taking part in the Cliffhanger Festival in Graves Park, Sheffield next month, showing sporty parents what their active little ones can wear.

The company’s website is http://www.sportbaby.co.uk