REAL LIFE: Balancing business with family life

Juggling running a business with family life is a challenge.

But former model Abbie Curtis is managing to do just that, moving from being in front of the camera to creating the swimwear designs that stars such as Denise Van Outen and Melanie Sykes are now snapped in.

Busy businesswoman Abbie Curtis with her one-year-old daughter Harper Picture by Habibur Rahman (171362-754)

Her luxury bikinis and swimsuits for Amoir Camaira have featured in the pages of glossy magazines.

It’s high-end beach fashion where a glamorous costume can set you back up to £170.

But is has not been easy for Abbie, 37, from Redlands Lane in Fareham, and it takes a lot of organisation to fit in designing and promoting her business with the busy day-to-day demands of looking after two children, Max, now eight and Harper, one.

Abbie met her husband Steve while she was working for the Honda Power Boat Series. The eight-time offshore powerboat racing champion swept her off her feet and they married following a whirlwind romance.

I slowly started to run this production line. I had so much enthusiasm for it

Abbie took a career break from the exciting worlds of modelling and PR when she had Max, but soon got itchy feet.

With her wealth of experience in the fashion industry the seeds were sown for a brilliant new career, on her own terms.

She says: ‘I had been working in PR. It was a brilliant job. Six months after Max was born though, I started to miss working. But I knew it would be difficult to go back with a young baby.

‘I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling a bit lost, like my career was over.’

Abbie Curtis with her husband Steve Curtis and son, Max

As is so often the case with starting a business, Abbie simply could not find a swimsuit she liked so decided to design her own.

‘I enjoy having a hobby’ she says, ‘And I like sketching. So I slowly started to run this production line. I had so much enthusiasm for it. I just got on and did it. We had lots of good publicity.’

Modelling was glamorous but unpredictable.

She says: ‘I didn’t know when the next job or the next wage was coming in. And modelling can be quite soulless.

Abbie Curtis modelling her swimwear range Amoir Camaira

‘You start to compare yourself to other people. I wanted a bit more structure and stability in my life.’

Abbie was commuting from the south every day, which she found tough.

‘It was just exhausting,’ she says.

‘You would go to a lot of castings and there were about 50 people there. It was like a needle in a haystack.

‘But I got some film parts and I was in some music videos. I also used to write articles for Zoo magazine about the English party scene.’

Abbie travelled to cities around the UK and met up with groups of people to learn more about the nightlife.

‘It was from that job that I realised I wanted stability,’ she adds.

She discovered she had a passion for writing and being creative, and got a job in PR at Honda where she met her future husband.

But Abbie says her work in the modelling industry has helped her to build up her business.

‘Having those connections helped me with the business because I knew the photographers who shot for the big models.

‘I had a lot of different connections with people who could help me with the press and marketing side of things.

‘A lot of people I met along the way through networking and talking about the business were being passionate and enthusiastic about it.

‘People want to help you – everyone is really nice. But it is quite challenging.

‘It’s competitive. There are thousands of brands out there. I’m one of many labels. Doing it on my own means it’s difficult to get noticed.’

Abbie has the extra challenge of bringing up two children.

Her husband spends up to six weeks at a time in the States.

He won his first title at the age of 21 in 1985, becoming the youngest ever Class 1 champion and the first Briton to win the title.

He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours List.

But his success means Abbie runs the house and looks after the children on her own a lot of the time and relies on her mum to help.

She says: ‘If Steve’s not here it can be quite difficult because you don’t have that extra pair of hands in the house.

‘I don’t get time off. When it was just Max I would spend a lot of time in the States with Steve so that we could get time together.

‘But life is more challenging now we have Harper too so we don’t get that flexibility. It’s impossible.

‘This year I have struggled. I knew it would be a write-off, but it is what it is. I will get back into it.‘

Abbie feels men don’t appreciate what it’s like to run a home, look after the family and run a business.

She adds: ‘It’s a total juggling act.’

To see a video of Abbie, go to portsmouth.co.uk.

AMOIR CAMAIRA - LUXURY POOLSIDE GLAMOUR

Abbie’s swimwear, Amoir Camaira, was modelled at London Fashion Week.

It was also featured in OK! magazine, worn by Melanie Sykes, and by Denise Van Outen in Hello! magazine.

It also made an appearance on The Only Way is Essex.

The brand is a classic style of swimwear, based on the old Hollywood glamour.

The target audience is women aged between 31 and 50.

‘It’s timeless,’ says Abbie.

‘It’s unusual but it’s my own personal taste. The strapline is, “May you live a glamorous life. “

‘I wanted to see it fall into that genre.

‘Most of the pieces have a chunky gold statement piece of jewellery on them.’

And Abbie says she is thrilled at how the brand has grown.

‘I was quite lucky,’ she says.

‘It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but our presence online is growing month by month.

‘We get a lot more traffic on the website now. The traffic flow is definitely increasing.

‘The brand awareness is definitely working. We are just about to do a new campaign and we are looking for a couple of new models.’

Visit luxuryswimwear.co.uk to find out more.

More from Lifestyle