The name “Warren Hill” is deeply personal. It’s a small, hilled area atop a headland in England - a place full of special memories for Warren Hill founders, Tori and Paul. For the couple, business is personal - and it’s the very reason that they decided to create a product that supports families and simultaneously, the planet.
Raising their three young children now in coastal QLD, Warren Hill is a natural extension of the life that Tori and Paul have built together. Thoughtful and genuine in their commitment to building a responsible, people-centred business, working alongside them we’ve been impressed by how a consideration of environmental impacts are the core of every decision they make.
We decided to sit down with Tori and Paul and to share a transcript of our Q&A here, in the spirit of sharing the faces and stories behind the brand.
What kind of work did you do, before having children and starting Warren Hill?
T: For nearly 10 years before moving to Australia I worked in customer service and before that, in retail. We moved out to Australia accidentally! We were on a round-the-world trip and never went home! We just love it out here and since we have moved I have, for the most part, been dedicating my time to growing our babies and looking after them.
Are you surprised to find yourselves running a business together or is it something you had been working towards?
P: Being a graphic and web designer I’ve always felt that starting our own business together was inevitable, since it was in our power to be able to build a visual identity and a website to retail pretty easily…after all I was doing it for others every day! There was a time when I would send my friend a new business idea almost every week and it became a bit of a running joke, but most of them were just a bit too complex to ever get going past the ideation stage. So I’ve been searching for an opportunity since I can remember, really. It was only when we sat down with Matt and Lara (of St. Agni) one day and whilst chatting we came across this gap in the market for high quality play mats that are simple and stylish. This idea was simple enough that it was realistic for us. From then we just jumped onboard and threw ourselves into it.
Where did the name Warren Hill come from?
P: Tori and I both grew up in England and there’s a headland back home called Hengistbury Head which is a special place for both of us. It's a beautiful natural harbour with stunning beaches, cliffs and woodland. It represents the outdoor lifestyle for us, where we spent a lot of time windsurfing, having barbeques on the beach with friends, walking and hanging out at the beach huts down there. The ‘hill’ part of the headland is called Warren Hill and we thought that would make the perfect name for our brand, with all that it represents for us.
“Our business model is people-centred and we always try to make decisions based on what would be best for our customers.”
What would you say is the ethos Warren Hill, what are the values at the heart of the business?
P: We try to run our business with the same values we try to live our day to day lives with; honesty and integrity. From a product perspective, quality and simplicity are at the core of everything we do.
Our business model is people-centred and we always try to make decisions based on what would be best for our customers. We understand that every business has an impact, but we want our impact to be as positive as possible for our customers and for the planet. We recognize that fast fashion has a huge impact on the earth and baby products probably have one of the shortest lifespans of any fashion item which is why we believe that buying less but buying better is the best solution. Our products are built to be passed down from child to child and our play mats are designed to be lived with for years to come.
Why did you choose to have a percentage of profits go to Trees.org? Why is this cause so important to you?
T: We spend every day in nature, so to us this was so important! We didn’t just want to sell play mats, we realise the importance of the impact on the environment even if we try to produce products that are gentler on the environment there is always an impact somewhere down the line, so to us this made the most sense to us to keep adding new life for the planet!
“Our 4yr old, 2yr old and 4 month old all find uses for the mats. We really love when we see photos of them being used outdoors, down the beach or on the grass, we like the idea of them being used, lived in and loved, rather than packed away or kept pristine forever in a nursery.”
How are the play mats’ colours chosen? Are they seasonal and what inspires them?
T: So far, the process has been based on choosing neutral colours that would complement a range of home styles. I’ve chosen them a little selfishly too, might I add, as I’ve picked colours that I love, always with a hint of coastal vibes (which is a big part of our lives).
What are some of the specific things that you love about that special time connecting with your babies in that newborn stage?
T: Oh there are so many sweet memories I will cherish forever. The softness of their skin, the milk drunk snuggles with their milk drunk smiles, their newborn smell which I wish I could bottle up, their tiny little hands and feet, the fact that a simple cuddle with mum is all they need and mostly all I need (this doesn’t really change but they do get busier!). In amongst the newborn chaos which sometimes is so tiring I will always look back and it brings tears just thinking about how special and precious it is. It really does go so fast but the most cherished memories are the simpler and slow times I’ve shared with each of them.
“Our products are built to be passed down from child to child and our play mats are designed to be lived with for years to come.”
What are some of your favourite ways to use the mats in your own family?
P: The very first samples we had made are still used in our living room every day. Seeing how our own children use the mats has been really satisfying and great validation for us. When we got our first samples Flynn was 3 and Jax was 1, so they definitely weren’t babies, but they were straight away drawn to the mats as a comfy bit of floor space to sit and play. As they got older they would roll themselves up in the mats and pretend they were sausage rolls which is still a frequent occurrence, and once they were in bed we found ourselves sitting on the sofa getting cozy under the play mats to read or watch a movie. And now, since Lily has been born we’ve got to use them as actual baby play mats which has been so nice. The play mats have become a staple part of our living room with so many uses, I can’t see us ever taking them out.
What are some of the unexpected ways in which you have used/seen the mat used that you could share with us?
T: We love that whenever we lay the mat down children seem to just go straight over to it and sit on it. But I think the most unexpected ways we’ve seen it used is not by babies but adults and older children. We’d never really considered that it would be so versatile to be honest. Our 4yr old, 2yr old and 4 month old all find uses for the mats. We really love when we see photos of them being used in the outdoors, down the beach or on the grass, we like the idea of them being used, lived in and loved, rather than packed away or kept pristine forever in a nursery.